Valuable Perks To Keep Your Shop 'Top Of Mind' - Engine Builder Magazine
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Business and Management

Valuable Perks To Keep Your Shop ‘Top Of Mind’

There’s no easy button you can hit to get your best current customers into the shop more often. But with the right tool, it’s possible to bring those great customers back to your shop more frequently. I’m talking about TOMA, or Top of Mind Awareness.

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What would one more visit per year from your best customers mean for your shop? Let’s say you have 100 current customers and the average customer comes in twice per year. If you can get each one to come in once more every year, you would grow your sales by 50 percent without spending a dime.

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More than that, these loyal ­customers already have the highest average repair order in your shop. They already trust you and are more likely to ­approve services you recommend — and they’re more likely to recommend you to their friends and family.

It’s not quite that easy, of course. There’s no easy button you can hit to get your best current customers into the shop more often. But with the right tool, it’s possible to bring those great customers back to your shop more frequently.

I’m talking about TOMA, or Top of Mind Awareness.

Top of Mind Awareness means consistently staying in front of your customers so that whenever they think of engine building or ­repair, that customer immediately thinks of you.

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Before we dig in, however, I need to caution you. Keeping your best customers by creating Top of Mind Awareness is only part of a marketing strategy. Your current customer base will come back only so many times in a year, and only a portion will ever refer friends and ­family.

Without a constant stream of new customers, a shop will die from attrition. Customers move away, they lose their jobs, they have a bad experience and simply stop coming to your shop. The only way to fight attrition is by adding new customers through new customer marketing.

But that’s a topic for another day. Let’s dig in and learn how to use Top of Mind Awareness in our shops!

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STELLAR Customer Service

Before we put the cart in front of the horse, the most important part of ­creating TOMA is to take a close look inside your shop. The experience you and your team provide has to be one of superior customer service. When customers come in to your shop, they have to feel cared about from the ­moment they walk through the door, through the time they pay and drive away and beyond (you’re doing ­followup with every customer, right?).

If your shop can’t deliver during every critical interaction with that ­customer, or the service and repair are anything less than excellent, the only Top of Mind Awareness you’ll create is a negative one.

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That point is worth reiterating for a moment.

I’ve been in hundreds of shops over the years and met with thousands of owners from all across the U.S. Everybody thinks their service is good. But if you honestly stop and take a look around, you might be surprised.

From phone skills to followup, every interaction with your customer needs to show that you genuinely care about them. Personalizing your service is not just a cliché phrase that so-called “gurus” throw around — it really matters. If your customers feel real love and compassion, if they can feel the warmth and care from your team, they’re going to look for ways to do business with you.

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Before you can start benefiting from these relationships and building top of mind awareness, you have to get your shop and your employees in shape — messy waiting rooms and poor phone skills will only hold you back.

Once your customer service is up to par, there is nothing more valuable than being the first auto shop that pops into your customers’ minds when they need engine work done.

Marketing to Build TOMA

Top of Mind Awareness isn’t a product. Yes, we’ll talk about a really strong tool for creating Top of Mind Awareness in a moment, but it doesn’t work in a vacuum.

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Every marketing piece you send should work to build and strengthen that relationship. The marketing isn’t about the offer — the focus needs to be on the relationship, the care and education. Doing this will foster and strengthen lasting relationships with your customers.

In other words, Top of Mind Awareness is a marketing strategy, and each component of your marketing should be working together to create consistent message that your shop provides superior service.

That being said, some components of a marketing strategy are really well suited for creating TOMA.

My Secret Weapon: Monthly Newsletters

One of the best things you can create for TOMA is a consistent newsletter. It may not be the most glamorous or innovative marketing piece (in fact, as we’ll talk about in a second, it shouldn’t be), but it works.

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Right up front, you should know: newsletters usually don’t immediately result in customer visits. But that’s ­because something even more important is happening beneath the surface — you’re building loyalty, reducing ­attrition and increasing the number of visits per year from your best ­customers.

But it has to be done well. If your newsletter reads like a technical service bulletin because it’s packed with so much information, it will never get read. If it looks like your 12-year-old nephew put it together (because he did), it too won’t get read or remembered. If it’s full of jokes you got in your email in 2003, you won’t come off as the expert, and again, the newsletter won’t get read or ­remembered.

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Instead, your newsletter should ­deliver fun, educational articles that give a person a reason to take notice, read and remember. If you’re ready to tackle this in-house, I salute you. It’s tough to do well consistently, but it is doable (and worth doing).

My suggestion? Find somebody who actually knows the automotive industry and who can speak the automotive language in a way that your customers will understand and ­respond to. Find a vendor who has professional designs that don’t look too amateur or overly slick. Search for a company that can put together a wide array of articles and a whole lot of fun so that the newsletter gets read.

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No matter what, I highly recommend you make a newsletter a part of your marketing budget. It may not blow your doors off their hinges, but more visits each year from your best customers can make a big difference in your shop.

Top Of Mind Awareness As A Complete Strategy

Newsletters aren’t the only solution, of course. Only an integrated approach can build true, effective, results-driven marketing for your business. This is why it’s important to look at your shop’s digital marketing and online web presence as a whole.

Fun and interesting social media posts facilitate daily engagement with your business. Local rankings and ­reviews on online databases help your business rise to the top of search engine results. A user-friendly website packed with the information your ­customers are looking for keeps them coming back to your site. In our shop, we’ve even created a VIP program to thank our best customers for their ­loyalty and referrals with a gift each month.

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Email marketing combined with ­social media, local search engine optimization, a great website, direct mail and even gifts to show your appreciation can create more Top of Mind Awareness when used together as a strategy than any of these components could create on their own.

Ultimately, no matter what your marketing strategy, remember the ­cardinal rule of marketing: keep your promises.

Marketing is all about delivering what you promise. It’s all about the experience they have when they first hear your voice on the phone, all the way through to a week later when you call them back and ask how things were. You have to create that value, trust and loyalty in everything you do, from customer service, to ­professional repair, to the right marketing message.

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In other words, you have to build the foundation for a lasting relationship before you can fully benefit from Top of Mind Awareness.

When your staff is committed to that level of genuine care, your shop can create TOMA that lasts.

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