At the end of 2017, 229,000 auto repair shops were operating in the United States. That number is similar to a decade ago, and is expected to continue rising regardless of the economy.
Here’s another statistic: Americans own 272.48 million vehicles. That’s a crazy amount of cars and trucks, yet the average shop sees only 22 vehicles a week. With such a large number of vehicles never making it to a mechanic, auto shop owners can’t be passive in their marketing efforts. Competitors lurk, waiting to take your customers, and with the industry growing, more competitors will emerge. Auto shop owners must work hard to keep the customers they have and attract new ones.
Here are six marketing ideas for auto repair shops that not only keep customers coming back, but also expand your clientele:
1. A Car Advice Blog
In 2018, operating a website for your business is a given. Maintaining and updating that website is the challenge auto shop owners face. One way to drive visitors to your site is to start a car advice blog. If the content you produce provides direct value to your most-likely customers, consumers will revisit your website and maybe even subscribe. This gives you opportunities to inform them of specials, educate them about their vehicles, and remind them of services that their cars need (more on this last point later).
2. Social Media
Just like your website is a standard part of your auto shop’s marketing, so is creating a social media presence. Consistent posting on Facebook is essential to show those who hear about you that you’re open and ready to help your customers. Pick a schedule and stick to it so that your followers (who are most likely also your customers) can learn when to expect new content from you. While you might post at a consistent time each day or each week, the possibilities for the type of content you post are limitless:
- coupons and special offers
- links to your blog
- customer testimonials
- helpful advice and recommendations for maintenance
- Recall information for major car manufacturers
An active page can inspire active conversations. People may comment on your posts or directly message your page. Your shop should have someone dedicated to answering these questions in a timely manner. The sooner you can reply, the more likely it is prospects will get the answer they need and get their butt (in their car) to your shop.
Best of all, a social media strategy can be relatively inexpensive. It just requires consistency and regular attention.
3. Coupon Advertising
Coupons provide a low-cost, high-exposure option that draws new customers and reminds existing customers of the excellent service you provide. Offers you could use include:
- Half-off oil change
- Free oil change with purchase of an emission/safety test
- Free oil change with any repair of more than a certain dollar amount
- Free/reduced cost tire rotation with the purchase of another service
- A certain dollar amount off a specific service (e.g., $25 off a tuneup)
- A certain percentage off the cost of an overall bill
The key to making coupons work is getting them into the hands of the right people. Register tape advertising that appears on the back of grocery store receipts offers a perfect—and cost-effective—means of delivery. Because your auto shop coupon is placed on the backs of receipts at a grocery store that is close to your shop you will repeatedly deliver the coupon to people who are most likely to use your services. This method not only hyper-targets local customers you want to attract, but it also fits into virtually any auto shop marketing budget (reaching 1,000 customers can cost as little as $6).
4. Customer Referrals
Another sound marketing strategy for auto shop owners is to get your existing customers to do some marketing for you. Referral programs encourage customers to tell their friends and family about your great service and reward them with a free oil change or a discounted service – an offer they can’t get anywhere else. An exclusive incentive is a powerful motivator for customers who simply need to sing your praises to others to earn the reward.
5. Customer Loyalty Programs
People like free stuff. Offering a loyalty program that allows customers to earn free oil changes or other repair services is a great way to show appreciation to existing customers.. This can be as simple and low-tech as a punch card that promises a free oil change after five paid oil changes, or as sophisticated as a points program in which customers earn a bonus after a certain amount of money spent on services. Loyalty programs provide an incentive for customers to keep visiting your auto shop and follow through on repairs that they may have been putting off. This results in more revenue for your business over time.
6. Service Reminders
The little stickers you put on customers’ windshields are great reminders for them to come back for the next scheduled service. Many additional ways—digital stickers, so to speak—are available to provide that reminder, including emails, texts, and social media direct messages. Moreover, these service reminders can include a discount coupon for the service, links to your website and blog, or a way to confirm an appointment without actually having to call the shop. In this way, you are marketing to your customers without them even realizing it—they simply think you are reminding them about the next oil change or tire rotation.
What marketing strategies have worked for your auto shop?
*Originally Published 9/21/2017. Updated 6/18/2019 for accuracy.