Why Your Marketing Isn’t Working As Well As You Think

by David Rogers   |    published in Shop Owner Magazine


Don’t just eliminate low-quality customers, but maximize the valuable customers being driven by advertising efforts.

Are all customers good customers?

I’m not talking about the obvious horror stories, of course. We’ve all run into a buzzsaw of a customer on their worst day. But if we exclude the bottom of the barrel, and consider everyone else: are these all customers you want coming in your shop?

Some marketing agencies would tell you that the answer is yes. With good service writing, they say, you can convert any customer into being a good customer!

This is nonsense, and the agencies peddling this idea are either intentionally misleading you or are entirely incompetent.

That’s a big accusation, so let’s break it down.

When I refer to low-quality customers, I’m talking chiefly about those customers who are completely focused on getting in and out of your shop for the lowest price possible. These customers are discount-seeking, get angry about perceived upselling, ignore your recommendations, never refer friends or family, and wouldn’t think of bringing you their oil change because it’s cheaper down the street.

By contrast, high-quality customers want to know how to take better care of their vehicle, follow your recommendations, refer friends and family, and bring you all of their maintenance and repair needs. This kind of customer wants a relationship based on trust and often comes to you on their first visit ready to spend money.

Given those definitions, it’s worth examining the original question. If a marketing company tells you that you want both types of customers coming to your shop, and that the only difference between these two types of customers is that it just takes more work from the service writer to convert from low-quality to high-quality, they’re trying to pull a fast one on you.

The truth is clear: if you settle for those kinds of results, you’re allowing somebody who cares only about discounts to take a bay away from somebody who wants to follow your recommendations.

Not only is this self-evidently bad for business, but these low-quality customers are more likely to haggle, complain, argue, and sow chaos, making the shop a demonstrably worse place to be.

More than that, allowing marketing to drive low-quality customers has a ripple effect. When technicians repeatedly see their inspection findings ignored by customers, they’re less likely to do complete inspections. When service advisors get resistance during their advisements, they stop going over the full estimate and delivering additional value to the customer.

In a time when it’s more difficult and expensive than ever to hire, settling for marketing that makes employees want to look elsewhere to find job fulfillment could be disastrous.

Shops clearly need to demand more from their marketing companies. Advertising that drives low-quality customers actively decreases sales, drives down morale, and creates a much more stressful and chaotic work environment for everyone. Not all customers are good customers, and we shouldn’t accept it when a marketing company says otherwise.

But the goal shouldn’t be simply to eliminate low-quality customers, but to maximize the number of valuable customers being driven by advertising efforts.

It’s this distinction that led me to name this article “Why Your Marketing Isn’t Working as Well as You Think.” Because the job of a marketing company isn’t to avoid driving bottom-feeders and troublemakers who are focused on discounts, but rather to continually improve your customer base by driving those people in who want a full inspection, to take better care of their vehicle, and a long-term relationship with their repair shop. The result of advertising shouldn’t be to just make you busy, but to make you successful by filling your bays with high-quality customers.

How do you know if your current marketing company is driving the great customers your shop needs?

The easiest way to measure is by looking at the average repair order of your new customers compared to your repeat customers. If your advertising is driving customers who are more likely to listen to recommendations, more trusting, more interested in a long-term relationship with your shop, you should see a new customer average repair order that is greater than your repeat customers.

If you did nothing else but hold your marketing company to that as a result, you’d likely see a dramatic improvement in the results of your advertising. But, average repair order isn’t the whole picture.

That’s because it’s entirely possible that new customers can spend more on average but then come back less often. Or worse, they could come in once and then you never see them again. In either of these situations, your business would be bleeding customers even though things seem stable and successful at first glance.

Which begs some questions: does your marketing company understand all of this? Are they measuring these critical results of their efforts and are they sharing those results with you? If not, why not?

The hard truth is that most marketing companies don’t know and don’t care to know how to measure these kinds of results. They’ve taught their clients that all customers can be great customers, and don’t need or want to look any deeper at the results of their advertising.

You don’t have to settle for that.

What you do need to do, however, is ask yourself why you had to take the initiative. Does your marketing company understand what makes a quality customer, how to find and attract them, and how to measure the long-term results of their work?

If the answers to these questions aren’t all an enthusiastic “yes!” you’ve got the wrong company. More than that, you’ve got a company that is more interested in making money for themselves than for your business.

Resist the urge to take what you’ve learned here and tell your current marketing company “this is what I need you to do.” After all, if you must force them to behave correctly, can you really trust them as experts who have your best interest at heart? No, you’re better off finding a better company.

How do you know if you’re choosing a better company?

One of the most critical goals of marketing is to set your business apart from the competition. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is use the same marketing company that your competition is using. If your website and direct mail and other advertising all look and sound like every other shop in your area, your potential customers will have no way to tell you apart from the shop down the street. When that happens, the only way to choose a shop is on price.

In other words, your ideal marketing company should be one that gives you exclusivity in your market area and works to set you apart from your competition. It should be able to define the ideal repair shop customer and have a track record of driving customers who already trust you and are ready to buy. When you find these things, you’ve found somebody who cares about your success and growth, not just about making money.

The change is worth it! The right marketing company can help your shop reduce stress and chaos, create better morale, increase sales, generate predictable and consistent results, and, most importantly, experience real, long-term success.


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