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Wasted Marketing Dollars

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the February 2015 issue of Transmission Digest.

Transmission shop owners throw away thousands of dollars every year on advertising that does not work. Why ? I have been a shop owner and visited with a lot of transmission shop owners over the years and I am convinced that we just don't have time or haven't taken the time to figure out exactly what we should be spending our marketing dollars on. Most of us do not have an educational background in marketing or any experience in internet technology. So, when we hear terms like SEO, Google Analytics, Adwords campaigns... our eyes start to cross and then we get this far away look in our eyes and then, we are gone. Lets face it, without the education and experience, it makes it difficult for us to grasp and manipulate the choices and the data available today. With all the hats we wear at the shop everyday, we just don't have time to learn what we need to know. So, the money gets spent and round and round we go, where she stops nobody knows. It is like gambling at a roulette wheel in Las Vegas.

In an effort to help fill that educational and experience gap in a time efficient manor, I have decided to interview another online marketing expert that is presently working " in the trenches " with transmission shop owners nationwide. Interviews seem to get to the point faster than any other format. My last interview with a marketing expert was with Craig Pollack in the July 2014 issue of Transmission Digest if you want to go back and read it. This month I am interviewing Corey Turner, with Drivetrain Technology. Corey owned a transmission shop and has been working with transmission shop owners for many years and has the education and experience we wish we had. I have asked Corey some online marketing questions that were not covered in my first interview with Craig. I sat down with Corey a few days ago and here is how that conversation went...

What can we do to drive more Internet leads?

Before Google Adwords, the Yellow Pages was the best source of leads in town. If you use Adwords to generate leads, are you sending them direct to your shop's website? Consider using a one-page landing page and tracking phone number specifically for your Adwords campaigns instead of sending them direct to your website. This is how the big companies do it but you can set up a landing page yourself. The upside to a landing page vs. a website is that a well designed landing page specifically for Adwords visitors tends to convert visitors to leads more often (15-20%) than just a shop website (5-15%). In our business, with the cost-per-click going up and up, the key is only giving visitors two options: Calling or filling out the form. You only have a few seconds to make a good impression, especially when a customer is shopping around, so having a high-converting landing page is key.

Is there anything that is free that we can do?

Yes. An important step in Internet marketing is how high you rank in Google Places. The first step: Have you claimed your Google Places listing yet? If you haven't, you will want to verify your Places listing with Google. Now it is time to optimize. There are many ways to optimize your page but the most important is to fill out everything completely. Make sure you have a description that covers all of your services, especially if you also do general repairs. Put all of those keywords in there, such as brakes, engine repairs and air conditioning. Photos are also important--if you have some high-quality pictures of your shop and your team, be sure to add those on there. Link your YouTube channel if you have videos online. Also be sure to update your Street View picture if Google has it wrong-this will help customers to find your shop. As a side note, MOZ Local offers a service to optimize your local listings on all the major sites. Don't forget to post a regular transmission repair ad on Craigslist in your local area, and renew every 48 hours.

What can we do if our website is not converting to calls and leads?

Is it mobile device friendly? Use an iPhone or Android and go to your shop website. Is it easy to call your shop or fill out a form using a mobile device? They should be able to go to your website and press one button to call you. If contacting your shop through a mobile device requires too much zooming and scrolling, it's time to make a mobile version of your website so you are not burning leads. If you already have a website provider, they probably already know how to build one. If you want to do it yourself, Unbounce has a great tool to creating a mobile version of your site. Once your mobile version is done, you will need to install a mobile redirect script on your main website that detects mobile a device then sends them to that new mobile version. If you do not think this is worth doing--keep in mind that today around 40-50% of traffic on searches related to transmission repair is coming in on mobile devices. All of those people are seeing your site the way you are seeing it on your phone. If a mobile user does not have the ability to easily call your shop, or fill out a form, they will probably be hitting back and going to a competitor who does!

What about online reviews?

Reviews are a touchy subject--they can either really help you or really hurt you. Whether you have any negative reviews online or not, every shop could use more positive reviews. Not sure how to get them? Whitespark has a free Review Handout Generator you can use to make a PDF to give to customers after they leave your shop and it walks them through the Google review process. Google "whitespark review handout generator" to download a free one. Another option is to set up a desktop or tablet in your waiting area where you can direct customers to place a review. The good thing about Google Places is that they rank reviews by date. So if you have negative reviews, they eventually will go to the "next" page after you receive enough positive reviews to fill the first page. Removing bad reviews completely can be a complicated process but it is actually possible on Google.

How can we get more wholesale work?

Have you slacked off on marketing to car lots or fleets? Every shop could use a couple extra wholesale accounts. Start calling car lots directly and ask for their business. Go to the Used Car Dealers section of YellowPages.com in your town and start there. Take a half day a week to make in-person visits. If you do not have the time, post an ad on Craigslist for an outside salesperson and interview until you find the right person.

How can we increase our general repair customer base?

For general repair online, there's RepairPal, MechanicAdvisor, AutoMD and Openbay. Offline, gift card marketing is a no-brainer. Who throws away gift cards? Wowcards has a program where you can mail gift cards straight to your past customers. It is so easy and so cheap ($.50 cents to $1 each depending on quantity) that you can't afford to not be doing this at least once a year. You could get creative and send these to local residential mailing lists, fleets or car lots but you will probably get the best return from your past customers. Design your card, upload your list and send. You can also offer Groupon deals or Amazon Local deals in your town for various services to drive more general repair business.

Is it worth it to have a video on our website?

A video does make your business look more professional and will help drive more leads. Having a video also increases the possibility of getting on the first page of Google organic results, such as Transmission Repair [Your City Name]. If you do not want to go to the expense of having a commercial-grade video made, check your local barter network for video production companies or check out Odesk.

Should we use text message for our customers?

You should offer to text message your shop address and website to each customer you talk to. This increases the chances of a customer showing up for an appointment. Sendola has a button you can install on your website/landing page to automate this process while you are on the phone with them. It will send them the address and a link to your website so they have it on their phone. Do you get many customers calling about status updates? Autotext.me and DemandForce have programs that automatically update your customers each step of the way through text message. You can also use these numbers for future follow-ups which is great for marketing repeat business or specials.

How do we handle Internet price shoppers?

First and foremost, make sure you call leads that come in from your online form ASAP. The lifespan of a transmission repair lead, especially from the Internet, can be minutes before they schedule somewhere else or tow to a competitor. Offer free towing + free diagnostic checks. Tell customers about your financing options. Get in the habit of working leads that come in after-hours & weekends, when competitors aren't (Shops who are already doing this know what I am talking about here!). Always offer to text message shop address, phone#, website link to customer while on the phone. Talk to customers as long as possible. Follow-up with all leads a second + third time. The shops who do these things on a regular basis are getting far more results from Internet shoppers than the ones who are not.

Thanks Corey

Corey has some good tips on driving more business to the shop in this interview. If you are looking to increase your leads from the Internet or just have questions that you need a fast answer to, you can contact Corey and their team at www.drivetraintech.com or call him directly at 813-530-8433. He can help cut waste in advertising. He owned a transmission shop, has been working with transmission shop owners like us everyday and speaks our language.

The most important thing I have learned in my interviews with the " lead experts " is that tracking our leads is critical. If we can track it, we can control it. Before we spend any more money on advertising make sure there is a way to track the leads we are paying for. New rule: If a lead source does not have a way to track their leads, we do not use them.

We have to track not only the number of leads we are getting for the amount of money we are spending but, also the quality of those leads. How much money we make or don't make with each lead source is the key. When we talk to the customer make sure we ask how he found our shop and then, put that lead in a lead source category then, track that lead through the shop. That way we will have a lead report from the advertising sources on where the leads came from and an internal lead report that tells us the quality of the lead for each lead source. By recording what happened to the lead once the customer contacted the shop we can easily evaluate which lead sources work and which ones don't work.

So, once we know where the leads are coming from and the quality of those leads , we can look at which lead sources make us money and which ones do not. With that information it is easy to take the money out of the lead sources that are not working and put that money into the lead sources that are working . I think this collective data is worth taking the time to track because it allows us to step away from the advertising roulette wheel and cut the waste. If you have some questions or would like some help with online marketing for your shop, go to the TransTeam website http://transteam.com and sign up for a free advertising evaluation. The idea is to cut the waste so we can get more leads for the same money.

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