Marketing without Mentioning Price

Dec. 1, 2016
How to build value and drive traffic by dispelling consumer conceptions that auto repair is a commodity.

While it’s a frequent refrain in the industry that shops should not lead with price in their marketing materials, Bob Greenwood says it’s still an occurrence that’s all too frequent. Greenwood, an industry consultant and president/CEO at Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre, believes it stems from shop owners’ many decades in the business, which, as times have changed, now requires a relearning of the business. The reason that relearning needs to occur, he says, is because price-conscious shops attract price-conscious customers—and those kinds of customers are simply not what your business wants. Greenwood discusses how any shop can market without mentioning price.

If you look at the most progressive shops in the market, they do it totally different: They talk about their culture, their staff, the type of training they attend, what differentiates them in the marketplace. When you have that, you move toward a different type of clientele. There’s no silver bullet here. It can take 2–3 years of hard work.

You have to start internally, explaining where you have to go and why. You are talking about a total culture change. You’ve got to involve the staff and outline what you want to see in the outcome. Management has to decide, what makes them different? List it out. Have that conversation with the team: Are we just the same? If we’re the same, how can we differentiate ourselves? If I’m a customer, why would I come and deal with you on a long-term basis? Tell me about what you have in quality and service levels. What value do you bring to me? You have to start that thinking yourself and define your value. 

Next, you start marketing back to your own customer base. You don’t even touch new customers yet until you see that you’re doing a good job with your existing customer base. You can measure that through the average billed hours per RO. The average shop averages 1.4–1.6 hours and it should be closer to 2.5 hours. That’s for an average consumer vehicle. If your service advisors aren’t even looking out for the people coming through the door right now, how can you get new customers? You’re being hired to advise customers on the safety and reliability of their vehicles based on how they use them. So what’s your internal process to make sure you’re doing that? How do you do a proper vehicle inspection? That should be done twice a year so you have a full picture of the vehicle. If you haven’t done that, you should reach out to them with that kind of a marketing message. Then, talk to your current client base and ask for referrals. The best way to build a business is through referrals.

We as an industry have done a poor job educating the consumer as to what we are. It is a profession. The skill level is all based on the knowledge base. The amount of time spent to keep yourself up on the latest training is phenomenal. The consumer doesn’t know that. So, start by writing the story about your incredible staff: This is why we take our time with you, so it is safe and reliable for you. Our staff is under continuous training. I have seen shop operators who close their whole shop down for a day or two for training. People shudder at that, but think about the incredible discussions you could have with customers about why you’re doing that. What a neat way to market yourself. Send out an email that says, “We will be closed Jan. 18 and 19 to ensure our staff has the important training we need to serve you professionally.” Signs are posted, emails are sent, the entire customer base knows. A shop I work with did that and their ROI was only 45–60 days.

Share with them in writing their vehicle’s state. Just don’t babble at them about the vehicle’s state. If it’s printed out properly, the customer now has a checklist. The estimate is detailed enough. Spend the time with the individual to understand them. I’ll give you a point: We have clients that have worked this very well. The customer drops off the vehicle. They offer a shuttle service. The owner drives the shuttle vehicle. Think about the conversations you can have in the shuttle vehicle. We haven’t seen you for a while, how’s it going? After the vehicle has been picked up: How was the service level? Incredible conversations are taking place. Then you also have a proper follow-up after the service has been done. Try to reach the person just to make sure everything is OK: We talked about an appointment two months down the road. Is that not showing openness and honesty?

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