Break Down Your Marketing Budget
Your customers are out there and they’re rapidly changing; some communicate via text message and others sift through emails and newspaper articles to see what’s happening in the community. As time changes, it’s important that your marketing efforts adapt as well.
Jeff Matt, owner of Victory Auto Service & Glass, a six-store operation in Minnesota and in St. Petersburg, Fla., sits down every year to determine what his marketing budget will look like. During the meetings, the team discusses how marketing tactics went throughout the year, whether the approach will be repeated, as well as what to plan for the following year.
“I think of marketing as this: an initiative to move my business forward,” Matt says.
For Matt, it’s important to focus on marketing that your customers can get behind and see for their eyes—it looks bad when marketing fools customers into thinking the business is something entirely different.
As told to Kiley Wellendorf
Before you start marketing, you have to look at what your objective is for the marketing approach. Are you trying to capture new customers, bring incentives in, or even establish yourself as a relatable company—these are the questions that are important to note in the beginning.
Right now, we’re budgeting 3.5 percent, or $260,000, of our sales, for marketing because we are achieving a 5 percent growth-per-year at the amount of spend. If we didn’t have the growth, then we would raise our marketing budget. This is what’s been working and we’re confident in this because we are always tracking everything.
In our business, we have four areas that we focus on in our marketing plan that are pretty simple and work for us: the new customer, first-time customer retention, existing customer retention, and image and branding. We have found at our business that usually it’s good to grow your sales by 2–4 percent in order to ensure moderate growth for the business.
Work on your website because that’s the first thing new customers are going to see when they’re checking out your business. It’s important to have a nice looking website and build it up to say all of the right things. Customers will notice when your marketing doesn’t match your business.
We spend around $400–$600 per month for all of our locations on our website. Since we have different buildings in our business, it can be difficult to have marketing match every building, but it’s important to try. When we made changes on our website, we focused on our color schemes and making sure it all worked together inside and outside of the shop. When customers come to visit you for the first time, your waiting area should match what you market online, or customers may feel differently about the business.
For new and existing customers, identify those who live around the area of your shop and send out mail that will bring customers into the shop. We spend roughly $2,800 on postcards for new customers that we are trying to reach for the first time. We have a specific circumference around the shop that we focus on, and we try to touch on those people around three to six times throughout the year. To us, sending out a postcard is a reminder to come back and see us.
In addition to postcards, we try to determine other ways that physical mail can bring new customers into the business. Another worthwhile initiative we’ve done that has been successful is sending out inhouse coupons through the mail. This is a primary focus for us because it’s a way for us to become known to new customers in our area as well as give them initiative to come back into the shop.
Lastly, we send out mail to thank our customers. Instead of our customers receiving a card around Christmas time, we send out Thanksgiving cards to beat the holiday rush. We spend $5,000 on these cards that also include a voucher card for a set discount on his or her next visit back into the shop. We’re able to express our gratitude for our customers and we also put in a coupon that he or she can later spend back at the shop. We’ve found that when a customer has money to spend at the shop, they’ll end up spending it and even a little bit more after they come in.
After a customer leaves your shop, that shouldn’t be the last time they hear from you regarding vehicle service. Any customer who has visited one of our locations and needs additional work, we’ll allocate $6,300 of our budget for declined service reminders. We really put an emphasis on following up with declined service at our business. If some things didn’t get done on the vehicle, we follow up 30 days later, and we’ve found that the average ticket for those typically doubles.
When a vehicle leaves your shop, declined service should be documented and followed up on. If you think about tickets doubling just because a customer is reminded, it’s almost like free money for your business. Whether it’s done by postcard—what we typically use—or by phone call, sending out a declined service reminder can really pull the customer back in to complete the vehicle’s service.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to say no if your business is approached for an opportunity that doesn’t quite fit your marketing plan. We talk a lot about image and branding in our business, and for us, we put our money into marketing efforts that fit our goal of being community based. Some programs that we frequently participate in are Toys for Tots and Mothers Against Drunk Driving because we want the community to see that we care.
However, if an opportunity arises that doesn’t quite fit into the theme of your marketing, don’t be afraid to decline or hold the opportunity off for another time. If sponsoring a sports team doesn’t seem like a successful initiative for your business, don’t be afraid to turn it down.