Let’s not blame “that time of the year” for not marketing properly and having no traffic in your shop. These days there are more than just a few automotive repair facilities claiming the slow-down in car count and lack of phones ringing is due to known slumps this time of year. The question now is, if we know these slumps are coming, how do we prepare for them? Unless you’re from outside of the industry, new to a specific geographical area where weather plays a role in business trends, or have any other reason not to know how the retail world combined with the automotive industry pairs together, these slumps are 100% predictable and avoidable.
If we were having a conversation with someone about their recent business downfalls, where we were naïve about their specific industry, we still would have the wherewithal to wake them up to the fact that they’ve endured this trend before but should’ve put effective steps in place the second go-around. Right now, someone either hasn’t woken us up to this fact, or we lack the objectivity to put directives in place to create a drive for change.
Here’s What You Should Be Doing in the Slow Season
Increase Your Marketing Efforts
Considering the known rhythms that we encounter during the highs and lows of the year repeat themselves, let’s use them to our advantage. Start with a marketing calendar to plan out community events, social media blasts, and mailers that coincide with holidays, school events, and other items. Next, market them to such a high degree that you can bank on their success year after year in your “annual” this or “monthly” that. How great would it be to have a gingerbread decorating contest promoted on your shop’s social media? Including pictures and hashtags will increase exposure in the community and engagement with your followers. At the end of the contest, give away a prize based on votes, and everyone feels like a winner.
Get Involved With Your Community
Hosting a car show, toys for tots, a blood drive, a young driver, or a women’s car clinic are all ways to get in front of your community which includes those that don’t currently use us for their repair needs. A lot of these items can be tag teamed with parts vendors, food trucks, and anyone else that is a suitable partner to make the event a bigger success. These types of events need at least a 30-day head start from planning all the way through to the conclusion. Therefore, a marketing calendar comes in handy. It’s best to allocate a specific day and time of the week when marketing agendas are attended to, so it’s ensured to get done. Alternately, the success of an email or text blast leading up to a holiday weekend encouraging visits from loyal customers is going to have very limited success. Remember — failing to plan is planning to fail.
Check-In With Your Customers
Calling customers back who didn’t purchase a recommended service 30 days ago is a great way to show you care while staying busy. So is making a future appointment for a customer’s next visit, whether it be for maintenance or a service declined this time around. What better way to control and have a committed car count year-round other than scheduling a car to come in 6 months or more away from now? The mistake many shops make is not performing these marketing strategies when the going is good. During the spring and summer months, just keeping up is the name of the game, but 6 months later, like clockwork, our hands are up in the air out of frustration that comes from slow times. Again, it’s predictable, so why not put best practices to use year-round so tactics can be consistent?
Ask For Referrals
Next, encourage current customers to promote your business to their friends and neighbors, or for additional car count within the same household. How many times are we handed a set of keys and ignored the other fobs? If those other vehicles haven’t your shop, they sure can now! Simply ask, “Does it happen to be a fleet or business vehicle? Great, we service those too!” If a customer remarks their spouse takes their vehicle elsewhere, the instant response should be “But are they as great as us?” Effective referral programs entice both your loyal customers and those they’re recommending your business to. Making sure they leave with a “wow” experience, gives them an all-the-more reason to bring up how things went with others.
Be Personable and Fun Online
Lastly, consistently update your social media with posts that go beyond the business — items that provoke human interest. The shop dog, photos of your team’s personal interests, happy customers, and the raffle you’re doing for the month. Use trending music and dances to get your staff up and movin’ and your customers to engage with the content.
Non-ATI Members: Want to learn more about today’s best practices that help you keep an optimal car count and grow your bottom line? Start with a shop owner event at www.atievent.com. We offer virtual and in-person events, fee-based and free, for both auto repair and collision repair shop owners. Find one near you today!