As recently as 2019, there were 276 million registered motor vehicles in the US. Those millions include everything from buses to cars to motorcycles. That’s more than one motor vehicle for every adult in the country.
Ever since Henry Ford first activated his great assembly lines, America has been the land of the car. Some 4 million miles of public road criss-cross the nation — this country is your oyster if only you can drive.
One thing about motor vehicles — they break down—especially older cars. So anyone who drives needs to have a good auto mechanic on speed dial. The relationship a car owner has with their mechanic is essential; some cars have idiosyncratic issues that pop up repeatedly. Suppose you only go to one mechanic every time you have a problem with your vehicle. In that case, you’re ultimately going to save money since they’ll know how to fix the specific issue quicker than their competitors because they’ve done it before.
As long as you, as someone who works at or runs an auto body shop, can attract customers, business should be good. People will always need mechanics. If you’re talented, thorough, and efficient in your work (and your customer service is solid), people will keep coming back. The challenge is attracting those customers in the first place.
How to drive business to your auto repair shop
In early 2020, there were around 164,000 auto repair and maintenance centers spread across the US. Depending on how precise both that and the above number of registered motor vehicles are, there are around 1,682 registered vehicles for each shop. It sounds like plenty of business to go around, right? Not necessarily — not every car needs work done throughout the year, and not every auto shop attracts the same amount of customers. So how do you get those broken-down cars through your garage doors and put money in your pocket?
The answer, as with any business, is advertising. Though there aren’t numbers to support this, you probably know from experience that auto repair and auto body shops don’t tend to be in areas with heavy foot traffic. They’re usually on the edge of town, in industrial areas, near highway offramps — they’re rarely on the main downtown drag. So you need to figure out the best way to bring customers to you. There are two main methods.
Understanding your customer
Let’s imagine a potential customer. John has just moved to your town, and he’s got a 2007 Honda Civic. It’s pretty trusty, but it’s due for a checkup. There are five different auto repair shops in town, including yours, and he’s never been to any of them. How do you ensure he visits your shop instead of any of your competitors?
The answer is with a multi-channel advertising strategy. Think about it like this: if one person gives you a restaurant recommendation, you might not think much of it. However, if your friend, someone on the radio, and one of your customers all recommend that restaurant, plus you see an advertisement in the local paper, you’re going to be curious. If multiple sources are telling you to go, it must be good! This is also how advertising for auto repair shops works.
Building an auto repair advertising strategy
Luckily for you, creating an advertising strategy for your auto shop isn’t too complicated. First things first, you need a big, bright, attractive sign outside your shop. Make people aware that your business exists. Second, comes billboard advertising.
Survey the options for billboards in your area and figure out what works for your budget. Ideally, you want a location on the main highway, particularly near offramps that will easily lead customers to your business. You want to reach people while they’re in their cars, and there’s no better way to do it.
The next channel you want to fill is grocery store advertising. People with cars tend to do their grocery shopping in those cars unless they’re very close to their local store or not getting many items. Try Smartsource Carts or the even better Cartvertising. These are the ads you see on your cart. Shopping cart advertising rates are more affordable than billboards, so this kind of ad will fit your budget.
The third channel is online advertising. Of course, you could create social media accounts, but this is less effective for auto shops than it is for visual businesses like restaurants and salons. More importantly, you’ll want to run ads on platforms like Facebook and Yelp — platforms people frequently use, including to find businesses. Both of these platforms have accessible advertising programs built-in.
Designing an ad campaign
You don’t need to be a creative mastermind to design your actual ads; you need to hire someone. Find a freelancer who can build what you want. Then, all you need to do is figure out what kind of information to put on your ads. Obviously, you’ll want your business name and location. You’ll probably also want to advertise special deals and coupons. Anything that would incentivize that imaginary customer John to come and visit your shop instead of another. Locking in those new customers is essential, but then you have to build their loyalty and make sure they keep coming back.
The most important thing is that you do quality work. After that, prioritize getting your business on multiple advertising channels so that people start to gain brand awareness and trust. Then maintain customer loyalty once they drive through your garage doors. It’s a relatively simple strategy — you just have to execute.