At some point in time, we've all been served a sandwich with pickles on the side. Why? Some believe the tradition started because pickles act as a palate cleanser, but there is also a diplomatic marketing strategy happening at the same time.
Pickles have a very strong taste. They can be extremely tangy, salty, sour, or sweet, which can make some people love them and some abhor them.
So how should a high end restaurant or fast food joint deal with this dilemma? More importantly, how should an independent automotive repair shop owner deal with the different demands and preferences when going to market with direct mail, digital marketing, or social media engagement?
Leaving the pickle on the side satisfies both the vinegar lovers and haters. It gets the sandwich sold no matter the preferences of the consumer- everybody is happy (almost). So when you're working with a designer on a digital marketing campaign or a direct mail acquisition flyer or retention gift card, how can you be sure that everything is 'just so' and you'll perfectly please every recipient's palate?
You can't. With our pickle example we have 4 potential scenarios:
1) Customer loves pickles and becomes a loyal customer
2) Customer hates pickles, but is happy it's on the side
3) Customer hates pickles so much they never return
4) Customer hates pickles but gives it to a friend who likes it so much they are now a customer
We have three out of four wins. The adage "You can't please everybody" rings true for both independent automotive repair shop marketing and sandwich sales, but this doesn't stop sandwich sales.
Some shop owners just won't go to market to avoid negative responses, won't get their name and brand out there just in case they don't please everybody, won't pull the trigger and go for it. This is overthinking, and rather than have the opportunity to please most people and gain some new customers or bring some back, nothing happens.
"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." (~Albert Einstein and/or John A. Shedd). Like all business investments, marketing has risks aside from the time, money, and resources a good marketing strategy takes. But it's a necessary risk worth taking.
Because tastes vary across the world, including in the independent automotive repair industry, odds are that not all of your target audience will love what you put out there. In fact, this never happens. So it takes some trial and error.
The June flyer performed better than the September flyer? Great, let's use that one again and scrap the September flyer. Fun facts work better on my social media than technical details about cars, though we still get some engagement from the latter? Let's mix it up. Measured results are the only thing that will tell you if your marketing strategy is working, but the most important thing is to take the risks.
Research identifies what your customers want, and going to market is just that, research.
One of our most successful shop owners, who just reported a 116% increase in September sales year over year, is well-versed in this risk taking. In the past year, this extraordinary shop has taken every opportunity to just 'try it.' If it works, great, if not, we don't do it again. Period. But the most important thing is at the end of the day, their branding is strong, their name is out there, and the numbers show it.
At ShopPros™ we've run annual Retention Campaigns where we are able to converse via text with our shop members' clients about the program; of course there are some negative reactions, we've found far less than 1%, but we simply opt those clients out of future campaigns.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in early April, one such text campaign booked 19 confirmed appointments as well as 7 on top of that that stemmed from quote requests. To avoid the one or two opt-outs, we would not have booked those 26 appointments with one single text- is that a risk worth taking?
You can't please everybody, but fear of negative reactions shouldn't stop you from branding, taking risks, getting your name out there, putting cars in your bays, learning what works and what doesn't, and casting your sails. You'll eventually having a marketing plan that has a pickle on the side- even if a few people don't want the pickle at all.
About the Author
Kirsten Selvage is the Marketing Director at ShopPros™. She has been an active business, economics, and marketing advisor and volunteer since 2007. Selvage has additional professional experience in risk management and small business management. She holds an Economics degree from York University in Toronto. She has a passion for Highland Dancing, used cars, and car count.