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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Make Your Business Run Better & Increase Profits With a Marketing Plan

Make Your Business Run Better & Increase Profits With a Marketing Plan

By Cecil Bullard
Article courtesy of MOTOR Magazine, August 2011 issue

A marketing plan that’s tailored to your business will help you focus on bringing in the right customers and keeping them satisfied. It will reduce your marketing costs, increase profits and make your business easier to run.

The challenges of marketing are a lot like the challenges of fishing: You use bait to attract the fish you want to catch. If the bait is wrong or if you’re fishing in the wrong location, you’re unlikely to catch the fish you want; in fact, you might not catch anything at all. These are the same challenges you face when trying to attract the right customers to your auto repair business.

Creating a marketing plan helps you define the customer you should be going after, where they are and what will attract them to you. No shop should be in business without a marketing plan that it reevaluates annually, reviews quarterly and consults monthly.

The exercise of creating a plan will help you clarify who you are and who will benefit most from your service. It will make your message clearer and more focused, regardless of what your business model is.

There are seven sections to a basic marketing plan:

1. The Executive Summary; 2. Your Situation Analysis; 3. Your Goals Analysis; 4. Your Target Customers; 5. Your Strategies; 6. Your Tactics; and 7. Your Budget. Let’s take a close look at each one.

1. The Executive Summary. This high-level summary of your marketing plan explains what you’re trying to accomplish. This may include a Mission Statement, a financial spreadsheet projecting growth, your ideas on auto maintenance and repair and your plan for customer acquisition and retention, plus anything else that clarifies what you’re trying to accomplish. This section is where you set up the results you expect to achieve and sets the foundation for your financial (and therefore your marketing) goals for the company.

2. Your Situation Analysis. This section takes a serious look at the challenges you face, who you believe your competition is and why, and how you are unique in your marketplace. It’s where you define what makes you different—your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)—from the other dozens of shops within 10 miles of your location, and why a potential customer should come to see you instead of other shops in your area. The clearer you are in your USP, the clearer you’ll define your market segment and what they want, creating a clearer message that’s better understood by the right type of customer.

You create your USP by analyzing yourself, your competition and your unique market. Once you have your USP, teach it to every employee so it becomes part of your business culture. Every process should be brought in line with your USP, from your advertising, answering the phones and dealing with customers at the counter, through your final follow-up call to determine if expectations were met.

3. Your Goals Analysis. This is where you determine exactly what you want to accomplish with your marketing. Without goals you cannot create a plan and you’re unlikely to get what you want. You need goals to create the benchmarks to compare your results and measure your success, and effectively determine where to put your efforts or where to spend your time and money. Without goals you’ll spend more and accomplish less. Your goals analysis helps you stay focused and keeps your team focused as well.

4. Your Target Audience. Here’s where you determine who needs what you have to offer, who has the most to gain from working with your shop and who you’re going to spend your time and money trying to attract. Completing this section will give you the best understanding of your niche and your potential clients. This will also create a natural weeding-out process. If your message is better understood by your best clients, it will not speak as well to the audience that will not benefit from your service.

The table on the PDF download article is a simplified analysis of the auto service and repair market. It can help you focus on the right segment and determine what they want and what they’ll pay for, and in some cases what you’ll need to offer to them. It will also stop you from spending valuable time and money attracting the wrong customer that will not buy what you have to offer and/or will be unhappy with your business.

5. Your Strategies. This is where you outline the tools (media, direct mail, etc.) that you’ll use to reach potential clients. There are multiple ways of reaching potential clients; choosing the right ones allows you to reach more of them and spend less. Many shops fail to clarify who their best clients are and how best to reach them, and therefore spend more but get less.

6. Your Tactics. This is where you lay out the logistics of how and when you’re going to use your marketing tools and strategies—when you’ll advertise specific pieces, when you’ll adjust your program and when specific strategies will begin and end. Here you’ll create your Media Rationale (why you’re going to use certain media to reach your potential clients and what results you expect) and you’ll create a marketing calendar (what you’ll do and when). You should also include pieces timed to reduce the number of lulls your business must endure, along with the rationale behind why you’re using these pieces and what you expect to happen.

There are many things you could do to attract customers, but you’re interested in only the things that will attract the right customer without breaking your bank. Here are what I believe to be the necessary core strategies of any marketing plan, listed in order of importance:

• A great website. The Yellow Pages has gone the way of the eight-track tape. Today, potential customers are Googling you, Yelping you and using the internet to get a risk-free look at who you are and what you have to offer.

• Good search engine optimization (SEO). Having a good website is worth nothing if you’re not in the top search result spots and cannot (or will not) be seen by those who are searching for businesses like yours.

• Booking their next service appointment. You must book the next logical service, send e-mails and snail mail service cards and call customers before their scheduled service.

• A good referral system. You need to be asking for and rewarding your customers for referring customers to you. Be aware, though, that people generally do not like to sell their friends and family. Anything you do for your customers who give referrals should be as a reward after the fact. And do not give away auto service or repairs as a reward.

• Good customer retention management (CRM). I recommend you hire a company to manage this for you, since you’ll be unlikely to do this properly by yourself and it’s quite important.

• Networking. You should be regularly participating in the local Chamber of Commerce and other leads groups such as,, etc. These people have jobs, understand the necessity of having a good shop to take care of their vehicles and can afford to have it done. They’re also time-crunched, so great and timely service is something they can appreciate and will usually pay for.

7. Your Budget. In the previous two sections of the marketing plan (Your Strategies and Your Tactics) you should have defined the right tools to reach your target audience (market segment) and developed the rationale behind using specific tools and using them efficiently. Now you must decide what you can afford and how you’ll make the best use of the financial resources available to you. You should be spending from 5% to 9% of your gross sales on marketing each year (including discounts given to attract new customers).

This is the final step of the planning process. Here we’ll consider the available financial resources, the potential returns for each rationale and the profitability needed to make it work.

The budgeting process is a necessary and valuable part of any good marketing plan. Without a budget, many business owners spend too much on marketing that does not get them the results they want.

Creating a marketing plan will help you define the fish you need to catch to get the profits you desire, the bait they’ll bite on and where they’re most likely to be found. A good marketing plan will bring you more of the right customers and keep your expenses to a minimum.

Make Your Business Run Better & Increase Profits With a Marketing Plan by Cecil Bullard is available to you courtesy of MOTOR Magazine.

View the complete article at or download a .PDF copy for future reference. The PDF version of this article also contains a simplified analysis of the automotive service & repair market.

Cecil Bullard is a 31-year veteran of the Automotive Service Industry and a 3rd generation technician and owner. He is a well-known teacher and mentor currently helping automotive service businesses create and implement a plan for their success. Cecil earned his Bachelor’s of Science from Weber State University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude.

Cecil has run some of the most successful independent shops in the United States. He is a co-founder of QuickTrac Software and Auto Business Dynamics, as well as an instructor for the WORLDPAC Training Institute (WTI).

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