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May 31, 2023

Mining your own database

If you want to expand your garage business, or perhaps you are just looking to keep a regular flow of work during the quieter part of the year, you might be thinking of launching a promotional campaign to bring in more work. You might be thinking of running some advertising, perhaps coupled with the lure of a discount for new customers. 

This isn’t a bad idea in itself, but we would advise caution before printing those money-off vouchers.

First of all, you don’t want to alienate your existing customers. You are probably familiar with phone and broadband contracts that offer a substantial discount to people that have switched from other providers, only to hike the price as soon as the promotional period is finished. This is because these companies have made a rather cynical calculation that the rise in price might well antagonise existing customers, but not enough to make a substantial number of them go through the hassle of switching contracts. The aftermarket just doesn’t have that luxury and customer loyalty is hard earned, but easily lost.  

Focus on what you have

Instead, we’d advise that you make customers that you already have on your database the focus of your promotions. Offering a customer a discounted MOT test during a period when you know the garage is going to be quieter won’t upset anyone, and has the handy advantage for the customer that they get the vehicle through the test before it becomes a last-minute rush job. Indeed, if it means there are more slots available for customers during a month where there is a ‘spike’ in tests, such a policy should be popular for everyone. 

Another advantage to using your existing database is that marketing to existing customers is much less expensive. You can use email and text (if you have their consent), your social media channels and other forms of direct marketing to reach your existing customers, which are all much more cost-effective than trying to attract new ones. 

Use social media

Marketing to clients that follow you on your social channels can be particularly effective, as it tends to be the customers most engaged with your brand that do so. They often respond particularly well to interim offers, such as a special deal on tyres or perennials like a brake system check.  On this subject, we’d advise that you don’t simply use this as a chance to upsell, but to give the customer a detailed and accurate report, (and in any case, if a customer has booked in for such a check, chances are that there is something that requires attention). 

You might also consider updating your website to have an ‘existing customer’ section with offers and time-sensitive deals, for which you can supply motorists with a log in after their first visit. 

Another quick and relatively easy way to increase repeat business from customers is to set up a servicing plan where a customer pays a set amount every month and in return keeps their servicing costs under control. This is something franchised dealerships have been doing for years, but there is no reason why independents can’t offer it as well, but you will probably find that your competitors steer clear of offering plans because of what they think is involved in administering such a scheme. This needn’t be a worry though, as if you are running a modern garage management system then you are already halfway there. Indeed, there are several companies that can set up the plans for you, making this an obvious way to virtually guarantee that you see the same customers every time. 

In conclusion, marketing to existing customers is a smart strategy for businesses looking to increase sales and improve customer retention. By leveraging the trust and familiarity that existing customers have with your brand, you can save on marketing costs, achieve higher conversion rates, and increase the lifetime value of your customers.

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