Joe Gibson sees a simple goal for CustomerLink Systems.
“This company has really grown and developed with the specific objective in mind to help small business owners become more successful,” Gibson says.
How does CustomerLink accomplish its mission? By using technology to help shop owners maximize marketing returns.
Gibson, channel development manager at the company, travels to industry trade shows around the country to educate shop owners on everything from proactively managing their shop’s online reviews to drawing on comparative analytics to develop their marketing campaigns.
Gibson met with R+W to share some tips about how shops should craft and track their marketing efforts in the digital age.
Why is it important for shop owners to monitor the returns on their marketing efforts?
The first thing that shop owners need to understand is that marketing should be seen as an investment as opposed to an expense. And they should track it as an investment.
So just like when they invest money in their business, they need to track and understand what the return on that investment is. Otherwise they have no way to know if it’s working for them, or if they should be using their marketing budget in other ways that are going to be delivering better results and helping to grow their business.
There are so many ways to leverage marketing dollars today. It’s important that they know what’s working, and what’s really a waste of their limited financial resources.
How many shop owners do this?
Unfortunately, not enough. What we find in this industry is that a lot of people tend to be very tactile in nature, and they tend to shy away from analytics.
When you have somebody who is very tactile, if you throw a bunch of data and information in front of them, which is really difficult to interpret, they’re not even going to bother with it. But if it’s presented in a way that makes sense, and they can easily see the value of that data—how it affects their business on a day-to-day basis—then they’re much more likely to pay attention to that data and use it.
What marketing technology is available to shop owners?
There’s really a lot of different technology available today. Some of it is available through marketing companies; some of it is available through shop management or point-of-sale software.
These programs can track visit frequency, average repair order value, and overall repair order count, along with other metrics.
How it works is we extrapolate the data directly from their shop management or point-of-sale software, and then we put together a variety of analytics and matrixes to help them understand and interpret that data.
For example, if you’re looking at a chart that shows your revenue distribution, and you see that 65 percent of your revenue is generated by repair orders that are $100 or less, then there are a couple of things you need to focus on. From a marketing perspective it tells me you should probably be focusing on getting your consumers more educated and aware of when they’re due for factory-scheduled maintenance services, because those types of services are going to generate a higher-dollar repair order.
One of the easiest ways to do this is through a good ongoing communication program, using reminders to let customers know when they’re due for specific services. Some programs even offer comparative analytics, which allow shop owners to see how their numbers compare to their peers and the top performers in their market.
Why is it important to compare data with other shop owners?
If you are focused on growing your business, you need to have some indicator as to where you should be. If you’re running your business in a silo, then you’re never going to successfully grow.
If you can see that your average repair order value is 25 percent below that of your peers and 35 percent below that of the top 10 percent of the shops in your industry segment, then you know your neighbors up the street are doing better at certain things than you are.
By comparing, you know what you are trying to achieve, rather than assuming that what you have is working.
How should consumer reviews and social media play into a shop’s online marketing strategy?
Both are becoming more important every day. Conservative estimates indicate that about 30 percent of consumers will do an Internet search before making a service decision. And according to Google, at least 75 percent of consumers are going to use online reviews to guide their final purchasing decisions.
I honestly can’t tell you the last time I looked at a Yellow Pages book other than to pick it up off my front porch and put it in my recycling bin. Most people don’t use it today. But you’d be amazed how many people in this industry still spend large amounts of money on directory advertising.
However, I think most shops are starting to realize that the old-school marketing tools aren’t effective in today’s Internet-driven culture.
How can shop owners manage their online reviews?
The first thing I would recommend is that you get an automated customer review program in place. There are a number of vendors in the industry that do this.
With an automated review program, every time somebody generates a repair order at your business, you’re presenting them with a survey, and you’re asking them to provide feedback on their service experience, and then we as marketing companies publish those reviews to the Web.
Number one, it helps with search engine optimization. Search engines are looking for consumer-generated content. Consumer reviews are one of the main types of content they look for when they’re indexing.
The other piece of it is that there’s a big difference between a passive review process and a proactive review process. With an automated review program, you are proactively getting a lot of good, positive reviews out there.
What’s the best approach to managing social media?
Similarly, your social media should be a proactive business tool and not just another page on the Internet. Your Facebook page should reflect your business and your involvement in the community you operate in.
You must get involved and post brief comments, stories and pictures that your Facebook friends are going to share with their friends and family members.
That’s really what you want from social media. You want people to share that content. That’s how you build your network within the social media community.
The more involved a business owner is in their social media page, the more effective it’s going to be.
How will the Internet and data tracking affect industry marketing?
I think it’s safe to assume that the Internet and social media are going to continue to grow in how important they are to direct marketing in this industry.
Also, as we continue to deliver new ways to use data to help shops make better decisions, I think we’re going to see a real shift in shops actually utilizing that information.
The reality is that this is a very competitive industry. The more tools we can put into shop owners’ hands that help them analyze their business, as well as how to put together marketing programs that are going to improve and help them grow their business, the more successful they’re going to become.
As we evolve as marketers in this industry, we’re learning how to take that data and present it in ways that are going to help shop owners be more successful.