Marketing Plan for a Commercial Auto Repair Shop

With an estimated 15.5 million trucks operating in the United States, there’s plenty of business for heavy-duty repair shops. The question is, how do you get a piece of the market for your shop? 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 and convincing them to try your service. These days, effective commercial repair 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 this heavy-duty repair shop business plan. It takes you through the steps of commercial repair shop marketing, increasing referrals, retaining customers, and building your bottom line.

Analyze the Market

When analyzing the market for commercial repair shop marketing, look at your current customer base. Are most of your jobs for owner/operators? Do you do work for small or large fleets? Are most of your work on repairs? Or do you do a lot of PMs? Knowing your existing audience will help in later steps of your marketing plan because you’ll be able to segment customers and target them with specific information and promotions.

Getting More Work From Both New and Existing Customers

Although marketing professionals advise focusing your efforts on existing customers, it never hurts to target new business that can benefit from your services. The beauty of that strategy is that experience with existing customers comes in handy. If you’d like more work from fleets, for instance, jot down what existing fleet customers love about your service. Then, take those facts to a fleet manager or owner whose business you’d like to land. Tracking PMs is a great example of a valuable service fleets need, especially smaller fleets. They don’t typically have the time or the manpower to stay on top of routine maintenance. As a heavy-duty shop, however, you specialize in PMs and are the perfect solution to their problem. Repair shop software like Fullbay automates the process to make taking on more business a piece of cake.

Let a prospective fleet customer know how convenient your service is. Show them the Fullbay customer portal—using your logo as the icon—where they’ll be able to see upcoming preventive maintenance. You can offer to perform PMs on the schedule they prefer, whether it’s based on mileage, time, or engine-hours. You could even do it on-site to minimize downtime for them as much as possible. Top it off with a discount on labor if they’ll let you track and perform PMs on all their trucks. Also, let them know you can send them service reminders through email or text. It’s a win-win for everyone. The best part is that it’s a service you can use to secure even more work from existing customers, too.

Your Shop’s Website

Effective commercial repair shop marketing uses all the tools available, and current technology has filled that toolbox to the brim. A professional website is a business’s calling card in the 21st Century. It tells customers about you and how they can contact you. Additionally, it also provides you with a way to connect with them for marketing purposes.

The best websites have a blog page where the business can increase their value to customers by sharing their expertise. 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. You can use your website to collect email addresses, too. Many shops have a form on most pages on their site while others have one that pops up on the homepage. In exchange for signing up with their email, you can offer customers a gift. It could be almost anything from a discount on the next service to a free inspection. What you get in return is an email address that you can send announcements, coupons, and offers to keep your shop fresh on their minds.

Newsletters are another valuable use of customer email addresses. They’re the ideal way to let customers know what’s new at your shop, but emails that educate and entertain are the way to go. Use them to deliver custom content that engages customers without trying to make a sale. Sending out a newsletter that talks about the top apps for drivers, for example, is interesting, entertaining, and will do more than just put your shop’s name in the forefront of customers’ minds. It also helps build a relationship that will keep it there for the long-term.

Getting Social With Commercial Repair Shop Marketing

The value of social media cannot be overestimated. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others offer amazing opportunities to connect with customers and market your shop. That’s why every commercial repair shop marketing plan should include routine posting across several platforms. Consistency is the key to ensuring social media marketing is as effective as possible. For many people, that means assigning someone to monitor your shop’s media sites and take care of posting on a regular schedule.

Ads on social media sites are pretty inexpensive. However, there’s no charge to post links to your blog articles, coupons, quick tips, or even customer testimonials. Ask customers to connect with you on your social sites of choice. Then, make a habit of interacting with them there. In your posts, encourage a response. For example, ask a question. Or, run a contest that requires they tag your business or share your posts to earn entries to win. Tagging is an easy way for customers to refer people to you, too. Don’t be afraid to ask for that favor and offer a reward in return. We’ll talk more about referral and loyalty programs next.

Blow Your Own Horn

However you use the tools mentioned above, be sure to use them to highlight your unique selling point. In other words, let everyone know what’s great about your shop. Do you offer something no other shop does? 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. That means it’s more likely that yours will be the one customers think of when they need your services. The goal of this commercial repair shop marketing technique isn’t to come up with a whole list of great things about your shop. Instead, single out something you can capitalize on. Pick 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.

Using Your Unique Selling Point

One example of a unique selling point would be offering special pricing for fleets. Small, medium, or large—a fleet manager perusing your website or catching a glimpse of a shared Facebook post will be interested to see that your shop can save him money. Or, maybe you have a mobile tech who can perform most services anywhere. Let people know about that 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 builds trust. And that can be leveraged to extend into other areas of heavy-duty repair.

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. First, a loyalty program gives your customers an incentive for bringing their repair business to you. It’s where you take advantage of the market analysis we talked about earlier, offering specific rewards to different segments of your customer base. The plan for tracking PMs we talked about is an ideal example of a loyalty reward a heavy-duty shop can specifically 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. Freebies, discounts, or even gift cards are affordable ways to motivate happy clients to help build your business.

You don’t have to limit thoughtful thankyous to long-time customers, either. Encourage new customers to let you know they were referred and who referred them. Then, thank them with a reward, too. For instance, offer a free or half-priced lube/oil/filter service. Or, you could give a certain dollar amount toward a particular service, like replacing wheel seals.  That ensures the referrer gets credit for sending them in, so they’ll get their reward. What’s more, it’s a low-cost way to thank the new customer for giving your shop a try. Plus, it will keep them coming back.

Showing Your Community Some Love

Getting involved in your community builds goodwill, plus it’s a way to bring people into your shop. 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 effective marketing, 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. That commercial repair shop marketing strategy builds valuable rapport with your fellow businesses while getting your shop’s name out there and brings people in. Plus it’s a great way to build your email list, too.

Don’t Forget the Follow Up

Following up with customers, new and existing, is a key element for commercial repair shop marketing. For new customers, the follow-up should happen after their first visit. Send them an email with a coupon or percentage-off offer on a service. Also, ask how pleased they were with your service. That will provide you with constructive feedback and give them another reason to come in again.

For existing customers who already bring you their business on a regular basis, a frequent automated email after each service might become a nuisance. Instead, make your follow up with them more personal. Touch bases with a service reminder, letting them know when their next round of PMs is coming due. Use that contact as an opportunity to ask if there’s anything else you can do for them. Alternatively, after the service, you can call to let them know about any repairs or problems you might have found. Also offer a percentage off or a discount on the labor if they want to schedule those repairs immediately. And, follow up that follow-up with an email outlining the suggested repairs and the discount in writing.

Conversion and Retention

Bringing in new customers won’t do much good if you can’t convert them into regulars. What’s more, you have to keep existing customers happy to retain them as long-term clients. Many of the strategies we’ve talked about here will work for getting new customers and keeping them. However, they work best if you’re consistent. The memories of a one-time open house will fade, and a spurt of email newsletters once or twice a year won’t keep your shop’s name where it needs to be—in front of potential and existing customers.

That’s why social media has grown into such an important part of commercial repair shop marketing. It presents an opportunity to remind people about your business every day if you have time to post that often. However, that marketing avenue hinges even more on regularity. If you don’t post consistently and often, you could get lost in the crowd. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to post several times a day, 7 days a week. The regularity factor will help build your brand over time.

In conclusion, you can have the best commercial repair shop marketing plan on the planet, but it won’t be effective if you don’t follow it. Yes, there are a lot of details in a marketing plan that works, so you’ll want to write it down. Create checklists, maps, spreadsheets. Use whatever tools will keep it all organized, so you don’t miss a step. Many shop managers and owners find it’s useful to schedule their marketing plans on a calendar. Seeing dates associated with to-do’s helps keep you motivated and moving forward toward the goal of increasing your shop’s success.