As the owner of 20 auto repair shops, I, Greg Sands, have tried just about every different method of advertising in the book ? you name it, I have tried it. TV, radio, newspapers, newsletters and even e-mail, but none of them have worked as well for me as direct mail has. For me, the key was finding the right advertising tool that allowed me to target the customers I wanted to target, rather than just blinding mailing and hoping for the best possible return. Direct mail works. I have been using auto repair shop direct mail campaigns to drive business for more than a decade. Auto repair shop owners often confuse direct mail with “marriage mail,” which does allow for some targeting (by zip code, for example) but also throws your offers into the mix with a wide range of other advertisers ? from pizza parlors to chiropractors. That type of direct mail has two problems:
1. The “value-pack” is bound to appeal to bargain shoppers, so if you’re aiming for a middle-to-upper income clientele, this isn’t the way to reach that market.
2. It is very difficult to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack, making it likely that your offer will get tossed.
In contrast, true direct mail allows you to craft your own stand-alone offer and target more specifically. My auto repair shop direct mail success comes from focusing on the highest caliber customers within a two-mile radius of my shops. If you specialize in servicing certain brands, say Audi, direct mail will allow you to target Audi owners specifically. Other benefits of direct mail include:
- More flexibility. Direct mail allows you to have more control over your sales. Once you’ve done direct mail for a while, you’ll discover which offers are more likely to attract customers and you’ll be able to plan more wisely for increases in business. If your store is short-staffed for a month due to vacations, for example, you can cut back on direct mail to avoid flooding the shop with customers you can’t serve.
- Easier tracking. If you buy a radio advertisement, there’s really no easy way to track whether that ad drove a customer into your store. By comparison, many customers who respond to direct mail will bring the coupon you sent with them to the store. Some shop owners even staple that coupon onto the invoice, so they can efficiently determine the return on their investment. And even those customers who choose not to use the coupon (which is often the case with upper-income clients) often bring the card with them for directions. Our technicians have found plenty of our postcards in cars.
- Better returns. If you spend $3,000 in one month on direct mail, you’re likely to see $6,000 in service and repairs from that advertisement. However, a customer may return again and again, after getting educated from that one postcard, which is still a return on that initial investment.
Of course, to experience all the advantages that direct mail has to offer, you have to be consistent. Sticking with a direct mail campaign for at least six months is the best way to see solid results.
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