Using the “Know, Like, Trust” Strategy to Grow Your Auto Repair Shop

When someone is looking for a mechanic, price and location are not the most important factors they consider.

Trust and familiarity are.

It is said that “People do business with people they know, like, and trust”. We know this to be true as we’ve seen it first-hand.

  • One of our clients recently shared with us how after rewriting her website content to highlight her team and culture, her analytics showed her people spent more time on more pages. Meaning, they were invested in our client.
  • We hear it all the time with our own content. We’ve purposely invested our resources in videos and social posts that highlight the 5 Stones team — our personalities, beyond just our services. Many clients tell us how much more they trust us because they feel like they know us. (5 Stones is the parent company of Shop Marketing Pros)

Building that trust and familiarity isn’t easy. Customers see right through marketing jargon like we’re the top-rated auto shop in the city. In fact, that type of approach could do more harm than good. It could make you seem inauthentic.

That’s not to say marketing can’t help you build the type of rapport that turns strangers into your next — and best — customers.

You just need to know what types of strategies to deploy in order to build a bridge between your company and would-be customers.

At the core of building rewarding relationships with your customers is trust. This article is going to show you some ways you can do that when your marketing your auto repair shop.

Build Trust for Your Auto Shop through Promotion-Free Content

Running social media ads and sending out typical direct mail are part of a solid marketing strategy, but these tactics will not foster strong relationships with your customers.

That’s because no one wants to be marketed to. No one is eager to be inundated with promotion-centric content from your auto repair shop. Sure, they like coupons relevant to them. Coupons will bring in customers.

But these same customers very well might leave your auto repair shop for the next best coupon offered by the mechanic down the street.

That’s why the most successful auto repair shops turn to promotion-free content to foster relationships, build trust, and double down on their expertise in the field. That way, not even a hard-to-resist coupon from a competitor will be enough for your loyal customers to flee.

By promotion-free content, we mean organic posts on social media, blog articles, guest posts in local publications, podcasts, and more. From your website to the print collateral you mail out and give away — there are endless opportunities to focus first on useful, trust-building content, and leave the promotional strategies behind.

By promotion-free, we do not mean you can’t promote this content. What we mean is this content isn’t self-promotional. Example:

  • Self-promotional content would focus on new services at your shop, or a sale you’re having.
  • Promotion-free content would be tips on how folks can safely change their oil — on their own.

While this may seem counterintuitive, remember, a majority of people use trust and familiarity when choosing companies to do business with. While ad-heavy strategies may deliver an ROI in the short-term, trust-building strategies foster relationships with your clients that lead to long-term growth for your auto repair shop.

Examples of Promotion-Free Content Your Target Audience Will Love

The following examples can be used across a variety of marketing channels — we’ll go into that even further below.

More specifically, however, there are two key areas you should focus on when creating promotion-free content:

  • Demonstrate your expertise
  • Make your company — and employees — more transparent to your customers

Ideally, you’ll accomplish both these factors simultaneously in your content. Let’s break down one piece of content, and the marketing strategy around that content, for an example.

  • You decide to create an article that shows people how to change their oil at home.
  • You choose one of your mechanics to be the face and voice of that article. Let’s call him Todd.
  • Todd and your team write the article, take photos of every step, and post the article on your website.
  • You then record a video with Todd, where Todd shows folks how to change their oil. Make sure Todd shows some personality — possibly even humor. The video does not (nor should not) be overly produced. Use your smartphone. It seems more authentic. Just make sure audio is rock-solid. Now you have a video and article.
  • You post the video on Facebook, with a link to the article. Post it on YouTube, too. We’ll discuss why shortly.
  • You then boost that post to folks in your region for $20 (Facebook lets you do that rather easily). This is an example of using a paid strategy to promote organic content.
  • You also want to make sure your current customers see this post and video, so you send an email out to them with a link to the article and video.

This particular piece of content checks off both of our boxes:

  • Demonstrates your expertise
  • Connects audiences to one of your mechanics, Todd.

Now, when folks come to the shop, if and when they see Todd, they’ll feel more comfortable. They’ll feel like they know him — something they can’t say about the auto shop down the street.

Not only that, but this piece of content seems to go against what most auto shops would do. Why would a mechanic help his customers change their own oil? That’s because people appreciate when experts share their knowledge. IF  they actually decide to change their own oil — they’ll repay you by coming to you for other work.

Besides — the chance of most of your prospects actually changing their own oil is low. They’ll still come to you for oil changes — and more. And they may share that video with friends and family, too (just in case folks in their inner circle want to learn how to change their oil).

Wow — free marketing!

That strategy outlined above can be repeated for any number of at-home car-care tips you can share with audiences. A few ideas to get you started include:

  • How do I change my windshield wipers?
  • How do I change the brakes on my car?
  • How do I replace a taillight bulb?
  • And so on

You can see a trend here. Each idea starts with: How do I.

We do this for a couple of reasons.

  1. It’s the most straightforward way to explain exactly what your audiences will learn by consuming this content.
  2. For SEO purposes. How do I is an incredibly popular search phrase starter — especially as voice searches increase. Every time you publish articles like the ones above, you increase your chances of showing up in local Google searches. And remember when we said you should post your videos to YouTube? This is why. Folks in your area who search online for something like ‘How do I change my brakes’ will likely see your video. That’ll introduce them to your shop, to your team, and to your expertise.

Pro tip: You can interchange “How do I” with “How to”. How do I is just more personal.

You can do more than just give away the secrets behind do-it-yourself auto repair. Here are a few more ideas that you can use (and follow the same marketing strategy we outlined above):

  • How to prepare for your upcoming car inspection
  • Your car failed inspection. Now what?
  • Your check engine light is on. What could be wrong?
  • Top 10 most common car noises — and why they’re happening.
    • This one makes for a great video idea.
  • How to know when it’s time for a new car.

The goal here is to identify the questions your prospects have — then answer them in an article, which you repurpose into a video (repurpose means taking that same content and just reworking it into a different style or medium). Then share that content on social media, promote it in social ads, and send it to your customer list.

And speaking of repurposing…

The Auto Podcast

Podcasts are incredibly popular. They’re often easier to produce than videos, as well. And when it comes to creating trust — and demonstrating your expertise — podcasts are a gold mine. A lot of our clients come to us interested in launching a podcast.

But don’t be fooled — making a podcast is a commitment of time and resources.

Which is why we suggest you create a fair amount of articles as outlined above first. Once you have 20-30 articles (with or without videos), you can start figuring out how to turn those articles into podcasts — if at all.

Here are some tips for podcasting:

  • The best podcasts have more than one host. This makes it easier to have banter.
  • Try to keep your podcast to 20-30 minutes, but let your content dictate the length.
  • Focus on one topic for each podcast (that way you can title your podcast with simple “how to” or “how do I” starters).
  • Only create podcasts on topics that don’t require visuals. So, how do I change the oil in my car would not work. But how do I know which type of oil is right for my car would work.
  • Podcasts require a hosting site. Libsyn is one example. You can google where to host my podcast to learn more.
  • Audio is the #1 concern with podcasting. Invest in a good mic. Yeti is a popular choice that’s still relatively affordable.

Show Off Your Personality (and Culture)

Until now, we’ve focused on content related to your services (such as how to change your oil). This type of content demonstrates your expertise and willingness to share that expertise.

But trust and relationship building requires more than that. If you recall at the start of this article, many of our own clients choose us over competitors because they feel like they know us — through the content we share online.

Take, for example, this Facebook post we shared a couple of Christmases ago.

This post has nothing to do with the services we provide — it has everything to do with who we are as a team and as individuals.

In our experience, most business owners get so caught up in ways to market their product or service that they forget that in the end personal connections matter. Before the digital age, shaking a man’s hand while looking him in the eye meant everything. While technology has changed a few things, that core concept still exists — we want to see and know the people we do business with.

That goes for our mechanics as well — particularly since most people have auto shop horror stories.

Sharing your personality across your digital channels can go a long way in making a connection with prospects. Here are a few examples of ways you can demonstrate your team’s personality and culture using digital channels:

  • Social Media — The video idea we suggested earlier, where one of your mechanics shows viewers how to do something, is effective. But so too are videos and posts where you feel comfortable enough to get out of your element (like with our own FB video above). These types of posts may seem silly, but they put you on the same playing field as your customers. While you don’t have to sing a song and post it online, you could share posts with images/videos such as:
    • Let’s say you pull a harmless prank on the new mechanic as a ‘welcome’ joke. Share it — and his reaction — on social media.
    • Share positive family news like a new baby, a child’s first dance recital, and more.
    • Share memes of your mechanics — for fun. For example, when one of your mechanics is covered in grease from head to toe, take a photo of him. Then, post it on social media with the caption: Todd’s reliving his childhood days of eating mudpies. It’s funny, harmless, and helps folks get to know your team.
  • Email and Print Materials — Avoid using stock photos. Take photos of your shop — and mechanics at work. Spotlight your team. Reference them by name and avoid overt marketing speak. Use the same language in your emails and print materials as you would when talking to your customers in the shop.
  • Website — Much like with emails and print materials, avoid stock photos and marketing speak. Use your website to introduce you and your staff as your client’s guide. Every auto shop provides ‘trusty and fast’ service. What makes you … you? We recommend you spotlight your team on your site, including with short videos introducing them. Because who fixes your customers’ cars is just as important to them as the actual repair itself.

Ensuring You Come Across as Credible

You could follow all the advice above and still not come off as credible. In fact, you could cause more harm to your shop than good. Unless you follow the tips below:

  • Use experts to talk about complex things. Don’t fake it. You’re blessed with talented people on your team. Let them shine in their own fields of expertise.
  • Value your readers’ email addresses. Use your emails to built trust, not to pitch that latest promotion. Consider it this way — when you’re given someone’s email address, you become a part of their inner circle, along with their friends and family. Treat them as such.
  • Build content on your own platforms. We talked about sharing your culture across social media — and you should. However, we don’t have to tell you how little trust consumers have with platforms like Facebook. As easy and convenient as social media is, don’t build your entire content house on that foundation. Develop your blog and email marketing channels. This gives you control over content quality.
  • Build up your reviews and testimonials. While you showcase your personality and expertise, work hard to get others to do the same for you. That way, prospects will have a hard time ignoring you. Get satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on places like Google, Facebook, and Yelp. Many of your prospects use reviews to gauge whether they should trust you.
  • Double-down on your unique selling proposition. Show what differentiates you from your competition. Hint: it’s almost always the men and women who work at your shop. Make them — and yourself — the stars.  

Somewhere along the line, businesses lost sight of what matters most to their customers. It isn’t the one-time promotion or the VIP club. Those can help bring customers in — and they do have a place in your marketing — but they don’t foster loyalty.

Your auto repair shop will benefit from loyal customers who do your marketing for you (through reviews and referrals) if you peel back the curtain on who you are. As you develop content for emails, print material, social media, and your website, consider the following checklist:

  • Is our personality present? Do we help our customers see who we are and what makes us tick?
  • Do we avoid overt marketing speak, and instead use language our customers can trust?
  • Are we showing our expertise?
  • Is this content providing some type of actual value to our customers (like a free tip)?

Do that, and your auto shop will build a loyal, passionate customer base that won’t jump ship when a competitor offers a discount or sale.

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About The Author

Brian Walker

Brian is a Mercedes Benz Master Technician of 17 years. He owned Peak Automotive in Apex, NC, and served as Mechanical Division Director for ASA North Carolina. Brian now owns Shop Marketing Pros, a marketing agency specializing in the independent automotive aftermarket.
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