In this guide, the auto repair experts at Conceptual Minds will walk you step by step through the creation of your very own email marketing initiative.
Conceptualminds | September 20, 2022
Auto Repair Shop Email Marketing Guide
Email marketing is a vital tool for auto repair shop owners looking to grow and retain customers after a continued slump in driving behavior and an increasingly tight economic marketplace.
If done right, email marketing can help your business generate $44 for every dollar you invest.
This low-cost marketing method isn’t as simple as writing a few one-off messages, and success won’t happen overnight.
But with careful consideration of your audience’s needs, as well as an awareness of the value various email formats bring, and email marketing best practices, you can build a strong new revenue stream that creates new opportunities.
Creating Opportunities from Scratch
What’s holding you back from increased sales?
The auto repair industry is all about responding to customer needs. Unfortunately, with so miles driven still below pre-pandemic averages, sales opportunities are fewer than before.
To make matters worse on an industry level, once-solid partnerships with manufacturers have begun to fracture, leaving many shops without a way to distinguish themselves from the competition.
As a result, auto repair shops are forced to broaden their customer base while creating opportunities to connect deeper, and more regularly. Once the need arises, it’s your name you want prospects to remember
There’s a surprising amount of diversity within just about any customer pool—everything from age groups, life experiences, race, and ethnic background, to car maintenance habits and much more.
Still, you can’t simultaneously address everyone without leaving some dissatisfied.
Segmenting them based on distinct characteristics gives you a much greater chance to succeed within any group.
Which segments should you target?
Customer segments will vary dramatically from shop to shop, depending on the location, your repair niche, and other factors.
While there are technically infinite possibilities, the following segments are broad enough to work for most shops:
- The regulars: Capitalize on your best clients; after all, they’re by far your best audience. It’s much easier to grow their average order size than to warm up and convert new clients, who might not return.
- Vehicle condition: New car owners, used car owners with over 100k miles, each requires a distinct maintenance and repair approach.
- Owners of specific makes and models: Segment customers by their vehicle, which lets you create messages addressing common problems, or giving maintenance tips.
- Location: What pleases customers from one branch might not do the same for another. Differences in climate, median income, customer demographics, and competition might require a different tact.
- Families v. Single Customers: Families sometimes have different values than single individuals so appealing to those individuals can make a lot of sense.
That’s not all though, other commonly used email segments include customers with ongoing maintenance requests, customers who only pay the bare minimum, and customers who like preventative maintenance.
Building your auto repair email list
From now on, you’ll want to make a regular habit of capturing customer emails.
Opportunities for growing your email list are nearly limitless.
You could, for instance:
- Including a field for email addresses on intake forms
- Add an opt-in form to your website
- Collect business cards for a prize drawing
- Send low-cost postcards via Every Door Direct Mail, ask recipients to fill in their address and return for a reward
BUT, be sure you ask permission to use their email address for email marketing.
Email Anatomy: Subject Lines, Writing, CTA’s & Button Design
Email creation is harder than it looks, but it’s also easier than they make it out to be.
In this section, we’re walking you through email writing as well as design considerations for calls to action.
Blow away your auto repair email list with a great subject line
The subject line is the most important piece of writing on any email.
Without a gripping subject line, there’s no reason for viewers to open (And no reason to produce emails to begin with).
How do you write good subject lines?
Don't capitalize every word
Customers associate capitalized headlines with formality.
Formal language is harder to follow, and many consumers often associate formality with boredom or intrusively “salesy-ness.”
See any capitalized subject lines in my overflowing inbox?
Of those, only CVS and America’s Test Kitchen are written in title case. As a result, they read as too serious, and official. The rest, meanwhile, almost look like they could come from a friend or coworker.
Remember, you’re not a big corporation, you’re the friendly local auto repair shop operator. An average Joe or Jane looking out for your customers’ best interests.
Approachable, never intimidating.
Keep your auto repair email’s language stupid simple
Writing a good subject line takes time.
You’ll be tempted to cram multiple sales points into a subject line to make it as strong as possible, but resist that impulse. If they can’t understand at a glance, you’ll be left unread.
Shoot for two to six words for each subject line. Experiment with longer subject lines from time to time, but the simpler, the better.
Keep your promises, all of them
It’s the number one rule of marketing: if you make a specific claim, you will have to back it up, specifically.
Is your “guide” more of a brief explainer, will the contents of the email truly give your readers what the subject line promises?
Ensure your subject line and your message are aligned; otherwise, you risk your credibility.
Writing & Designing Calls to Action
Your readers have finished; they read your subject line, your body copy, and your email signature. Now what?
Now you tell them what to do next. Your call-to-action is how you move readers to purchase, book an appointment, or click a link.
Your job is to make it impossible to miss, unmistakably clear, and attractive.
Auto Repair Email CTA placement: top or bottom?
Believe it or not, CTA placement is a controversial subject in the marketing world.
Some advise placing a single CTA at the bottom of your email so the preceding lines build up to a pitch, but sometimes it makes sense to move it up top to encourage more clicks or use multiple CTAs throughout.
Your best option depends on the context. Ask yourself whether recipients would need to read the full email to understand the CTA? If so, it needs to be at the end.
Multiple CTAs are best left for longer, transactional emails where multiple services are being offered, longer newsletters with multiple stories, or xx that contain different offers.
Don't Make Your CTA Button Copy Dismissible
Whereas subject lines get people to open emails, your call-to-action text gets prospects to click through, purchase, or engage.
It’s tempting to rely on commonly used CTAs like “Download More” and “Shop Now,” but this vague copy is often overlooked. Make it specific to the CTA’S goal. Show them the benefits of taking action.
For instance, if I were linking to this blog in an email I could write “Download Now” and be done with it.” But by teasing the benefit they’ll get from clicking, “Write Better Emails Today,” the viewer is much more likely to click through.
CTA design: where they should click, and why they should click it
CTA copy is all about telling readers why they should follow through; the button is about telling people where to click.
But how do I make sure it pops?
Make your CTA buttons stand out by using high-contrast colors. Clear contrast between the foreground and the background will help draw the eye (For more on creating color contrast, see our auto repair sign creation guide).
Also, leave some white space around your CTA button. This further draws the eye and avoids cluttered or too large buttons (Which run the risk of making you seem too desperate for a sale).
One thing you’re trying to avoid is using elements that are so strong that they intimidate the reader.
Just like applying too much pressure can kill a sale, when customers see an email that appears more geared towards selling them something rather than helping them, they likely feel the same way.
4 Foundational Email Format for Auto Repair Marketing
So far, we’ve covered subject lines, and CTAs, but what about the email’s actual contents?
That depends on the format.
Emails can inform, entertain, promote, and encourage transactions—among many other purposes—auto repair shop owners doing email marketing should be sending these four emails.
1. Educational Emails & Newsletters
As an auto repair shop, you have a skillset that’s extremely valuable to a not-very mechanically savvy population.
You know how it all works, you know how to expertly maintain and repair any number of vehicles, and deal with a nearly infinite amount of customer problems. You even know your customer’s bad habits.
Educational emails are as much about showcasing your expertise and giving valuable advice as they are about reminding customers that you exist.
Your name should be the first they think of when they have a need—and by associating you with trustworthy advice, they’ll see your shop as more valuable, too.
Of course, a good educational email has to have something interesting and appealing to say.
Like one of these ideas, for instance:
- Offer detailed tips to help locals make their cars last longer
- Help customers diagnose problems with their car
- Write about safety concerns around common makes and models, as well as seasonal conditions
- Compose a regular newsletter (monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly); talk about the latest company updates, promotions, trending repair issues, or show off any published content
2. Welcome email: greet your auto repair shop email list with a smile
You’ve successfully drawn them in and serviced them. Now they’re in the fold, open to being drawn into a deeper, more lasting relationship.
Of all the customer milestones, the first purchase is perhaps the one most worth celebrating. It’s their first impression; a brief intro to your company, helping them see the value in staying a customer.
To succeed, welcome emails need to:
- Validate your customer’s value
- Pique their interest
- Set expectations for future emails
- Compel them to stick around with added incentives
If you want a greater response rate for your welcome email, add incentives. It’s the perfect time to go above and beyond to show you care about and value their business. Include info about your services perks—customers love free Wi-Fi pick up and drop off services—in addition to any rewards programs. Or, offer a discount.
Also, the welcome email is the perfect place to promote and introduce your social media feeds. Invite them to connect.
3. Promotional emails: get your auto repair shop email list to convert
Consumers know a sales pitch when they hear it, which is partially why it’s so hard to convince customers to purchase additional services after a repair.
All is not lost after they leave the lot, though. Through email marketing, you can advertise services, cross-sell, upsell; or any kind of sale you can think of.
Without the pressure of a sales pitch, consumers can consider them on their own time. Instead of having to trust a stranger and make an on-the-spot decision, they can confirm the costs and necessity of services with themselves, with online research (Which most do before they visit anyways).
Promotional emails can take a number of forms, like, for instance:
- A special offer
- Advertising a new service or new products
- Cross-selling complementary services
- Seasonal sales
- New accommodations for your customers
Choose those best fit for your business and customers and split those emails into three separate messages: an initial announcement, a reminder, and the last chance alert before it’s all over. In email marketing, sometimes you need to repeat yourself somewhat to get heard.
4. Retention emails: remind your auto repair shop email list, and encourage them to return
The goal of retention email is to keep cooled-off customers on the hook.
Customers leave for any number of reasons, for a shiny new competitor, a negative experience, or they might have forgotten about your shop.
A simple “we miss you” email is sometimes all it takes to bring them back into the fold. It’s a reminder, one that may prompt them to reconsider their loyalties.
The secondary objective of this email—after reminder—is to give them a good reason to return.
We recommend you entice that return by including any of the following:
- How long it’s been since their last visit
- Any car problems stemming from a lack of maintenance
- General business upgrades that preceded their last visit
- A (limited time) special discount or deal
- Rewards program details
- New locations
- New mechanic hires
- New business milestones
- New company hours or policies
Keep in touch with your auto repair shop email list
As American drivers continue their reduced driving habits years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, it’s likely this trend will continue into the medium term. Repair shop owners looking to weather any downtick must find a way to sustain growth by creating more opportunities to connect with drivers and pull them in with compelling offers and vivid reminders.
Conceptual Minds are modern auto repair marketing experts. Our broad expertise in print-based and digital marketing (including email marketing)—and exclusive focus on the auto repair industry—helps us identify growth opportunities. Connect with us and double your car counts.