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Friday, May 1, 2020
A few weeks ago, we wrote a blog that highlighted six critical questions to ask to help you understand your customers and differentiate your parts store. Now, we are going to take the information we pulled together during that exercise and ask four more questions that will help you turn your differentiator into a market strategy.
If you’ve already determined who your target customers are during the first group of questions, then you’ve done most of the work in finding out how to reach them. But, you have to be sure that you’ve defined your target audience narrowly enough and that you’ve added as much detail as possible. You may have 2-3 different target audiences. If that’s the case then you’ll want to look at each group separately.
It can be very helpful to build out and document the persona of your target audience. What are their demographics? How do they make buying decisions? What websites do they visit? What television stations do they watch? What type of music do they listen to? What type of community events do they go to? Who do they listen to for advice? What things are most important to them when they are considering buying from an auto parts store?
You get the picture. The deeper you can get into who these people are and what makes them tick, the more likely you are to be able to reach them, with a message that matters to them. Some businesses like to pick an actual person they do business with and use everything they know about that person to draw out the persona of the target audience.
Once you’ve got the persona built out, you can make good decisions on how to reach them. If they are likely to attend community events, then you can sponsor the specific community events they are most likely to attend. If they search online for services, you’ll want to be sure your Google My Business profile is complete and that you’ve got a website that searches well. If they are part of a specific organization, you could also join that organization. If you know they spend a lot of time on Facebook, you may want to consider advertising on Facebook.
The main point is that you want to understand as much as you can about your target audience so that you can make sure that you are investing your time and money on the marketing initiatives that they are going to see. And if you’ve got multiple audiences, then you rinse and repeat the process for each one.
Also, if you sell parts mostly or completely to auto repair shops, don’t make the mistake of thinking that personality profiles don’t matter. They absolutely do matter. Businesses don’t make decisions, people do.
In the initial set of six critical questions, you spent the time to determine what problem your customer was facing and what pain it causes them. You also determined your differentiator, or what makes your solution better than the competition.
With this information, you can start to develop strong messaging that will resonate with your target audience. What is the result they are looking for? What do they care about most? Think about this from their perspective.
In the earlier blog, we used the example of the auto repair shop that has the primary need of quick delivery. The lack of quick delivery caused the pain of not being able to accurately communicate expectations to their customers, and not being able to complete repair orders fast enough to hit their daily car count or revenue numbers.
Focusing on that pain in your messaging will help you stand out:
Of course, you’d have to explain what the Rapid Delivery Program entailed. If you have more specific measurables that you know set you apart from your competitors, those can be even more effective:
This is just one example. But the important point is that if you’ve done the work to know your customer, you’ll know what their deep-seeded needs and pain points are and how you can meet those needs better than any other parts store in the market. Highlight that, and frame it by their needs and their desired outcomes.
You already know a lot about your target audience. You know how to reach them. You know the key messaging that should get their attention. What could go wrong?
Most often what goes wrong at this stage is that in our efforts to communicate a grand message that covers everything, we overcomplicate things. It’s important to keep it simple. If you’ve got a one-line message like the ones highlighted above, that’s great. If you’ve got 2-3 bullets, that’s also really good. If you want to add an intro sentence and a call to action after your bullets that’s still good. Anymore than that is most likely too much.
Here’s a genericized example:
RSW Auto Parts is the auto parts store that Raleigh repair shops depend on!
- “hit this goal with this great thing we do”
- “hit this goal with this great thing we do”
- “hit this goal with this great thing we do”
Find out why Raleigh’s best repair shops choose RSW Auto Parts today! Call us at (Phone) or visit our website at (web address).
Build your broad message like this and then you can pick and choose pieces of it depending on how much space or time you have. You can have a 10-second version, a 30-second version and a 1-minute version.
This last question is the most difficult to deliver on. But it’s very important. Once you find your message, you have to be able to deliver on it. And you’ll likely need to spend a little extra to always deliver on it.
If you are promising 2-hour delivery, you have to always deliver parts in two hours. If you are promising the most knowledgeable auto parts specialists in the area, you have to have the most knowledgeable auto parts specialists working in your store. If you are promising specialization in a specific category or type of parts, then you need to make sure that you have great experience and can answer all of the questions related to that category or type of parts.
Identify the processes that are part of your ability to deliver on your marketing promises, and document them. Make sure those processes are understood by all, shared by all and followed by all. If it’s something that requires the ability to make judgment calls based on customer needs, then that is fine. Capture it in your documentation. It’s not meant to be overly restrictive, just to ensure you are delivering on your promises to customers.
Using the full 10 question process will help you significantly if you haven’t done it before and then it can be re-done or revisited every three to five years. However, during shifts in your market caused by external factors that create new opportunities or new challenges, use these final four questions to help you adjust to the changing needs of a currently-targeted audience or attract and serve a new audience.
Thursday, April 16, 2020
How long does it take you to identify the product that these phrases represent?
It Gives You Wings…
My guess is that it didn’t take you very long. (If you aren’t sure, just Google them.) Both of these products/brands have had those slogans in place for decades. They haven’t kept the same slogan because nobody thought of a better one. They keep it because they’ve spent years placing it into the minds of customers, and they don’t want to lose all of that work.
They know the slogan reinforces what the product does – and the product reinforces the slogan. The slogan tells customers what to expect, and when they buy the product, they get exactly what they’re expecting.
In its simplest form, that is the essence of marketing. A concept that seems simple but is much harder to execute well, and it’s this:
And at the moment of truth, when customers show up, never fail to deliver what you’ve told them to expect.
But if you don’t know what you do better than anyone else in the world, or at least in your market, what’s the best way to figure it out?
This leads to the six questions that every business has to answer in order to know what value they’re providing to their customers. If you can answer these six questions you’ve laid the groundwork for growing your business profitably.
Remember, unless you’re the only parts store in town, you’re not going to appeal to everyone. What type of customers prefer your store? Is it based on location? Price sensitivity? A particular brand or specialization of parts you carry? A service they can’t get anywhere else? Some combination of the four, or something else entirely?
Try to define your customers in a narrow enough way that most of the people in that group are – or should become – customers of your store. Making this definition too broad doesn’t do you any favors, it makes it harder.
If it’s too small you won’t be able to earn enough business with that market. You’ll need to find a way to expand the audience by appealing to additional potential customers with new or different parts or services. On the other hand, if it’s too big competitors may step all over your message, and you might find yourself marketing a benefit that every other auto parts store in town has.
This one is a bit more complicated than it seems.
You might say that your customers need brake pads or a battery or an A/C compressor. But for the vast majority of repair shops and consumers in the United States that’s not really a problem. There are hundreds of thousands of auto parts stores and online sources.
If they are a repair shop, their problem is more likely to be that they don’t know who to trust to consistently get them the parts they need that meet their quality standards as quickly as they say they will get them to the shop, at a fair price.
If they are a consumer, their problem may be that they know they need a new battery to make sure they can get to work tomorrow but they have no idea what type, or how much it should cost. They’re worried they’re going to be taken advantage of, and they could use some help installing the battery as well.
The odds are that you can handle some customer problems better than others. If you have a delivery service with an employee who is always on point and communicates well with customers, then you are going to be the parts store that shops trust.
If you or one of your parts experts excels at talking to stressed out customers and helping them make the best decision for their vehicle, you can probably build a strong reputation for helping people that are worried about being taken advantage of.
The problems you’re best at solving do a great job of helping you define your market.
Your problem also has to be an actual problem. That’s why the fourth question is here…
The examples above provide clear pain points. For the repair shop that can’t find a parts store they can depend on, they suffer the pain of not being able to accurately communicate expectations to their customers, and not being able to complete repair orders fast enough to hit their daily car count or revenue numbers. For the consumer that needs a battery – without a battery they are not getting to work tomorrow so their pain is loss of income and potentially loss of their job.
This question encourages you to think beyond initial requests and to empathize more with your customers in a way that will not only help you with marketing, but also in customer communications. It can sometimes help to use the “One More Question” framework to dig in and identify the pain.
The customer needs a battery. Why?
Because her battery is dead. How does that affect her?
Her car won’t start and she has no other transportation. Where does she need to go?
She needs to go to work tomorrow. Why?
She needs to make money to be able to feed her children.
Does the customer believe it solves their problem? This is important. You thinking it solves the customer’s problem isn’t enough. They need to tell you that it solved their problem.
If you’re trying to be the best parts store in town at helping the customer feel like they’re not being ripped off, they need to tell you that they feel like they can trust you.
If you want to be the best at speedy parts delivery to repair shops, the customer needs to believe that you helped them quickly.
Whatever their deeper level problem is, you need to solve it. If they don’t believe you did, they will be moving right on to the next auto parts store next time.
If you’ve made it this far – you’ve accomplished a lot – but you still don’t have a way to profit. That’s because there might be a dozen other auto parts stores near you that are marketing to the same customers, with the same problem, and they might be offering the same solution.
That leads directly to question number six…
Whatever you’re offering has to be different in some way that’s actually important to your target market. It also should be able to be quantified.
In today’s world – the easiest way to quantify quality is with online review scores. Most customers that look online for a parts store will take a look at their reviews on at least one website, most likely Google. And they aren’t going to go somewhere that’s consistently getting trashed by former customers.
Another major way to differentiate your shop is to offer the lowest price. In fact, price is a customer’s ultimate tie-breaker. If nobody has given a customer a compelling reason to select one parts store over another, they’ll just pick the one with the lowest price or the best deals.
Consider gas stations – it’s all the same gas, so without a special reason you are likely to consistently go to the station that has the cheapest prices…and not spend money on anything else there. But, you might always go to Sheetz if you (or your kids) love the food options there. You might always go to a specific gas station because they give you a thorough window washing while you wait.
Price is not usually a good differentiator to have. For an independent auto parts store price is one of the worst differentiators you can have. That’s because you can’t make much money and still offer the lowest price unless you’re such a large company that you can do everything more cheaply than anyone else.
The good news is that there are a number of potential differentiators. But whatever differentiator you pick – make sure that it matters to customers, make sure it really matters to them.
It needs to matter so much that they’d pick your store over other parts stores even if yours is a bit more expensive. If that’s not the case – then price is the differentiator. And whether you win over price-shoppers or lose them – your bottom line is going to lose either way.
These six questions will help you do more than just market your shop. They’ll help you build a strategy for profitability. They’ll help guide you through tough decisions on specialized parts to offer, services to add and what traits matter most in new hires. Here they are one more time:
If you don’t have these questions already answered for your store, now is the time to identify the answers.
Thursday, April 9, 2020
What percentage of the people in your community know that your business exists? What are you doing as the auto parts store owner to increase that number?
Between running a business, serving customers and taking care of your family, it can be difficult to feel like you have any time to contribute to raising awareness of your store in your community. But, there are steps you can take to increase your visibility and memorability, and they don’t have to cost much or take much time. Here are five of the most effective techniques.
Have a visually appealing logo made for your auto parts store, and use it everywhere you can. Ask a local marketing agency to design a logo for you, or use an online resource like 99designs, where you can have it created quite inexpensively. If you have a motto or a slogan, make sure it appears alongside your logo in places where it makes sense and won’t be too small. If you do use a motto or slogan, make sure that your employees exemplify everything the motto promises.
Sponsoring youth sports, holiday celebrations, or disease awareness walks and runs is a great way to contribute
to your community. It also gets your logo on banners and websites, as well as shirts that will be worn by local residents for years.
Despite the long-running rumors of their demise, local television stations and newspapers are still the most-favored source of news for many people. They will often provide tips to residents on car care and safety, especially when severe weather is around the corner. Give those media outlets a call ahead of time and
offer to serve as an expert resource for their news pieces.
The local media is also always looking for business owners to help them understand what is happening in the local economy. Let them know that you are happy to be a resource for those stories as well.
Social media is powerful, but businesses that use it only for promotion will quickly be ignored. Instead, find ways to make people laugh related to car parts and accessories, or something altogether different. These pictures or stories will be shared, providing free exposure for your business.
More than 80% of people go online to look for local service providers, so it’s important to have a presence there. A great web presence requires more than just a website – your auto parts store needs to search well on Google, have a completed Google My Business profile, look clean and professional in photos that are posted, and have several great reviews from the past few months.
None of these five things will bring you overnight success. But getting started with one, two or three of them can help you steadily raise awareness of your auto parts store in your community.
To learn how Repair Shop Websites can help you attract more customers to your auto parts store, call us at 855-394-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
If you are looking for marketing help, everyone has something to offer you that they say has proven to work. Get your logo in front of thousands of eyes! Photos and videos keep your potential customers engaged for much longer! Guaranteed results! Surely if these companies are able to stay in business, they’ve got to work for somebody. Right?
Not necessarily. More than 90% of those postcard mailers will get thrown away before anyone looks at them. A big visual ad is useless if someone isn’t actively thinking about auto parts or auto repair when they see it. That video doesn’t help if it’s buried somewhere that nobody goes. And about those guaranteed results – if a marketing company could really get 100% of all small businesses a giant return on their marketing investment, don’t you think you would have heard of them by now? They’d be working with every small business in town.
The truth is, many of the most effective marketing techniques don’t cost as much as you’d expect. Some of them are even free! Here are three ways to get more customers for your auto parts store.
If you’re trying to get your parts store in front of customers right when they are online thinking about auto parts, here are three important facts to consider.
An important point here is that to get new customers from the internet, you don’t need a beautiful, custom website. You need a website with the content and the architecture that gets you on the first page of the Google search results.
And, if you want to earn all of those potential repair shop and consumer customers who are looking for an auto parts store in your area, you want to have a Google Review rating above 4.0. That means you need to ask your happy customers for Google reviews, even if it feels awkward.
So many unworthy companies run marketing campaigns asking for customer referrals that it’s easy for consumers to dismiss them. That’s a shame, because referrals can be the lifeblood of a small business. A great referral source is the easiest way for one raving fan to turn into a hundred customers, or maybe better yet to turn into your two or three most profitable customers.
When you ask for a referral, don’t do it like large companies most often do it – with an off-hand, scripted remark from an employee that’s said very quickly because it’s awkward and just an item to be checked off. Do it in a way that is genuine and establishes a connection with the customer.
After a customer tells you that they appreciate your advice and/or your service, thank them for the business and the feedback. Then tell them you are a local small business, and you’d really appreciate it if they’d let any other repair shops, family or friends in the area know how happy they were with your store. Tell them referrals are one of your auto parts store’s most valuable sources of new customers. Give them a few business cards and ask them to hand them to anyone who they think will be buying auto parts or accessories in the near future.
It’s likely that most people won’t make the effort of referring you even if you do ask. But if you can increase your referral rate, you can have a dramatic effect on the amount of new customers coming your way. And, any number times zero is zero.
Years ago, marketing guru Seth Godin mentioned that the key to being remarkable is to be worthy of a remark. Unfortunately, most businesses are happy with hitting the low bar of customer service for their industry. That shouldn’t be you.
When you break through that low bar of customer service with a truly unique way of showing your appreciation, you can earn loyal customers for life. How do you do this? There are lots of options – and it’s important to know that creativity is much more important than cost.
One auto repair shop that we work with partners with a local bakery, and every customer car is returned with a bag of freshly baked cookies. Another one keeps a stock of new Matchbox cars on hand, and customers’ kids can pick out a vehicle each time they visit.
You may not be able to execute these repair shop examples at your parts store. But consider what they represent – creative ways to show that you are looking for every opportunity to improve customers’ lives. That’s why these inexpensive gestures can turn first-time customers into lifetime customers.
Why do lifetime customers matter so much? Most businesses would go bankrupt fast if they had to attract a new customer for every transaction. New customers become profitable when they turn into repeat customers. If you want repeat customers, you’ve got to give them a reason to always choose your store. For many customers, showing them that you really care about them is enough to do just that.
If you’re looking for more business for your auto parts store, call Repair Shop Websites at 855-294-6397 or email us at Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.
Friday, April 3, 2020
Yes, you definitely should. But there’s more to it than just posting a quick response.
You’ll want to respond appropriately to the type of review you received. We’ll break them down into three different groups – good reviews, bad reviews and false reviews.
As you probably already know, good reviews are the easiest types of reviews to respond to and by going a step or two beyond just saying thanks, you can help your auto parts store in ways you may not even realize. If you can, an excellent way to do this is to mention something personal about the customer who left the review and to reference the parts or service that you provided for them.
But first, you should respond by thanking them for taking the time to post the review for your store. Time is precious, so it’s important to show appreciation to a customer who is willing to use their time to help your auto parts store.
Second, if you are able to include something personal about the customer or the shop, it helps you demonstrate that you really care about them as a customer. This helps keep the relationship with the customer strong and also serves as a clear indication to potential customers who will be looking at the reviews that you truly care about your customers.
Finally, including something about the parts you sold to them or the service you provided will help your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This helps to increase your chances of appearing in the Local Pack (the list of 3-4 businesses that shows up just below the map in a Google search results page) when somebody searches for those parts or that service in your area. It will also help your website search better for those parts and services, as long as it is linked to your Google My Business profile.
One of the most difficult things to do is to keep your cool and respond reasonably when somebody blasts your auto parts store in a review, especially if you feel strongly that they are wrong. Your instinct will likely be to tear into them in the response. But it is critically important to remember that potential customers who read the review will have no way of knowing who is right and who is wrong. If you quickly hit send on that non-professional response, potential customers will believe that you are not professional. As unfair as that may be, that’s the way it works.
Your best move is to respond respectfully, typing out something like “we are sorry you feel that way about your visit to our store.” It’s also helpful to include a line that states that you work to provide excellent customer service – “we strive to provide the best service in town to all our customers.” And to follow that up with “I’d be happy to talk to you personally about your experience.”
If you know that something went wrong during the interaction with the customer, it’s a good idea to be straightforward and more apologetic. Almost all customers understand that nobody gets it right all of the time. And, potential customers reading the review and seeing your response will respect your accountability and be more likely to choose your store if they see that type of response.
If you state in your response that “our goal is 100% customer satisfaction. Unfortunately we missed the mark with you. I’d really appreciate the chance to talk to you and discuss how we can make it right.” It can go a long way toward demonstrating your care for your customers in the face of a mistake.
Every once in a while we’ll see a review get posted for one of our customers that is either mistaken or blatantly false. An example would be if somebody writes that they visited your auto parts store on a Sunday, but you are not open on Sundays.
If this happens to you, it is totally appropriate to point out that they must be mistaken. Posting a response that includes “we are sorry you had a bad experience, but it could not have been with our store. We haven’t been open on Sunday in 20 years,” is a good way to address it. It is also totally appropriate to ask them to remove the review because of the mistake. Feel free to encourage them to stop by your store for a much better customer experience.
Like with most things, you probably want to avoid hard and fast rules when it comes to responding to reviews for your auto parts store. But, if you use these recommendations as a guide, and always keep in mind that it will not just be the person who wrote the review that reads your response, but many potential customers, you can further leverage Google reviews as a way to help you gain more customers.
You may also want to read: Should I Ask Customers to Post Reviews for My Auto Parts Store?
If you’d like help getting more reviews, please contact us at 866-665-1605 or Team_RSW@RepairShopWebsites.com.