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Hosting a ‘Community Day’

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The days of single-shingle marketing are gone—no longer can a repair business get by on simply hanging an “Auto Repair” sign out in front of the shop. Because of technology, vehicles are more dependable and customers have more information at their fingertips.

Aaron Clements—owner of C&C Automotive, which has two locations in Augusta, Ga.—says everything today is about building relationships with his customers and community. Ratchet+Wrench spoke with Clements about hosting community involvement events such as his shop’s Car Care Day.

No matter what you do, where you do it or how fast or cheap you do it, sooner or later, someone is going to do it faster or cheaper or maybe even better. When that day comes, the only thing that will hold you to your customers is that relationship you have with them.

People deal with people they like. You still have to have your prices fair and give that service to them, but it’s a whole lot less likely that you’ll ever lose that customer if you build that relationship.

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For the last 10 years, we’ve held an annual Car Care Day at our downtown Augusta location. The main reason we do it is that it’s a chance to give back a little bit. Things like this do help business quite bit, but I try to not do it because it helps business; I think it’s important for every shop to give back something to the community. If you get something back in return, that’s good. If you don’t, that’s fine, too. It’s just giving back to the community.

Hosting a car care day or some sort of community day helps build that relationship with customers. And it’s not hard to do.

The key is to try to do things a little differently. One thing to remember is that not everyone cares about cars—or even maintaining their own vehicles. Hosting a “Car Care Day” with nothing but car care isn’t going to bring in a lot of people.

So, to get people to come, you have to provide things that are interesting to them. We try to make ours a fun event that has something for everybody. We have it on a Saturday, and we open up the shop to everyone. They can come in and see it. We have different parts manufacturers who set up booths, and we have people to teach a bit about vehicles and repairs and things.

But we do a lot more than that.

Try to focus your day on a particular cause. We focus on two things. The first is the automotive, and the second is healthcare. We have the blood mobile come in for people to give donations—and we get a fair amount of blood donations at it. The local health department comes in to talk about mosquito control. We also have a woman from the local hospital who comes in and talks about seat belts and car seats for kids.

Have something that people will care about, a cause that is close to you and close to your customers. This not only helps you become more passionate about the event, but it helps the community get more involved.

Make it fun, too. Feed the people who come. Give them things to do.

We have a jumping balloon for the kids to play in. We have an antique car show in the shop with 30 or so antique cars. We give out prizes throughout the day, and we have a final grand prize at the end that goes with a final event. This last year, we had someone come out with a jet-powered minivan, and we gave a prize to the person who guessed how far the flame goes out of the back of it. It was fun—it set the grass on fire a bit—but it was fun.

People are busy; they have limited time, and it’s unlikely they want to spend it learning about cars or taking a close look at your business.

Give them a better reason to come, let them know their kids are going to have fun, too.

There isn’t a big cost that goes into something like this. We budget about $1,000 every year for it—and that includes the 400 or so hot dogs and hamburgers we go through at it. That’s not much; a shop owner could spend more than that on a week’s worth of television commercials for advertising.
I don’t look at this as advertising. You need to be doing it because you care about the community you’re in, and because you want the people to understand that you care.

I look at the advertising as a side effect of it. The main thing is to do something that helps.

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