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The Two Times You Need to Market Your Shop

If you’re not trying to stay in front of your best customers and maintain your relationship, you’re giving your competition permission to take them away

Should you follow your gut when it comes to your marketing?

Depending on your gut, it might be telling you to scale back now because you’re busier at this time of year anyway … or maybe it’s telling you to start marketing again after you shut it down during the winter and spring to save money.

In both cases, going with your gut is a terrible decision! The two worst times to pull back on your marketing are (1) when you’re slow and (2) when you’re busy. Here’s why.

David Rogers

When you’re slow

When the shop is slow, your gut instinct might be to pull back on everything and focus only on the bottom line — to keep those hard-earned dollars close to your chest so you don’t risk losing everything.

The problem is that in this scenario your gut is an optimist.

Pulling back on marketing when you’re slow assumes that everything will go your way — that your competition will stop marketing, too. Your customers will keep coming back to your shop. None of your customers will move away.

But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where customers move or die. Where your competition is trying to steal your customers. Where top-of-mind awareness is everything.

We live in a world where you need a constant stream of new customers to offset the ones who leave. The only way to achieve that is through consistent marketing.

When you shut off your marketing, you are turning off the supply of new customers and letting go of the awareness that keeps your existing customers coming back. Your slow week just turned into a slow month, and unless you do something about it, it won’t take long for your customer pipeline to dry up and vanish.

When you’re busy

Spring and summer are great seasons for shop owners. Customers are planning road trips, running more errands and enjoying the warm weather. They’re more likely to stop by a shop for a pre-trip inspection or the maintenance they put off during the holidays, and they’re more likely to spend money.

With a steady supply of customers, why should you keep spending on marketing? Why not pocket that extra cash and watch your bank account grow?

If you’re not trying to stay in front of your best customers and maintain your relationship, you’re giving your competition permission to take them away from you.

Your competition — who are also seeing more cars, who are also flush with cash — are trying to put you out of business. They’re trying to steal your customers, and you’re turning off your defense systems.

And if that’s not enough, there’s a hammer waiting to drop.

It happens every year — a desperate shop owner calls me to ask, “Where did all my customers go?” Every year, back-to-school season brings a fall slowdown, and the steady flow of customers they saw during the summer has vanished.

Why? The shop turned off their marketing!

It doesn’t happen overnight. At first, it’s a customer here and there, one car fewer every day. By the time you notice they’re missing, it’s already too late.

On average it takes seven touches before a marketing message will lead a customer to action. That means you can’t send one email and expect every customer who opened the message to come through the door.

The type of marketing that attracts high value, high quality people who become loyal lifelong customers also takes time to work its magic. It’s not about getting customers through the door with coupons and free services. It is about building trust, establishing authority, and fostering a genuine relationship with your customers. It’s about educating them on why they should choose you and staying at the top of their mind so they choose YOU the next time they need repairs.

Every time you shut off your marketing, you stop building and maintaining trust. If you’re lucky, you’ll turn it back on before you have to start over from scratch. If you’re smart, you won’t put yourself in that position.

Marketing should be working year-round to build relationships with customers, keep your shop at the front of their mind, and keep customers coming through the door no matter what the season.

Which is why creating a seasonal marketing plan is so critical — it means you’ll be growing when your competition is following their gut and turning off the flow of customers.

Seasonal marketing planning

Many shop owners fall into the trap of looking at marketing and advertising as a light switch. They think there’s a switch they can flip to turn your marketing on when they need new customers and off when they don’t.

Problem is, while marketing can absolutely be turned off like a light switch, it can’t be turned back on as easily. Beyond the logistical problems of starting up marketing — it can take 6-8 weeks from the time you need customers to the time a direct mail campaign is reaching your customers — there’s also the fact that marketing takes repetition.

Instead of a light switch, which provides light the instant the switch is flipped, think of marketing like a faucet. With a few tweaks and turns, you can precisely control the flow of customers into your shop.

You can adjust the type of marketing you do. Online advertising, paid search, email newsletters, direct mail — your shop can use all of these together, individually or in any combination. There’s no easy button, but there are proven strategies to create an integrated marketing plan to build trust for your unique shop.

You can adjust the customer you target. Even when you’re slow, you don’t want to target the coupon-clipping bottom feeders that will bring down morale and gross profit. But different marketing resonates with different customers to raise car count when you need it and build relationships in the process.

You can adjust the speed. Shift the balance between fast twitch and slow twitch marketing to match the needs in your shop. Use the right incentive and message to get customers through the door quickly when you need car count. Long-term strategies build relationships and attract high value, and long-term customers require ongoing effort year-round to be effective.

You can adjust the calendar. When you know a slowdown is coming, whether it’s the back-to-school fall slowdown or the end of year holiday season, plan ahead! Ramp up the marketing before the slowdown hits to fill your pipeline with customers who are ready to buy.

And when your bays are full? Shift the focus to the long-term strategies. Even though you don’t need customers now, you will down the road. As you build relationships and grow your customer base with ongoing effective marketing, you’ll open new doors and opportunities you didn’t see before.

Have you ever met a shop owner who complained about having too many quality customers? I haven’t either.

David Rogers is chief operating officer of Keller Bros. Inc., president of Auto Profit Masters, Shop4D, and the award-winning Automated Marketing Group. David has a heart for service, a mind for perfecting systems, and an expert at consumer marketing. Reach David via email at, toll-free at 1-866-826-7911, or online at

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