10 Budget-Friendly Ways to
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For instance, he hired a graphic designer (not cheap) to design a logo to use on all of his shop’s marketing materials – from signage to its website. As most marketing professionals will tell you, an attractive logo can make all the difference in projecting a professional image. They also hired a company to design their website (also not cheap) and handle search engine optimization (SEO) and other online marketing. When spending money on marketing, Kirchdorfer prefers to use the term “cost-effective” in weighing the dollars spent with the results he is looking for, especially for the long term. He adds, “You get what you pay for.”
4. Support your community by hosting local events such as a movie night. Eddie Ehlert, owner of MazdOnly and ToyOnly, Chamblee, Ga., has found that sponsoring a movie night through a local neighborhood association is a creative way to get his name in front of moviegoers. Investing about $300-$600, Ehlert sponsors a movie, which is shown outdoors and is usually some kind of kid-friendly feature that attracts young families. As a result of the exposure during the event, Ehlert said that last year the opportunity generated enough business to more than pay for sponsorship costs. Look around in your community and see if there are local sporting or cultural events, fairs, carnivals and other opportunities for sponsorship.
5. Work with a nearby business or corporation and offer to host a seminar or workshop during employees’ lunch hour where a shop can educate them about the importance of proper car care. Once again, it gets a shop’s name in front of people in a friendly and educational type of venue. Kirchdorfer has done multiple “Lunch ‘N Learns” for the Mountain State Employers Council in Denver, and said for less than $200, he touched about 25 people through the PowerPoint presentation.
|More Marketing Pointers|
• Know your clientele. Do your customers prefer emails or snail mail? If you have both types of needs, then don’t go with an Internet-only company.
• ASA offers a multitude of training options from the local to national levels through seminars, and training events such as Automotive Service and Repair Week. Attend the classes to learn as much as you can to implement the best marketing practices.
• If working with a third-party provider for your marketing needs, ask for a trial period of a certain service or product before signing a long-term contract.
6. Follow up every service visit with an email or phone call. Paul Pamer has been handling customer service for Express Care North in Spring, Texas, for nine years. He has a simple formula in building positive relationships with Express Care North’s customers: a follow-up email. Using an email program, Pamer has found that following up on every service visit with a thank-you note is a good way to get referrals for the shop. He says that there are many companies out there that offer this type of service, but he has found that doing it in-house has been the most cost-effective for Express Care North.
Pamer has gotten some great feedback – good and bad – as a result of the emails. And for those customers who don’t want to provide an email address, he will pick up the phone and call.
He has more than 2,000 valid email addresses that allow him to send special promotions and discount coupons. He says, "This is much less expensive than paying another company to send postcard mailers and much more effective! Another way of keeping your shop’s name in the forefront.”
7. Learn what marketing practices and strategies give you the most bang for your buck. If marketing budgets are tight, then do your research to see what types of things you can implement for the money you have. Remember, advises Betty Jo Young of Young’s Automotive Center, Houston, that what works for one shop may not work for your shop.
8. Network, Network and Network. There are many networking groups out there, including ASA, to promote your shop and its services and learn from other business owners like you.
A good start would be to join the local Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau, if you haven’t already. Other places to check out: LeTip International, Business Networking International and more.
9. Don’t overlook the small details, especially for your female customers. In marketing your shop and trying to project a positive, friendly and warm image, don’t overlook the growing market of female customers. “Marketing is all about the experience,” says Kirchdorfer. Seventy-five percent of Downing Street Garage’s customers are female. Therefore, the shop makes sure to have magazines that women enjoy reading while they wait on their cars. He says there are many different places that offer magazine subscriptions for a discount, so shop around. And Kirchdorfer emphasizes the importance of having clean, spotless bathrooms as well. All of these details are important in helping to create a customer-friendly atmosphere for your shop.
10. What about Facebook and Twitter? They are free. No marketing plan in today’s age would be complete without mentioning the impact of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. ASA shop owners mentioned that they have had some success with these sites. However, they caution that managing their Facebook and Twitter accounts requires time and resources. To do it right, said one owner, you have to engage almost daily. Because Facebook and Twitter are free to use, they may seem like a good, budget-friendly option to market your shop. But like your shop’s web page, it takes time and dedicated resources to make it function properly.