Tactics for Outpacing Independent Repair Shops

As a dealership, you’ll find that one of the best ways you can consistently bring customers through your doors is via your service center. Once you have created a loyal customer base for your service center, you have an increased chance of selling a vehicle to those customers down the road.

However, between you and a loyal customer base for your service center lies a formidable competitor — independent repair shops.

Customers often stray away from dealerships in favor of repair shops for their ongoing maintenance and repair needs.

Today, we’ll take a deep dive into the best tactics for outpacing independent repair shops and how you can create a loyal set of customers who are ideal targets for future marketing campaigns.

Your Customer’s Preconceived Beliefs About Dealerships

It is critical for service departments to look for ways to outpace independent repair shops. Average vehicle owners will take their vehicle in for service 2.7 times per year. However, only 30 percent of those service visits take place at a dealership. In addition, only 17 percent of those visits occur at the dealership where the vehicle was first purchased.

This leaves dealerships at a serious disadvantage and limits their ability to create long-term loyalty with customers.

So why exactly are customers so hesitant to take their vehicle back to the dealership where they purchased it for services?

There are a few key reasons.

  1. They believe they will be charged more at a dealership for the same service.
  2. They think they will be overcharged for labor and parts.
  3. They do not think a dealership can offer the same quick convenience as a repair shop.

The good news is that by implementing an intelligent digital marketing strategy, dealerships can outpace independent repair shops and tackle these preconceived beliefs head-on. The result is a loyal customer base that values the dealership for its high-quality services and industry knowledge.

Creating a Better Digital Marketing Strategy

Creating a digital marketing strategy that delivers results doesn’t simply happen on its own. A quality digital marketing strategy has to begin with robust data and an understanding of audience segmentation.

This allows dealerships to surface highly targeted ads to specific customer sets. With this data, a digital marketing strategy can begin to take form, following four key tactics.

1. Catch Vehicle Owners Where They Are

In our highly connected world, it almost goes without saying that your customers are searching online when they want to book a service for their vehicle.

However, reaching your customers is about more than just being online. It’s about surfacing relevant information to them across multiple digital channels.

For example, if your customers are searching for an oil change near them using Google, you need to display a paid ad targeting oil changes, and you need to have a Google My Business page that shows up in a map search and showcases your service department.

Conversely, if the same customers were to later hop onto their Facebook account to scroll through their timeline, it would present a prime opportunity to retarget them with a promotion for an oil change at your dealership.

The goal of digital marketing is to follow your customers wherever they go and to reach them with the channels that lead to the highest conversions.

Over time, your marketing campaign should become increasingly intelligent. As you notice that a specific audience segment responds to Facebook marketing more than Google Ads, you can increase your spend on social and decrease your spend with Google.

2. Address Concerns Head-on

Your customers already have a slew of preconceived notions about your dealership’s service department.

Too often, dealerships simply ignore these beliefs and try to market to customers without addressing any of these legitimate concerns.

This leads to ineffective marketing and a customer base that doesn’t feel heard or understood.

Instead, a quality digital marketing campaign should address concerns head-on.

Every concern should be spun into a positive. The following are all examples of messaging that can help alleviate concerns while building trust.

  • In regard to cost: Analyze the cost of services in your area. Then, use a service special to showcase your dealership’s affordability through an ad campaign. Create strong messaging around the affordable cost of service while also promoting the vehicle expertise that only a dealership can deliver.
  • In regard to labor and pricing: Commit to price transparency. During your next ad campaign, dedicate a portion of your landing page to your team’s commitment to being fair and transparent in labor and part costs.
  • In regard to convenience: Work with your service department to home in on an expected wait time for an oil change or common service. Showcase your 15-minute oil change or a 30-minute tune-up in your next set of ads. Make sure that your team is ready to deliver whatever you promise in your ads.

Digital marketing gives you a unique opportunity to rotate through a variety of ads, reaching the same customer with multiple key messaging points. Over time, you can start to measure which messages are resonating and leading to the highest conversions, doubling down where it counts.

independent repair shops

3. Create a Superior Online Customer Experience

As a dealership, you have a unique opportunity to create a superior online customer experience that draws customers back to your service department over and over.

It all begins with building trust and demonstrating to your customers that your dealership knows them and knows their vehicle in a way that a repair shop never could.

To effectively message customers and build this level of trust, you need to ensure quality data is feeding your marketing. You should be using your existing customer data to inform every ad displayed and every conversation had between your team and your customer.

From here, you also need to ensure your website is providing the best experience possible. Do a quick analysis of your existing website, asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is my inventory up to date?
  • Is my website easy to navigate?
  • Is it simple to contact my team?
  • Is my service department information accurate?
  • Can a customer see on a map where I am located?
  • Is it easy to schedule services through my website?
  • Does my website tie into other digital channels?

Look for areas where your online presence could be improved. For example, perhaps your website asks customers to fill out a contact form to learn more. While contact forms have their place in digital interactions, they aren’t ideal for quick questions, such as inquiries around oil change pricing or the availability of a specific part. In this case, you might need to invest in an online chat integration, allowing customers to quickly contact your service department or sales staff for more information.

The goal is to create an online experience that is far superior to the competition, providing an added value to customers who choose to visit you for services.

4. Continue Marketing Tactics Post-Visit

Finally, once a customer visits your service department, your work is not done. In fact, getting a customer back through your doors is only the beginning.

To build long-term loyalty, you must continue to engage that customer. Make sure the visit is logged and any information your service technicians gathered is attached to the customer’s account.

Then, feed this data into future marketing campaigns. This is where targeted marketing becomes truly powerful. You can create messaging and offers that are specific to that customer’s needs. This, in turn, builds loyalty as that customer associates your dealership with expertise and knowledge.

Bonus Tip: Consider Hosting a Recall Event

For dealerships looking for creative ways to outpace the competition, a recall event can be the perfect way to drive large amounts of traffic into your service department while also guaranteeing revenue.

Hosting a recall event is simple.

  1. Create a list of customers to target for a specific vehicle recall. This customer list should be carefully vetted to ensure accuracy, which leads to a more effective campaign.
  2. Run a digital marketing campaign informing customers of the recall. This should cover everything from Google Ads to social media to email marketing.
  3. Send out physical mailers and reach out to customers through phone calls and texts.
  4. Create a specific recall event landing page where you can funnel customers.
  5. Make scheduling a service during your recall event simple, offering immediate email or text confirmation.
  6. Follow up before the event with those who have RSVP’d.
  7. Reach back out to customers who have not responded, giving them a last-minute chance to sign up.
  8. Host the recall event with a dedicated event manager. Gather customer information and feed this data into your customer database.
  9. Perform the recall services, and inform customers of any additional services their vehicle might need. When possible, schedule future services on the spot.
  10. Reach back out after the event to both customers who came to the event and those who did not.

A recall event is just one of many creative ways your dealership can use digital marketing to stand out from local repair shops and other dealerships in the area.

The Power of Partnering With J&L Marketing

While your customers might have preconceived notions about what it means to take their car to the dealership for service, there are many ways you can overcome these obstacles to create a loyal customer base.

If you are looking to outpace independent repair shops in your area and take back service department foot traffic, talk to our team at J&L Marketing today. We have years of experience helping dealerships create powerful digital marketing strategies that combine data and messaging to inform targeted campaigns.

We also have the industry knowledge necessary to assist you in revamping your online presence to create an improved customer experience. We will work with you to look for creative and unique methods for gaining new service department business.

Reach out today for a consultation to learn more about using your service department to fuel your brand.

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