How To Create a Real-World Marketing Plan for an Auto Repair Shop

Introduction

First, let me address the title of this guide. Notice the words “Real-World”. I put that in there because this isn’t going to be the marketing plan they would teach you to create in college. In fact, I don’t even know what that marketing plan would look like because I never went to college and I certainly don’t have a college degree in marketing. Many of the people on my team do have that degree. I went to trade school. My degree is an associate’s degree in automotive and diesel technology. My marketing degree comes from the school of hard knocks.

What I have written here is a detailed guide that will take you step-by-step through creating a marketing plan that will make sense to anyone who reads it. It’s a common-sense approach to marketing the way an auto repair shop should be marketing in the modern world.

Once your marketing plan is created, you’re going to need to be able to execute it. I’m going to recommend 3 books to you to read as you start executing the marketing plan.

Introduction

First, let me address the title of this guide. Notice the words “Real-World”. I put that in there because this isn’t going to be the marketing plan they would teach you to create in college. In fact, I don’t even know what that marketing plan would look like because I never went to college and I certainly don’t have a college degree in marketing. Many of the people on my team do have that degree. I went to trade school. My degree is an associate’s degree in automotive and diesel technology. My marketing degree comes from the school of hard knocks.

What I have written here is a detailed guide that will take you step-by-step through creating a marketing plan that will make sense to anyone who reads it. It’s a common-sense approach to marketing the way an auto repair shop should be marketing in the modern world.

Once your marketing plan is created, you’re going to need to be able to execute it. I’m going to recommend 3 books to you to read as you start executing the marketing plan.

  • The first is my book, The Ultimate Guide to Auto Repair Shop Marketing. This is a tactical guide that goes through the intricacies of digital marketing, as well as some traditional marketing. You can get it in print, Kindle, and audiobook versions on Amazon or you can download the pdf for free on this website.
  • The next is Building a StoryBrand. By reading this book you’re going to learn how to craft a message that your potential clients can envision themselves in and be compelled to make your shop their auto repair shop of choice. We’ll talk more about this book in the messaging section.
  • The final book is They Ask You Answer. This book is going to show you a framework for creating content on a regular basis that will help you to get found in search engines and help customers get to know, like, and trust you.

Throughout this guide, I’m going to link off to other articles, blog posts, guides, and videos. I recommend reading through this guide once in its entirety before following those links. Then come back, read it again, and follow each link as you come to it.

Know going into this that creating this marketing plan is not going to be a fast process. This will take days, weeks, or even months, dependent upon how much focused time you can dedicate to it. This is not a game of hours. The more time you put into it (within reason), the better it’s going to perform.

Defining Your Customer Avatar(s)

The first step in creating a marketing plan is to figure out who you’re going to be marketing to. We ask every shop that we work with who they want to market to. They nearly always answer with something to the effect of “anyone who drives a car”.

Marketing to “anyone who drives a car” is the fastest way to live a miserable life. You’ll attract clients who are broke, won’t do anything except the bare minimum to keep their car on the road, and who complain about everything. We refer to those people as “bottom feeders.”

Great marketing should assist in creating a higher average repair order (ARO), bigger profits, happier techs, and a steady flow of referrals. It’s not that the marketing itself accomplishes these outcomes, it’s that the marketing brings in the right clients in the first place.

The idea behind the avatar is to define your perfect client. Most people think they are alienating the majority of their potential new customers when they do this, but what they’re actually doing is attracting the ones who fit the mold, setting expectations for the ones who have it in them to fit the mold, and scaring away the bottom feeders.

When creating your customer avatar, you are very likely to find you have more than one. For instance, at my shop, we did high-line Europen. We had a lot of middle-aged professionals. We also had a lot of young families. And finally, we did a lot of work for high-end used car dealers.

I have a detailed article and accompanying worksheet that will lead you through the process of defining your customer avatars. Start with that article.

But just to give you a little sneak peek, you’re going to go through a process that looks something like this.

  • You’ll pick a certain number of your very favorite customers and find the similarities in them
  • You’ll determine what is most important to them. Is it price? Quality, Convenience?
  • You’ll look for common watering holes. A watering hole is a place where these people “hang out”. That could mean certain websites, certain social media channels, certain magazines they read, where they live, etc.

These are only a few of the things you’ll look at, but from those few things you can determine who you’re marketing to, what the message to them needs to be (the problem you’re solving for them), and the mediums you’re going to use to get your message in front of them.

So the next time that salesperson comes in wanting to sell you an ad in the value mailer, and you know your avatar is a busy professional who is motivated by convenience, you can feel good about giving that salesperson a hard “no.”

What Is Your Overall Goal?

Now that you know who you’re marketing to, let’s figure out what the overall goal of your marketing is. Most auto repair shops are looking for one or more of the following from their marketing:

  • Increase overall car count
  • Increase average repair order
  • Attract a different type of customer (usually related to ARO)
  • Promote a new service offering
  • Brand building for long-term steady growth
  • Increase car count during very specific times of the year

Write out your goals for your marketing. Get detailed.

  • Want to increase car count? How much? By when?
  • Want to increase your ARO? How much? By when?
  • Want to attract a different type of client? Why? Define that client in detail.
  • Want to promote a new service offering? Who buys it? How many do you need to sell? At what price?
  • Want to build your brand? What’s the long-term goal? An 8-figure exit? A family legacy?
  • Want to increase car count at specific times of the year? Why is it slow during those times? How much do you need to increase it?

Those are just some questions to start with. Keep going from there. Be as detailed as you can possibly be with your goals. When it comes to setting goals, I like to set them just outside of what’s realistic. Don’t be ashamed of your goals. If your goal is that 8-figure exit, own it and create the plan to get you there!

You are probably going to have multiple goals for your marketing throughout the year. Go through the processes for each of those goals. I want you to put in the work to where you’re so confident in your marketing plan that you can’t fail.

What Services Do You Want To Sell?

When it comes to auto repair, not all services are created equally. There are some that are highly profitable and relatively easy while others you do only out of necessity for your clients.

It makes sense when promoting specific services that we promote the ones we get excited about.

You probably know most of these off the top of your head but it may be time to do an audit to determine which services your shop is best at, and most profitable when doing.

If you know your shop is weak at diagnostics, you probably don’t want to do promotions for check engine light repair. However, if you have a team of rock stars when it comes to diagnostics, you definitely want to promote that.

Most shops are going to be most profitable on services like:

  • Factory recommended maintenance
  • Brakes
  • Tires
  • Alignments
  • A/C work
  • Water pump replacements
  • Oil leak repairs
  • Suspension repairs

That list could go on and on, but I want to make another point with it.

You need to promote the things that clients have time to make a decision on. The first four (maybe 5) in the list above make for good promotions. On the other hand, if someone has an A/C or water pump failure, they need it fixed now. That’s something you don’t plan for and you don’t make a decision based on a promotion.

When it comes to things like oil leak repairs, suspension repairs, etc – most of the time the client doesn’t even know the problem exists until you find it while doing the DVI during another repair or service. These are not promotion-worthy.

But I Don’t Do Promotions

Good! I love it! But you still do promotions 🙂

Even if you don’t do traditional promotions, you still promote things such as:

  • The types of vehicles you service
  • The high-quality parts you use
  • Your highly trained technicians
  • Your ultra-low comeback rate
  • Your comfortable waiting area
  • That “best of” award you just won from the local magazine
  • The training your team just got at Vision, ASTE, AAPEX, NAPA, or whatever conference you just attended
  • And the plethora of culture-related content you should be producing

So no, you don’t do sales or discounts, but you absolutely do promotions.

What Types Of Marketing Are You Willing To Do?

I personally believe that all types of marketing can be effective when done well and used in the correct situations.

That being said, I understand shop owners who have their reasons for not using certain types of marketing.

I know people who won’t use direct mail because of the environmental impact.

I know people who won’t use Facebook advertising because they believe social media is bad. I can’t disagree with them, but I also know it can be an effective way of advertising. But good on them for standing in their beliefs.

There are also people who won’t use certain advertising mediums because they don’t understand them. Geofencing, programmatic media, and real-time bidding come to mind.

You just need to ask yourself from the beginning if any type of advertising is off-limits for you, and if so, do some soul searching about why it’s off-limits. If it’s due to a past personal experience where it didn’t perform as it should have, or if it’s due to something you heard from someone else, I’d advise you to try and open your mind a bit.

Marketing Mediums

There are so many different marketing mediums available to marketers today. Here is a list of some of the mediums you’ll probably be incorporating into your campaigns.

  • Website
  • CRM (My Shop Manager, Mechanic Advisor, etc)
  • Email
  • Organic Social Media
  • Paid Social Media Advertising
  • Paid Ads
  • Radio
  • Tv
  • Magazines
  • Newspaper
  • Direct mail
  • Billboards
  • Video

When selecting the mediums for your campaigns, understand that many of your campaigns will run across multiple different mediums.

Considerations for the mediums you use will include:

  • Watering holes – what medium is going to put your message in front of the avatar you are targeting?
  • Cost – what is the possible return on investment for a well-executed campaign and which medium/s works within the budget based on that return?
  • Technical proficiency – which mediums can the person responsible for executing the campaigns execute at a high level?
  • Desire – sometimes you simply want to use a certain medium to see how it performs. There is nothing wrong with this.

Choose your marketing mediums wisely and don’t try to do everything at once. You don’t want to be a one-trick pony but you also don’t want to spread yourself so thin that nothing is done with excellence.

Mediums and skillset go hand-in-hand. If you’re hiring professionals to execute your campaigns then you should be just fine. If you’re doing it yourself, learn how to market effectively with each medium before moving on to the next.

What Is Your Marketing Budget?

You must have a pre-determined marketing budget. You cannot “wing it”.

There are a lot of things that go into determining your marketing budget.

First, what do you consider marketing? This all comes down to how you have your chart of accounts set up in your bookkeeping software and how you code your expenses.

There are a lot of things that should be coded as marketing but often are not. Your CRM like Mechanic Advisor, My Shop Manager, Bolt-On, AutoText.me, etc – are all marketing expenses but are more often coded as a software expense. The sponsorship you did for your kid’s little league team, that’s marketing. The car-care clinic you put on was also marketing. Chamber memberships, BNI, and even costs associated with jobber programs are often marketing expenses.

If you’re coding things correctly, it makes sense that your marketing budget should be higher.

At a minimum, you should be spending at least 5% of your gross revenue on marketing, but 7% is a more realistic number and is the number that is generally accepted across the board.

But there are still other considerations. The biggest is how fast you want to grow. An auto repair shop that is looking for aggressive growth will need to spend more. That number is going to be more like 10-12% of gross revenues.

Finally, you need to look at the competitiveness of the geographic area you’re in. A shop located in the middle of Houston, Atlanta, or some other major metro area will need to spend more than a shop located in rural America that has little to no competition. Some of those rural shops can literally get away with spending nothing on marketing.

Once you have your marketing budget set, you have an amazing tool at your fingertips. When you do get that salesman who walks in and wants to sell you something that actually makes sense to employ in your marketing, your marketing budget combined with your overall plan will tell you quickly if you can say yes or if you have to say no. It’s also something that they can’t argue with. When you tell them “my marketing budget is fully allocated this year” they will often ask how they can get on it for next year.

Who Is Going To Do Your Marketing?

The next question you need to ask yourself is “who is going to do the marketing?”, or at least “who is going to be responsible for the marketing?”

If you’re the one creating the marketing plan, you probably already have your answer to this question. But it’s not always that simple.

Typically your marketing is going to be done by an owner of the business, a dedicated staff member, or an outside company.

Let me be clear about something. I own Shop Marketing Pros, a company that does marketing for auto repair shops. I’m writing this guide because I know you probably searched for “auto repair shop marketing plan” and this will introduce you to our company. But we teach like crazy and don’t hold much back. I take serious pride in seeing someone take the things we teach, put them into action in their shops, and see success from it.

That being said, the owner of the business is usually the last person who should be marketing the business. Now if there are multiple owners and one of them takes on the role of chief marketing officer, that’s a completely different situation. Either way, whoever is responsible for the marketing needs to have the time and be willing to dedicate the time to overseeing the shop’s marketing, and measuring its effectiveness.

It’s time to be real with yourself. If you know you’re going to half-heartedly fill the role, then you need to hire dedicated staff or just hire a marketing company to do it for you.

Any way it goes, the marketing plan must spell out who is going to do the work and who is responsible for overseeing it.

Crafting Your Message

Each marketing campaign you build will have its own distinct message, but you still need to start by having the main message that is the message of your overall brand.

This is where the book “Building a Storybrand” comes in. In Building a Storybrand, author Donald Miller takes you through a framework that helps you craft a message that your audience will identify with much better than the typical “here’s who we are, here’s what we do, and here’s how to contact us”.

The Storybrand framework tells the story of a character (your client), who has a problem, who meets a guide (your shop), who gives them a plan, calls them to action, and shows them what success or failure looks like.

I’m not going to go into your message anymore here. Buy the book, read it, and create your brandscript (it will make sense when you read the book). If you want to take it a step further, go to the in-person workshop in Nashville and work with the StoryBrand team. They are an awesome group and I promise you you’ll have a great time. It will pay for itself in dividends.

Creating Your Campaigns

This is where we get to see it begin to come together.

By now you know who you want to market to, what the overall goals of your marketing are going to be, and what your overall brand message is.

Now it’s time to break this up into individual campaigns.

Each campaign will consist of the following:

  • Name of the campaign
  • What are we promoting?
  • Who is the audience (avatar)?
  • What medium/s are being used?
  • What is the message?
  • What assets will you need? (photos, videos, collateral, promotional products, etc)
  • When does the campaign start and end?
  • Who is performing the actual work needed for the campaign?
  • How do we define success for the campaign?
  • How are we measuring the results?

You will have many campaigns throughout the year. You will want to make sure the timing of the campaigns makes sense. Some of them will be obvious, for instance, a back-to-school campaign should happen just before and during the back-to-school season in your area.

Some may not be so obvious. An example may be a tire campaign that may be best suited to run when the seasons are changing and people are considering switching out their snow tires for regular tires. Obviously, this is only relevant in areas where people actually use snow tires. In the south, we may do a battery campaign when the temperatures start maxing out in late spring because we know batteries love to fail during this time of year.

As you think through the various things you want to promote throughout the year, make a campaign for each of them. You’ll be tempted to skip this for the smaller promotions, but being lazy here will lead to less than optimal results.

Coming Up With Ideas For Your Promotions

One of the most difficult parts of creating your marketing plan is coming up with your promotions. I’m not talking about getting lost in the details here, I’m talking about taking a 30,000-foot view and deciding what, when, and why you are going to promote certain things.

Some of your promotions will have more purpose behind them than others. Others may simply be something that you do for fun. For instance, you may know that there are certain times of the year when business completely falls off and your techs are sitting around with nothing to do. Car count is down, revenues are down, and morale is down. The promotions you do to combat this will have a serious impact on your business. On the other hand, you may do some goofy promotion that’s centered around Talk Like A Pirate Day that has no purpose except to show off your company culture.

Let’s look at where the ideas for these would come from.

What Seasonal Events Negatively Affect Your Car Count?

When we owned our shop, we knew that the North Carolina State Fair drastically affected our business every October. It was the weirdest thing, but we’ve heard from other shop owners near large fairs that it negatively impacts them as well.

The first year this happened, we had no idea we would experience a slowdown due to the fair.

The second year, it crept up on us and we were reminded quickly that the fair was about to give us a swift kick in the butt. By the time we realized it, it was too late. Remember that school of hard knocks I talked about?

The great thing about the school of hard knocks is that it teaches us lessons we don’t easily forget. From that point on, we kept a rolling 12-month calendar that showed us where the slow times were during the year. Having this calendar when planning your promotions will make your job so much easier and more effective.

If you don’t already have this calendar, a great place to start is by creating a graph of your previous year’s weekly revenues. Look for the dips and see if you can remember what was happening around that time that may have caused the slump in business.

When we owned our shop we were members of ATI. At ATI when they would talk about marketing they would always talk about how during the slow times, shop owners would call up the other shop owners in the area and ask them how business was. If the other shop owners were slow, they took solace in that and just waited until things got good again.

They had a joke about the slow times of the year.

  • January is slow because everyone just spent all of their money on Christmas
  • February is slow because it’s Mardi Gras (we’re in Louisiana)
  • March is slow because the winter blues are at their peak
  • April is slow because everyone is focused on spring cleaning
  • May is slow because people are dealing with graduations
  • June is slow because everyone is going on vacations
  • July is slow because nobody spends money on their cars during the summer
  • August is slow because it’s back-to-school time
  • September is slow because, well, nobody does anything in September
  • October is slow because of the fairs
  • November is slow because people are starting to wind down for the holidays
  • December is slow because everyone is spending their money on Christmas

Yes, you can find a reason for every slow time throughout the year, so you better learn to market around them!

In the case of the state fair that always slowed us down, we started giving rides from our shop to the fair when people left their cars for service, and depending on the amount they spent, we would give them entry tickets and ride tickets. This worked very well to increase our business during this normally slow time.

You tend to forget about things that happened a year ago. Because we had our 12-month rolling calendar, we were able to start planning way ahead for the slow times of the year. It’s an incredible tool.

What Services Are You Not Selling Enough Of?

This one should be easy. You know your most profitable services. You know what equipment is underutilized in your shop.

One of the biggest wastes of money, or missed opportunities, is a piece of equipment that’s gathering dust. The more expensive that piece of equipment, the more important it is that you put it to work – and the more profitable the work is that you do with that equipment, the more important it is that you put it to work.

Let’s look at 2 examples.

  1. An alignment machine. This is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment that a shop will own. For various reasons, usually coming down to training, there are shops that invest in these machines yet don’t make it a priority to sell alignments. You need to make sure that your techs are trained on doing alignments and that your service advisors are trained on selling alignments. Then you create a marketing campaign to promote your alignment services. Tie it to a current pain like fuel mileage.

  2. R1234yf refrigerant machine. Most independent shops are not equipped to handle air conditioning repairs on cars with R1234yf refrigerant. You should be promoting the fact that you do. You should have a page optimized on your website about this so that customers and other shops can find you when looking for a shop that can do these repairs. Create campaigns to let customers know you can handle A/C repairs on their new cars and create another campaign to let neighboring shops know you can sublet repairs for them.

Aside from sales related to equipment that you have, what other services should you be selling more of?

At our shop, we bought the equipment to do headlight restorations. This was an easy, profitable sale that added $3k – $5k to our sales each month. The best part was how much customers loved the end result. In addition, headlight restorations were the perfect service to create a campaign around. We promoted them all throughout the year and they were a great way to get cars in the door, do an inspection, and sell lots of other needed repairs.

Why did this work so well? It worked so well because people hated the way their ugly headlights looked and it was a relatively inexpensive service, so it was a no-brainer for them to do!

Another service we often promoted was Aquapel windshield treatments. If we sold it to someone once, we could count on them having it done every six months. It worked so well that people didn’t know how they drove in the rain before Aquapel.

What are the services you know you’re not selling enough of? Those are your promotions.

What Events Should You Take Part In?

Every business in every industry has events they can take part in that will work well as part of their marketing plan. I’m going to give you 3 examples of events that we did or were involved in to get your gears turning.

  1. April National Car Care Month – Every April and October the Car Care Council hosts National Car Care Month. It’s a month-long event to bring awareness to the importance of car care. We would have special promotions, put on multiple car care clinics, and host events with our local chambers of commerce or other groups.

  2. The Southern Women’s Show – We were known as “The Triangle’s Most Female Friendly Shop”, therefore it was a natural fit for us to have a booth at The Southern Women’s Show. This show was always a huge success in bringing us a new base of customers. Women were our main target avatar. The Southern Women’s Show was a huge watering hole for women. This was an every-year event for us.

  3. Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours – The business after-hours is an event that your local chamber of commerce hosts each month to bring local business people together for networking. They partner with local businesses to host the event. For us, that meant that 200+ influential local business owners came together in our shop for a night of networking. They experienced our immaculately clean shop. They met our staff. They saw our comfortable waiting room with all of the awards all over the walls. From that point on, when they thought of auto repair, they thought of us.

What are the events you should be taking part in? Think about every event that happens in your area. Is your avatar there? Is there an event that doesn’t exist yet that you can make your own?

What can you do to get people into your facility for reasons other than auto repair? Hosting events and getting people into your shop, whether there to spend money or not, will always lead to new customers.

Kim wrote an article on planning events for your shop. In the article, she specifically talks about marketing the events. Your marketing campaign is bulleted out in her article

Building Campaigns Around Holidays

Every single day of the year there is a holiday, some serious and some just plain goofy. From Military Appreciation Month, to Hug Your Mechanic Day, to Worship of Tools Day, there’s something you can spice up your social media with at least twice per month.

One of our clients has a cookout each year on National Hot Dog Day. They cook hotdogs all day and give them to their customers, vendors, and anyone else who comes into the shop.

Another of our clients does a “Fuel Mileage Special” on “Cut Your Energy Costs Day” where they perform a fuel injection cleaning, adjust tire pressure, check your alignment, check your spark plugs, and check the condition of your air filter. It’s a perfect match!

Another shop celebrates its technicians on Tradesmen Day. The day is all about making their techs feel special, and it’s a great way to help your audience come to know, like, and trust your staff.

I created a document where I selected over 100 of the “National Days” holidays that I feel work well with an auto repair shop. Check it out here.

Pick a handful of holidays throughout the year and build marketing campaigns around them. Some of these campaigns, like the one for National Car Care Month, for example, will be pretty built-out campaigns. Others like National Hot Dog Day, should you choose to do that one, will be small, simple campaigns that may only consist of an email and a few social media posts.

It’s up to you what you do with this but holidays can be a fun way to run some campaigns and promotions.

What Is Your Community Involvement?

Everybody loves being involved in their community but they feel funny about telling the world about it. I get it. It feels braggadocious and nobody likes a bragger.

Here’s the problem. If you don’t tell anybody, no one else will.

People want to know about your community involvement. People like and trust organizations that do good things in their community.

It’s actually pretty easy to tell people about your community involvement without it coming off as bragging. You simply have to make your campaigns highlight the group or organization you are supporting rather than the fact you are supporting them.

Do things like:

  • Create a promotion where proceeds benefit the organization you are supporting
  • Allow your message to edify the organization rather than your business
  • Celebrate the wins of the organization you are involved with
  • Share pictures of you and your team at the organization’s events

If you’re not already doing some kind of community involvement, you really need to do this. I was always that person that undervalued this type of thing, but thankfully my wife did see the value. I was wrong. Every business should be involved in its community in some way. It’s good stewardship and it always comes back to you.

One other thing. You need to remember that you’re a part of two different communities. First, you have your local community, geographically speaking. Second, you have your auto repair community. Don’t forget about the second. There are so many ways to get involved at an industry level. Don’t miss this.

Marketing For New Team Members (Hiring)

This is a big one for our industry right now. When creating your campaigns, don’t forget about creating hiring campaigns, and don’t overlook how your other campaigns will work in attracting new team members.

The overlap in marketing to customers and marketing to hire new employees is huge, but not always obvious – until it is.

Kim and I recorded a podcast episode on this very topic. Check out The Auto Repair Marketing Podcast Episode 005.

Let’s dig into this a bit.

  • Customers want a shop that’s going to fix their car right the first time. Technicians want to work with other competent techs and don’t want their reputation tarnished by coworkers
  • Customers want great customer service and a pleasant experience working with nice, professional people. Technicians want to work with other nice, friendly people.
  • Customers want to know they are going to be respected. Technicians want to know they are going to be respected.
  • Customers want to know that the shop they are dealing with is properly equipped to take care of their car. Technicians want to know they are going to have access to the best tools and equipment when working on cars.
  • Customers don’t want their cars to smell sweaty when they pick them up. Technicians want to work in air-conditioned shops.

So it would make sense, especially when it comes to the culture-focused marketing that you do on social media, that you should be using the same content to market to both customers and new team members. We have made it common practice to append many of our client’s social media posts with the hashtag #AGreatPlaceToWork.

But you should also create campaigns that are specific to hiring. You’ll want to go beyond the basics of a “We’re Hiring” campaign that lists out the usual benefits. Go read these two articles we wrote on hiring and it will shift your entire mindset on the topic.

Both of those are geared toward technicians but the principles apply for all team members.

Strengthen Your Weaknesses

As you build out your marketing campaigns you’ll undoubtedly choose to use existing assets to support your campaigns. Some of these assets may be old, outdated, or never were great, to begin with.

It’s important to revisit your existing marketing assets to determine if they are as strong as they need to be.

The most obvious of these is going to be your website. You need to do an analysis of your website overall, and in relation to each of the campaigns you are going to run.

Here are some questions to start with.

  • Is the website a good representation of your auto repair shop?
  • Are the colors, fonts, and logo the same ones you are currently using?
  • Do you need any landing pages built to support any of your campaigns?
  • Does the messaging match the messaging you are using in your campaigns?
  • Are the calls to action the ones you want to be using?
  • Are the pieces in place to be able to measure the outcome of your campaigns?
  • Do you have up-to-date photos and videos in place and have you replaced all stock images with your own?
  • Is the website performing as it should and bringing you a steady flow of customers?

These are questions you should ask at least once per year. Don’t underestimate the importance of this.

Take this same theory and apply it to other existing marketing assets. Things you should inspect and make sure are a good representation of your business include:

  • Signage and building exterior
  • Print collateral
  • Business cards
  • Invoices
  • Email marketing templates
  • Reminder emails and direct mail
  • Billboards

Take this time to make sure all of your marketing assets are as strong as they can be at building your brand, relaying your message, calling people to action, and adding to an infrastructure that allows you to measure the effectiveness of your marketing.

Measuring The Success Of Your Campaigns

The campaign isn’t over when you think it’s over. You have to do an AAR, or After Action Review. This is where you look back on the campaign and determine if it was successful and break down what worked well and what didn’t.

When creating your campaign, one of the questions you’ll be answering is “What does success look like?”

Another question you’ll answer when creating the campaign is “How will we measure the results of this campaign?”

These questions are paramount to the AAR.

It’s important that these questions are answered before the campaign starts because if not, you’ll find yourself having run a marketing campaign that didn’t have the proper tracking measures in place.

We can’t go very far into measuring outcomes because the way you measure is going to be different depending on the mediums used in your campaigns.

Just know this: You can’t grow something that you can’t measure. Marketing without measuring will always lead to wasted money and an insecure feeling about the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Putting It All Together

We’ve talked about a lot in this guide, so let’s take all of those pieces and parts and pull them together so it all makes sense.

  • We start with an avatar – who is it that we’re marketing to?
  • We choose a goal for our marketing – what is the desired outcome?
  • We determine what it is that we want to sell or promote
  • We choose the medium/s that we want to use in the campaign
  • We determine a budget for the campaign
  • We identify who is responsible for the campaign and who is executing the campaign
  • We craft our message
  • We take all of this information and build it into a campaign
  • We determine what success looks like for the campaign
  • We define how we will measure the success of the campaign

As you can see, when you’ve addressed each of these bullet points, you have the overall makeup of your marketing campaign.

We’ve created a planning sheet that you can use to build out each of your campaigns. On more complex campaigns you may need more detail than this sheet will allow, but it will certainly serve as a great starting point. You can download it here.

Putting Your Campaigns Into A Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan will consist of both your ongoing marketing actions that mostly remain the same throughout the year (SEO, Google Ads, automated reminder emails, etc), and your marketing campaigns.

The marketing plan simply takes all of the individual campaigns and marketing actions and puts dates on them.

For example, we know that Fall Car Care Month is in October. That means our campaign for Fall Car Care Month will probably run from mid-September through the end of October. But we can’t wait until September to start planning the campaign.

Your marketing plan tells you what assets you need for a campaign and the mediums you’re going to be using. If we’re going to be using email and social media for the promotion, we could, in theory, wait until the last minute to create the email and the social posts (don’t wait until the last minute). But if we’re doing direct mail, or placing an advertisement in a magazine, we need to plan way ahead for that.

The marketing plan is what keeps you on track. It keeps you from missing a marketing opportunity because a holiday, event, or time-sensitive promotion snuck up on you.

It’s also what allows you to fit everything into an actual marketing budget. Each campaign or marketing action has a cost associated with it and those costs are all laid out in your marketing plan.

So the marketing plan doesn’t need to be this elaborate document filled with a bunch of details. Our own marketing plan at Shop Marketing Pros is a Google Sheet with the name of the campaign, the date preparation needs to start, the date the actual campaign starts, the date the campaign ends, the budgeted cost for the campaign, and a link to a Google Doc with all of the campaign details in it.

Conclusion

Creating a marketing plan is not difficult. It is time-consuming, but the time invested will pay off in dividends.

Having a marketing plan and following it with discipline will keep your marketing happening on time, on budget, and in a way that is measurable.

Remember the 3 books I recommended in the first section of this guide. You really do need to read them. It will make a huge difference in the way you think about marketing.

If you need an amazing team to help you with the ongoing, day-to-day marketing of your auto repair shop, reach out to us and schedule a call.

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.
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