At the end of 2016, 228,600 auto repair shops were operating in the United States. That number is similar to a decade ago, before the recession, and is expected to continue rising.
Here’s another statistic: Americans own 263.6 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 a website is a no-brainer in this day and age, a social media presence is essential to an auto shop owner’s success. Consistent posting is essential—only once a week is fine as long as you are good about putting up that one post. Pick a schedule and stick to it so that your customers can learn when to expect new content from you. That said, the possibilities for posting are limitless: coupons and special offers, links to your blog, customer testimonials, helpful advice, and so on. Best of all, a social media strategy is relatively inexpensive.
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 offers a perfect—and cost-effective—means of delivery. Your coupon is placed on the backs of receipts that grocery stores hand to their customers upon purchase. This method not only hyper-targets local customers you want to attract (because most grocery shoppers live within a few miles of the store), but also fits into virtually any 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
Further show appreciation to existing customers by establishing a loyalty program. This can be as simple as a punch card that delivers a free oil change after five paid oil changes, or as complex as a points program in which customers earn a bonus after a certain amount of money spent on services. Loyalty programs not only reward loyalty, but also provide an incentive for customers to keep visiting your shop and follow through on repairs that they may have been putting off.
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 10/19/2018 for accuracy.