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How to Get Good Customers into Your Shop
Posted to Shop Management Forum on 7/12/2009 20 Replies

There have been a lot of posts recently about poor/failed marketing efforts. Most of them revolve around "price-point" marketing or marketing that appeals to less than desirable consumers.

So, what can you do?

First off, you must distinguish your shop from all the others, and don't use price to do it. ;o)

Here's a start:

Make your shop look different than the other shops, for openers. The public perception of most repair shops is dark, dirty and cluttered.

Take photographs of your shop and you'll suddenly see your shop like the public does, rather than your own perception (in your own mind) of your shop.

Next, you have to "sell what people want to buy". People with good jobs, driving nice cars, who are logical in their thinking don't want a $69 brake job. They're smarter than that. They also don't want "Free code reading", that's what do-it-yourselfers" want.

What they DO want is to know they won't have car trouble. So, what's the best way to market that?

Let's go back quite a few years in my own shop's history. A few Summers into my shop ownership, it seemed like many of my customers would come in for an oil change and tell me, "I'm going on a trip and want to make sure the car is OK, can you look it over good?"

Well, I sure did and made a lot of sales off that. But something finally clicked in my brain--my customers were telling me "what they wanted to buy" and that was a Vacation Inspection. Wow.

So, I made a list of all the things I could think of that were common failure items on the highway, priced it at 29 donuts and offered it to my customers. They almost all bought it without question.

At this point, I'm doing the same things I did before, but now I'm getting paid for it. In addition, it made a neat "special" I could mail out that would literally get good people to call me and bring their cars in.

This doesn't even have to be mailed, it can simply be offered by the front counter staff, or you can put up signage. Maybe signage in front of your nice clean and bright shop with all the nice cars parked out front. :o)

Many of you will email me and ask me for a copy. C'mon, quit being so lame, lazy and unimaginative. ;o)

Start a spread sheet. Down the far left column are the items listed that you check. Across the top are Good, Fair, Needs attention and Comments columns. This way items can be checked off and a short explanation given.

Here are some items you can list:

Road test:



Shock/strut performance


Cruise (yes, this can be checked at 30 mph)

AC vent temp____Deg. F.


Windshield washers


Upper radiator hose

Cooling fan operation


Obvious fluid leaks

Coolant condition

Visual inspection of battery

Visual inspection of battery cables

Battery test

Fluid levels:

Power steering




Washer solvent

Wiper blade condition

Alignment (based on tire wear)

Tire condition

Tire tread depth

Tire pressure (including spare)

Tie rod ends

Ball joints

CV boots

Obvious fluid leaks (undercar)

Shocks and struts

The list you develop should then be given to all your techs, so they can "approve it" or make suggestions. Talk openly about the suggestions and go out of your way to accept them. This converts it from "your list", to "their list" and they'll be much more likely to endorse the program and go along with it. Remember, most techs resist change, even when it's good. This is an important step in team-building.

Tell them it's important that the list be done in the order the work will be done, so that you're most efficient on the operation and not skipping all over the form as you're filling it out.

I've developed a cool wiper blade test: Use a damp towel and wipe the rubber blades. Good blades leave no marks, black marks indicate the rubber is breaking down.

Feel free to add items to this list and do it in a post, so this can be a group-developed list that you can all use.

Voila! You now have an item you can market that will attract a good grade of prospect, increase your sales and provide something that will make your customers feel better about their cars and you.

And---you don't have to "give away the farm" to do it.

George from Nebraska

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