The only good shop is a busy shop! It doesn’t matter if you have the best mechanic or the best price, without customers neither one will do you any good. Attracting customers and staying active is an art in any economy. In a healthy economy, there are more shops in the market competing for the customer and in a bad economy customers will delay maintenance until they do not have a choice. The question becomes this, “how do you keep the traffic coming in and out of your shop?”
The Need for Advertising
The problem with most shops is that they look like any other building with cars around them. Some people work in a garage located on their property, and there isn’t a significant amount of traffic coming in and out of your property to generate business. Having a garage on your property is okay if you only want to work on the cars of your friends, family, and other people you know. Some shops are in the middle of an industrial area and blend into the other warehouses, again not driving in the traffic.
Even in a good location in the heart of a city, the regulations for buildings may have so many trees in front of your building that a passerby will not even know there is a repair shop behind them. Then, there is the perfect shop that stays consistently busy. Even in a good store the goal is to make more money and grow the business. The key to every one of these scenarios remains the same. To get more traffic, you must advertise. There are more mediums for advertising now than there ever have been ranging from the ultra-expensive television ad or a referral system used through handshakes of networking individuals.
Types of Advertising
Without getting into the content of advertising, there are several cheap, effective ways to get your name out there. Who hasn’t come out of the store to find a little 4’ X 6’ flyer tucked into the windshield wiper of their car? Cards are inexpensive and can be an effective way to target a very specific demographic of customers. Flags, banners, or a-frames can put a message in plain sight in locations around town that may get more traffic than your road sees. Direct mail of coupons or flyers is an excellent way to reach members of the community and can be outsourced to a specialist. Your time is money! Develop a referral program, often called a “bird dog” in which you reward customers that bring in other customers. Everyone knows someone who has broken down and needed a mechanic at some point in his or her life. Unfortunately, a mechanic is not someone that you get to know until you need one most of the time.
Window repair specialists have figured out how to capitalize on the insurance provisions that replace cracked windshields at no expensive to drivers. They walk up to cars with broken windshields and put a free glass repair sticker on the window that obviously needs to be replaced. Marketing does not have to be difficult. Call your local towing company and find the route that has the most breakdowns towed away. Purchase a banner along that route and watch your traffic dramatically increase. Position a flag outside your shop advertising essential oil changes as a leader to other preventative maintenance. If you are close to an airport that has long-term parking, you may be able to rent a spot in the car storage area to put a banner for jumpstarts. Furthermore, getting these banners is easy: you just need to turn to a company like Quality Sign Designer. Place a coupon in the local paper for severely discounted inspections or troubleshooting. The idea is to get them in the door and establish a relationship in advance of them needing a repair. The proverb in the car sales industry is that people buy from people they know and trust. Start that relationship early, and it will pay off in the long run.
How you handle success is as critical as how you handle failure. Never grow complacent and always try to offer a new look for your organization. Run new ads and hang new banners to appeal to a larger audience and draw in more business. With cars, there are seasonal repairs and special modifications that can always be made if you can appeal to the right audience. Summer AC, winter tires, spring window tint and in the fall you can sell services, brakes, wipers and tires. Advertise with what is going to meet the need at the right time, and you will do well. Remember, if the customer does not know you are having a sale or that you do a particular type of work, what is their incentive to come in? Don’t wait until it breaks, advertise, advertise, advertise!
The author, Ray Donato, is a freelance writer who is looking to make cars his business, but also keeps a mind towards the marketing and advertising side to make sure he can drive the necessary amount of business into his future garage. To learn more about Ray you can visit on Google+.