Find Your Voice to Reach Customers
SHOP STATS: Precision Auto Repair & Sales Location: West Springfield, Mass. Operator: James Stephenson Average Monthly Car Count: 200 Staff Size: 9 Shop Size: 5,000 sq. ft. Annual Revenue;$1.2
James Stephenson, owner of Precision Auto Repair, found his shop’s calling for marketing while he was in the studio, answering questions on air about the repair industry lobbed at him by a customer, who doubled as a radio show host.
Stephenson answered each question in simple terms, explaining exactly what the customer should do—with empathy.
A week after the interview, Stephenson received a surprise phone call. It was an offer for his own hour-long radio show, at a 7 in the morning time slot on an AM station.
“He had gotten a lot of positive feedback and asked if I wanted to come on in again,” Stephenson says. “I thought he was trying to fill in content.”
As Stephenson learned, filling a radio show with your own voice doesn’t automatically mean that people will listen—or that it will bring in new customers. Without the right plan, it’s difficult to capture the audience.
“The deal was that I would provide my content and the time in exchange for advertising,” Stephenson says.
The show lasted a little over a year, and while it introduced him to a passion that he would later take advantage of, it wasn’t until years later that he would pick it back up and find the answer he was looking for.
Stephenson was at a leadership crossroads in the beginning of his career; the land he rented his business on had been purchased by a buyer, and he felt his message as an owner was not reaching new customers.
“I needed to determine if I was going to move laterally and build the company,” Stephenson says. “It was either let’s go big or go home.”
Stephenson had a better grip on how he could market his business and become a stronger leader, but he was unsure of the best route for marketing his business.
Every Saturday morning, Stephenson hosted a 7 a.m. radio show in efforts to promote his business and provide answers to customers—he hoped. The show was on an AM station for an hour and featured a producer.
“It was totally awful,” Stephenson says. “I would answer people’s questions, but I really didn’t have it together and didn’t think anything of it.”
Stephenson envisioned callers asking questions regarding the industry that he would be able to answer, but instead, he struggled with finding time to fill the hour slot. More often than not, Stephenson’s callers were friends, which took out the educational aspect he hoped to promote.
“I just don’t think we got anything out of it,” Stephenson says.
For Stephenson, having the opportunity to try out a new marketing tactic was beneficial, but without the a plan in place, he was unable to reach the end goal he set for himself: reach customers.
He quit the radio show after.
Years went by before Stephenson’s phone rang after he was interviewed for a news story regarding charity work his shop had done. He was approached by the local radio station, Lazer, for an interview, which later turned into an opportunity to run his own show—on an even larger platform than before.
“When I realized I was going to have a really big audience, I knew I was going to either succeed or fail publicly,” Stephenson says. “[This time] it was very well thought out.”
In September 2017, “Boys Under the Hood” was scheduled as a set 30-minute segment airing at 8 a.m. on Tuesday mornings with co-hosts Stephenson and Pat Kelly of Lazer Radio. Prior to its debut, commercials for the program were broadcast out to the station’s 20,000 listener audience and Stephenson knew what he had to do to make it work.
In order to reach a wider audience, everything about the show had to be well-organized and come with a set-up plan, Stephenson says. He began to prepare, and over time, he began to perfect what he could do to really attract a solid audience.
In starting the show, it was important for Stephenson to set up a professional, educational show for customers that they could essentially learn from. In doing so, everything in the show is timed accordingly—even the banter in the beginning of the show.
Both co-hosts have been able to form a friendship through the show, which plays well with the theme of shop owner and customer, Stephenson says.
“There needs to be more of a conversation than, ‘Welcome to the shop,’” Stephenson says. “Now we joke back and forth about current events so it makes it more relatable for people. We wanted people to feel more engaged and feel like they wanted to listen.”
In setting up the new show, Stephenson created a landing page on his website where customers are able to submit their questions directly. When customers visit the page, he or she is prompted to fill out basic personal information, followed by their question about their vehicle issue while also filling in bubbles that indicate the time of the issue, how long it has been occurring and more.
“It helps us weed out questions that aren’t quality questions,” Stephenson says. “A lot of questions are the same things and some wouldn’t be valid questions like, “How much is it for a certain repair?’ or, ‘My mechanic is charging this amount.’ We don’t see those as valid questions.
“While the radio show may seem like it’s just answering questions, you have to make sure you have valid questions that are going to fit [the program].”
“Boys Under the Hood” has morphed since its initial run dating back to September 2017. In the first couple of weeks, the show received around two questions by listeners, which then increased to four questions by the third week. Today, Stephenson says questions come in by the hundreds.
“We wanted people to reach out to us through social media or feel free to call in [to the radio show,” Stephenson says. “The ultimate endgame [goal] is to get customers in the door.”
Since questions are submitted directly through the website, Stephenson has watched users for the site rise, as well as gain momentum on the shop’s social media platforms. According to Stephenson, questions are generally compiled from the website submissions—where the site typically receives an additional 1,000 page views today—and also through social media platforms.
Following each recorded segment, the show is then uploaded to Facebook and YouTube where Stephenson has watched interaction on the posts continually rise.
“We average maybe 2,000 views on Facebook every single week,” Stephenson says. “I think we average around 1,000 people who watch the whole video.”
Over the last year, the shop has seen a 17 percent spike in numbers since starting the show, Stephenson says.
“What we’ve always done is just build our brand, and by building our brand, we’re out in the public eye,” Stephenson says. “It’s [the radio show] helped us grow the business.
“We spend a lot less money than we used to and we get a lot more exposure.”
Establish how you’re going to get to your vision before you begin to execute the plan. For Stephenson, tracking down the steps to take meant determining the overall goal.
“[Our radio show] is about creating awareness in our industry,” Stephenson says. “We’re not going to change the world, but we’ll change the perception of shops in our area.”