Attracting and keeping customers are golden rules for any business. Here's some modern ways to do both.
There are two sure-fire ways of making sure customers are satisfied: offer them great value and great service.
But how do you get them coming to you in the first place?
And can you keep them coming back to you and not being tempted elsewhere?
Here are five simple ways to get an edge on your competitors and keep customers coming back.
1. Build your reputation and customer base.
Servicing and repairing cars is a lot like insurance. You provide a crucial service, but few people enjoy paying you for it.
Your work is important, though. It keeps people moving. Makes sure they can drop the kids off at school or get to work, visit their friends and relatives, or simply get out and about and enjoy life on the road.
Do a good job, and you’ll keep vehicles safe and in good order. You might even save customers money by prolonging the life of their vehicle or its parts.
Question is, how do you get the word out there that you’re the best at what you do?
Let’s start with some simple ways to encourage happy customers to promote your business:
- Word of mouth. Pretty obvious – get happy customers to tell their friends and family. You still can’t beat a personal recommendation. You’re much more likely to trust a friend or family member than someone you’ve never met. Your customers are no different.
- Stick some inflatables or ‘feather flags’ outside your garage. They don’t cost a fortune – in fact, they’re normally quite inexpensive – but they draw attention to you and they’re free advertising. People driving past your garage are more likely to know you’re there. It sticks in people’s minds, so when they need a service or have an issue with their vehicle, they know where to come to get it sorted!
- Work with local businesses. Got a big office, factory or warehouse in town? Do they have a company car scheme? Who services the staff’s personal vehicles? Maybe it’s worth offering a discount for servicing or repairs to company workers? Then there’s local shops, newsagents and other places where you can advertise cheaply, or possibly for free if you work with the owner to offer them a discount on their service!
- Ask customers to review your business online. If you know you have a satisfied customer, why not ask them to drop you a glowing review on Google, your Facebook page or TrustPilot? There’s more on this later…
Once you’ve built up a good reputation and drawn attention to what you do, here’s some modern ways of engaging with your customers…
2. Set up a loyalty scheme: use an app
Traditional loyalty cards are quickly becoming a thing of the past. It’s now easier than ever to setup a mobile phone app for your customers, and it need not cost a lot of money to do it.
There’s loads of ways you can promote your business using an app. For example:
- Offer customers 5% discount on their next service when they download your app. They’re likely to come back to you again if you give them a good reason to.
- Give them £50 off their 5h service with you – and stamp their app each time
- Set up a ‘refer a friend’ bonus – get your customers to recommend a friend and receive an Amazon gift card or something of similar value.
- Work with other businesses to see if you can offer discounts on their products and services when using your app
- Push notifications about offers from the app, directly to your customers
Take a look at apps like Tangocard, which offer a free version. A free app and a loyalty programme that keeps people coming back could be a win-win situation for you and your customers!
And for those who don’t want to use an app or don’t have a phone, you can still offer them the benefit of these services. Just make sure you’ve got records of who they are and when they have used your services…
3. Reward customers for checking in to your garage and writing reviews
Make sure you own your brand online. This means:
- Setting up your own Facebook page (here’s how)
- Listing your business for free using Google My Business (which allows local people to find you easily). Like Facebook, this is free to setup.
- Becoming the owner of reviews on sites like TrustPilot, where you can claim your business for free online
- Making sure you have a website – even if it’s basic and just has some contact details on it. If you don’t want to pay for a site, you can easily build one for free using a service like com.
As we discussed earlier, getting people with positive experiences to leave reviews for your business is a no-brainer. Keep an eye out for all reviews and reply to them. Sometimes, the bad reviews are just as valuable as the good ones – you can respond and tell your side of the story when something goes wrong, and offer help to people who aren’t happy.
This makes your business look real – businesses with nothing but five-star reviews will never be respected as genuine compared with mostly 4- and 5-star reviews with the odd negative one thrown in…
Don’t forget to say thanks to everybody who reviews your business favourably, too. It shows you’re doing a great job of customer service.
Reward customers who write reviews with a discount on their next free service, a free coffee when they next come in... whatever you like. Encourage them to be honest, though - soliciting only good feedback won't look good on online reviews.
Finally, encourage your customers to check in to your garage when they’re having work done. It’s free publicity for you, often amongst a local network of people – so you’re hitting the right target audience.
4. Join a network.
Bollington work with many different motor trade networks, including BOSCH, ServiceSure, Unipartner, Black Circles and many more.
Because we work with these brands, we can often offer exclusive insurance products to garages in these networks, which can help you to save money.
That doesn’t mean we don’t look after completely independent garages – we certainly do.
However, in terms of promoting your business, there are definite advantages to using a network to help your business grow.
There is trust in their brand name, which will get people looking for garages who are part of their network. There’s online and offline marketing that bigger companies can do to promote your business without any effort on your part. There are garage locator maps and apps that networks can join. There’s also the support and negotiating power of larger networks, offering a range of benefits to your business.
It’s not for everybody, but joining a network can certainly have its benefits when it comes to promoting your services – leaving you to focus on doing a great job!
5. Send out emails to your customers
Push out seasonal emails. Winter tyre checks and servicing, hot summer discounts on tyres – that kind of thing.
Send out reminders to customers prior to their MOT happening or their annual service coming due, so they know to come to you and not the rival garage down the road!
Market your business right and reap the benefits
Not all of these tips are applicable to all garages, but they should give you a head start in making sure your business – however long it has been running for – takes advantage of all the marketing tricks of the trade to become successful.
And if you need advice on your insurance arrangements, you can always give us a call. We’ve been around for over 45 years now, so we know a thing or two about making sure our clients are covered with policies to suit their needs.