For a business to thrive, it needs a good marketing strategy and a focused approach, whilst you may be busy booking in customers, keeping an eye on accounts and undertaking a range of administrative duties as well as being HR manager, operations director and in many case,  master mechanic, marketing can seem like a luxury.

But whatever way you look at it and whichever excuses you make for putting it on the back burner, there’s no getting away from it, marketing is a vital part of developing and growing your business.

Our A-Z series which explores new ideas and puts a twist on the tried and tested when it comes to running a garage has reached the letter ‘M’. M is for Marketing and whilst we could write a book, in fact there are plenty of good ones available; we have focused on just a few areas where we think efforts will net the best results.

You don’t need a big budget and you don’t need to be a marketing guru to give your business some traction, but you do need to make some time. It’s your business and your passion, you know everything about it inside out, making you the best person to lead your marketing strategy, even if the implementation will be done by someone else.

Don’t just jump in feet first, be realistic and cost out any campaigns, for example, a leaflet through the doors of your local neighbourhood may seem like a good idea but design and print costs, not to mention, distribution could prove too costly whereas a simply MOT and service reminder to existing customers is more likely to generate the footfall you require.

Here’s three simple steps which we think if you follow consistently will pay dividends without costing you a small fortune.

Website

The first port of call for any customer new or established is the internet, even if they only want to check a phone number. You don’t need us to tell you that your website is the most vital part of your marketing toolkit, but when was the last time you read it, let alone made any updates? Your website should not be a static, fixed site, it should constantly evolve, not only is it good for you to regularly provide more information, but Google ranks sites with fresh content more highly than the ones which are left to wane.

Your first job should be to read through everything on your website and think like a customer, do you provide all the information a potential customer would seek? Does it present the business in a professional but friendly and accessible manner? How’s your grammar and spelling? Once you have updated your website, it is a good idea to have someone else read it, they are far more likely to find any mistakes and question something which may not quite make sense.

If you haven’t incorporated a news area or a blog on your website, it is a good idea to do so, it is an easy way for you to provide fresh content and keep customers up-to-date on news about your business, such as new members of staff, long-standing customers or unusual jobs you may undertake as well as keeping motorists abreast of latest news in the world of motoring. There’s plenty of sources online, just remember to reference where you found your information so you don’t run the risk of plagerising someone else’s work.

Social Media

You are probably hugely familiar with Facebook in your personal life, you may even use Twitter and some of you may have uploaded your professional information on LinkedIn. Whilst the social media landscape has expanded hugely over the past few years, if you are unsure or you don’t have huge amounts of time, sticking to these three platforms will keep you focused and you are less likely to feel overwhelmed.

Facebook enables you to create a business page, make sure you do this rather than set up your garage as a person, that’s against the rules! Start by asking your friends to follow your page and always ask your customers to ‘like’ you too and make it easy by incorporating the icons on your website. Posts can be all manner of things from what’s going on in your local community to seasonal comments. Where possible mention your clients whether it’s a reference to fitting in a quick job or wishing them happy birthday. Keep your posts light and entertaining and don’t be tempted to upload one offer after another. Always ask your friends and colleagues to share posts from your business page to increase chances of it being seen.

Obviously, with Twitter you only have 140 characters to make your point (although that’s about to change!), however, there’s ample opportunity to become involved in conversations even if it’s not directly related to your business. There are a number of tools you can use to keep track of topics which would be of interest so you can jump in with your view when relevant, for example, fuel price rises. Be sensible though and don’t become embroiled in any controversial arguments, you don’t want to alienate customers who could hold the opposing view. If you are writing news posts, remember to tweet them out and don’t be afraid to do it more than once over a certain period of time as tweets are churned out at a frightening pace so yours could easily be lost.

Don’t overlook LinkedIn, whilst it is very much a professional network, most business people drive and many will be private motorists. Join local groups and engage in discussions to raise your profile and if you feel confident enough, you can utilise LinkedIn’s blogging platform, Pulse, to write your business and motoring insights. If you do, don’t forget to share.

If the thought of putting together a simple social media strategy fills you with dread and you don’t have a handy teenager to call upon for help, you could consider contacting your local sixth form with a job opportunity for a local youngster. Today’s teenagers have grown up using digital and social media, it is second nature to them and providing an opportunity to a local youngster is good PR for your garage. One word of warning though, double-check their posts, just in case their ‘filter’ has yet to be properly developed to avoid any embarrassing faux pas.

CRM

Customer Relationship Marketing or CRM is nothing new: it is just about building relationships with your customers to ensure they keep returning to your business. Your CRM strategy doesn’t have to be hugely sophisticated, just relevant to the customer you happen to be contacting. The most straightforward CRM programme to implement is MOT and service reminders. Most garage software systems have a CRM tool so you can run reports to generate the names and addresses of customers whose MOT and services are due in the coming weeks. You simply write them a letter and you can even include an offer to give them more of an incentive to book. If you want to step up your CRM activity, you can check off your bookings against the people who you have contacted or, if your system allows, run an additional report which shows which have not booked and call them to try and secure their work.

The more information you amass on your customers, the more you can tailor your CRM programmes to their individual needs, such as identifying those who are driving cars of a certain mileage which are more likely to require a cambelt change.

Marketing is fundamental for your business success, the question you should be asking is: can you afford not to invest some time and effort? The secret is to do a little bit everyday rather than stack it up to do at once.  The more you do, the easier it becomes and results should follow suit (if not, stop, re-evaluate and try something different). Take the plunge and get yourself noticed.


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