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Outreach Strategies To Outperform

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SHOP STATS: Victory Quick Oil Change  Location: Payson, Ariz. Operator: Steven Leonard Average Daily Car Count: 21 Staff Size: 5  Shop Size: Two tandem bays Ticket Average: $80.13


Every shop in the country wants to grow its customer base. But not every shop is successful in doing so. It takes more than just high-quality equipment and talent or a convenient location. Shops need to give customers a reason to choose them and to continue to choose them. 

Of course, that starts with servicing vehicles. If you can’t do that, everything else is for naught. But second to that, for independent shops in particular, is marketing. An “if you build it, they will come” strategy is not effective.

So how can you boost your customer base and maintain customer loyalty? National Oil and Lube News compiled the five things to keep you must know to grow your outreach. 

Understand your community.

Steven Leonard, owner of Victory Lane Quick Oil Change in Payson, Ariz., recommends an individually tailored strategy. It’s taken him time to figure out what connects with his customers and what doesn’t. 
Over his 15 months running the shop, he’s learned and observed what those in his town of less than 20,000 pay attention to. He’s tried ads on billboards, newspapers, the back of gas station receipts and even on the city’s golf guide. Those didn’t resonate with his community. What did stick was the local radio station, KMOG.

“A good two-thirds of my town listens to the local radio station. That’s why I’m on there,” Leonard says. “I emphasized what they liked and corrected what they didn’t.”

Marcus Mackell, a market manager for Mitchell 1, sees situations like Leonard’s all the time. If your customers would appreciate a postcard, make a postcard. If they watch the local TV station, advertise during the nightly news. 

But Mackell is weary of strategies that don’t include any digital aspect. Adoption of digital strategies is a necessity nowadays. 

“Digital gets you over the next hump,” he says. “Use paper strategies to support, but digital is the future.” 

That could be as simple as investing in a website or social media accounts if you don’t have them. Or it could be taking the business to the next level with paid ads through social media or pay-per-click advertising on search engines. But like the more traditional, old school strategies, cater it to the community. What works for a big shop in a city of 100,000 may not be the best strategy for an independent shop serving a smaller community. 

The moral of the story: be flexible and open to how your community responds.

Don’t be afraid to text. 

Mackell recommends more than just a website and a social media presence. The biggest growth potential that he sees for the industry is through texting, especially when it comes to customer retention. In his experience at Mitchell 1, he’s found it has the highest and fastest response rates of any type of communication, and it’s one of the easiest methods to manage.  

But like any type of communication, be careful how you word your messaging. The idea is that to induce some sort of action, you must ensure the message is both personalized and actionable. Send them a message before an upcoming appointment to remind them of the time and specific instructions for when they arrive. After they leave, send them a text telling them the services you provided and an option to leave a review. 

It also feels more personal to customers, Mackell says. 

Don’t go overboard.

With all the different marketing options out there, it can be easy to want to try them all. But there does become an overload, says Mackell. Texting overload exists. Email overload exists. Advertisement overload exists.

The main way to avoid overload, Mackell says, is for every form of communication to have a purpose. Communicating for communications sake is a mistake too many shops make. There needs to be real thought and intent behind it. Don’t send the same message across all of your different platforms. Cater the information to the platform and to the people that you see using that platform the most. So even if one customer gets your communications in several different mediums, it doesn’t feel repeated or inauthentic. It feels well thought out. 

Start small.

It can be daunting to start the marketing and outreach process. If you’re a new shop owner or haven’t done much outreach in the past, the key is to start small, Mackell says. Don’t spread yourself too thin too early. Try just one thing. If it works, repeat it. If it doesn’t, try something else. Once you feel comfortable with that process then start to expand. 

Leonard took a lesson in this when he wanted to add custom mailers to his shop’s portfolio. It started with a test coupon through a local advertising agency that sent out a mailer twice a week to everyone in town. 

He saw results right away. So he added the service to his strategy. The key for Leonard has been putting himself in the customer's shoes. He asks himself, “What would I want?” and goes from there. 

Stay committed.

Marketing is an essential function, especially for independent shops. Without the backing of a big brand, you need to establish yourself in the minds of the community. Make sure you are 100 percent committed to the outreach and retention strategies you choose before you start them. 

Leonard sits down every December and plans out his marketing budget and strategy for the next year. Once you’ve made the plan, stick to it. If your plan is to send out mailers monthly, don’t miss a month. If you are using pay-per-click advertising, make sure to monitor it often to ensure it’s a good use of resources. 

And if a strategy isn’t working, keep trying. Leonard had to fail with the billboards, newspapers and golf guides before he found what worked. Don’t be discouraged if your first idea fails. 


Correction: A previous version of this story misstated how long Steveon Leonard has owned Victory Quick Oil Change. It has been corrected. 

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