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If you’re in the business of selling goods or services, there are essentially three ways to increase your revenue:

1.     Increase the volume you sell to existing customers. This might appear to be a good strategy because they already trust you enough to keep coming back. There is a risk, however, if you push your luck and are perceived as trying to milk them through unnecessary add-on sales.

2.     Raise your prices. The article titled, “How to Raise Your Prices Without Chasing Away Customers,” on page 40 of the April issue of National Oil & Lube News offered suggestions on how to raise prices, but also warned that you could end up sending your customers down the street if you are not careful.

3.     Attract and retain new customers. Clearly the best choice.

Obtaining new customers can be a challenge for any small business, whether an ice cream parlor or a repair shop. Assuming your lube shop is in a good location, it can still be difficult to find the time and resources necessary to put your business in front of potential new customers. Here are five tactics that can help you achieve this goal.

Make your shop female friendly.

Women are important to your shop. More than 40 percent of U.S. households include women who are the primary income source. According to Forbes, wages for women ages 20-30 are actually the same or higher than men in the same age category.

What does this mean to you? Women are out there making buying decisions in full force, and they drive cars. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Pride your shop on being friendly to the other half of the population. You can do this by adding a variety of magazines to your waiting area that cater to women, such as People and US Weekly. But don’t assume that female customers are clueless about their cars. I know a few female editors who could dance circles around the typical lube technician. Nevertheless, be patient when explaining what’s going on with the vehicle. Assume nothing. Make them feel like they are the important and valued customers that they should be.

Make people realize you value them.

According to author and life coach Tony Robbins in Entrepreneur magazine, one of the most basic human needs is to feel significant. This need seems to be embedded in our DNA. People are much more likely to return to your business if they feel valued.

What does this mean to you? Make every customer encounter count. A business that goes the extra mile to make customers feel like they are not just another car coming through the door also makes them more likely to become a regular.

Accomplish this by sending a follow-up note by mail or email after servicing their car. It doesn’t have to be anything formal, just something quick thanking them for their business and assuring them you’re there if anything should go wrong between appointments.

Keep your shop/waiting area clean and comfortable.

According to a survey by Cintas Corporation, reported in Bloomberg Business, 99 percent of U.S. adults say poor cleanliness negatively impacts their perception of a retail store.

What does this mean to you? Cleanliness is something that can be easily achieved even in the busiest garage. If each shop owner and employee took 10-15 minutes at the end and beginning of their day to make things look and feel comfortable and clean, your customers would enjoy coming back. Auto repair shops across the country aren’t necessarily known for their cleanliness, so this could be a great opportunity for your lube shop to find a niche in your community. Pay attention to detail and put the extra effort into cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping and mopping the floors and having comfortable chairs. It makes a difference.

Embrace your small-business neighbors.

In five years, “Small-Business Saturday” has become a holiday tradition across America, according to Forbes. It wouldn’t have become so powerful without small businesses rallying together and helping one another attract customers.

What does this mean to you? Small, independent lube shops can have difficulties standing up against the glitz and glamour of the large chains that have much more money for advertising. When smaller businesses stand together and help each other, they are each more successful in the long run. Many communities even have shop local campaigns/websites that you can join. Get to know the small business neighbors in your area by joining the local Chamber of Commerce or simply introducing yourself to other owners. Consider discussing joint advertising, or how to use each other’s customer traffic by referring customers to one another.

Reach out to your Hispanic neighbor, too.

At the 2006 AOCA Convention, we heard an outstanding speaker who presented ideas for reaching out to the Hispanic community. She began by telling us that there were more Hispanics in the U.S. than Canadians in Canada. That got our attention. Then, she presented research that showed how Hispanics were more brand loyal than the average consumer. Finally, she provided data that showed how Hispanics on average spend nearly 50 percent more on products for their cars and 20 percent more on services.

What does this mean to you? It means opportunity. Quick lubes have become a commodity service. In the minds of many car owners, they are all alike. What you need to do is differentiate yourself.  A welcome sign in Spanish will invite Hispanic drivers in your area. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference.

You’ll notice these suggestions do not require a major bankroll to implement. Like most success in business, and in life, it’s simply a matter of applied common sense.  

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