DON’T DIG A TRENCH, BUILD A RELATIONSHIP

Andy Savva There is a time and a place for promotions, but don’t let it be at the expense of your existing customers

Andy Savva

Andy Savva Savva has run various large independent garages and has been a troubleshooter for underperforming franchise workshops. comment@haymarketcom

One of the biggest mistakes I see regularly within the independent garage sector is the constant advertising specifically in local press with ‘come and get me’ offers in order to attract new business. Most of these already established business whether large or small will rarely measure the effectiveness of such campaigns or analyse the type of customers they are attracting and indeed very few of these business actually understand the gems that already exist within their database.

UNTHINKING DECISION

Lack of thought is given to how an existing customer may feel if he or she saw an offer that was never offered to them, after being a loyal customer for a number of years – a real kick in the teeth. We’ve all seen big corporations like Sky TV, Vodafone, and the utility companies offering far better terms for new customers than any existing customer can get. In my opinion this form of ‘transactional marketing’ does not work in the independent garage sector as it does not lead to long term loyalty and leads to these potential new customers hopping from one garage deal to the next one.

There is no point trying to attract vast numbers of new customers and provide them with a substandard service based on a cheap price that can cause severe damage to the reputation of the business. Another factor is that established customers tend to buy more and are less price-sensitive and might be less likely to defect due to price alone.

RELATIONSHIP MARKETING

You have to focus on what I call ‘relationship marketing’ – a form of communication with your existing customers that comes in many guises. However your own database and the gems within must always be your starting point. It also builds a platform were the business and its customers are more likely to be able to adapt to each other’s needs and reach agreement quickly and easily. So by actively getting emotionally connected and regularly engage with your existing customers will only enhance the trust and loyalty you build with them.

Simply by reminding customers of when their vehicle’s MOT expires or of their next service due date is the minimum that any independent garage should be undertaking. Reminding them of specific campaigns such as winter checks or health checks if they are planning long journeys will reinforce that you care about them and keep them safe. By expanding this two-way communication with news of any success stories within the business, such as: charitable fund raising by the business or any employee, training & development that’s undertaken, new services/products introduced will reinforce to your customers that you want to build long term relationships with them.

This strategy will help you constantly create a small influx of new customers through recommendations as appose to constantly advertising for a field for new ones, you will also greatly improve the chances of providing and exceeding the high level of service they expect, because you will not be swapped with a high level of new customers rushing to take you up on those “come and get me offers”. Therefore, this promotes another selection of new clientele that hopefully continues the cycle and improves the long -term implications for continued growth. Your existing customers will become your advocates, your marketing angels.

Quite simply, customers are the organisations most important asset (along with staff too) without them, it cannot exist. To survive, prosper and possibly expand the business, the aftermarket business owner must continue to acquire new customers but more importantly must never neglect existing customers or take them for granted.

Constant database management will build-up trust and personal knowledge with your customers, which creates a far more effective customer retention tool, which in turn, will find you more gems in the form of customers that come back time after time.

You can find out about Savva’s consultancy services by visiting: savvaautomotive.com

USE REPEAT BUSINESS

Winning repeat or additional business from existing customers is far easier than constantly hunting for new business – although successful operations will do both.

Don’t think that contacting existing customers has to be an arduous or time-consuming exercise. These days there is software available to send a text message, email or even prepare a physical letter to send directly to your customer. Some garage management systems such as Motasoft or SWS GA3 provide a facility to send such reminders, so the reminders can be set up to be sent out in the future when the job is initially booked.

This post was written by:

- who has written 160 posts on CAT Magazine.


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