How to Increase Your Car Count with Simple Marketing Best Practices

An auto shop owner looks at his marketing reports

There are a lot of ways to get more customers for  your automotive service business. These best practices are where you should start.

Today’s car owners are bombarded with more marketing than ever before. As a result, automotive service companies need to be more data-driven in their marketing approach to cut through the noise and stand out. 

You can’t just rely on traditional advertising methods and expect business to boom. 

With a wide variety of full service auto, quick lubes, tire shops, brake shops, and car washes  in any given city, the most successful automotive service businesses understand that customers are looking to go to a shop that makes the car care easy and straightforward.

So how can you stand out from all of the other shops out there? 

While certain traditional methods like targeted mail campaigns remain tried and true (yet relatively expensive), digital marketing has become the most efficient and cost-effective method to attract and retain customers. 

There are three main types of campaigns that an automotive services business should be running consistently. You can automate them all with marketing software like Cinch

Buckle up, because we’re about to dive into those campaigns and provide you with simple best practices to quickly increase your monthly car count!  

1 – Post Transaction Campaign

Your customer just left the shop, but the transaction is far from over! Sending a thank you email or text immediately after their visit is the perfect opportunity to let them know how much you value their business, as well as their feedback. 

Whether you want your customer to complete a short survey or a review on Google, Facebook, or Yelp – the best time to make a request is when you’re still fresh on their mind. Utilizing post-transaction touchpoints with your customers can further progress the relationship and provide them with additional value. 

There are a lot of other touchpoint opportunities that you can leverage post-transaction, like a summary of services provided, an incentive for bringing in another car or for referring a friend. 

When you actively show your customers that you appreciate their business and want to help them save money right after providing them with exceptional service, they are far more likely to take action. 

2. Service Reminder Campaign 

This type of campaign is a no-brainer but can be tricky to implement. At Cinch, we’ve learned that customers are two times more likely to come back to your shop if you send reminders through multiple channels (email, text, direct mail, digital ads, or radio). 

Most people are inundated with emails, ads, and social media all day long, in addition to managing their busy lives. Likely, they may not even remember that they need to service their car.

Combining timely, well-crafted text and email campaigns with direct mail marketing is a proven method that will increase your car count while decreasing your customers’ time between visits. The most crucial element of this process is your timing. When it comes to vehicle maintenance, many people tend to forget before it’s too late, or not act quickly enough when they need to. 

Don’t send reminders that will fall on deaf ears. Your reminders should be delivered around the time that their check engine light or oil change alert appears, which will help your customers save money and remember to take care of their needs before it becomes an emergency.

Oil changes and other services are a huge upsell opportunity, but they take time and resources to get right. Sending your customers educational video content along with your regular SMS and email campaigns provides the information they need to make an informed decision on vehicle upkeep services like spark plugs, air filters, and more. It also simultaneously reduces the time you spend upselling in-person.

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3. Lapsed or Lost Vehicle Campaign 

We all know what it feels like to lose a customer. Perhaps they left their last appointment less than satisfied, or they simply found a cheaper alternative down the road. However, many automotive service providers don’t realize that people can be fickle, and are typically making purchases based on emotion – not logic. Your customers need to receive great service from you and feel valued at the same time. 

So how does this pertain to a lapsed or lost vehicle? They’re gone for good – right? Not necessarily! By taking strategic action, you have the opportunity to reinstate your value and restore the relationship. This might look like this:

  • Sending a “We Miss You” email or text message 
  • Offering a discount or free add-on to their next service 
  • Reaching out and asking them what you can do to keep their business 

For lapsed customers, a well-timed oil change reminder paired with digital ads will likely do the trick. But those who have missed two or more appointments may require a bit of nudging and a show of appreciation to be won back. Before you spend time and resources trying to win back all of your lost customers, you should consider their value to your business. 

A customer’s value can be determined by analyzing how long they have been with your business, the frequency, and duration of transactions, the average ticket amount, and the type of car they drive. 

If a customer has been with you for years, consistently opts into up-sells, and drives a high-end vehicle, then they are considered a high-value customer. People who fit this profile should be your top priority when deciding how to allocate your marketing budget to win back lost customers. They also cost less to recapture versus acquiring a new customer.

All the different digital marketing strategies

Putting Your Campaigns to Work

In an ever-evolving marketing world, deciding which channels to utilize can be hard. Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. While each channel holds unique value, there are five primary channels that you should focus on as you develop your campaigns. Here’s the lowdown: 

Email 

Remains the most cost-effective marketing method for all businesses – not just quick lube shops. If you’re not already using email marketing to attract and retain customers, it’s time to start. We’ve outlined everything you need to start running high-converting email campaigns, from the effects of using a purchased list to the importance of list hygiene and using a reputable domain in The 10 Commandments of Email Marketing. The content of your email campaigns should be a mixture of promotional emails paired with educational content. 

Digital Ads

Facebook, Google, and Instagram ads can be incredibly useful when you want to reach a sizable-yet-targeted audience. A few of the most valuable features of digital advertising are the ability to upload your existing customer list, exclude your current customers from certain campaigns, create new audiences that share demographic similarities with your existing customer base, and retarget your web traffic by placing a pixel code on your site. 

Online Reviews 

“Online reviews are one the best ways to get new customers in the door, and old customers back in the door.” –Justin Rae, Cinch Founder & CEO 

In today’s world, your digital reputation is the lifeblood of your business. Reviews have a three-fold impact: 

  1. They entice new customers to take a chance on your shop 
  2. They help get former customers back through the door
  3. The more recent, positive reviews you have, the higher Google will rank you in organic search results and Google Maps

Reviews are like digital word of mouth. They can help you establish social proof and create a sense of reliability and trust before customers ever walk through the door. They’re also great for reminding existing and former customers why they should choose your shop over the guy down the street.

SMS (Text Message) Marketing

The average American spends a minimum of 4 hours on their phone every day. It’s no wonder why text message marketing is so effective—it allows you to send messages to customers who have opted into your list, and reach them in a way that’s nearly impossible to ignore. Open rates for text messages are insanely high, we’re talking 98%. That means almost everyone you send to will open your message. Pretty powerful stuff. 

Campaign Texts

This includes messages that go out to a large group of people and typically include promotions and discounts. Just like with email, you can send a campaign text as a bulk blast to an entire group of people, or one-off messages to individuals in an automated journey. Both can be effective depending on what you’re sending and when you send it. 

Transactional Texts

This goes out to specific individuals typically during or after the transaction, typically informing the recipient that their car is ready for pick up. 

Both options work well for requesting reviews, as long as the customer has gone through the process of confirming that you are permitted to send messages to them.

Like email, text message marketing is permission-based, which means that your recipients have to opt to receive messages from you, either by a single or double opt-in. 

  • Single opt-in: this can be done by using an online form, a check box that gives people the option to opt into text, or a brief note on your invoices that states customers who provide their phone number will be automatically subscribed to text correspondence.
  • Double opt-in: this starts with a single opt-in, but then sends a follow-up message or shortcode, requesting recipients to reply, i.e. “YES” to confirm your permission to send texts.

With the double opt-in process, you’re allowing your subscribers to confirm their email addresses at the time of signup and it’s a legal requirement in most countries. Using the single opt-in option might increase your chances of creating a larger subscriber list, but the trade-off is an increased risk of annoying people and possible legal issues. 

Regardless of the option you choose, be sure to have a clear opt-out option to avoid sending messages to customers who don’t want to hear from you, and incorporate link tracking so you can gather vital statistics on clicks and engagement.

The most effective SMS campaigns are combined with email marketing. While emails help you pass across your message more comprehensively, text messages are short and succinct but are hardly ever ignored.Again, 98% open rates will help with that. 

Targeted Direct Mail 

While direct mail campaigns cost more than email, text, or digital ads, they can still be highly effective when used the right way. 

The key is your targeting strategy. If you’re sending out mail, isolate your mailing list to people who meet a similar demographic profile to your highest-value customers. Then, combine your mail campaigns with digital marketing, like email campaigns and social media ads. That way, you’ll create multiple touchpoints and boost your conversion rate. 

Also, we recommend only sending direct mail to someone after you send emails and texts. There’s no reason to start with the most expensive option first. Save it as a last resort.

Two auto shop managers discussing marketing strategies

Bonus: Fail-Proof Methods to Increase Your Revenue as You Expand Your Reach

Refine Your Coupon Strategy

Coupons and discounts should be thought of as strategic tools. There are several things to consider when it comes to applying coupons, such as how often you send them out, where you place your discounts, and how deep discounts go for different customers. A well-planned coupon strategy should match the typical buying behavior of your customers and the timing of their next service. 

Consider Your Pricing & Price Sensitivity

Multi-channel marketing platforms like Cinch feature a predictive model that displays the pricing sensitivity of a customer which helps determine the customer buying trends.

That means, instead of sending the same coupon to your entire customer list, you can send customized coupons, or no coupon at all, based on each customer’s past behavior.

Why send coupons to someone who doesn’t need it? Or why give too big a discount if it’s not necessary?

That’s the magic behind data science and how it will increase your average ticket value

Final Thoughts 

The automotive services marketing world is constantly changing and growing but these strategies are what work today.

If you’re not using a multi-channel marketing approach to acquire and upsell customers via multiple channels, you’re missing out on growth!

These marketing strategies will help you. Use them, and we’re pretty confident you’ll see an increase in business. . 

Ready to maximize the results of your marketing budget without spending countless hours learning all of the technical details? 

Book a free demo with Cinch to learn how we can help you increase your car count today.

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