Posted to Shop Management Forum on 6/25/2012
Re: What is the best way to attract new customers?
Let me begin with saying that I concur with the others that
being good and providing customers with an exceptional
service experience that causes people to return and speak
highly of you is the foundation for being successful. That
said, I'm of the opinion that the business of
automotive repair and maintenance today is such that success
will be difficult (for most) without engaging in some kind
of overt marketing effort. Explaining my rationale for this
would take some time and derail from what you're asking, so
I'll move on.
Your signature line identifies you as being associated with
a dealership, and that makes you different from the indies.
Notice I said different - not better, not worse - different.
I'll come back to that later. In any case, I checked out
your website as well as your Facebook (FB) page and some of
your YouTube (YT) videos. I also I checked for online
Let's start with reviews... I only found one - A sales
related review (which was favorable) on a Yahoo site. No
reviews were posted on Yelp or AutoMD, where you do have a
Is this important? More and more consumers today are turning
to the Internet to search for and research companies. And
while the stats vary, reports from marketing firms are
consistent in saying that consumers pay attention to and are
influenced by these online reviews. So, cultivating
reviews is something to consider when creating a marketing
Let me move now to your FB page and YT videos. I believe a
presence with both is a good thing, however, I'm not fond of
what you've done with either. To avoid getting long and
drawn out I'll just say that there's not much substance to
what's posted on either site. And while you have managed to
acquire almost 400 fans to your FB page, I'd render a guess
that it's not doing much to draw customers or even cultivate
relationships with existing customers at least in so far as
your service operation is concerned.
As for your YT videos, the most views you've had on any one
video is 23 (probably by the guy who posted it :o). In other
words, you're not making much of a splash on YT.
One other note... Almost all of the content with FB and YT
is sales related, there's nothing promoting service.
Having worked with and for dealers I know their tendency to
not invest marketing dollars on service (or their fixed ops
in general). And their rationale for doing so makes sense.
The bottom line for them is that ads that generate sales
provide a greater return on investment than dollars spent on
ads for service. I've never met a dealer yet who cared as
much about service as sales. In fact most see service as a
kind of necessary evil, but I don't want to digress into any
So what can you do? I think you should leverage your
dealership status; and there are many low cost/no cost ways
of doing this. Let me explain first what I mean about
leveraging your dealership status.
I've said for years that the main reason the "aftermarket"
exists at all is due to the failure of dealers. Think about
it... Almost everyone who owns a car starts out as a
dealership customer (as all new cars and the majority of
used cars are purchased from dealerships). Add to this the
fact that the dealer has the factor trained techs, the
factory tooling, the factory parts, the factory information,
and of course the factory's warranty all under one roof. Why
would folks go anywhere else for service or parts? According
to firms like JD Powers, most leave the dealer in favor of
the aftermarket because they don't like how they're treated
at the dealer. It isn't about price (although that does come
into play sometimes).
So when I say leverage your dealership status, there should
be a concerted effort to promote all of those features,
advantages, and benefits that you as a dealer are UNIQUELY
able to provide.
But that's not enough. Let's face it, people know that you
have the factory this, and the factory that. Remember, it's
the service EXPERIENCE that gives them heartburn. So what is
it about dealer service that makes people uneasy and drives
them to the aftermarket? My opinion based on years of
dealership service is that there's a
disjointedness, if you will, within dealerships.
This disjointedness is hard to qualify. Sometimes
it manifests itself as bit of indifference, where as a
customer you feel like a number. Sometimes it goes
beyond indifference to outright frustration when the
For example, anyone who has ever worked in a dealer can
undoubtedly tell countless stories where a salesperson at
the point of sale promised something that ultimately was to
be delivered by service, but when the customer showed up in
service, he or she was greeted by the SA with a
'deer-in-the-headlights' stare. So now you've got an SA
trying to hound down a salesperson, who has probably quit or
been fired since this all started, and of course there's no
documentation about anything. So now the service and sales
managers start arguing over who pays for what, and all the
while the customer is waiting.
Stuff like this is why folks hate dealers. So, obviously
good management and good systems with a commitment to a
customer-first attitude is important; and this commitment
should be assertively promoted as part of your marketing
Getting back to what I mentioned earlier about many low
cost/no cost ways of leveraging your dealership status -
This applies to your relationship-based features,
advantages, and benefits too.
Again, you should cultivate referrals. Be more active and
relationship-based with your FB page and your YT videos.
Take advantage of your GREATEST marketing resources YOU THE
PEOPLE. Whether it's you or someone else, get out into the
community and talk with people face to face.
Every one drives a car, so it's a common interest. Speak to
groups and hold car care clinics for the purpose of helping
people enhance their automotive ownership experience. In
addition to the face-to-face PR stuff, and FB and YT,
newsletters, service reminders, and other direct mail pieces
should be considered as part of your mix. One of the
objectives is to have a level of contact such that when they
think anything automobile, yours is the first name that
comes to mind.
I hope this helps. Best wishes!
MDH Automotive Services
Richville, Michigan, USA