How to Increase Walk-in Traffic at Your Auto Shop

image001We’ve previously talked about growing your auto shop business on this blog, through a variety of marketing methods, through identifying and targeting specific customers, and through customer service follow up. But what about increasing appeal in the most direct way, with curb appeal? How does your auto shop stack up at pulling in street traffic?

Walk-in traffic depends heavily on two factors: location and visual appeal. Both of them can be changed, although the second is probably easier to do. Let’s examine them.

As an adage it’s not one just for realtors: “Location, location, location.” One of our forum users, Cam Vincent, put it this way: “Our first 3 years were spent in a small, dark, hidden location with 2 hoists and a pit. We have recently moved to a facility with double the space and much more exposure to a busy street…I have had more walk in in the past 3 weeks at our new location than we did at our old location in 3 years.”

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The value of a good location for steady business cannot be overestimated. Essentially everyone who travels that street – drivers, cyclists, pedestrians – is a captive audience to whatever marketing you care to put out for however long it takes to pass your business. As an auto shop manager or owner you can throw everything into revamping your facility, but if it’s hard to find or get to, how much return on investment can you expect to get? Not a lot, sadly.

The reverse is also true, however. If your business has a great location, but it looks poorly kept or otherwise unappealing, you will not be able to attract much of a clientele, and certainly not the clientele you’re aiming for. Visual appeal is critical. Improving this may be an investment of time and money, but if done well, it can truly pay off.

What’s important for visual appeal? What is considered attractive varies from place to place, but generally speaking, a commitment to cleanliness, orderliness, and comfort will impress. People will be drawn to neat, clean places that are pleasant to wait in. Check out the 2012 Best Looking Lube winners for some ideas of auto shops people raved about.

How much work will you have to do to impress your future customers? This will depend on how much work your competition is doing. Take an afternoon or a day and scope out your competition for whatever geography area your shop is in. Write down what draws you to certain locations. Take lots of notes. You may want to jot down ideas from other businesses you find eye-catching as well, especially if the local auto repairs shops are falling down on the job. Then go back to your location and do better than any of them. Be outstanding. Make your walk-in traffic’s job simple by cultivating an atmosphere so inviting that people notice and mention your shop to others.  

If your walk-in traffic is minimal, carefully examine both your location and your business’s appearance, inside and out, and make adjustments to either or both. It is possible to draw new customers in off the street even if you business has been in the same location for a long time.