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Bogi Lateneir felt vulnerable, poorly treated and ripped off when dealing with automotive repair shops as a young woman.

Those memories stuck with her as she worked her way through the automotive repair industry. Today, as owner of 180° Automotive in Phoenix, she is empathic toward women who have had similar experiences, which is why she focuses on women’s education and empowerment. Regular female-only workshops have become a staple at her shop, as well as the foundation of its sales and marketing plan.

Lateneir’s intent is education, but the beneficial by-products of her goodwill can’t go unrecognized. Improved relationships with female customers, a stronger brand perception in the community, a larger and more loyal customer base and lots of media attention have led to business growth.

Lateneir says women’s car care classes are a great form of marketing for service shops. In fact, they’re the only form of marketing she does. Within six years, the classes have been Lateneir’s strongest factor in growing from a one-person driveway operation to a six-employee, $1 million business.

Car Care 101

Lateneir started hosting free women’s car care clinics when she first opened in 2006.

The Saturday morning, three-hour classes educate women on the ins and outs of several mechanical issues, like how to change tires, jump-start batteries, check fluid levels, and check tire pressure and tread.

Lateneir also offers education on basic vehicle components and terminologies—engines, transmissions, belts, hoses, brake systems, wheel joints, suspension and steering. She explains each component’s function, and typical reasons why replacement is necessary.

“I want to break the repair process down, make it less scary and get women involved with their cars. I don’t want them to feel vulnerable with automotive issues,” Lateneir says. “I want to give them the tools and resources so they can feel more in control when they visit repair shops.”

The monthly clinics have been a hit, Lateneir says. Space is maxed out every time with a new set of 15 faces. The popularity has even caused community members to approach Lateneir about conducting private classes. She recently led a private session with a group of eight widows.

Personal Perception

Trust and comfort—that’s what women look for in business relationships, but that’s where many shops go wrong, says Amy Mattinat, owner of Auto Craftsmen in Montpelier, Vt., and small business marketing firm Bulls Eye Marketing. Shops tend to be transaction-oriented, she says, which is OK for male customers, but women want interaction, conversation and familiarity.

That’s what makes women’s car care classes effective. It’s an easy way to give women opportunities to get to know the shop on a personal level through intimate, small group interactions. In addition, spending time educating women shows you care about their safety and well-being. As a repair shop, that combination establishes a sense of credibility, honesty, trust and comfort among your female clientele.

Ultimately, Mattinat says that develops a tightly knit relationship with them, and becomes the catalyst for long-term business interactions.

“For women, business is about relationships,” Lateneir says. “Women are very loyal. Once they find someone to have a relationship with, they will keep that going and keep coming back. They’ll be your customer forever as long as you maintain that relationship and follow it up with great service and quality.”

Buried In Business

Lateneir and Mattinat haven’t specifically tracked recent revenue gains resulting from the class, but they know it’s had a big impact on their bottom line based on the following sales benefits:

• Expanded customer base: Lateneir says every class brings in 15 new women; she’s never had a repeat. Ninety percent of them become customers.

• Exponential word of mouth: During Lateneir’s last class, one woman brought four friends who had never visited the shop. Each of them became customers and also made additional referrals.

• Loyal customers: Lateneir says all of the customers she has gained through the class have been repeats.

• More frequent visits: Mattinat says women become better at taking care of their cars once they’re educated. They’re more apt to proactively obtain maintenance work and have more urgency fixing problems. That means they visit the shop more often.

• Upselling opportunities: Mattinat uses attendees’ vehicles for demonstrations during the class. She finds some type of problem almost every time, such as oil leaks, blown struts or worn brakes. She schedules a few repairs that day before the women head home.

• Media attention: Mattinat has received recognition that reaches far beyond the women who attend the class. She sends press release_notess, photographs and information to local media outlets before and after the event. She’s received positive brand exposure from several newspapers, TV stations and radio stations in the market.

“That’s generated a lot of free advertising and PR. It has given our shop a ‘halo effect’ in the community,” Mattinat says, noting many customers have come specifically as a result of noticing those stories. “Our community has recognized the effort; the chatter about us has taken the business to the next level.”
Of course, you have to get customers to sign up for the class in order to receive the biggest possible benefit from the offering.

That means you need to market and promote the class to create awareness throughout your community. Here are a few proven tactics:

• Existing customers. Make sure to communicate the offering to every customer who comes in for a repair. And don’t forget to regularly remind previous customers in your database. Mattinat includes information about the event in each monthly newsletter that gets sent to her customer base.

• Women’s groups. Mattinat belongs to a women’s group called Women Business Owner Networking. The class information is included in the group’s newsletter and online forums.

• Social media. Lateneir and Mattinat both promote the event on their companies’ Facebook pages.

• Clubs. Mattinat is a member of a local Rotary Club, and she talks about the event at each gathering.

• Local media calendars. Mattinat says all of her local radio, newspaper and TV stations have calendars for community events. She posts the event information in all of those outlets, including four weekly newspapers and one daily newspaper. The information is also included on each of those organizations’ Facebook pages.

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