September is Automotive Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your auto service and driving more new and repeat business.
Not an auto professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!
September is here, and as we say goodbye to summer, we start celebrating the businesses that may have helped fuel our summer roadtrips: automotive services! These businesses help consumers get wherever we’re going and keep us mobile! However, even though so many of these services are often viewed as additional, purely maintenance, or reactionary, it’s vital you stay on top of your marketing and promotion efforts so that you can continue to attract a steady stream of new and repeat business. Auto services are not often on the top of consumers’ minds, so it’s important you keep them engaged, so we put together this easy list that combines some of our favorite tried-and-true promotional tactics with current marketing best practices for an unstoppable, and comprehensive plan of attack!
Your promotion efforts start with your website
Your website should be the hub for all your marketing efforts, both on and offline.
Your site should:
- Be professional and up-to-date
- Make a good first impression: Provide a initial introduction to your business
- Include complete contact information: Including address, phone number, email address, directions, business hours, pricing
- Offer functionality to make an appointment online. This leads to:
- 40% more appointments
- As much as 75% time save on managing appointments
- An 80% reduction in no-shows, and the elimination of double-bookings.
- Have forms to optimize the collection of contact information
- Proudly display testimonials from happy customers
- Provide links to your business profile across social channels and review sites
Show off your areas of expertise
Once you’ve invested in a professional website, you should develop a strategy to drive more potential customers to it.
One of the best ways to do this is through content creation. Share your expertise on both themes specific to your business’s specializations, as well as universal topics that all consumers are familiar with, such as traffic, commuting, safety and traveling. For example, you could post a blog about the best ways to beat traffic on holiday weekends, which can recommend the best time to depart, come home, routes to popular weekend getaways, or alternatives, and more.
Similarly, you could write a byline or routinely contribute to local magazines and periodicals with practical auto advice, which can help you position yourself as a community leader and authority on the subject. Creating short how-to videos are also a great way to boost exposure to new audiences in search of a solution to a pain point or issue your business can solve.
Determine what specializations or approaches differentiate your business from others, and be sure to advertise that everywhere you promote your business. From your site and social pages, to flyers, posters, online directory listings, reviews sites, business cards, and more. Don’t forget to recruit your work vehicles to help with advertising. Put your business name, logo, phone number and website, along with a tagline that states your specialization on your work trucks, cars, vans, tow truck, etc.
Invest in your community, and they’ll invest in you
Get involved in your community. Join local groups and organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, as well as any local trade organizations that have a presence in your area. Consider paying to become a partner of any group that commands influence, or is part of your consumers’ usual research. The more entrenched in the community you become, the more local customers will find out about you and your services, and want to give you their business. Try sponsoring little league, or donate gift certificates to charity events and fundraisers. Always be on the look out for ways to lend a helping hand.
And don’t forget to seek out potential partners in various places. Speak at schools and universities in the area and volunteer your time to teach a workshop, whether in driver’s ed classes, universities, local libraries, and more. Encourage them to come to you with any specific questions afterward, and hand out special “Student Discount” coupons. Direct them to your website and social pages for more tips and videos to help them troubleshoot issues, or perform routine maintenance.
But don’t stop there, try to work in some networking with the different vendors you use. If you visit them in person, ask if you can hang a flyer on their bulletin board, leave a stack of business cards, or become a trusted partner/member of their directory for customers. Do the same with complementary businesses, including dealerships, auto supplies stores, car washes, and more. Develop relationships with local realtors and real estate brokerages, and offer their clients a special rate or “welcome to the neighborhood” discount.
Finally, partner with insurance companies. It can seem like you’ll be jumping through a bunch of unnecessary hoops, but when you become a preferred partner, people treat that as good as “pre-vetted” and do less research. Your business will gain an inherent trust with more customers. Some do not stray outside of the recommendations of insurance, since they’re worried about being held accountable for the bill, so it may be worth investing the time and effort to make this happen.
Promotion: Social, Email and SMS Marketing Campaigns
The first rule when it comes to approaching your social media strategy should be: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Only invest in building out pages that you can commit to maintaining regularly. So often business owners are pressured to be on every possible network, and later struggle to keep content fresh and updated. Each channel is slightly different, and should have it’s own unique approach. It is so much better to select the platforms that make the most sense to your business and focus your full effort and attention on only those.
For auto services, it might make the most sense to start your own YouTube Channel to share tips on how to perform routine checks and tasks and repairs. Create short how-to’s on platforms like Instagram, where there is a great built-in community of car enthusiasts. Appeal to underserved demographics in the industry (like women and younger drivers!) who may regularly feel alienated by your competition.
People respond to stories, so brainstorm ways to tell them by starting a series. If you’re a dealership, a performance shop or detailer, then you can start profiling newly-licensed drivers and their first cars! Jump on the bandwagon for social trends by showing off you and your employees first cars, and using the appropriate hashtag (#tbt #fbf). And encourage other customers to share photos of first or favorite cars. Finally, while you’re tapping your creativity, try to come up with some good ideas for contests. These can be a great way to increase awareness in your business, get you a larger following that you can continue to market to after the contest has ended (try to also collect emails!), until the time is right for them to convert into a paying customer.
Make sure your site is set up to collect customer contact information. Make it as easy as possible for customers to join your email and SMS lists with forms online and instructions in-store. You can check out this post for more surefire ways to grow your email lists. Email marketing has a proven return on investment of 4300%, and SMS marketing can yield up to 8 times more engagement, so implementing a consistent communications strategy can work wonders for keeping your business on your customers’ mind and generating more revenue.
Don’t just provide quality service — Go the extra yard
Of course delivering quality is the first priority for any customer-facing business. However, going above and beyond is always a great way to set yourself apart from the crowd and turn customers into advocates. Whether you offer free pick ups and drop offs for customers having their vehicles serviced, or extra amenities in your waiting area, think of small things you can do to provide more convenience and comfort to your customers.
You can return their car with a free, branded gift, such as a license plate cover, air freshener, bobble head, dice, stickers, floor mats, or more. This not only helps you spread awareness of your business, but is also practical and ensures they’ll have your name and number with them if they should get into a fender bender or break down. It might even fan the word-of-mouth flame with passengers in their vehicle, who might notice and ask about their experience.
Perform safety checks, and complimentary inspections even if you’re not a state-sanctioned “inspection station”, so they will know if there’s any issue that will need to be addressed in the coming weeks or months. This will help them prepare and get things on their radar long before they’re rushing to renew. When you’re looking out for them, they’ll take notice.
Lots of people offer free estimates on their sites, so try position the offer as a free consultation, where you educate them on issue and preventative measures. This may prove especially successful in underserved groups, as long as you keep your tone friendly, helpful and not condescending. Nothing wins over loyalty like transparency and proactive outreach and assistance of an expert.
Be sure to check back next week, or join our email list to continue to hone your auto marketing skills!