Jun 03, 2022

Going Digital: A Shop Owner’s Introduction to Commercial Repair Marketing

Going Digital: A Shop Owner’s Introduction to Commercial Repair Marketing

Ah, marketing. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

Seriously. If you want to grow your shop at all, you need to focus at least some of your attention on marketing. Specifically digital marketing, which takes your marketing and advertising from more traditional efforts like mailers and magazine ads to the vastness of…The Interwebs.

There’s a lot to love about digital marketing. If you run your campaigns right, you can reach gigantic numbers of people for far less money than you’d expect. But running a successful digital campaign depends on investing your money and time in the right platforms and services, which…well, there’s a learning curve.

We wanted to provide a high-level overview of digital marketing for the commercial repair shop owner who’s interested in getting their feet wet. That’s why we turned to Nick Adams, Managing Director of Dieselmatic, to help us put that overview together.

He agreed—probably because he knew we would not go away if he didn’t—and graciously let us pick his brain.

Before we jump into things, let’s talk a little bit about your customers.

The commercial diesel world in particular is a little different, Nick tells us, from other industries, in that they often aren’t looking for your services right this minute

“Customers are not always immediate, high-intent customers,” he says. A lot of the problems they have don’t have to be fixed today. They’ll start looking for help. They’re trying to get ahead of preventive maintenance, or plan for trouble down the line.

They’ll research. Sometimes for up to six months. They will see a lot of stuff in those six months, including the shop down the street and the shop across town. If they only see one mention of your shop, you’re going to get buried beneath the weight of their other findings.

Nick puts it this way: “The overall purpose of marketing is to stay top of mind for your customer,”

So, a solid digital marketing campaign continues showing your business to potential customers as they explore you and your competitors.

But how do you get there?

That’s what we’re going to talk about today.


Now, before anything else, let’s point out that digital marketing isn’t the only way to reach people—but these days, it’s the best, most cost-effective method.

But if you’re an intrepid shop owner looking to push your digital presence, you can’t go wrong with these tactics:

  • Google Business Profile
  • Website
  • Paid Search Marketing
  • Social Media

That’s in order, by the way. If you have to choose one or two, choose Google Business and a website. If you choose four, then go for all four. And so on.


If you don’t have a Google Business profile…you’re missing out.

The service formerly known as Google My Business lets you control (to an extent) the way your business is seen across things like Google Maps and the search engine itself. You can plug in your services and hours, as well as upload photographs of your shop and your work. Customers can leave reviews. It’s kind of like a miniature website—albeit one you don’t fully own.

Our friends at Dieselmatic have provided a detailed blog about setting up your Google Business profile.

The profile itself is free.


Yes, even if you have a Google Biz profile, you still need a website.

Your website is the easiest way for your customers to find you. It’s your shop’s home on the web—people can visit it, learn everything they need to know about you, and hopefully give you a call to schedule service.

We’ve got an article that goes more in-depth about what your website needs, but in a nutshell you’ll want the following:

  • Mobile-friendliness. Over 90% of the population is using a mobile device to get online at least some of the time, which means your customers are often looking for you on their phones. Make sure your website looks good on computers and phones.
  • A list of services. ALL your services. Then create individual pages or groups of service pages, so you have dedicated spots for wheel alignments, PM work, brake service, and so on. Those pages, over time, will rank for those types of searches on Google, which in turn makes it easier for people to find you.
  • Retargeting. The sad truth is that 97% of your website visitors aren’t going to buy anything (or book service, in your case) the first time they land on your site. They’re gonna nose around, then check out another shop site. You can make sure they keep thinking about you by enabling retargeting cookies, which hang out on a person’s device after they visit your shop website. Those cookies, broadly speaking, can trigger advertisements for your shop to appear while the visitor is browsing. If your potential customer is looking up glow rod pricing, for example, they’ll see an ad for your shop. “Oh, yeah,” they’ll say, “I remember that place…I should book a service.”


OK, we’ve covered Google Business and the importance of a website.

Now you need ads.

Remember that retargeting bullet in the last section? Paid search is a huge part of that. Since Google Ads is the Big Lebowski of paid search, we’ll link you to some of their detailed material. But in a nutshell, you can craft ads that will show up for people who are a) searching for your services, or b) searching for services like yours.

That cookie visitors get when they reach your website chats with Google Ads, which then displays your ads when people are browsing the internet.

If this all sounds a little confusing, the Dieselmatic crew is here to save the day. They’ve got a pretty solid ebook covering all things Google Business and Google Ads, which you can download for free here.

As an aside, Google Ads are really helpful for mobile shops because you can actually plug in your radius. If you regularly service near major interstates or specific exits, for example, you can get really granular about where you’re targeting. “You can target a radius around each exit you operate near,” Nick says, “and put directly in the text of that ad – 24/7 emergency repair, exit C on I-80.”

The customer goes, “I see that sign! It’s in front of me! This shop or tech is nearby!”

It’s like magic.


Now, you’ll notice we’ve talked a lot about Google…but not much about Bing.

We’re about to remedy that, for Bing is everywhere!

Think about it. Almost every new PC that rolls off the line is going to gently push Bing on you—after all, it’s made by Microsoft. Now, are most of your customers on Google? Yes. Bing only represents about 10% of the market.

“But that’s still 10% of the market,” Nick points out.

That’s still a lot. And because advertising on Bing tends to be less cost per click, you may get a better ROI with Bing. Head over to their main page to learn more.


“Start with no less than $500 a month,” Nick advises. “Most shop owners can find that to start testing.”

You want to make sure you’re tracking conversions accurately. If you’re running a marketing campaign for $500 a month, and you get 10 phone calls or email forms, then that’s what $500 is getting you. But from those 10, you need to know how many converted to paying customers.

But $500 is pretty much the minimum amount that will yield enough data for you to analyze. You can then use that data to better understand who your ideal customers are and tailor your campaigns to better show your ads to those customers.


Last, but certainly not least, you should look into boosting your social media presence. We’re specifically looking at Facebook and Instagram in this article, but social media as a whole has its benefits and limitations.

Social media platforms in general have some excellent advertising tools. Much like Google, you can create an ad, decide what to spend on it, and then select what kind of people (your ideal customers!) will see it. You can develop a pretty substantial reach over time.

Just make sure they’re not your only avenue for advertising.

“Facebook and Instagram are great tools for building brand loyalty,” Nick says, “but they’re not great for customer discovery.”

They’re also not substitutes for a professional-looking website.

If you only have a Facebook page, that suggests to a customer that you haven’t had the time to make a professional-looking website—or you aren’t successful enough to hire someone to make one. Your customer may not think those thoughts explicitly, but that hesitation lodges itself in the brain.

In addition, you’re at the platform’s mercy. If Facebook decides tomorrow that they want to jettison all diesel repair shops from their site, they can do that.


Let’s walk this back for a second and explore an overall marketing budget. A good rule of thumb is to funnel 3-5% of your goal revenue into marketing. Not what you’re currently making—what you want to make.

Now, if you have a number in mind, break it down this way:

  • 70-80% of time/attention/budget toward paid search
  • 20-30% towards social media

Earlier, we recommended $500 as a minimum investment for paid search. If we’re using those numbers, then $500 is 80% of a $625 budget. You’ll put the other $125 to work for you on social media.


“Nick,” we asked toward the end of the chat, “What’s the biggest mistake you see shops making in their marketing?”

He listed two. One of them is not having all a shop’s services listed on their website. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) by how many people will skip your shop entirely just because they don’t see “brake service” listed.

The other big one is not understanding Google Ads well.

Honestly, it’s easily forgiven. Google Ads is pretty darn important these days, but figuring it out is a big time investment, especially for the owner that wears a lot of hats.

But it’s useful. You can make it work for you. An easy way to see if you’re not getting the ROI you should is to check your click-through rate. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re running a Google Ads campaign and getting less than a 3.75% click-through rate, then you’re performing below industry average.

Dieselmatic’s average CTR is around 10-12%.

“We’re a niche agency,” he says when we oohed and ahhed. “We understand how the market performs.”

That kind of understanding is pretty darn important when you’re using marketing to grow your business. If you’ve reached the bottom of this post and are feeling a little apprehensive about learning all this for yourself, well, we get it. We’d like to point you toward Nick and the Dieselmatic crew, who are genuine experts at all things digital marketing in the commercial repair world.

And after all, handing off a big job like this to someone who specializes in it is kind of synonymous to what you do in the repair world, right? A truck driver isn’t going to fix an engine themselves. You shouldn’t be expected to run your shop and drive your marketing plan.

Handing off the job can be a fantastic return on investment—and a weight off your shoulders. So head over to Dieselmatic and see what they can do for you!

Suz Baldwin