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Borrowing Marketing Ideas from Outside the Industry

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The automotive repair industry is a close-knit community, says Todd Westerlund, CEO of marketing firm Kukui.

“We all know each other and we can all see what each other does,” he says.

Although that sense of community can be invaluable, Westerlund cautions against letting it become a bubble.

“If you’re only educating yourself and only utilizing the marketing from within our own industry, it could affect us in that we’re only able to think in one way,” he says. “If I can take a look at what other industries are doing, what types of marketing or creative advertising they are doing, that can be a huge help.”

Many service-oriented industries are utilizing effective marketing tactics that are not common in the auto repair industry. But that doesn’t mean those tactics can’t work in a shop.
Three marketing experts—Westerlund, Danny Sanchez of Autoshop Solutions and Tom Zobelein of Stratosphere Studios—discuss the top three ideas shops can borrow from outside the industry to market their business.

The Industry: Dental
The Idea: Plan for Exit Scheduling

Westerlund says the dental industry is one the repair industry could easily take a few cues from. Among those marketing ideas is exit scheduling, or pre-scheduling the next appointment at delivery.

Westerlund says that while this isn’t a new idea for the repair industry, necessarily, it is one that hasn’t been widely implemented successfully. In particular, many shop owners become discouraged when customers have to reschedule the appointment.

“There’s probably a 50-50 chance that they’re going to have to move that appointment,” he says. “But we have to embrace that. The fact that they’re even acknowledging us six months later regarding that appointment is huge. That right there is winning.”

To make it work in the repair industry, Westerlund says there are a few tips to follow.

First, assign a technician to the future appointment.

“Internally as a customer, when I book that appointment, I’m thinking there’s somebody waiting for me,” he says. “If I don’t show up, I leave them hanging. That’s not professional. I feel obligated to at least check in with the shop.”

A week before the scheduled appointment, give the customer a reminder call and send a confirmation email. Westerlund says here’s where shop owners should take another tip from the dental industry.

“My appointment at the dentist was on Friday morning. They called me on Wednesday and said, I’m calling to confirm you’ll be here at 8 a.m. on Friday. If I don’t hear back from you, I’m going to try you in the morning on Thursday, then in the afternoon and at the end of the day on Thursday,” he says. “Do you know what that did to me? I called her right away.”

The Industry: Restaurants
The Idea: Promote Using Foursquare

While social media has become an increasingly essential business tool, there are a number of channels that are still largely untapped by the repair industry, says Danny Sanchez, CEO at AutoShop Solutions.

Of those, he says, Foursquare is one that is used effectively by many other industries, particularly the restaurant world.

Foursquare is a mobile app that allows users to “check in” to places they visit, share their location with friends, and receive personalized recommendations for where to go next. The app has more than 45 million users worldwide, with more than 5 billion check-ins. What’s more, according to Foursquare data, 93 percent of storefronts with local channels are already on Foursquare thanks to consumer check-ins.

Sanchez says creating a Foursquare profile is an easy branding opportunity. Much like with Facebook, a Foursquare profile includes contact information, photos and a map.
Businesses can also add specials to reward loyal patrons or attract new ones. For example, many restaurants reward a “check-in” with a free drink or offer a discount after a certain number of check-ins.

Businesses can also purchase pay-per-click ads through Foursquare Ads.

PYT, a burger restaurant in Philadelphia, recently received a 376 percent ROI from its Foursquare Ads, in addition to its 30,000 check-ins. What’s more, according to a local search usage study, 78 percent of people who search locally on their phone make a purchase, meaning garnering impressions could likely lead to a sale.

Sanchez says shops could easily translate a similar principle to the repair industry by offering oil change or tire specials.

“They may not even be looking to get an oil change, but it’s a branding opportunity,” he says.

Sanchez also says that check-ins can be posted to other social media channels, such as Facebook or Twitter, allowing for easy cross promotion.

The Industry: Retail
The Idea: Inbound marketing

Make your website its own salesperson, says Tom Zoebelein, who owns and operates marketing firm Stratosphere Studios. That’s the goal with inbound marketing, a strategy that utilizes many forms of pull marketing—as in, pulling consumers to your site—to create brand awareness and attract new customers.

Zoebelein says it’s a concept that has worked successfully in every industry he works with. Retail and eCommerce, in particular, have readily adopted the strategy.

The reason is simple: According to a report from Northwestern University’s Center for Retail Management, only 12 to 15 percent of customers are loyal to a single retailer, but that small group can generate between 55 and 70 percent of that company’s sales. An inbound marketing strategy can help foster that loyal, repeat customer by keeping the brand in the forefront of the customer’s online experience.

While some of the forms of inbound marketing aren’t new, such as SEO rankings, blogging, social media, videos and content downloads, it’s the way that those efforts build upon themselves over time that make inbound marketing so effective.

“It all generates leads,” Zoebelein says.

The key to inbound marketing is threefold: create content, optimize it, and promote it. That way, your brand is able to attract customers by offering useful information they’re seeking out at the time they need it.

Retailers have become particularly adept at using those strategies to drive traffic: partnering with top social media users for campaigns, creating regularly updated blogs, highlighting shoppers and behind-the-scenes videos or even short series. Those efforts combined create a culture surrounding the brand that becomes instantly identifiable to the customer.

Although the process may sound overwhelming, Zoebelein says there is software available that allows you to easily create, schedule and manage every area of the marketing strategy. Hubspot, for example, is an affordable online software that easily streamlines the various marketing efforts.

“It’s not something where you have to have a computer programmer on staff,” Zoebelein says. “You just need someone that is savvy enough or willing to learn about marketing.”
Sanchez says an easy place to start is with videos.

The importance of video has increased dramatically since Google purchased YouTube, making the video site the second most-used search engine. But rather than approach the medium from a purely SEO standpoint, he says shops should post pictures and videos that are accurate representations of their shop and that relate to specific searches.

“If you wanted to go after the BMW market, you could create a video that shows your shop’s BMW capabilities, put it on the BMW landing page of your website and now when someone searches ‘BMW repair,’ it gives the opportunity for Google to serve up that video,” he says. 

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