Sales+Marketing Running a Shop

Building Customer Loyalty

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If you own an established shop with a stable of loyal customers, you might be wondering why you should bother to market and advertise your business. The truth is, a certain amount of attrition in your business is inevitable. Some of your regular customers may move away. Some might buy new cars and not visit as frequently, or at all.

It’s very challenging to replace those customers simply through word of mouth alone. That’s why giants like American Express and Coca-Cola continue to spend massive sums to keep their brands front and center, despite already having millions of customers. If they stop advertising, Visa and Pepsi will be there to steal market share.

The same thing holds true for your business. Of course, most of us don’t have Pepsi-sized marketing budgets, so setting aside resources for promotional efforts can seem like a sacrifice. But if you choose your marketing tactics wisely, the dollars spent on those expenditures will yield dividends for years to come.

What has worked for my shops - regardless of the market they serve – are a blend of online and offline marketing methods. Having an online presence is essential, so each of my shops has a user-friendly website where customers can schedule appointments, redeem coupon specials, and read customer reviews. An online marketing firm ensures that my sites rank high with the search engines, handles my email marketing campaigns and manages our social media.

When it comes to offline marketing, direct mail is the most effective tactic for lead generation and acquisition. For more than two decades, I have used direct mail campaigns to attract and retain customers. Direct mail has numerous advantages over other advertising vehicles. First, no other marketing channel allows me to target as accurately and effectively as direct mail does. A good direct mail provider will offer access to demographic information that will help me identify the best prospects based on my shop location, my service and product offering, and my ideal customer profile. I can then develop a campaign directed at those addresses – usually high-income individuals and families within a two-mile radius of my stores. Because I know exactly who I want to reach, I can create offers most likely to appeal to that audience. My marketing message also has a better chance of getting read because it is a stand-alone, over-sized postcard mailer instead of an envelope stuffed with a variety of coupons from multiple businesses.

But the strongest selling point for direct mail is the return on investment my campaigns provide. A lot of shop owners make the mistake of measuring the success of direct mail based on the initial coupon redemptions from their first campaign. However, that approach fails to consider your potential to win customers over for the long-term. The typical customer will spend just over $100 the first time they visit your shop. A second visit will typically generate $200 to $250. But here’s the kicker – if a customer returns for a second visit, odds are he or she will stay with you for three to five years and spend $3,000 to $4,000 over that period of time. Simply put, direct mail marketing produces the greatest ROI short-term and long-term.

Direct mail also serves as a perfect complement to my online efforts. For example, my postcards always include my website address, which helps drive traffic to my sites and allows potential customers to learn more about my business. It is very important my marketing campaigns are tracked and measured. Every direct mail campaign includes a call tracking number which empowers me with information such as: number of phone calls, phone conversions, and access to call recordings. I use this information to refine my message, my coupon offers, target audience and as a training tool for my front counter staff. Thanks to Mudlick Mail’s ROI tool, I can also find out which carrier routes produces the biggest response and how much the customers from those areas spent.

Direct mail does get you a direct response, however to feel the full effects of direct mail, the key is consistency. Advertising experts say consumers need to see your message multiple times before it makes an impression. I’ve found that it takes about six months to feel the full impact of your campaign. If you stick with your campaign month after month, you will be busy needing to hire more technicians and front counter staff to service all of the new customers.


With more than 20 years of automotive repair business experience, Greg is one of the most successful operators in the industry. He owns and operates 35 automotive repair shops with annual sales in excess of $50 million!

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