Phil Jackson can sum up his marketing philosophy with just three letters (and one symbol): #TBT.
In the Nov. 28, 1995 edition of the Daily News-Sun, the headline “Manager Takes Consumers Under Hood” is bannered atop the front page. Below it rests a photo of Wilhelm Automotive president Thom Gyder speaking to Phoenix residents about ethical standards in auto repair.
Twenty-one years later, and Jackson, marketing director for the now seven-shop Wilhelm Automotive network, is posting that 21-year-old news story to the company’s Facebook page, coupled with the “#TBT” (“Throwback Thursday”) hashtag.
“I think people misconstrue the point of social media. You're not trying to get people to buy things right away,” he says. “You explain your expertise and put your brand out there, and then when people are in the position to make a buying decision, they're going to think of us because we've shown them we're the experts and we’re trustworthy.”
When co-owner Chris Garman realized he didn’t have time to track the effectiveness of email newsletters, social media and direct mailers, he hired Jackson—a 27-year-old who studied marketing at the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Ala.—to manage Wilhelm’s marketing full time.
“He's helped increase our marketing effectiveness,” Garman says. “He does a great job of tracking and making sure the programs we're running are getting the results we want to get. He helps increase sales and decrease marketing costs.”
Numbers back that up: In the four years Jackson has managed marketing, revenue has increased an average of 8.5 percent annually. And Garman attributes much of that to Jackson’s daily duties.
It’s not very common to have a full-time marketing position in auto repair. I don’t have much of an auto background, but our owner and operations manager, Chris Callihan, do, and they understand the importance of marketing. So communication is a huge part of what I do. Chris works in the same office with me, and for my marketing pieces, I’ll get his opinion because he knows a lot more about what we offer from an automotive standpoint. He really communicates with me on what brings the customers in: our expertise.
I have a good relationship with all the managers at the stores and I communicate with everyone individually once a month. I’ll go out to all the stores and chat with them about what type of customers they’re seeing. They know the area better than I do, and they’ll ask, “Can we try to pull some customers from this zip code?” A lot of the managers live close to the shop, so they seem to know the area more.
I’ll sit down with not just the managers, but the whole store—service advisors, even the technicians. It’s nice to just see what they’re like and what they need and the work they want to get.
When I get in in the morning, I respond to our online reviews first. With seven stores, it usually takes a bit of time to go through and respond to those.
I’ll respond to all reviews, good or bad. If it is a good one, I respond thanking the customer for the feedback.
If it is a bad review, I reach out to the manager to find out if they remember the customer and to do some digging on what went wrong. We then reach out to the customer to see if we can make things right and talk with them about the situation. This is usually the store manager’s job as they have experience with the customer. Or, Chris will look into the work order and find what was wrong.
Then I’ll usually post on Facebook and Twitter. We only post two or three times a week. People can only handle so many vehicle tips on their newsfeed, and I don’t want to be a nuisance.
In the last six months, we’ve been doing a “throwback Thursday” post. I’ve got access to a lot of old photos here, since we’ve been around since 1928. The customers like to see that. A lot of people who like our Facebook page are our die-hard customers and we’ve got a great relationship with them. So anything to do with our past and our history, it seems to get a really good response on Facebook. I’ll get pictures of staff members and write up short bios about them. Customers like to see the technicians and who’s working on the car, building that relationship. I feel it’s important as a company. We try to paint it as a family-based business that works as a team. Customers come in and managers will know them by name and vice versa.
I’ll also post stories to our blog, which I try to update once a week. I’ll talk to the managers about anything interesting they have come in that is a common repair problem and that people can benefit from us posting about. Then I’ll take a couple pictures and ask for a couple details. They’ll send me the repair order ticket and I’ll put something together and then I’ll talk with Chris and he’ll proofread it and add his thoughts.
At the end of the day, we’re trying to create good content that customers find valuable. That increases our web presence because people see us online and share our stuff on social media.
Because I’m spending the company’s money on direct mailers, a big part of my day is ROI assessment, which I track in a big spreadsheet. I’ll send the CSRs in each store a spreadsheet every month, and they track the direct mail deals we send out. I usually let them know when I’m sending something out with a company-wide email. Then I’ll break down different categories (number of postcards sent; number of customers using the deals; revenue brought in from those customers; average repair ticket order for those customers) store by store. Since direct mailers make up about 70 percent of the marketing budget, I’m looking to see a significant return.
The same goes for our email marketing and Internet presence, which is much easier to track through our website developer. We track Google AdWords, email opens and SEO. I am also tracking our Google analytics pages and have numbers showing our improvements over the years with a lot more visits and customers spending longer on websites for our SEO results.
An important part of my direct mailing strategy is tracking demographics. We have seven stores, and each of the stores has a different demographic. There’s one or two we seem to get a lot of Internet customers from, and there’s one or two where direct mailing is more effective. I’ll follow everything per store.
For example, our Peoria stores host an older crowd, so obtaining people’s email addresses is a little harder, as opposed to the Litchfield and Goodyear stores, where they’re more used to the email marketing. Peoria has an older median age, and they don’t seem to be as responsive to technology. They like the old-school postcards in the mail. So we’ll spend more on postcards and less money on Adwords for those stores. Then it becomes easier to gauge who’s viewing our marketing.