By Bruce Hakutizwi

Job security: the upside of owning an auto mechanic or auto body shop. As the owner of this type of business, you’re not likely to be edged out of the market by technology anytime soon. This has unfortunately been the case for so many businesses today, but as long as you keep up with changes to the auto industry (such as having the ability to work on electric or self-driving vehicles), you’ll stay competitive. The downside is that more chains and franchises are popping up all the time with the ability to charge slightly less to patrons. So how can you compete and not have to sell your business?

In an age where it’s becoming increasingly difficult for small businesses of all kinds to match the prices of large corporations and chain stores, effective marketing campaigns have become a key facet of running a successful business. A great way to market your business is to focus on the greater level of customer service you can offer vs. a corporate-owned or big-box shop.

Not long ago, people were loyal to one specific mechanic or auto body shop. While this trend has begun to shift slightly over the last couple of decades, it hasn’t gone away completely. People still want that personal level of service when in need of vehicle repairs, but might not know how to find you.

While your company may be valuable, not every small business can afford its own marketing department. The good news is that most of this work can easily be done by existing employees (or you, the owner). There are several ways to effectively market your auto mechanic or auto body shop to attract new business and retain the customers you already have. Here are some suggestions.

Take Advantage of Social Media

It seems like most people are on one form of social media or another, and many of them are looking for recommendations. In fact, Facebook recently introduced a feature that allows people to make posts searching for recommendations from their friends. In this way, word-of-mouth business is revitalized.

Additionally, if you don’t already have a Facebook page dedicated to your business, now is a good time to start. Put up a few pictures of work you’ve done, the outside of your shop, and maybe even a few of your staff. Allow customers to submit reviews (that you approve before they’re published, of course) and your visibility will increase.

Prioritize Customer Satisfaction

One of the things all small businesses have going for them is the ability to provide excellent and more personal customer service that their larger counterparts. If you haven’t been in a big box store lately, you may not have noticed, but customer service seems to be in decline. One easy way to set yourself apart from chain auto mechanic shops is to out-service them.

Customers want to be treated like they matter, have their concerns addressed by staff, and ultimately to know that their money is being well-spent when they choose your services. You can ease these concerns by maintaining constant communication about the state of a customer’s vehicle and charging fair prices, thereby earning their trust and repeat business.

Use the Email Addresses and Phone Numbers You Collect

Most businesses collect email addresses and phone numbers from customers these days. Maybe you’ve been collecting them so you can notify customers when their vehicles are ready to be picked up. However, if you aren’t using these means of communication beyond that, you’re be missing a great marketing opportunity.

Maintaining email contact with a customer is an excellent way to let them know about upcoming promotions, such as discounted oil changes or other services, to thank them for their business, and to keep them coming back. And you don’t have to be email-marketing savvy to use this method of communication. There are plenty of email-marketing services that fit the needs of a small business. They can help you create email campaigns that keep your name in the customer’s mind for future repair needs. There are also ways to send automated text messages to customers reminding them of appointments, or alerting them of specials and discounts.

Make Sure You Have a Website

In addition to having several social media accounts, having a well-designed and intuitive website will round out your web presence, making it easier for new customers to find out about you. If customers could book appointments for routine maintenance on your website, that would also be an added bonus, and might be the thing that keeps them coming back to your shop.

Offer a Loyalty Program

It seems like every business out there offers some sort of loyalty card, where repeat business is incentivized through small rewards such as a free oil change. These are also sometimes known as punch cards, and by no means are they obsolete. Providing this perk to your customers can result in an increase in business.

While competing with larger chains seems daunting, it’s fairly simple to do for auto mechanic or auto body shops. You simply have to find ways to elevate your company above the saturated market, which is easily done by simply ramping up your customer service and communication