• September 12, 2015 at 1:42 pm #64684

    The Best-Kept Secret to Generating More Referrals

    As we all know, the most powerful form of advertising always has been, and always will be, word of mouth. Although every shop owner would like to believe the majority of their customers are songbirds, the reality is, they’re not. I am not suggesting that you don’t have some customers who love to sing your song, but it’s safe to say that they’re a very small percentage of your overall customer base. I feel comfortable making such a strong statement because even if as little as 10% of your customers were telling their friends about you, and if those people were to come in to your shop, then within 90 days you would have to shut down all of your advertising programs, and you would be booking appointments 30 days out. The reality is that regardless of how well you treat your customers, and no matter how pleased they are with your service, when your customers walk out of your shop they’ll step back into their busy lives, and they will forget about you. Will there be a time when they think of you again? Of course, but it’ll only be when they have a need for your services, or when a friend engages them in a conversation about auto repair.

    So here’s an easy-to-use procedure I created years ago that will turn your customers into salespeople, and fill up your service bays with customers who are presold on you.

    Start the process by identifying the customers in your customer database who are your biggest boosters. Ideally they will be good communicators, and they will either work with a lot of other people, or their social lives will put them in constant contact with a lot of other people. Then when they are dropping off their vehicle, or at the time of car delivery, say something like this…

    “Before you leave, Kevin, do you have just another minute? Great! We’re growing our company, Kevin, and in my perfect world, every customer would be just like you. You are always a pleasure to work with, and everyone here who knows you thinks the world of you. Now I know birds of a feather flock together, so here is what I would like to do…” While they are in front of you take two of your business cards, and on the back of each card write – “One complimentary oil service”. Hand the two cards to your customer and say: “What I’d like to do is give you these two cards. Each one of them entitles the bearer to a complimentary oil service, so when you go to work today, if you could be so kind as to take just a moment to give these two cards to a couple of people you work with, it would be very much appreciated. They’ll get a complete oil service at no charge, and we’ll be able to meet a friend of yours.”

    This works so well because if you give the cards to the right people, they’ll be excited to pass them along to their friends, and since you gave them specific instructions on how and when to do it, there’s a good probability they’ll pass the two cards out the very same day. You know as well as I do that they will be singing your praises when they pass along those cards, and there is a good probability the cards will be used. Your cost? The potential cost of two oil services, and the cost of an oil service is meaningless when you consider that you are getting a new customer who is presold on you, and you are giving your best customers the opportunity to give something of value to two of their friends. If you are looking for an immediate increase in car counts, then this is one way to not only bring in more new customers, but to turn your customers into salespeople at the same time.

    This article was written by Elite president Bob Cooper. For more information about Elite, visit their website at http://www.EliteWorldwide.com

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    September 15, 2015 at 9:34 am #74116

    In the past I have written personal thank you notes to those recommending our shop. Of course there is the need to poll all new customers about where they heard about you.

    September 15, 2015 at 2:58 pm #74117

    All of this sounds great until your boisterous customer says… “Where’s my free oil change?”

    September 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm #74118
    Tom Piippo

    This won’t work for everyone, but here is what I did. I partnered with the Red Cross and offered a free oil change coupon to everyone who came in to donate blood for one of our local blood drives.  This coupled with the right pre- and post- blood drive marketing makes you out to be a prince in the community, boosting blood donations while gathering new customers and rewarding existing customers. I knew my liability was limited to less than 50 free oil changes; the Red Cross goal was only 35 units for our little community. We had to offer the coupons to all who came in to donate, even if they were turned away for some reason (they have LOTS of reasons). I gave the coupons a 6 month expiration and it took all 6 months for the redemptions to filter in. There was no Monday morning barrage for the free oil change.

    The last blood drive brought in 20 new customers, 8 converted to being regulars. Do the math, that’s chump change to get 8 new customers

    October 29, 2015 at 6:17 pm #74179

    Awesome, Tom!

    When I was in the residential heating, air conditioning, and plumbing business, we had what was called a “home service plan.” It entitled owners (who paid for it) to a 15% discount on repairs, plus priority service & extended warranties on their work.
    I created a program where our sales people got in touch with large local organizations like hospitals, big companies, etc – to approach them as offering the service plan as some part of their employee benefits. We’re talking companies with anywhere from 50-5,000+ employees, all with a new benefit as part of their benefits package – that they’d be willing to chip in or offer at a discount, our services to help them take care of their employees’ homes.
    Now we all know the cost to acquire a new customer is pretty high – somewhere between $50-$250 per. You could charge $50/year per employee, or just give it away! If you gave away 1 free oil change to each employee per year, plus a 10% or 15% discount on repairs at your shop (etc etc – a big value to them), could you “sell” this as part of a benefits package to a large company? Wouldn’t it be in that company’s best interest to ensure their employees’ vehicles are in great condition & they can get to work reliably? 

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