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Marketing Your Shop's Accreditations

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Last year, more than 2 million households subscribed to Angie’s List for information on local service providers and more than 125 million consumers looked up businesses on the Better Business Bureau’s website. Within the automotive repair industry, numerous accreditations exist—from Automotive Service Excellence to Ask Patty to environmental recognitions—designed to attest to the quality of a shop and its employees.

While many shops boast similar accreditations, taking advantage of what those certifications mean often falls to the wayside, says David Rogers, president of Auto Profit Masters. Through Auto Profit Masters, Rogers (also a shop owner) consults with shops on marketing items like web design, direct mail, pay per click and online marketing.

Many consumers aren’t aware of the industry-specific accreditations, which is why he says marketing accreditations need to strike a balance between educating and naturally integrating those certifications into existing marketing plans.

First, you need to assess the consumers’ level of knowledge surrounding these accreditations. I think there are ones that are important. In certain states, like Michigan and California, they have a state bureau of auto repair that requires state certifications; those are important. When you indicate that your techs are state certified, that speaks to the consumers because they see that as a form of insurance for them. When there’s a legality involved and a legal responsibility on the part of the shop owners, I think that’s going to have a lot more impact for that shop and its marketing because the state has educated the residents. It goes back to how well the certifying body has marketed themselves and made themselves valuable to the community.

Another example is the Better Business Bureau or Angie’s List. Over the last few years, both of them have evolved to focus more on grading. The BBB, for example, gives businesses a rating from an A+ to an F. That lends some credibility to their organization and their assessment of the businesses involved.

However, for many of our industry accreditations, there is very little consumer knowledge. So, you will either have to spend time educating the customer or combine it with a strategic marketing plan, which is a way to build trust and expectations with the customers. On its own, there really is no inherent great success to accreditation.

To use it in combination with a marketing plan, here’s what you do: If you’re talking about the series of steps necessary to becoming a technician in your shop, you could list that becoming ASE certified is one of those things and provide some proof points to build trust; or that part of the overall process of a quality repair being completed is certification. You want to find ways that these accreditations naturally fit into your marketing or could supplement or augment a piece of that marketing.

Some of the national accreditations also have marketing initiatives that are low cost for members to opt in. For example, the BBB offers a “Search Engine Solution” sponsorship, which is a low-cost Google advertising opportunity designed to increase your online visibility on Google and promote your BBB accreditation via sponsored listing spots on Google.

Here’s what I would caution: The whole purpose of any marketing is to set yourself apart and be unique. It’s a matter of individuality for each shop. When you come in and say, “I’m going to do what everybody else is doing by talking about these accreditations that most customers don’t know and I’m going to claim to have them,” it dilutes the value of any claim to anybody.

The key is not to copy everybody else. You have to set yourself apart. And the problem with marketing accreditations is that everyone has them. The only way accreditations stand out is if you don’t have any—and that’s going to be perceived negatively. So, in some ways, they are necessary but you shouldn’t rely on them for your marketing. The reason is that there are only so many customers that are going to be brought in by each customer that you might use. If Joe Smith and Mary Jane are all doing the same thing and they’re copying each other’s marketing, what ends up happening is that now you’ve decided that you’re just going to split up that small mix of customers between the two of you. The biggest and most important thing to avoid is cookie-cutter solutions and copycat marketing.

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