When you think of marketing for your auto repair shop, chances are you’re thinking about running ads on Google or Facebook. Maybe social media or SEO. You imagine an influx of cars in your bays from new customers and current ones and you hope that everyone in town knows who you are. These are acquisition marketing strategies. You know, the ones that get more cars in the bays and keep your phone ringing! Acquisition is a vital part of marketing, but a full marketing plan is not complete without strategies that also focus on retention, which is what we’re talking about today.
Retention marketing is the unsung hero of creating raving fans for your auto repair shop. Acquisition marketing is what helps people find you – Google Ads, Facebook Ads, direct mail, and great SEO will all make the phone ring, but retention marketing is what keeps these customers coming back. The hottest marketing strategy of them all when it comes to retaining customers is providing an experience worth coming back to. This means having a proven process from start to finish in their customer journey to keep in touch with them about their vehicle. This includes:
- Having well-trained, kind staff members
- Offering transparency for your costs and the repairs needed
- Educating the customer to make good decisions for their vehicle investment and personal safety
- Being respectful towards all customers
- Having a clean, welcoming shop (bonus points for a pleasant waiting area, free WiFi, complimentary refreshments, and clean restrooms!)
- And more!
“But, that doesn’t sound like marketing!” We know. Marketing is defined as “the activity or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising,” but first impressions and outward appearance make a huge impact on a customer’s likelihood of returning to your shop or recommending it to others. Therefore, a more modern definition of marketing includes relationship building and customer communication. Retention marketing does include your more traditional strategies as well such as social media, email marketing, utilizing features within your CRM, and direct mail. Here’s how they work.
Most of your followers on Facebook and Instagram are family, friends, and customers and your posts should reflect this! Social Media was created for just what it says in its name: being social. Using your social media to share what’s going on at the shop is a great way to practice retention marketing. One thing we do here at Shop Marketing Pros is send new clients a flier with their social media handles in a QR code so that they can put it in the shop and make sure their customers are following them on social media. This is a great way to communicate casually with your loyal fans and keep them coming back. Post about your team, cool cars or repairs, holidays, celebrations, and more. People like people, and they’ll love to get to know the faces of your team. This also makes customers more comfortable in the shop since they feel like they know you and your team more. Yet, if you notice that your social media isn’t getting any engagement, consider changing your content. Social media is a two-way communication tool and we want your customers to be engaging back with you!
Similar to social media, most of the addresses on your email list are existing customers. What does this mean for how you market to them? Well, they already know you, so you don’t want to throw around any advertising jargon or sound too salesy. Monthly email newsletters are a great way to let your customers know what’s been happening at your auto repair shop and invite them to join in on any fun like anniversaries, events, and promotion offers given only to existing customers. Even if they don’t click your email or even open them, they still see your name in their inbox which keeps you relevant.
Utilizing Your CRM
As a shop owner, you likely have a shop software or CRM to keep track of appointments and invoices and to communicate transactional information with your customers. Did you know there are tools in many of these platforms to level up your retention strategies? By creating automated campaigns for appointment reminders, appointment follow ups, and lost-customer outreach, you can keep in touch with customers and ensure you are staying top of mind. (A tip from The Pros: customize these messages so they really sound like you. This goes a lot further than sticking with the messages that are pre-created in the system!)
Direct mail is commonly used for acquisition since you can mail out a flier of special offers to a large number of people in your community at a fairly low cost. While it usually is a little more expensive to use a targeted list, you can send mailers to customers as a way to thank them for being great and loyal customers, plus give them a reason to book their maintenance again sooner rather than later!
How Retention Marketing is Different
One of the biggest mistakes auto repair shop owners can make when marketing their business is to forget who their audience is. When you’re advertising for new customers, you’re sharing more information about your services and who you are, and your copywriting is meant to grab their attention and keep them engaged with your ad long enough to take action. When your focus is retention, it’s important to remember that your customers have already had at least one experience with your auto repair shop. This means they know where you’re located, what the shop looks like, and generally what services you offer. What’s going to keep them engaged and coming back to your shop is to communicate with them on a more personal level. You can drop the sales information and keep it simple, engaging, and fun while still being informative. One way to think about this is the way that you speak to someone you just met for the first time and how that may differ from someone you’ve met a few times. Your acquisition marketing is written for first time meetings, but your retention marketing can be treated like an old friend. It boils down to our key idea at Shop Marketing Pros. Your clients have to know, like, and trust you. By implementing retention marketing strategies, you help this process occur.
Getting Started on Retention Marketing
You’ve decided by now that you want to step up your retention strategies, but you’re still not sure where to start. Take a look at your social media and make sure you’re being social, not just selling the shop or its services.You can help customers feel like part of the family by personalizing your follow up messages and reaching out to them after appointments to ensure their happiness or by providing a rewards program to encourage them to keep coming back. (Reminder: your shop needs to be worth coming back to before you can do this.) If you really want to take things to the next level, host events at the shop such as open houses, car care clinics, or coffee and car talks. Get involved in local community events, leave a swag bag or something as simple as a cookie or coupon in their car when they get it back.
Retention marketing strategies make your customers feel heard, important, and valued – and providing a place where they can trust their vehicle is in good hands. You’re likely doing a lot of these things already, but if you’re looking for more guidance, Shop Marketing Pros would be glad to help.