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Auto repair shop owners tend to look at marketing in two different ways. Some see marketing as an expense. Savvy business owners see marketing as an investment. Let’s look at each of these as a definition.

Expense: cost or charge.

Investment: the investing of money or capital in order to gain profitable returns, such as interest, income, or appreciation in value.

female hand holding 4 hundred dollar bills in flames

Which one of these is a better description of marketing as it should be? When we spend money on marketing, we do this with the expectation that it will multiply. We want every dollar we spend to come back to us many times over. That would make it an investment.

The problem is that a lot of shop owners have spent money on marketing that never produced a return. For those people, marketing was an expense. Unfortunately, this experience is probably more common than in those who have great success with their marketing.

People lose money on ineffective marketing every day. I’d like to play the empathy card here and tell them that it’s not their fault, but as much as I hate to say it, it is.

In marketing, just like in every other industry, there are people out there looking for easy targets to take advantage of. What makes an easy target? In marketing, a person who hasn’t invested the time and energy into learning the fundamentals of effective marketing is an easy target.

That’s what I hope to do in this article; teach you some ways to build equity with your marketing.

What Do I Mean by “Build Equity With Your Marketing?”

Let’s start off by talking about this whole idea of building equity in your marketing. What I mean by this is doing things in your marketing that will have long-term effects.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

  • Google Ads (pay-per-click) Google Ads are an incredibly effective way to drive new business to your auto repair shop. You can get an almost immediate return on your investment. The problem with Google Ads and any other type of digital ads is when you stop paying for them, they stop working.

  • Search Engine Optimization – SEO is another great way to drive business to your shop. But SEO doesn’t give you that immediate return. It takes a while. The work that is done today begins to pay you back months from now. But here’s where it gets interesting. Unlike pay-per-click advertising which stops working the second you stop paying, SEO continues to work for many years.
female hands typing on laptop keyboard on desk with small houseplant beside it and google search bar across period

A comprehensive marketing plan will include all types of marketing. I would never suggest that you not do digital advertising like Google Ads or Facebook Ads just because they stop working when you stop paying. But I would suggest that you don’t employ ONLY these types of marketing techniques.

Marketing That Provides Long-Lasting Results

Nail Down Your Messaging

One of the most overlooked parts of the typical auto repair shop’s marketing is taking the time to establish your brand message.

Your brand message is the overall messaging that you use to convince the consumer that your auto repair shop is the one they’re looking for. It also, just as importantly, tells the consumer when you’re NOT the auto repair shop they’re looking for.

Your messaging should speak directly to the consumer, the problem they are experiencing, and how you can help them.

Most auto repair shops’ messaging looks something like this, and of course, I’m paraphrasing.

“We fix cars. We have 30 years of experience. We’re ASE certified. Oh, and here’s a NAPA logo.”

Basically, they sound like every other shop. Why would someone choose them?

On the other hand, what does it say when the shop’s leadership spends the time to really hone in on the messaging and say what matters to their customers? The paraphrased version might look something like this.

“We cater to busy professionals. We know you don’t have time to waste, so we won’t waste it. We have loaner cars. Our warranty is the best in the business. We’re the Ritz Carlton of auto repair.”

You have to figure out who your perfect customer is and what matters most to them. Then put it into words. BTW, expect this to take days to do correctly. Begin by reading the book, “Building a StoryBrand”. If you’re going to go through the process yourself, I highly recommend the in-person 2-day workshop that Donald Miller and his team conduct.

This messaging is going to get worked into ALL of your marketing. It will go on your website. It will get worked into your social posts. You’ll talk about it at BNI. It will be on your direct mail pieces. It will be in your emails, radio commercials, YouTube videos, and anywhere else you market or advertise.

The time you spend upfront crafting this message, then testing, optimizing, and eventually perfecting your message, will pay in dividends and have long-lasting effects.

Build An Authoritative Website

Yes, I know this sounds basic. Stay with me here. It’s not what you think.

Nearly every auto repair shop has a website, so just because yours looks great and has the amazing messaging that you created based on the StoryBrand framework, doesn’t necessarily mean “you win”.

BECAUSE every shop has a website, you have to do more. You need your website to stand out not only to prospects but also to the search engines. You need Google to crawl your website and its artificial intelligence thinks to itself “Okay, this one is special”.

laptop set to the right of the image with Zima Automotive's youtube channel webpage on screen

The way to do this is to make your website a true resource. Make it a resource on the topic of auto repair as well as a resource about your local area.

  • Have blog posts and videos about common repairs.

  • Have a “to-do guide” for people who will be waiting on repairs where you tell them about close restaurants, coffee shops, parks, libraries, etc. that they can visit while their car is being serviced.

  • Talk about events that you’ve hosted or attended in the local business community.

  • Have an “In The News” section that links out to any online references of your business such as magazine articles, news stories, blog posts, press releases, etc.

I’ve written an entire guide to building an amazing auto repair shop website. I hope you’ll spend the time to read it.

Your website should be looked at as an ongoing project. Spending the time to make your website the best resource possible is another marketing action that will continue to pay off for years and years.

By the way, when you spend the time to make your website into what we’re talking about here, it’s worth making sure that you actually own your website. Most shops don’t. They RENT their website and they don’t even realize it.

The Ultimate Guide to Great Auto Repair Shop Websites with Shop Marketing Pros in Hammond La. graphic with image of laptop with picture of truck

READ OUR FREE GUIDE:

The Ultimate Guide to Auto Repair Shop Websites

Continuous Search Engine Optimization

I already touched on this when I gave you the examples of marketing that doesn’t build equity vs marketing that does. But SEO is the epitome of building equity with your marketing.

With SEO, the work you do today pays off for years. You put the effort into building content about a topic like “Mercedes W140 Evaporator Core Replacement”, that content can bring you Mercedes A/C work for years, and you never have to write that content again.

As I write this article, I’ve already written over a hundred other articles about various topics dealing with auto repair shop marketing. We ask every person how they found us and we often hear “I was reading an article on your website about [insert topic] and thought I’d give you a call”.

If I never wrote another word for our website, the work I’ve already done will continue to bring in new clients until Google deems my website stagnant and outdated.

Again, SEO is the epitome of building equity with your marketing.

screenshot of Shop Marketing Pros youtube channel and featured videos

Creating YouTube Videos

YouTube is owned by Google and is the second-largest search engine in the world. How often do you search for something and have a video served as a search result? I’ll answer for you. It happens every single day!

People tend to overcomplicate video, but the fact is, you have a full production studio in your pocket. Auto repair shops are a never-ending source for video content. You have no excuse.

Videos do have a shelf life, but it’s pretty long. I watch YouTube much more than I watch actual TV. YouTube is my preferred way to learn about almost anything. I’m very often served a video that is 5 years old as a result of what I searched for. That creator made that video once and has been helping people for years without having to do the work again.

Make videos and they’ll work for you for a very long time.

We made a video series for auto shop owners about creating videos. It goes over choosing topics, equipment needed (or NOT needed), and simple lighting and audio. I even give you a framework for exactly what to cover in each video.

Build Your Email List

Ask any online marketer what their most valuable marketing asset is and they’ll all tell you it’s their email list.

Marketing has this trajectory of being done through channels and platforms that you don’t actually own. Think about it…

  • Your Facebook page – Facebook can shut it down any time they want.

  • Google Ads – If Google decides to shut you down, poof! You’re gone.

  • Your website – you probably just rent it. Even if you do own it, Google can remove you from search any time they want to.

  • Radio advertising – you don’t own that either. The radio station has seconds for sale, and they’re gone as soon as that spot is over.

We live in a world of cancel culture. If someone wants you off their platform, they’ll remove you. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Think about the once up and coming social media, Parler. They got canceled. Amazon removed them from AWS. One minute they were there, the next minute they weren’t.

The one thing that’s almost impossible to cancel is an email list. Your email service provider might shut you down, but you can upload your list to a different provider in a matter of minutes

Email is effective. People like to say email doesn’t work anymore, but we see thousands of dollars in revenue generated for our shops every time we see an email. Email works, and building your list is another great way to build equity in your marketing.

Know, Like, Trust

Your marketing should always aim to make people know, like, and trust you. Your social media, videos, emails, and website can all do things to help people come to know, like, and trust you.

Even when using a type of marketing that doesn’t build equity in the way that I’ve talked about so far, a different type of equity you can build is built inside of the minds of consumers.

If you can make people know, like, and trust you, even if they don’t have a need now, they’ll think about you later and they’ll refer your friends too. Have you ever had a new client tell you they were referred by a person and when you look that person up in your database they aren’t there? That’s because somehow they know you, like you, or trust you and they haven’t even done business with you yet. You built equity inside of that person’s mind.

I wrote an article where I go deep on know, like, trust marketing. And here’s one that Kim wrote on becoming well known in your community.

In Conclusion

To get the highest return from your marketing dollars, take marketing actions that build equity. They aren’t the fastest way of increasing your car count but will pay off in much higher multiples over time.

If you need help with your marketing, we’d love to talk to you. Hit the “Schedule A Discovery Call’’ button at the top right of the website and we’d love to show you how we’re different, and how we do highly effective marketing for auto repair shops all over the country.

About The Author

Brian Walker

Brian Walker is the Owner and CEO of Shop Marketing Pros, a marketing agency specializing in marketing independently owned auto repair shops. Brian is a Mercedes Benz Master Technician and has owned multiple shops and served as the Mechanical Division Director for ASA-NC.

He's a mechanic at heart who loves fixing things that are broken, which is why he loves marketing so much.

"Digging in and figuring out why a business' marketing isn't working is a lot like it was when he was elbows deep into a car that no one else could fix. When you figure it out, there's nothing else like it."

To get to do this for auto repair shop owners combines his passions, and he couldn't be more excited about helping shop owners.