Digital is the new print, right?

Yes, digital marketing is the fundamental must-have for almost any business, and for most businesses, digital is the new and improved shiny marketing toy that’s driving the most ROI—return on investment, better known as profit. But does the same strategy hold true for the automotive repair industry?

The short answer is: not always. While auto repair shops generally enjoy a positive ROI from digital advertising, print advertising holds its own in some cases. In fact, most of our automotive clients here at Conceptual Minds continue to attract a measurable volume of their customers with print ads. But not just any old print advertising strategy can get your auto shop these same results. You must be strategic about the way you target your customer—or potential customer—and how you track success (or failure).

Attract New Customers

Direct mail—putting flyers, post cards, etc. in the mailboxes of potential customers—is a great channel for reaching new customers with print. To successfully target people who will convert from your print ads—come into your shop for repairs—you need to target people who look like your current customer-base. This might involve getting intel from your customer service staff, or going through past customer profiles in your POS, but things you want to identify are any demographical commonalities, like age, gender, occupation, parental status, hobbies, etc. Some of these descriptors may not exist in sales records, like occupation, but that’s where your customer service folks and/or service techs can probably provide insight from their one-on-one contact with customers. Perhaps the average customer for your shop is a thirty-something soccer mom, or maybe it’s a forty-something businessman.

The next step is to look at the geographies where your customers live. You’ll typically only want to send out mailers to communities within a 3 – 5 mile radius of your shop, but maybe there are two or three zip codes near your shop that drive most business already, so you might just want to target those instead. You should always test to see what works best.

The third step is to pick a targeted message that will appeal to these potential customers. Typically, coupons are a winner for getting people in the door—everyone loves a good deal. But in addition to the coupon, you need a message that will stand out above the competition—because let’s be honest, coupons aren’t a revolutionary idea; they are just what works, so every auto shop in your area is likely using them, too. If possible, you should use messaging that highlights your incomparable customer service via a customer testimonial or star rating from a local directory, like Yelp. Also, consider what values your ideal customer has and appeal to those. That thirty-something soccer mom likely loves her kids very much, so having messaging that appeals to family and safety could hook her. Also, try not to put everything on the same coupon. Try to limit your offers and value proposition message to only a few things that you know will likely resonate with that specific audience. At the end of the day, design does also matter!

The last step: track! How do you know how much ROI your print ads are driving—or that they are driving anything at all—if you don’t have tracking in place? But you can’t track print, you say? Not so fast. Marketing technology is smarter than ever today, and there are solutions for tracking print advertising. The best way to track whether those coupon mailers you sent out are resulting in sales is to use coupon codes that your employees must type in for the customer to receive the discounted service. Voila! And it might be beneficial to use multiple coupon codes—one per coupon so that you can get even granular data that will inform how you invest money into different locations in the future. We at Conceptual Minds use coupon codes with our clients and they have been monumental in helping our clients not only hone in on their ideal customer, but also knowing which print ads are winners and which are losers.

Retain Current Customers

Okay, so now that you have a slew of new customers, how do you keep them coming back? Well, direct mail is also a great channel for customer retention, and there’s a very cool tactic, called remarketing, that you can use. What if your customers could be reminded, say 30 days before they are due for wheel balancing that they should plan to come into your shop? Or maybe they can be reminded that their VA state safety inspection is coming up, or that they only have another 750 miles before they need to replace their fluids? Yes, you got it—you can do all of this by combining data from your POS with a targeted print mail campaign. And you can just imagine the massive ROI a campaign like this can drive since you know you are targeting all people who are “in-market” aka ready to buy.

If you would like some guidance on how to get the most from a print marketing campaign, please reach out to us at Conceptual Minds. We have 10+ years of experience in the automotive marketing industry, and we would love to help take your auto shop to the next level.