Sending the right message

Sending the right message

Andy Savva, the Garage Inspector, is back to fill us in on the importance of devising, and revising, a good and clear marketing strategy.

Marketing is one of the most misunderstood areas in business. This may be to do with the flashy image that is often associated with the marketing profession, or perhaps it’s regarded as a concern only for those directly involved in marketing and does not concern the rest of the business.

Whatever the reasons for these negative perceptions, it’s essential to realise that marketing is vital to ensure the survival and growth of a company. It doesn’t matter whether the business is large or small, or what products or services the business supplies, the truth is that marketing cannot be ignored and needs to be a part of the culture of any successful organisation.

Marketing sets the context in which sales can take place; whatever your role, you play a part in setting that context. It’s no different in our automotive repair sector.

Working for the customer

I believed for years that customers are taken for granted, ignored, or considered part of the territory in our industry. They are, after all, curious, demanding and sometimes annoying. They called incessantly, came by unexpectedly, and questioned us endlessly. In general, they were considered a pain – a cost of doing business. Of course, that was until they started making other choices, taking their business elsewhere to individuals or businesses more responsive to their wishes.

So, if you want to survive in this ever-changing business world, you have to embrace a new philosophy; a move away from mass marketing or transactional marketing, to one built on relationship marketing.

Build a relationship

Transactional marketing is all about numbers – nothing else matters. We’ve all seen large corporates offering far better terms for new customers than their existing customers. Not enough thought is given to how an existing customer may feel if they saw a deal that had  never been offered to them. This is a clear example of how, in a transactional business environment, making the sale is the only objective. However, relationship marketing is the polar opposite.

One of the biggest mistakes I see regularly within the garage repair sector is the constant advertising, specifically in local press with ‘come and get me’ offers in order to attract new business. Most of these already established businesses, whether large or small, will rarely measure the effectiveness of such campaigns or analyse the type of customers they are attracting, and indeed, very few of these businesses actually understand the ‘diamonds’ that already exist within their database.

Rewarding loyalty

There is no point trying to attract vast numbers of new customers by providing them with a sub-standard service that is based on a cheap price. Established customers tend to buy more and are less price-sensitive, and they may be less likely to defect due to price alone.

Reminding customers of their vehicle’s next MOT due date or service is the minimum that any garage should be doing. Reminding them of specific campaigns such as winter checks, or health checks before long journeys, will reassure the customer that they are being looked after and kept safe.

Expanding this two-way communication by keeping your customers informed will also help maintain a long-term relationship with them. So, tell them about events, or success stories within the business, or the current training and development programmes, or new services/products that have been introduced.

The customer’s wants, needs and expectations, as well as your need for a long and profitable relationship with that customer, should be at the core of every action and decision. Everything else comes second.

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