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Get Customers to Drive Further

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SHOP STATS: Oxford Automotive  Locations: 2 (Delaware and Powell, Ohio)  Operator: James Church  Average Monthly Car Count: Delaware: 150, Powell: 237  Total Staff Size: 17  Average Shop Size: 3,500 square feet  ARO: $580  Annual Revenue: Delaware: $1.2 million, Powell: $3 million  

For those running facilities in the hearts of suburban and city life, their shops are constantly on display, reaching an abundance of customers at their disposal. For shops like Oxford Automotive’s Delaware, Ohio, location, however, thee chance of drive-by exposure is slim to none. Sitting on a 1.5-mile stretch of gravel just three miles from the county line, most of the shop’s market is located five to 20 miles in the opposite direction just south of the shop, closer to Columbus, Ohio.

“When you’re in a bad location, you are trying to overcome a huge obstacle,” says owner James Church.

While the odds looked stacked against them, the shop’s rural location forced Church to become diligent with his marketing tactics. Most of the shop’s customers willingly drive at least 10 or so miles to get to the rural shop. While convenience is usually the key consideration for a customer, Church was able to find a silver lining through the shop’s social media channels.

So, how did he pull it off? Here are the three reasons why Oxford Automotive’s customers drive the distance and how social media played a big role in making it happen.

Don’t: Focus on the review.

If you haven’t already gotten on Google, this just may be your motivator. Church says Google Reviews were a game changer for his out-of-the-way retail business. After getting on Google, each business has garnered a 4.9-star rating with over 500 reviews between the both of them. 

Reviews are another way to give potential customers a sneak peek into what their service experience would be like, but they’re also key for making sure each and every service is done right, and some businesses go about it the wrong way.

Here’s an example that explains just that: When Church bought five of his loaner cars from a dealership a couple of hours away, he ended up sitting in the waiting room for over eight hours. Throughout that entire wait, he says there was no urgency from anyone to help him, not once. When a staff member at the dealership finally helped him, they had all of these reasons as to why it was taking so long, but never provided him a solution. And after all of that, Church was astounded by what came out of the employee’s mouth. The worker then asked him to go online and give the dealership a review, going on to talk about how his pay was tied to the review and what he could get out of the review if Church  posted one. Church says this employee went about it all wrong; instead of making the service all about the customer, he made it all about himself.

Instead: Focus on the service.

“You want [the review] to be tied to helping us provide better service for you,” Church says.

Church and his team use reviews as a learning tool to strive for the best possible service. Right when a customer walks in the door, the staff is as upfront as possible with customers from the start about their goal: to give that customer five-star service. This establishes where the shop’s priority lies: on the customer. Throughout the service, the shop uses Podium, a messaging platform for auto repair businesses, to text their customers with updates. Then after the service, the platform will text them a link to write a review about how their service experience was that day.

“We want them to tell us when something doesn’t go well,” Church says. “We don’t just want reviews for the look, we actually want to hear about their experience.”

With this goal in mind, Church stresses the importance of replying to every review, whether it’s good or bad. When it’s good, the shop replies with a thank you, showing appreciation for their business. And when it’s bad, it’s all about fixing the problem and making it right with the customer. Church says his team reaches out to these customers that give these types of reviews to resolve the matter. Once the issue is solved, his team then asks the customer to change their original review so it reflects that the shop successfully fixed the problem.

Don’t: Emphasis the product.

In a service-related business, Church views social media as a gateway to the soul of your shop. This is not where you go to advertise prices or services, but to get a feel of the soul of who Oxford Automotive is. 

    “You don’t want to share a product, you want to share things that help your image,” Church says.

Instead: Emphasis your image.

The shop mainly uses Facebook to advertise this, simply giving an inside look at what a typical day in the shop looks like. While this includes posts about their team, they also use the platform to talk about the shop’s recent happenings and initiatives. 

One prime example of the success a simple post can have comes from an initiative during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The shop had never offered anything free, but during the middle of March, they were struggling to make ends meet. Church knew everyone was struggling, especially healthcare workers out on the front lines, and he wanted to help out. He brought in his daughter, his son, and his wife, who are all in the healthcare field, to get in their scrubs to post a photo on social media for the shop’s new promotion: a free oil change for health care workers. While many repair shops around the nation were doing this, Oxford Automotive found substantial success with it. The post received 180,000 views, thousands of shares, and the promotion even made the news. From the exposure, Church says business exploded from here, with some customers driving 50 to 60 miles to the shop. While these customers may not end up being the shop’s ideal customer, they still got the service, and they wouldn’t have driven all that way if it didn’t make an impact on them. Throughout the six to eight-week promotion running the second half of March and through April (and a little bit into May for the Delaware shop), the shops combined performed 250 free oil changes and secured 150 of these customers as future clients. From here, the shop’s schedule was booked up through April and into May.

Don’t: Post for quantity.

Great, you’ve just created a social media post. Now what? While Google Reviews rely on quality and quantity to get the point across, Church says the sole focus when it comes to Facebook posts is quality.

“You don’t want the page to be cluttered,” Church says. “If I have a good post on there, I don’t want it to get lost.”

Instead: Post for quality.

While posting to your social channels is the first step, boosting will help your post reach more and more of your target customers. The shop aims for two to three posts per shop each month and boosts one of those posts to each location each month. Church chooses to boost posts that would get a lot of interest and likes to boost a post when he’s hiring to get the word out. But his strategy behind boosting goes a lot further than that.

Church has a dozen different audience groups he targets with his boosted posts, each option coming down to two things: geographic location and age range. For example, when the shop upgraded its rental cars from PT Cruisers to late-model Volkswagen Jettas, he posted about it, then boosted it to a certain geographic location and age group. He chose to boost within a 15- to 20-mile radius of the shop, which would consist of customers that travel further to get to the shop. And for age range, he chose 30 years old and above; he didn’t want 25-year-olds coming in to use the service, since they’re right on the cusp of legally being able to. The only time gender matters with boosting is when he posts about his kids. He makes sure to target female customers for those, as the post will speak to them much more than it would male customers.

For Church, boosting posts has made a world of difference. For the shop’s promotion during the onset of COVID-19, Church spent $400 total on Facebook boosting the post. While this may seem like a lot just to get the word out, he says the investment gave him a huge return: a jam-packed schedule and 150 new customers to serve.

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