By David Rogers
As published in Shop Owner Magazine
Lying to yourself is a terrible way to run your business. It leads to bad decisions, missed opportunities, and the painful death of the shop…sometimes mercifully quick, sometimes excruciatingly slow.
Two lies, in particular, are dark, dirty, and destructive. These two lies prevent good operators from becoming wealthy. They kill productivity, destroy efficiency, and ensure that despite all of your hard work, your success will always be just beyond your grasp.
These two lies kill success, turn the faucet off on potential growth, and hold you back from ever reaching your potential as a business owner.
So, what are they?
“I’m busy and don’t need to advertise.”
“Business is slow, so I can’t afford to advertise.”
These lies are destructive because they’re widely believed. They might even seem like common sense, or like good gut decisions to make throughout the year to better manage your cash flow.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s dig into why.
Lie Number One: I’m busy and don’t need to advertise
You might feel like your shop is here right now. After all, shops are living through a unique moment in history. A global pandemic forced bottom-tier shops to close and disrupted the normal driving habits of millions of Americans. In other words, car counts are artificially elevated for surviving shops.
The gut feeling here is that there’s no benefit to advertising. Why spend money on something you’re getting for free?
If you don’t care about the fact that attrition is eating your customer base alive even though you can’t feel it, your gut has a point. If you see increased sales as a sign of a healthy business without paying attention to what inflation is doing to your costs, your gut might be onto something.
If you’re content to sit back and accept whatever slice of the pie you can get, this is a comforting lie. Running a shop is a lot of work and risk, and it probably feels good to save a few dollars when the opportunity seems to present itself.
But what if you want to grow and scale this year? What if you’re smart enough to realize that those artificially inflated prices don’t represent a growing business. Here’s where you can use these lies to your advantage.
Most – maybe all – of your competition is probably buying into this lie. They’re sitting back and settling for whatever comes their way. Their defenses are down, and they’re not actively working to keep their best customers.
Which means you can take those customers for your shop. This is how top operators become successful. When your competition lets their guard down, you grab a bigger slice of the pie.
And if taking your operation to the next level by filling your pipeline with the best customers isn’t enough of a reason to act now, consider what’s on the other side of this customer boom.
Right now, we have no idea when the current car count trend will end. But we do know that it takes an average of seven marketing touches before a customer will act. If car count drops off a cliff today, how long will your shop sit idle while you turn that marketing faucet back on and build your way up to seven touches?
What’s worse, when that happens, many shop owners tell themselves a different lie.
Lie Number Two: Business is slow, so I can’t afford to advertise
Pulling back on marketing when you’re slow demands a gambler’s belief that everything will break your way. Number one, your competition must also stop marketing. Number two, your long-term customers must never take their business elsewhere. Number three, your technicians (who are very hard to find right now!) must settle for fewer billed hours and smaller paychecks without deciding to move over to one of those top shops who knows the importance of keeping marketing going 24/7.
That level of optimism might give you a thrill at the casino but gambling your business away on that kind of misguided hope is nothing less than suicide.
Maybe this kind of buckling down is how your shop survived COVID lockdowns, and you feel that the only reason you made it through the lean times is because you saved money by cutting back on marketing.
But I’m here to tell you that “surviving” is a terrible way to run your business.
Shops that saw coming lockdowns and decided to increase their advertising – the same shops who see approaching seasonal slowdowns each year and spend more on advertising – are the shops that understand this truth…
When everybody else is pulling back and spending less, you have an opportunity to take more for yourself.
Some shops didn’t just survive the last two years – they grew significantly. They saw that their competition was letting their guard down and knew they could capture a bigger slice of their market.
So what’s next? If you’re ready to stop lying to yourself and preventing yourself from taking your shop to the next level, you’re ready for a seasonal marketing plan.
Truth: Top Operators Plan to Succeed
The common thread in this article is that gut marketing decisions are often catastrophically wrong. Operators that believe these lies and act on them put themselves in a position to fail.
Which is why top operators give themselves a distinct advantage.
First, they do their research. They find a marketing company with a proven track record of consistently driving top-quality customers who are ready to buy. Second, they work with that marketing company to build a seasonal marketing plan to prepare and compensate for the yearly ups and downs of car count as well as the attrition that every business suffers.
While the unprepared shop owner is pulling back on their marketing during the summer months, the top operator is using their marketing to prepare for fall slowdowns. And when that unprepared shop owner is panicking in the fall and wondering how to drive customers, the top operator is using their marketing and advertising to take some of those neglected customers from the unwary, unprepared shop owners.
As an added bonus, that seasonal marketing plan also eliminates the deep valleys experienced by other shops – leading to a happier, more successful, less stressful shop, all year long.
The good news is, it’s not too late. Even if you’ve been operating on bad instincts and losing market share, your situation can be fixed. You don’t even have to wash your mouth out with soap for all the lies you were telling yourself. By acting now, you can join the top operators who are growing, scaling, and taking a bigger share for their family and their future.
But be warned! It’s critical you find the right marketing company that understands the critical job of marketing is finding quality customers who are ready to buy, and who can help you craft a seasonal marketing plan that puts your shop in a position to dominate for years to come!