Email Marketing 101 for Heavy Duty Repair Shops

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Word of mouth has always been an effective and affordable marketing technique. The word of satisfied customers gives your heavy duty shop street cred that a paid announcer can’t. Email marketing is a great way to increase word-of-mouth referrals. It keeps your shop’s name on customers’ minds, and it doesn’t require spending a pile of money. Reaching out to past and present customers reminds them who you are, where you are, and what you do best—repair and service semis. The best part is email marketing for heavy duty repair shops can be as simple or involved as you want. To get you started, we’ve put together an overview of marketing through email. You’ll see what it is and how lots of businesses including heavy duty shops use email marketing to retain customers and increase word-of-mouth referrals.

Benefits of Email Marketing for Heavy Duty Repair Shops

The affordability factor of email marketing for heavy duty repair shops is attractive, but there are many more benefits to promoting through email than marketing on the cheap. First, since staying in touch with customers is a proven retention strategy, email is an ideal way to maintain contact and increase traffic to your website. It helps keep customers informed about your business and it’s a useful tool for providing education and value. Emails encourage customers to take action, whether it’s to schedule a service, take advantage of an offer, provide feedback or a testimonial, or even make referrals. It’s also a non-aggressive way to turn an occasional customer into one who brings you all his business. And the beauty is you can start email marketing with a small or nonexistent budget.

Types of Emails

Joke of the Day emails and ones with silly memes may be entertaining, but there are better ways to make the most of your email list. Email marketing for heavy duty repair shops works best if you’re sending out emails that provide value and engage customers like:

  • welcome emails—welcome new subscribers and thank them for joining your community
  • promotional emails—advertise a monthly special or offer a discount coupon
  • announcement emails—let your customers know about a new service you’re offering or when a new tech with specialized skills comes on board
  • reminder emails—send customers an email when they have PMs coming due or to remind them of scheduled repairs or maintenance
  • referral invitation emails—ask customers to refer you to friends and colleagues in exchange for a freebie or percent off a service
  • testimonial emails—pass on kudos other customers have given your shop

Testimonial emails can potentially serve multiple purposes. First, it can advertise services you offer. If the accolade is about how well your mobile tech handled a roadside repair, for example, it’s a great way of promoting your mobile business, especially if customers aren’t aware that you’ll come to them. Second, you can include a link in the email so other customers can leave feedback. Then use that feedback on your website and in future testimonial emails.

Informative emails are another way to use email marketing. These emails provide educational value to customers and are especially effective at getting them to engage. The information could be product advice or could highlight industry news, like when there are changes to federal regulations. The topics for these emails tend to be lengthy, so only include a small piece of the whole article in the email with a link to the full article on the website.

Know Your Audience

It’s easier to decide which kinds of emails to send if you know your audience. As a diesel repair  shop owner, you have a head start on understanding the group you’re talking to. You service big rigs and fleets. Plus, you’ve probably been in the heavy duty transport business in one way or another for a while. That means you’ve got a pretty good handle on what topics your customers find interesting and compelling.

However, understanding your audience requires going a little deeper. You can’t simply lump everyone into the same category if you want every email to engage everyone. It’s unlikely that all your emails will resonate with everyone on your subscriber list. Segmenting your customers will optimize your email marketing efforts to ensure that the majority of what you send out is useful to those who receive it.

The concept is fairly simple and you may already be practicing customer segmentation for pricing purposes or other reasons. Essentially, segmenting your customers means dividing them into groups. New customers, fleet managers, owner/operators, or ones that only come in occasionally for basic services like oil changes, for example. Then you send out emails to different groups containing content that relates to them. For example, you could send reminder emails to the oil change customers when their trucks are due for a service and a newsletter email to fleet managers with a link to an article on fleet management.

Anatomy of an Effective Email

The type of email you’re creating will dictate the type of content you put into it. However, when email marketing for heavy duty shops, the most effective emails have similar elements in common. First, keep it short. Your customers are busy. They don’t have time to scroll through lengthy emails looking to see whether it contains anything that might interest them. It’s best to stick to one topic per email, but there are always exceptions to the rule. For instance, you could include a coupon at the end of a short announcement-type email. Alternatively, you might have three short, bullet-pointed paragraphs that each link to a full-length article on your website.

Other must-have elements for marketing emails include:

  • your shop’s contact information and at least one link to your site
  • images and graphics—don’t create sensory-overload, but include a candid snapshot from the shop, a picture of a product, and your shop’s logo

Whatever you put in your emails, it’s essential that you proofread them—and proofread them again!—before hitting the “send” button. Awesome content loses its value when it’s inaccurate or when readers get sidetracked by typos and other mistakes. You don’t have to be a English Professor, though. There are plenty of free tools online to help with spelling and grammar such as Grammarly or Hemmingway that help with editing so your emails look professional.

Don’t Underestimate the Subject Line

Subject lines are another vital part of effective emails. They literally have the power to make or break your email marketing campaign. The subject line hints at what’s inside. They’re the first thing your subscribers see even before they open your email. The subject line makes readers decide whether to open your email now, come back to it later, or send it directly to “trash” without even reading it.

Great email subject lines are brief and intriguing. They can be a short sentence or even just one word. Their ultimate purpose is to motivate subscribers to read your email right away. You can use humor, a call to action, or ask a question, as long as the subject line relates to what’s inside the email. For example, “Is your fleet ready for winter?” would be a good subject line for an email containing a link to and excerpt of your latest blog post on winterizing fleets.

Building a List

Email marketing for heavy duty repair shops doesn’t work without subscribers to send those killer promotional emails to. That’s why you need to begin building your subscriber list now. The good news is that there are several ways you can get email addresses from current and potential customers.

Start by adding a field for an email address on intake forms. That prompts customers to provide it along with their address and phone number when they bring a truck in or purchase a part at the counter. Also, add an opt-in form to your website, either as a pop-up or somewhere near the top of each page. Be sure to include an offer, such as a percent-off of a service, in exchange for names and email addresses. Other ways to build an email list include:

  • collecting business cards—set up a box or bowl on the front counter and draw one out each week to receive a “prize,” but be sure to add the emails from all the cards to your list.
  • start a club—invite people to enroll in an elite customers club by providing their email address. The incentive is the special rewards customers on this list receive.
  • leverage your snail-mail list—send a postcard to your old-school mail list asking customers to fill in their email addresses and return the card to you. Of course, you’ll also offer a reward for following through.
  • share newsletter space—exchange email space with a non-competing business. You both get links in each other’s newsletters to your opt-in forms.

Also, be sure your opt-in form is in all the emails you send out. That way, if anyone forwards your email to someone not on your list, that new person can easily sign up.

How Often Should You Email?

Being consistent is essential. Email marketing for heavy duty repair shops doesn’t work if subscribers don’t hear from you regularly. When you decide to market through email, go all in. Pick a date or dates you’ll email each month, and stick to it.

Having said that, there’s a fine line between emailing enough and becoming a nuisance, and you have to know where that line is. Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Sometimes it depends on the audience and sometimes it depends on what you’re sending out. Having great content is a plus—the better it is, the more your subscribers will appreciate them. That means you can email often without customers hitting “unsubscribe”. Still, even with ultra-interesting content, an email a day is too much. What’s more, for some, even an email a week is pushing it.

The best advice is to experiment to see what works best for your shop. Start with scheduling an email once a month. Plus, try supplementing that with one or two extra emails, like when you have an announcement to make or if you’re running a special. Tweak the frequency according to how your subscribers respond.

Take Advantage of Tech

If email marketing for heavy duty repair shops has you feeling overwhelmed, technology can help. There are tons of email marketing programs available that handle the hard stuff like building an email list, putting together a newsletter or campaign, scheduling emails, and most of them even automate it all. You may have heard of popular ones like MailChimp and Constant Contact, but there are many more out there, including:

Most offer a free version, and some of them are pretty beefy. For example, MailChimp’s free plan will service up to 2,000 subscribers, provides opt-in forms, and gives you access to email templates and a content studio. The free versions are a good place to start. They give you a chance to get your feet wet with email marketing for heavy duty shops. But you may need to dip into your marketing budget and upgrade fairly quickly. Especially when your email list grows beyond what a free subscription can handle.

And don’t be surprised if you find email marketing for heavy duty shops kind of fun. It can be like a game. Between collecting email addresses, dreaming up content, designing emails, and strategizing when to send them out, it’s a challenge that, if you choose to accept it, pays off. You’ll see the results in increased business, improved connection with your customers, and a hefty, healthy bottom line.


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