The First Steps to an Effective Marketing Plan
Marketing and advertising are basic components of every business plan. Building for the future, attracting new customers and brand building are among the top considerations for continued growth. Having a balanced approach to marketing and advertising, along with clearly defined goals, will help your business achieve long-term success.
Most auto repair shops typically use a mix of external advertising, from online digital advertising to radio, website development, print media, social media, and community-based marketing. Companies also focus on search engine optimization (SEO), and Google ads. However, before you launch any of these marketing and advertising campaigns, there are initial steps that you need to consider. In fact, my advice is not to spend a dime on any external marketing or advertising campaigns until you have fine-tuned your internal marketing strategy, which is what you and your team do every day to ensure that your customers have an amazing experience.
Before we go on, let’s make one thing clear; company brands are not built by advertising campaigns or marketing plans. Powerful, sustainable, brands are built from within. Your company brand is rooted in your company culture and in the people you employ. No amount of money spent on advertising can make up for poor customer service or disengaged employees. This is the essence of internal marketing, and it needs to be refined and perfected before any money is spent on external advertising or marketing.
In this blog, I will focus on internal marketing and outline six basic steps to developing an effective marketing plan.
Step One – Leadership
Your first step to an effective marketing plan starts with you, the shop owner, and leader of your company. Do you have a clear vision for the future of your company? Have you clearly defined your goals, your culture, your mission, and your purpose? Do you communicate your mission, vision, and core values, continuously? This is basic leadership 101.
Leaders inspire others. Leaders understand that addressing the needs of the individual is crucial to the company’s success. Without a workplace environment where people are engaged, with shared core values, a company will fail. The leader of the company sets the tone. A positive mindset conveys strength. It also encourages your team to perform at a high level. Without strong leadership, no marketing plan will work.
Step Two – Hire and Retain the Right People
You are only as strong as the people you employ. Let’s face it, even with all your abilities, strengths, and talents, you cannot have all the answers in every situation. If you rely on your abilities alone, your company’s growth will plateau. You need the collective opinions of those around you. Listening to your team must become part of your overall business strategy. If we look at a sports team, it’s the culture and quality of the players, not fancy stadiums or marketing that determines a winning organization. It’s the same for you and your automotive repair shop. Always look to hire the best people, those that are aligned with your core values, your mission, and your vision. Remember, everyone in your company is part of your internal marketing plan.
Step Three – Clearly Define Your Business Model
Trying to be all things to all people will result in being no one to everyone. You need to clearly define your business model and identify your ideal profile customers. You will be significantly more successful if you attract consumers who are aligned with your values and culture. Your primary marketing goal is not only to create more customers but to create active loyalists, those who would not think of going anywhere else but your shop for automotive repairs and service.
You must also define how you are different from other auto repair shops in your market area. Don’t worry too much about the competition. Create your value proposition, which is how you stand out among other repair shops. Be known for something other than automotive repairs. Get involved in your local community, hold consumer clinics, become involved with local organizations, or sponsor sports teams in your area. This will spotlight your company and help set you apart from the competition.
People can get a brake job or an oil change anywhere. In the mind of the consumer, they don’t see a difference between an oil change with you or the shop down the street. Make your company stand out by creating a company that has a purpose and one that cares about people.
Lastly on this topic, if you specialize in a particular area, do all you can to convey this to your target consumer. For example, if you are a truck shop, a European shop, or an Asian-only shop, then make sure you communicate your specific business model in all your ads, brand messaging, posts, and photos on social media and your website.
Step Four – Create an Amazing Workplace
We all know that happy employees create happy customers. When you have a workforce that is aligned with the goals of the company, you have a powerful strategy for success and a solid foundation for an effective marketing plan. Make sure your employees feel respected in their positions. Ensure that they know that what they do every day matters. Look for reasons to praise and recognize their accomplishments and give feedback on their performance. An amazing employee experience leads to an amazing customer experience.
Step Five – Understand Customer Touchpoints
Each customer goes through a series of steps from the initial appointment process to the sales process, and then to vehicle delivery. These steps are called touchpoints. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to create a positive emotional response. However, if any of these touchpoints is not performed properly, it can lead to a negative experience, which can result in the loss of a customer or a negative online review.
Have open and honest discussions with your team. Look for ways to enhance each touchpoint. Any improvement in customer touchpoints will result in a better customer experience, which will help with customer retention. Create an amazing customer experience with each customer, every time.
Step Six – Understand Customer Touchpoints
The vehicle delivery process is your first step to your next sale. When performed properly, it will give your customers a compelling reason to return. Don’t rush this process, it’s not a transaction, it is an opportunity to continue to develop the relationship with your customers. Organize training sessions for your service advisors and hold meetings to review the delivery process. Additionally, make sure that every customer at vehicle delivery is informed of needed future services or repairs. Every customer in your shop today will need future services and repairs. Do everything you can to ensure that your customers return to you. It’s all about building strong relationships with your customers.
I hope you found these six steps helpful. It’s important to note that advertising and marketing may bring a customer to you, but it cannot sell anything. That’s your job. Marketing does not ensure that the customer in front of you today will return to you either. It takes the right team, and the right company culture, combined with strong leadership to execute an effective marketing plan. Improving your business from within builds a more successful overall marketing strategy.
Your role as an automotive shop owner can be challenging at times. As you grow your business, you and your team must grow too. Plus, your marketing demands also need to change. At Elite Worldwide, we understand that growing a successful business requires different strategies with new and innovative methods. Elite has an experienced coaching team, along with proven strategies to help you and your team meet future challenges, while also helping you achieve both your personal and business goals. At Elite, we also provide many business solutions, including sales training, shop management training, peer groups, online resources, webinars, seminars, and much more. Our main focus, however, is on people; a core value we will never compromise at Elite Worldwide.
About the author – Joe Marconi – With over four decades of industry expertise, Joe is a seasoned professional whose accomplishments include owning and operating one of America’s most successful auto repair companies. A graduate of the Automotive Management Institute, Joe is a recipient of the CARQUEST Excellence Award, served on industry panels, and played a role in developing the ASE Engine Performance Certification test. As a former columnist for Ratchet & Wrench Magazine and co-founder of AutoShopOwner.com, Joe has been a keynote speaker at the Ratchet and Wrench Conference. After selling his automotive company in 2021, Joe now dedicates his time to giving back to the industry as a Top Shop 360 Business Development Coach with Elite Worldwide and serves on the board of directors for the Service Stations Dealers of Great New York. Joe, a Bronx native now residing in Patterson, New York, enjoys family time, community involvement, and pursuits such as tennis, golf, and woodworking.