Owning a successful repair shop involves matching expert repair and maintenance with dedicated customer service. Advertising can seem like an afterthought for many business owners. Even the best mechanics need a solid marketing strategy to find lasting success.

In the crowded automotive repair space, both visibility and strong messaging are needed to convince customers to choose you over your competitors. Most repair shops don’t have the overhead for a big marketing and advertising budget, which means you need to make the most of your strategies. Auto repair marketing isn’t easy, but the following tips will help you efficiently and effectively spread the word about your auto repair shop:

Understanding Marketing Targets

Before you start building your marketing campaign, it’s important to understand who you are targeting.

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Start by getting a better understanding of your closest target market: people who’ve patronized your repair shop before. You have experience with these folks, and understanding what brought them to your shop — and, importantly, what keeps them coming back — will offer valuable insights into how you should create messaging for other groups of prospects. Another goal of marketing towards existing customer personas is to encourage them to return for future visits, as well as promote your business through word-of-mouth. One of the easiest and most effective marketing tactics for existing clients is to offer a referral bonus. Use interactions with new referrals to get insights into what your existing clients have to say about you.

A second marketing target is made up of customers who have never patronized your business. This target market is more difficult to pin down than existing clients and their friends because you don’t have any connection with them yet. In general, the first step involves projecting an image of your repair shop as the most knowledgeable, straightforward, and trustworthy. There’s more to it than that, though:

In the crowded auto repair world, it’s imperative to offer a strong and unique value proposition to your potential customers. Standing out from the competition is extremely important in marketing towards people who are unfamiliar with your company. Don’t be afraid to show off your personality or put your values at the front of your marketing.

Generally, there are two rules for winning the marketing game: reach prospective customers first and reach them often. No matter what marketing strategy you take, reaching customers early and often will make them know and recognize your shop as the best in town.

Direct Mail

After you’ve identified your marketing targets, you can build a strategy to reach and influence these customers. One tried-and-true method of marketing is direct mail. The rise of digital marketing and advertising has made this a less common strategy than in the past, but nonetheless remains a simple and effective way to reach potential customers

Coupon advertising is a great strategy for your direct mail campaign. A good discount on regular services like an oil change will help get customers in the door at your shop. Occasional reminders let existing customers know they are due for maintenance they may have been putting off as well. A car owner who has recently bought their car from somewhere like the new Hyundai inventory might be spurred into action after seeing a coupon for an oil change and remember their vehicle is due for maintenance.

Maintain a Robust Online Presence

Traditional approaches like direct mail only go so far. An online presence is more important than ever for a successful business — and the auto repair world is no different. Your business should have a professionally-designed website that’s kept up to date with news and special deals. This website should include details like the shop’s location, hours of operation, and the background and credentials of your employees. More online-savvy repair shops can offer users helpful information to help generate interest.

And of course, sites like Yelp allow you to interface with some customers for free. Keep your Yelp up-to-date and be sure to interact with both satisfied and unsatisfied customers. One thing to watch out for – don’t criticize unhappy customers publicly on yelp – it never looks good.

Some savvy marketers use their web presence to show off the superior skills and knowledge of your auto repair team. Start a blog or YouTube channel with helpful information, such as how to self-diagnose problems with your car. You can then use the blog to promote special deals or seasonal maintenance to get interested parties in the door.

Online Marketing with Social Media

Social media lets auto repair shops interact with the wider online community. Similar to how the car repair blog allows your team to provide the community with expert automotive advice, social media takes it a step further by allowing you to communicate one-on-one with potential customers. This communication can take place after hours — and doesn’t require the customer to come into your shop for simple questions.

Good marketing practices suggest building a social media presence for your shop on major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. Once you create your social media profiles, be sure to keep them active. Going long periods of time without posting or engaging with customers doesn’t aid your marketing strategy (in fact, it can make potential customers think you’ve gone out of business!) Shops that see the most success from social media marketing are those who regularly provide their audience with informative and engaging content.

Social media can help you communicate with clients, troubleshoot their problems easily, and send out special promotions. Once you’ve built up a following, regular-scheduled coupon promotions act like a digital direct mail campaign, but at a fraction of the overhead cost. Best of all, social media marketing is extremely inexpensive, though there are options for paid social media advertising campaigns.

Customer Referrals and Loyalty Programs

Finally, another tried and true tactic is rewarding customer loyalty. Offering existing customers and people in their network exclusive incentives lets them know how much you value their repeat business. From points programs to punch-cards, these programs allow you to give back to your most loyal customers.

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