Shoestring Marketing Ideas

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Every year millions of companies around the world try to strategize and make each new year better than the last. It would appear that a common struggle for many companies is figuring out exactly where to start. Mike Brown, founder of The Brainzooming Group, broke down the keys to success at SEMA 2016. Brown said he believes the first step is to nail your strategy as a company.

Branding What exactly is it you’re trying to accomplish? What is central to the customers you’re trying to target and draw in?

“Step two is creativity,” Brown said. “It’s important not to screw up the order here. So many business owners want to focus on a new creative or making something splashy before they nail down a strategy.”

You simply can’t focus on being creative until you have an end goal in mind. It’s critical to understand what your brand brings to the customer. This can be broken down into two things: features and benefits.

“The feature is what a company does, and a benefit is how what the company does actually helps customers,” Brown said. “Figure out what your customers are getting out of the services you provide.”

Consider this, if your company or brand didn’t exist, what would your customers be missing out on? As an oil change shop, the feature could be offering customers a speedy solution to their automotive maintenance needs. Without quick lube shops, customers would likely have to make an appointment with a dealership and spend hours out of their busy day just going to get their car serviced. The benefits of quick lube shops include optimized vehicle performance, longer lasting cars, quick service, vehicle maintenance and education, to name a few.

“With a list of benefits at your fingertips, you can now use them to communicate what you bring to the table for your customers,” Brown said.

Strategy Once you have your list of benefits, you’ll want to discover the best way to communicate those to your customers in the most effective way possible. This is where broadening your marketing toolkit comes in. Brown has an exercise he encourages companies to utilize with their employees to open doors you may not have known were available to you and your shop. Brown describes a scenario early on in his company where he bought pizza for his team and they spent time going over 25 questions relating to overlooked marketing tools and writing down their thoughts. The full list of questions can be found at, but below are just a few: • What emotions do you want your brand to evoke? • What information sources does your audience follow and respect? • Who could you help make more successful (thus creating a potential brand advocate)? • Who or what influences your audience? • What tools or ideas can we steal?

Getting your team together to help strategize can not only help your marketing strategy in the present moment, but you can also save some of these ideas and use them for years to come.

“So, instead of being under the gun and having to come up with ideas in a time of need, I had a laundry list of great ideas I could pull from, and it only cost me $35 worth of pizza,” Brown said. “What a great way to do new things with less resources.”

Reinvention Once you have an established brand, it’s a good idea to revamp what you’re doing from time to time to prevent becoming stagnant. The best way to do this is by searching for additional opportunities on where your brand brings value.

“One way to do this is by asking customers and internal audiences for their perspectives on where your brand delivers value or where it’s lacking value,” Brown said.

It’s important to know what you’re dedicating the majority of your time to and if those things are bringing the most value to your business. Consider this, there may be things you are doing that could take up a bit more of your time to create considerable additional value and some things you could drop that aren’t generating as much value as you’d originally hoped for. Make a list, ask your frequent customers and ask your employees. Some of them could be bubbling with great ideas, but you won’t know unless you ask.

Reimagine This idea is based on considering the perspectives of other successful organizations in order to generate new opportunities.

“One way to do this is by generalizing your situation, describing it, considering who else is in the same situation and what are they doing differently,” Brown said.

An automotive maintenance shop fixes things, takes care of customers, employs people, educates people and makes money. Who else does things like that? A few examples include universities, plumbers, hospitals and stores like Home Depot.

“If Home Depot were running your shop, how would they do it?” Brown continued. “What types of things would they do?”

They might try to make it a fun place to work. They would probably hold seminars on checking oil and the right time to have maintenance done on vehicles. They might have incentive programs for frequent visitors or rewards for high performing employees. The point here is to generalize your situation, think of other successful companies that relate and what you believe they might do to improve your particular business. You could really find a few gems when considering your business in a new light.

All of the tools listed above can be utilized at little to no expense. The name of the game here is continuous thought and a willingness to always improve. Many of you in the automotive maintenance industry have been involved in the day-to-day shop operations for the majority of your lives. Let your experience help push you forward and change up your patterns. Try to think outside of the box and challenge yourself to make your business the best it can be. You might be surprised where you end up.

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