Let’s start this blog out with some serious honesty. In Kim’s previous (or maybe future) life, she believes she was/will be an event planner. She will tell you that she is confident she was made for this.
With that understanding, we realize that not everyone was born with this as a gift. She’s positive that even though she was born with organizational and planning skills, they were not perfected until she started actually practicing them in their own auto repair shop.
It wasn’t very long after they started adding hosting events into their overall marketing strategy that their shop could have easily been known as an event venue. In fact, Kim and Brian even believe some folks may have been confused as to whether they were an auto repair shop or an event facility.
No, really. We are serious.
Now, we are not suggesting that you need to do so many events that you confuse your audience. However, we are saying you should do enough events that you expose your shop to more potential customers, that you become the talk of the town, and that you create a culture in your shop that you may always have something going on.
How Does This Translate To Auto Repair?
Author Simon Sinek says “To inspire starts with the clarity of WHY.” In order for us to be able to inspire you to do event hosting you must first understand the why behind this idea.
Imagine the day you share with your team that you want host an event at your shop. If they can’t catch your vision and the why then you will likely not succeed.
Our top reasons for hosting events at your shop:
You become known in your community.
When your shop hosts an event it is likely that you’ll be inviting folks to your event. You do need people there 🙂 Word can spread and the more you do events the more you will be noticed. There were times when we were the “host” of events for other organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. Your chamber may be looking for a host for the “Business After Hours”. Why not be your shop? Now you’ve got someone other than your shop promoting your event because you’ve partnered with someone else and they’re going to help you become known.
You can reach new people.
With every event you choose to host you have an opportunity to promote it to a wider audience, expanding your territory each time. Believe it or not, as much as you might feel like ‘everyone knows us’ there’s someone who does not. There will always be someone new in the community to reach.
There’s no better way to keep your shop clean and organized.
It’s amazing to us how often we hear “don’t us that photo/video because it’s showing the mess in the shop” or something like that. All the time. How about making “clean and organized” a part of your shop culture? An easy way to do that is by hosting events regularly so that everything is pretty much always “camera ready”! Instead of making an announcement to the team that you’re hosting an event and it’s time to clean up you, instead, always have a clean, organized shop.
It’s a way to give back to your community.
One of our best moments in marketing from our shop didn’t come from the awards, the recognition, the glory of being an incredible shop in our community. It came from one of the events we hosted at our shop. You may know that Brian and Kim are from Louisiana but they lived in and their shop was in Apex, North Carolina. When Hurricane Katrina hit their native home of Louisiana, they knew they had to rally the troops in their North Carolina community. What started with the intent of filling a truck bed with supplies and driving it down to New Orleans turned into two-tractor-trailers full of anything and everything you can think of needed in the wake of a massive hurricane like Katrina. The efforts of their shop invited their team, customers, and surrounding community to pitch in. All heart. This event had the surprise benefit of new customers coming to them for years after this event. It’s just one easy example of how your auto repair shop can host an event that gives back to the community.
Helping your audience get to know, like, and trust you more.
If it is not clear already, the reasons for hosting an event already prove that this is an incredible opportunity to help your audience get to know, like, and trust you. The interaction that occurs between you, your team, and your event attendees is a brilliantly casual way to get to know one another. The conversations and personal touch truly make a huge difference. It is during these events that trust is built as your attendees can learn to like the shop and team through their experience being there at the shop. You have a perfect chance to be hospitable, show off your tools, equipment, and any personal touches that make your shop unique.
When we step outside of our comfort zone and do things we would not normally do we can truly reap amazing benefits. An auto repair shop hosting events is just not the average marketing tactic. No matter what your event is going to be you can make it happen. You can make it worthwhile. You can make it valuable. Events can be anything from the Spring or Fall Car Care Month Clinic type events, Women’s Car Care Clinics, Scout Badge Events, Car Clubs, Trunk-or-Treats, or thinking outside the typical box and doing something really creative like Autohaus Social in Atlanta where they married “the fine and performing art of auto repair.”
Now let’s dissect HOW to host event(s) at your auto repair shop.
We understand that most likely your God-given talents and skills may not revolve around marketing. That’s why you’re reading this blog 🙂 That’s why we are writing it for you! So hopefully now that you are inspired by multiple reasons to host an event we want to help you get ready to plan it and promote it!
Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
It would be horrible to spend time hosting an event for it to be a massive flop. We can help you with a successful event by helping you to think ahead, anticipate needs, and plan for what you want to happen.
Take a few moments to visualize the day. What does it look like? What’s happening? Who is there? Start there!
Considering what your event will look like, think of what will be required to pull that off. Some thoughts to consider:
- Can you partner with someone to make it a better event?
- How can your event be fulfilling for you, your team, and your attendees?
- Do you want to have food, entertainment, prizes, activities?
- Will someone be there to take photos and/or video?
- What goals do you want to accomplish? Over-communicate this to your team.
- Who will join you in your efforts? Empower, invite and encourage your team, family, etc to get on board and help you plan an event to meet your goals.
- Don’t be afraid to start small. I have a tendency to GO ALL IN, but sometimes ‘done is better than perfect’! Maybe your inaugural event is small and simple. It can be quite powerful to start small!
Marketing the event.
Considering what your event will look like, think of what will be required to pull that off. Some thoughts to consider:
- Set the date, time, location, name, hashtag
- Create a Facebook Event
- Add to your website
- Record a video inviting folks
- Send in email
- Boost your Facebook event
- Include in your other marketing efforts (radio, TV, billboards, print)
- Alert your local media with a press release
- Ask your Chamber of Commerce, BNI, and other organizations you are affiliated with to help promote
- Create multiple different social media posts – boost them. Ideas for individual posts: save the date, sponsor thanks, entertainment info (will there be a band, games, inflatable jump house), talk about the food, promote the giveaways, include your event hashtag in every one, etc. Each of these is their own individual post.
- Create fliers/postcards/handouts and ask your team to help distribute
- Is there a co-event sponsor/vendor – ask them to help promote
During the Event.
Ahhhhh the magic happens here! Come refreshed, alert, and ready to be “on”! If you’re not THAT person, find that person. Maybe it’s your spouse, business partner, or a team member. Be sure that the hospitable, friendly, outgoing folks are there to BE THE HOST. Some ideas to incorporate during the event:
- Welcome and greet every single person
- Show them around and invite them to tour the shop
- Once everyone is there and the event is going – get on a microphone or something to do an official welcome and thank your attendees
- Do giveaways
- Take photos and videos
- Ask/invite/remind your attendees and team to post on social using your event hashtag (consider doing a giveaway for someone posting on social with the hashtag)
- Go “live” on Facebook/IG to show off what’s happening
- Have a way to collect contact information such as an event sign-in, the giveaway entry, or by asking personally
- Be a resource by talking to guests and helping connect them to others at the event or shop team members to continue helping the guest have a personal experience
A long time ago we wrote a blog, The Party’s Not Over When the Party’s Over, and it was all about the follow up. What happens after the event is over can be some of the most beneficial parts of hosting an event. We’ve put together a handy follow-up checklist for you to consider below.
- Post photos in a photo album on your Facebook. We love what Mevert Automotive and Tire Center did with their Customer Appreciation Summer Vacation Open House. Check it out!
- Send thank you notes to attendees
- Send out an email recapping the event and linking to the photo album
- Thank your co-sponsors, vendors, etc.
- Reward or treat your team for their contributions.
- Do hashtag research to see who used your hashtag. Engage with them, thank them, reward them. If you promised a giveaway, then fulfill that promise.
- Send out a post-event survey to ask for feedback on the event. What did attendees enjoy, dislike, and ask for suggestions for improving the event next time.
Mevert Automotive and Tire Center’s Customer Appreciation event was a huge success!
Finally, WHEN your shop should host event(s).
Remember, done is often better than perfect so don’t get wrapped up in believing you have to host an elaborate event. You also do not need to incorporate every single idea listed above in the marketing and follow up effort. These are all suggestions to help you make your event your own!
Some shops may enjoy hosting events so much that they do one each month. That’s a lot, to be honest! So maybe shooting for one event each quarter could be a good goal. Or, if you are just getting started just do ONE and adjust from there. Below we’ll include some ideas to help get you going in choosing an idea that works for you! This is only a starter list and you can certainly add to this with your own creative ideas. Think monthly, quarterly, seasonally and also think about the problems customers have and how you can help solve them with an event.
Anytime of the Year Events
- Girl Scout Badge Clinics
- Boy Scout Badge Clinics
- Car Clubs
- Customer Appreciation
- How to Buy a Used Car Class
Quarter One Events (January, February, March)
- Valentine’s Day / Love Your Customers
- St. Patrick’s Day Event (Are you on a parade route? Host a parade viewing party)
- Something Cold-Weather related. Tire Check Event.
- How to Apply Snow Chains
Quarter Two Events (April, May, June)
- Spring Car Care Month Checklane Event
- Summer Vacation Road Trip Preparation – Car Road Trip Ready Event
- Host a Graduation Party for local High School/College Seniors
- Easter Egg Hunt (of course depending on date of Easter)
Quarter Three Events (July, August, September)
- Summer Party
- 4th of July BBQ/Customer Appreciation
- Back-to-School Car Clinic for New Teen Drivers
- Car Clinic for College Students Heading Off to College
Quarter Four Events (October, November, December)
- Brakes for Breasts
- No Shave November (host a fun event at the end of the month around this fun annual effort)
- Thanksgiving Week Customer Appreciation/Gratitude – give away turkeys/hams, have a lunch for those who stop in and visit during that week
- Event Focused on Free Pre-Purchase Inspections (for those purchasing pre-owned vehicles for Christmas gifts)
- Angel Tree Christmas Event
Is it all coming together now? Did we inspire some ideas in you or motivate you to try an event? We’d love to hear what you think, any questions you might have, and especially see your photos from your events. We invite you to join our private Auto Repair Marketing Mastermind Facebook Group to share with us.