7 Questions to Ask When Building a Marketing Plan for Your Commercial Repair Shop

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There are an estimated 15.5 million trucks operating in the United States — and all of those trucks are going to need repairs at some point. 

That means plenty of potential business for your heavy-duty repair shop. 

The question is, how do you get a piece of the market? In the past, you might have spent money on television and radio ads, direct mail, and other campaigns geared toward introducing your shop to new customers. These days, strong shop marketing focuses more on building strong relationships with existing customers. After all, happy customers will refer colleagues and friends. 

Putting your marketing efforts into things that remind customers about your shop increases referrals and grows your business via word-of-mouth. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together seven questions to ask yourself while creating a marketing plan for your commercial heavy-duty repair shop. 

1. WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?

While you’re putting together a marketing plan, the first thing you need to look at is your existing customer base. 

  • Are most of your jobs for owner/operators? 
  • Do you do work for small or large fleets? 
  • Is most of your work repair-based?
  • Do you do a lot of PMs? 

Knowing your existing audience will help you segment customers and target them with specific information and promotions. More than that, it provides a common language you and your potential customers will speak. “We’re Truck Repair B, and we handle all kinds of chassis repair” speaks directly to the customer with a damaged chassis. 

Ultimately you want your existing customers and your new customers to request service from you, whether that’s through a phone call, an email, or stopping by your shop one afternoon. You want them to become paying clients — hopefully clients who will be satisfied with your services and who will come back whenever they need to. A good marketing plan takes as much of the friction out of this process as possible. 

2. WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT YOU?

You’ve probably heard the term “What’s your angle?” thrown around in advertising. That roughly translates to, “What’s your unique selling point?” and figuring that out will help you put together a marketing plan for your heavy-duty shop. 

Once you’ve worked out that unique selling point, you’ve got to figure out how to market it.

Do you offer something no other shop does? Or maybe you do it in a way no one else can? Any distinction you can make about your heavy-duty repair shop will make you stand out from the crowd. If you’re the only one who offers a particular service, or you’re the best at it, then it’s your shop customers will think about when they need repairs. 

The goal of this exercise isn’t to come up with a whole list of great things about your shop (but good for you if you can do that!). Instead, single out something you can capitalize on — one thing you’d like your shop to be known for. 

It could be a service, your availability during off-hours, or maybe you have the best warranty in the state. Maybe you offer special pricing for fleets of all sizes. A fleet manager stumbling across that post on your page or a shared Facebook page will see a shop that can save him money. He’ll be interested.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’ve got a mobile tech who can perform the majority of diagnostics and repairs just about anywhere. You can market this mobile tech on your website, in emailed newsletters, and on social media, too. Additionally, be sure your company’s logo and telephone number are displayed in large print on both sides of the service truck. That way, the truck itself does double duty — marketing for your shop while it’s driving around making service calls.

In the end, the bottom line for highlighting a unique selling point is to make it your trademark. Whatever it is, make a big deal about it and mention it often. Use it as a tagline in all of your marketing so it’s what your shop is known for. The great thing about being known as a specialist in one area is that it builds trust. And that can be leveraged to extend into other areas of heavy-duty repair.

3.  WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET?

It’s said that half of your marketing budget is wasted. You just don’t know which half. 

The good news is, technology has pushed marketing forward in a big way. Marketing diesel repair shops is much easier–and less expensive–than it used to be.

First off, you don’t need to spend a ton of money on effective marketing. There is a lot you can do for little or no cost. And the tactics that do cost money can give you incredible information about how much bang you’re getting for your buck. But before you do anything else, you’ve got to decide how much of your overall budget is going to go towards marketing.

We’ve got an entire blog post about figuring out your marketing budget, but we’ll break down the process here:

  1. Estimate your gross sales
  2. Decide how much higher you want your gross sales to be
  3. Earmark about 5% of your targeted sales to put toward marketing

There are other ways to do it, of course, and the steps we provided are highly simplified. But determining your budget ahead of time will help you figure out what marketing tactics you want to deploy for your shop, and how long you should test them for. It’s a big step toward sustaining your commercial heavy-duty shop through advertising.

4.  DO YOU HAVE A WEBSITE?

Like we said up top, marketing your diesel repair shop doesn’t have to involve expensive advertising campaigns. The simple stuff can help get the word out about your shop…and you can’t get much simpler than a website. And yes, you need a website.

A professional website is the internet equivalent of a business card. At the very least, it’s a basic storefront to tell customers about you and how to contact you. So if you don’t have a website yet, stop reading this blog and get one started

It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can use services like Wix or WordPress to stand up a professional-looking site in an hour or two. You shouldn’t need to shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Google, Bing, and other search engines love sites that regularly add new content, and one way to do that is through a blog. By posting to a blog regularly, you’re creating new content for search engines to notice; as you post, your site will gradually grow in search rankings. 

The best websites have a blog page where the business can increase their value to customers by sharing their expertise (for example, here is a good illustration of a diesel repair shop website). They regularly post blog articles that educate customers on topics that relate to their needs and interests. Instructional videos are another way to educate your customers. Those can be embedded on any page of your site, including your blog page. 

The secret weapon of your website is your “Request Service” button. Place it on your home page in a prominent spot that a visitor can’t miss. You can use a simple contact form, or connect it to your shop management software. For example, Fullbay will deliver a request from the website straight to the shop manager’s screen.

5.  ARE YOUR SOCIALS IN ORDER?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others are invaluable marketing tools for any heavy-duty commercial repair shop. They’re the perfect places to post links to your blog articles, coupons, quick tips, or even customer testimonials. What’s more, social media shines at keeping your name in front of potential customers. People will forget about a one-time open house or the occasional newsletter. But when your shop pops up frequently on their feeds, you’ll remain on their minds.

That’s why your plan should include routine posting across several platforms. Consistency is the key to ensuring social media marketing is as effective as possible, but you don’t need to hire someone to do this for you or spend all your time clicking between social media platforms. There’s plenty of tools like Sprout or Buffer that let you handle all of your social media at once. You can even plan your messaging out in advance.

A quick caveat: We aren’t suggesting you post all day, every day. Posting regularly will help develop your brand over time and keep your shop’s name in front of the people who need to see it, but regular posting might be three times a week, or even once a week. 

When you post, remember to encourage interaction. Ask a question at the end of an informative post, and address answers in the comments. 

6.  DO YOU HAVE REFERRAL AND LOYALTY PROGRAMS? 

Like any effective element of a shop business plan, you have to think outside of the box when it comes to commercial repair shop marketing. Though they’ve become pretty common, referral and loyalty programs are some of the best non-traditional marketing strategies for businesses. 

A loyalty program gives your customers an incentive for bringing their repair business to you. This is where you put your learnings from your market analysis to work — by creating specific rewards to different segments of your customer base. The aforementioned plan for tracking PMs is an ideal example of a loyalty reward a heavy-duty shop can offer fleet customers.

Once you’ve got loyal customers on board, use their satisfaction to create a referral program to further your marketing efforts. Offer existing customers even more perks for referring new people to your shop. If Customer A recommends Customer B try out your shop, then Customer A is rewarded with a discount on his next service or some other incentive. This reward system encourages existing customers to share your shop with their friends and colleagues. 

No matter what marketing strategy you end up implementing, make sure you follow up with new and existing customers after every service. If you’ve just had a new customer, send them an email with a coupon or percentage-off offer on their next service. Ask them if they’re satisfied and encourage them to post about their experience on your social network. You’re encouraging feedback and a conversation — two birds, one stone and all that.

7. DO YOU HAVE A COMMUNITY PRESENCE?

Sure, maybe your shop is the only sign of civilization for hundreds of miles…but let’s be honest, that’s pretty unlikely. Odds are you have a community around you, and by tapping into and giving back to that community, you stand to build a lot of goodwill for your shop and your techs.

Hold seminars that focus on issues clients care about. Sure, those can be industry-related, but working with local charities and even other area businesses is an effective marketing tactic, too. For example, host an open-house barbeque and invite the community. Have them bring canned food items for the local food bank in lieu of a cover charge. Attendees can sign up for raffle prizes from your shop and partner businesses. 

The returns on this sort of event are two-fold. Not only are you building valuable rapport with your neighbors and fellow businesses, you’re also getting your shop’s name out there. Good word-of-mouth never hurt anyone. 

In Parting

The underlying goal of marketing diesel repair shops is to score more business. Once a potential customer has seen your shop site, or landed on a social media post, and reached out to you, it is up to you to draw them in with your integrity and quality of service, and make them a customer for life.

Marketing your commercial repair shop doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to be expensive. But you’re going to get out of it what you put into it, so why not set off on the right foot? If you’ve found this post helpful, you’re going to love our ebook, which is jammed with all the best marketing information we’ve come up with over the last few months. 

You’ve read plenty in this post about why you should be marketing; our ebook drills down into the how of things, providing more detail around how to put your social media to work for you, or how to set up a loyalty program. Best of all, you can flip to it as a reference any time you like.

Click here to get the ebook and become the shop marketing whiz you were destined to be!

Suz Baldwin

About Suz Baldwin

Suz Baldwin got her start in the automotive industry, writing and editing for several motorcycle and classic car magazines straight out of college. In the years that followed, she’s written all sorts of copy for brands big and small while consuming enough coffee to paralyze a dinosaur.

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