It’s important to find the metric within the mayhem. Find something that lets you know you’re meeting your goals or, at least, marching forward.
This is especially important in marketing, because even though it requires periodic attention, it’s not always part of the daily grind. It could fall into more of a “set it and forget it” category for some operators.
That’s because marketing is a long-term approach, says Jennifer Filzen, owner of Rock Star Marketing. It can be a little like fishing—put your name out there and hope that customers get the message. It might take a few tries to set the hook.
“With branding, it’s really hard to estimate what your return on investment is,” Filzen says. “Because they could see your brand 47 times before they finally need to call you.”
Whether your marketing is done in-house or through a third-party service, operators still want to get indicators of how progress is made. This is a look at the life cycle of a marketing campaign, from starting out, to six months, to a year and beyond. Make sure your marketing is hitting the right notes.
0–6 Months: Media Buy
In the automotive service industry, the marketing goal is to cultivate brand awareness and let customers know that you’re there when they need service.
The metric for return on investment can certainly be tied in part to sales performance—that’s a core goal. But in today’s digital economy, attention is a currency all its own.
“That’s just what’s happening in everything right now,” Filzen says. “We’re all losing focus because there is so much noise.”
Starting out, the first step is to plan the investment to raise your shop’s profile in the market. Filzen says that one advantage of digital marketing is that the cost of entry is a lot lower than, say, billboard marketing. Facebook ads can be purchased for $5, but higher prices get more reach.
If you’re unsure where to start, think about spending $100 monthly. But prepare for going beyond a few months in your campaign. Attention collects and grows like a snowball churning down a hill, and your marketing needs to be there to accumulate attention.
“If you really want to say, ‘I did a good job of marketing my business,’ then run it for a year,” Filzen says. “Because you should see traction within a year, but you’re not going to reach the tipping point within a year.”
6–12 Months: Turn the Corner
The marketing campaign isn’t over, but you have to know whether or not you’re on the right track.
There are some handy digital tools for that. Operators who dabble in digital coupons are able to see how many people view and redeem them. These indicate the total reach of a campaign.
But to get a real sense of where your brand recognition is taking place, the best method may be the straw poll right there at the shop. The key is diligence on behalf of your staff.
“You have to track and make sure that every single person that you talk to who comes through your door or on the phone, you ask how they heard about you,” Filzen says. “Whether it’s a Facebook ad, a postcard, a mailer. Whatever it is. Your team has to be on top of asking, ‘How did you hear about us?’”
Social media marketing campaigns have their own set of analytics. There are Facebook “likes” and “engagement” numbers. Google offers all sorts of metrics through its analytics platforms.
Filzen talks about tangible and intangible ROIs. The social media and Google engagement figures can give you an idea of customer reach. They can all be handy at measuring the currency of attention, but how do you know if that all translates into sales at the shop?
The translation comes from a sense of recognition among customers. That’s what your staff tracks when they ask customers what brought them to your location.
“The goal is to start a conversation. And that conversation is building trust. It’s building a community. And it’s building a warm, fuzzy feeling,” she says. “And those are the intangibles.”
12 Months and Beyond
Filzen recommends that operators assess their campaign progress at least quarterly. But once you’ve reached a year or a year and a half, it’s time to really take a look and see what’s working and what isn’t.
“At the end of the year, or a year and a half in, what were my top three? Keep those,” she says. “Maybe get rid of the others, and then I would explore other avenues.”
Having shop-level data on how real customers get in touch with your brand will be more helpful than social media engagement figures during these reviews. Maybe lots of people saw your sponsored Facebook post, but that doesn’t mean they came in for service.
Make sure to take into account the regular ebb and flow of business, like seasonal changes in car counts. Don’t misconstrue a normally busy summer month for social media success.
“I would take stock and track. I would write down and I would track what’s going on,” Filzen says. “Because here’s the thing: You don't want to confuse your numbers in that particular campaign with the time of year and the drop-off or boost that we get in a certain time of year.”
Over time, you’ll hone your strategy to find that perfect mix of brand reach that leads people to your bay doors.