A healthy repair business will increase its sales two ways: by attracting new customers and by earning greater sales from existing clients. That’s how big businesses do it, so let’s take some tips from them.
It’s More Profitable to Develop Current Customers than to Advertise for New Ones
Advertising to get new customers is expensive. Plus, it takes a long time to learn how to advertise successfully. Like dieting and exercising to become healthier takes time, learning to advertise correctly takes time.
But you already have customers who like and trust you. Many of them would be willing to buy more services from you, if you approach them about it correctly. That’s why learning how to serve your present clients better is the fastest and least expensive way to grow your sales.
Learn a Tip from Big Companies – Segment Your Customer Base
With your experience in the repair business you already know that some customers are more profitable than others. Other customers are average buyers, and still others are less frequent and less profitable clients. That’s normal in any type of business. That’s why when you market (offer things for sale) you want to do it in several unique ways that appeal to each type of customer best.
Dividing your customers into groups like that, to make different offers to each group, is called segmentation. There are many ways to segment your clients, and potential clients for that matter. Which way is best?
The common mistake is to target high-income people with marketing efforts. That’s especially true with direct mail advertising. Shop owners instinctively want to draw in more affluent customers.
But you might have noticed that many affluent people are not good customers for you. They might buy the least amount of services from you but demand more of your time than anybody else does. There are ‘cheapskate’ customers like them in every neighborhood, but there are high-spenders in every neighborhood as well.
Segment by Buying Behavior Instead
Therefore, you want to segment your customers by their behavior – by their buying habits. Again, this is common practice in all well-run businesses. You want to develop your small spenders into average spenders, and your average spenders into above average spenders. You do that by offering them more things they might like to purchase.
For your great customers, though, you offer loyalty programs, like rewards for being frequent buyers or big spenders. Airlines, credit cards, hair cutters, restaurants and many other business offer rewards to their best customers to encourage them to remain loyal. And many customers expect to be appreciated like that. Make sense?
Segment by Buying Behavior Into 4 Groups
As you learn to think about marketing by segmenting, divide your customer base into four groups: low spenders, occasional buyers, average customers and finally your great clients.
If you can develop four different marketing programs that appeal differently to each segment of customers, then you are already better at marketing than most shop owners. But when exactly do you offer extra services to clients, to encourage them to buy more?
Don’t Sell – Help Instead
Don’t push services; offer or suggest them instead.
When you buy anything online from companies that are good at marketing, you will see their active upsell systems at work. That is, as soon as you place an online item ‘in your shopping cart’ up pops more suggested items for you to consider buying.
You might even see a message that says something like ‘Other people who bought your item also bought these other items as well.’ Clever, isn’t it?
Here is their reasoning: If you are willing to purchase one item, chances are you might be willing to buy related products as well, if they would suit your purposes. You can use the same reasoning with your own clients.
Avoid this Common Mistake
The ‘upsell’ tactic is widely misused in the auto repair industry. How many times have clients brought in a receipt for an oil change they had done somewhere else, and on the paperwork was a list of a dozen, or more, additional items that were ‘recommended.’ That is overwhelming to consumers, and it creates a bad impression as well.
There is a better way to offer more services to people. In fact, it is a good idea to get the word ‘upsell’ out of your vocabulary.
A Better Selling Approach – Offer Choices
The quick oil change list of ‘recommended’ services creates a bad impression because the customer was not asked to give permission for their car to be inspected. It is seen as a pushy sales tactic, and it drives customers away. It is a hard sell approach that people don’t like it.
Instead, make offers. Give the customers things to consider, several options to choose from. That allows them the feeling that they are in charge, in control, of the buying process. Really, they should be in control. So, what can you offer each of your four client segments to increase your sales?
Inspections are great offers. It could be simple, like a quick visual check of common items during an oil change. If you first get the customer’s permission to look their car over, then they will be more receptive to buying what you come back and offer them. After all, they invited you to look the car over and to give a report on it.
Even though there is little to no profit in oil changes, they are a valuable opportunity to ‘get in front’ of customer, as professional salespeople call the process of prospecting for new sales.
Another way to serve people better (during oil changes) is to offer to go over their owner’s manual with them. Many people don’t know about the maintenance schedule in their owner’s manuals, and, when informed about it, some will be willing to bring the neglected maintenance up to date. But if you don’t offer them that choice you won’t get those sales. It costs you nothing to review an owner’s manual with a customer while their oil is being changed, but you can earn some great sales from it – and an appreciative client as well.
The Single Most Powerful Tactic in Marketing
The offer. The deal. The special. If you want people to respond to you, you must first make them an offer. That bears repeating. Don’t tell people how great your shop is. Offer them something instead.
Do you need ideas on what your shop can offer, especially to the four different segments of your customer base? Ask your technicians for ideas.
Most techs want to stay busy, to have better clients, to earn more money. Smart techs will make small concessions to get more sales. But they will resent being told what they have to do at a cut rate or at a discount as part of your marketing promotions. So, make it their idea instead.
Let your techs come up with ideas of offers, of package deals and the like. They know what types of vehicles your shop works on, and what types of clients you have. And your techs will cooperate more with you when it is their ideas you are promoting to clients.
For example, many techs would offer a wheel balance at a small discount, if they do it while the wheels are already off the car for a brake repair. Want to sell more fuel filter replacements? Offer a small discount if the car is already on the lift. You get the idea, it takes less time so you can offer a discount. Try it a few dozen times and see what happens. Don’t forget to put up a small sign in your waiting room about your ‘specials of the month, like the wheel balances and fuel filters.’ Promote the service deals and people will start asking you questions about them.
Use Your Menu Board Wisely to Make Offers
Every vehicle inspection doesn’t have to be done for free. Again, think in terms of buying motives to see what people would want to buy from you.
The ‘going on vacation’ special is a great idea. Think of common things people buy from you before they take their car on vacation, and package them all together for one price. Include extra time to check the car over and to come back with recommendations. The recommendations are what they are buying, because their buying motive is avoiding worry about breakdowns far from home. Give them what they want.
The ‘going back to school’ inspection is good. For one price offer a good mechanical inspection and a few basic maintenance services. With those inspections, you will find many batteries near the end of their lives, many hoses and belts coming due for replacement, and the like. Many people want to be informed about all that, and would prefer to have the work done now, before their son or daughter takes the car far away to college. Again, avoiding worry is their buying motive, not saving every penny they can, so address their buying motive.
Developing your customer base is an ongoing project. The more effort you put into it, and the longer you work at it, the better you will become at earning more sales.