Digital Marketing For Auto Repair Shops
Marketing is a rapidly growing topic that spans across industries. While some of its methods and techniques were once reserved for companies with the largest capital, the digital landscape has made marketing accessible for businesses of all sizes. It’s why digital marketing has become such a hot topic in the independent automotive repair industry. We all want to grow our businesses, we all want to help more clients, and marketing is largely the answer.
That being said, trying to decipher what your shop should be doing and which technique is the best option is hard. If you’re just starting your auto shop marketing journey, all of the information can be downright overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! We’re going to walk through the most important parts of your marketing in this article. We’ll give a basic look into your website, email marketing, social media, SEO, and more with the goal of increasing your confidence in making decisions for marketing your auto shop.
Your Website is Your Foundation
In today’s digital world, your website is the holy grail. It is where prospective clients can find more information about your shop, the services you offer, and how to contact you. It is where all of your marketing—emails, social media, texts, etc.—will link back to. It is where Google will weigh the information you provide and decide how to rank you. Ultimately, your website is one of the most important pieces of your marketing strategy.
For shop owners just starting on their marketing journey, start with checking your website for three things: mobile capability, accuracy of information, and content.
Mobile capability means that your website can be easily read and navigated by someone using their mobile device. If the fact that nearly 60% of all website searches happen on mobile devices (Statista).
Accuracy of Information
While you’re looking at whether or not your site is mobile friendly, it’s also important to take a look at your information. Does the information about your shop—address, website, phone number, etc.—match? For example, do you have one address on your website but the address on your Facebook or Yelp page is slightly different?
While this may seem harmless, having mismatching information across your business’ online presence can be harmful. One of the ways Google decides the ranking for search results is based on the likelihood of the content being spam. If your information is mismatched, this tells Google that something is off and makes them less likely to share your information with potential clients. Making sure all your information is accurate across platforms is a simple fix and one that can greatly improve your visibility.
The last thing to focus on for your website is content. Your website needs to tell clients that you have what they’re looking for. This includes listing your services, providing a look at your team and their background, making it easy to call or book an appointment, and sharing testimonials. By doing this, you’re not only showing potential clients that you’re the right fit for them, but letting Google know that you’re an authority in what you do.
One way to create content is to consider what your ideal customer is searching for. Beyond those simply looking for a repair shop in your area, are there other similar questions or search terms that you know your clients would use? For example, a BMW-specific shop would focus on questions and services that are unique to BMW vehicles and use those keywords in their content.
Mobile capability, information accuracy, and content are only a small part of building and maintaining a website that ranks highly. It’s no accident that there are hundreds of companies that offer services focused on websites and SEO alone. However, these three prongs lay the foundation for a high-performing website. Now, let’s look at the basics of expanding our marketing to our current and potential clients.
Reaching Potential Clients with Email, SMS, & More
Marketing isn’t about building a great website and waiting for prospective clients to find it. Just like you created content to resonate with mobile searches, you’ll need to create campaigns and messaging that finds new customers while retaining the customers that are important to your business. This means utilizing email, text, social media, and traditional media marketing to create a buzz around your auto shop.
Email & Text (SMS) Marketing
Email marketing has quickly become one of the most popular channels for marketing, falling behind only website SEO and social media for 2023 (Hubspot). With some of the highest click-through potential and the ability to automate, every automotive business should be using email marketing. It provides a great way to continuously contact your audience.
Emails shouldn’t only be sent based on services, but also when a client joins the mailing list or has an important date coming up. By using personalization—inserting their name, keeping track of their birthday, etc—you’ll increase the chances of engagement. So, even if they don’t need your services right now, they’ll know who to go to when they do.
Text, or SMS, marketing is another avenue that offers personalization and automation options that shouldn’t be ignored. While this marketing technique isn’t likely to impact new customer acquisitions, it’s very important for retaining your current customers. Whether it’s messaging after a service or sending automated reminders to schedule overdue services, text messaging is crucial to any modern auto shop’s marketing strategy.
Social media offers a place for potential customers to get a better look at your shop, your team, and what other customers are saying about you. While social media platforms may not be as big of a draw for our industry, they are still important. Not only is social media another place for Google to confirm your information, but people expect some sort of online presence in today’s world.
You can start by sharing behind-the-scenes from your team, along with up-close looks at the jobs your technicians are working on. It’s also a great place for consumer-generated content. If a client takes a picture while they’re at your shop and tags you, that can then be shared by your accounts. Or you can ask a client to take a picture of them for your social media. This is client-concentric content that helps prospective clients get to know your business.
For shop owners just starting, it may seem overwhelming or like there’s little return in social media marketing. However, social media is an important part of the larger picture, helping to further build your marketing strategy. And as our technology progresses and social media becomes more and more ingrained in our daily lives, it would be outright foolish to ignore.
The focus on social media and digital marketing often makes it feel like there’s no place left for traditional marketing media. Things like flyers, business cards, and television ads are no longer valuable. While there are certainly some professionals who like to cut out traditional media entirely, I think it largely depends on your shop and your audience.
Certain demographics engage with different types of marketing better. By knowing who your ideal client is, you can create a marketing strategy that best fits your unique shop and audience.
If you’re still figuring out who that ideal customer is, or what your audience responds best to, there’s no issue in trying a mixed media approach. Just remember that you need to be able to track the return.
Things like radio and television ads are even less talked about, mainly because they often require a large budget that independent automotive businesses don’t have access to. Just remember that these are typically used for brand awareness and won’t necessarily have an immediate return.
Taking Your Marketing Further with Pay-Per-Click, Local SEO, & Social Media
We’ve largely discussed the things that create the foundation of digital marketing for auto repair shops. These are a great place to start, whether you’re a new owner just beginning to dive into marketing or a seasoned professional wanting to make sure your marketing is relevant. But now we need to focus on taking your auto shop marketing further—on attracting those new clients and bringing them into your shop! Three of the most common ways to do that include pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, local SEO, and social media advertising.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
No matter how good your organic marketing and traffic is, you’re going to need paid advertising. PPC is one of the most effective ways to do this, as it allows you to create campaigns around the keywords and search terms that matter most while easily scaling to fit your budget. As easy as it is, PPC can get very technical very quickly. Which is why I recommend working with a marketing professional who has spent their career gaining experience and knowledge on how to get the best return. That being said, there are a few things a shop owner should know about PPC.
Where SEO takes time, PPC can help websites rank higher in mere hours. Combine that with the fact that Google will show paid ads above sites with the highest organic ranking and it becomes obvious why PPC is so important to a well-rounded marketing strategy. You’ll want to be familiar with the keywords and search terms your business is bidding on, as well as the budget you’re comfortable with setting. PPC should be updated frequently, as the digital landscape is always evolving and an ad that worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today.
As you work with a PPC partner or company, make sure you’re clear on who you want to target, the messaging you want to spotlight, and understanding the results they share with you.
Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Local SEO is another in-depth technique that can help you rank higher in search for the customers that are already near you. While optimizing your keywords on your website is a large part, you should be aware of your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business listing) and its reviews.
The first step is making sure that your Google Business Profile is filled out. Most shop owners will remember to fill out their Name, address, phone and hours, but often don’t write a description or add photos, things that will help boost engagement with prospective customers.
A completed Profile is not only more attractive to prospective customers but has shown to impact the potential for reviews. Reviews are gold when it comes to local SEO, as they not only signal to potential clients that you’re a good choice, but show Google that you are a business that deserves to be ranked higher. This also means that you should be using those other marketing techniques—email, text, and social media—to garner more reviews.
Social Media Advertising
Speaking of social media, let’s look at advertising. Just like PPC, advertising on social media is another important part of a well-rounded marketing strategy. Advertising on social media provides a way for targeted messaging on another platform. While PPC focuses on keywords and search terms, social media ads are going to rely on creative images and videos to propel the message.
Focus on that ideal customer I’ve mentioned a few times now. What are their demographics? What are they interested in? Is there a similar audience your message could reach? By using these qualifiers – otherwise known as targeting – you’ll be able to spend money on social media ads that yield a return and aren’t just adding to the noise of the platforms. You can even add customer lists to many of these platforms for them to do the work of creating those similar (also called lookalike) audiences. Just make sure that you follow all privacy and consumer information laws when doing so.
Marketing will Always be Evolving
As technology and our industry changes, so does our marketing and understanding of how to best use it for our businesses. I can guarantee that many of the aspects of social media, PPC, email, and even website foundations will be different by the end of this year, let alone a few years from now. The only constant thing about marketing? It will always be a part of growing a healthy business and I for one am excited to see where marketing takes us next.
Knowing how to get the most out of your marketing starts with understanding the basics, something that I hoped this article helped with. While I aimed to give a general overview of some of the most important things to market your automotive business, there are countless articles and books available for each of the topics alone. Because of the ever-evolving landscape and wealth of information available, I highly recommend working with a professional to help scale your marketing endeavors to match your unique business goals.
Lex Tingey is the Marketing Manager at The Institute for Automotive Business Excellence. With three degrees and nearly a decade of experience, she’s found the most enjoyment in helping businesses create marketing strategies that utilize omnichannel campaigns and multiple marketing techniques. For more information on this article or marketing help in general, she can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.