There’s an awe that tends to follow truly great salespeople. “They could sell sawdust to a lumber-mill,” we say, with reverence. “He could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves!”
But not even the best salesman could sell snow tires in Miami.
No matter how incredible their talents, no matter how good their connections, no matter how silver their tongue, we can all recognize that there’s a limit to what people will buy when it’s against their own self-interest. If you spend your Miami winters wearing shorts and sandals, nobody is getting you to put snow tires on your convertible.
So why are so many shop owners committed to marketing that does exactly this?
We can all acknowledge that the idea that a Miami-based tire dealer would try to sell snow tires is ridiculous, because that Miami-based tire dealer knows their customers. They know that they’re in a unique market, and their customers are looking for tires that hold up to sun and salt water rather than snow.
We can acknowledge that this is silly because businesses know that they must appeal to the customers in their market, with messages that speak to their neighbors.
So why does that change when we take tires out of the picture?
Effective marketing is about research. Researching a shop’s competition, their local market, the area trends, the shop’s pricing strategy, customer incomes, which niche pockets in the market area aren’t good for the business…and so much more. Knowing how to find and attract great customers – the kind that improve the health and value of your customer base—is hard work!
The problem, of course, is that there’s a tremendous amount of profit to be made by not doing any of that hard work. It’s far, far cheaper for everyone involved if your marketing company doesn’t bother to do any of that research at all!
Which is why so many auto repair websites look identical and have identical copy on them. It’s why so much direct mail in our industry looks and sounds identical. It’s why all shop’s newsletters go out with the same look, feel and language.
If a marketing company can sell the same work over and over, they can make a much bigger profit, and save the shop money in the process.
And the only things lost in the process are the effectiveness of the marketing and the trust of the customer.
What inevitably happens is that multiple shops in the same market area start sending identical marketing pieces driving customers to identical looking websites, and now you’ve got customers seeing the same images, reading the same copy, and losing trust with everyone involved.
And why not? Those customers have no reason to believe there’s anything different between shops because they’ve all been told there’s no difference!
So, while it’s ridiculous that a tire dealer in Miami would try to sell snow tires, it’s not that far off base from what’s actually happening! Shops routinely trust their marketing to companies that have no idea how to identify a great customer, where they live, what they respond to, how to attract them, or how to keep them coming back.
Imagine that Miami tire dealer justifying sending out a snow tire special because it was a little cheaper than researching what their customers really wanted or needed! It sounds ridiculous, sure, but it should sound ridiculous in every situation. Truly effective and impactful marketing should be unique to a shop and its neighborhood.
Which leads me to the reality of the situation: one marketing company can’t do their best work for two clients with the same customer base. By definition, only one of those shops can get the marketing company’s best work.
If you’re not concerned with quality of work, then it’s not much of a problem. This explains why so many marketing companies are wildly content to sell the same websites and direct mail to every shop who asks for it.
But it’s another matter entirely if you’re interested in being a successful shop that sends effective marketing. The goal of effective marketing – the kind that produces results – is to set your shop apart, not to look and sound like just another shop your customer can bring their car!
In our shop, we live this out in everything we do: we don’t fly the colors of any particular parts company or industry organization. We send marketing that doesn’t look or sound like any other marketing our customers are receiving. We dress different, decorate different, and act different because we want our customers to know that we ARE different.
It’s much harder to set yourself apart when your marketing company is focused on their own profits instead of your success.
So what’s the solution?
First, ask yourself whether your marketing is setting your shop apart. Does your website look like that shop down the street? Do your direct mail pieces look and sound like the pieces you get in your mail at home? If you’re blindly using one-size-fits-all marketing because it’s cheaper, you might as well be selling snow tires in South Florida.
Second, find a marketing company that is focused on results. One critical metric for measuring the effectiveness of your marketing – a number you can start tracking yourself right away – is the average repair order of your new customers compared to that of your existing customers. It’s an easy way to tell if you’re attracting customers that are improving the health and value of your customer base.
When you find that marketing company, that won’t be the only benchmark, and they should show you how to measure results so you can hold any marketing vendor accountable.
Above all, have high standards for your marketing. You work hard to deliver exceptional service and care for your neighbors, and the image you project into your community should reflect that hard work you put in every day.
David Rogers is the COO of Keller Bros, a successful $3.5mm repair shop in Littleton, CO, and the President of Automated Marketing Group. One critical reason why clients have continued to work with AMG for over 20 years is the tremendous research done every day to ensure the success of every client. Learn more about what makes AMG different – and why we’re not like other marketing companies — at www.automatedmarketinggroup.com