How to Market Your Auto Repair Shop: The Ultimate Guide

November 6, 2023

Have you ever stepped into your auto-repair shop’s waiting room and felt the tension? Customers look up from their magazines, hoping the news you’re about to deliver is good—especially for their wallets. 

Adding to this, almost 92% of drivers report they’ve stalled on getting a car repair or service they needed. The reason? Many fear the financial fallout, potential waiting time for the repair and more.

Visiting your shop when an issue arises is ideal for your clients’ safety and budgets. Their on-premise experience should be as stress-free as possible, too. To retain your clients long-term, you need to know how to market an auto repair shop the right way. Let’s put you in the driver’s seat of your marketing journey with our ultimate guide to auto repair marketing, headlighting the way toward success.

Do auto shops need a marketing strategy? 

Word-of-mouth marketing, handing out business cards or roadside billboards are no longer the go-to ways for auto repair shops to drum up new business. In today’s digital climate, these methods, while not jalopies in marketing, shouldn’t be the cornerstone of a modern, revenue-driving marketing strategy either.

Today’s auto-repair businesses are tapping into digital marketing strategies to secure new clients and earn their loyalty. From social media campaigns and email marketing to maintaining an SEO-optimized website and on-premise auto signage, think of your auto repair marketing strategy as a game plan meant to:

  • Reach prospective clients
  • Retain client loyalty
  • Convey your business’s value proposition
  • Promote your products and services
  • Advertise seasonal specials (snow tires, coolant system checks and more)
  • Upsell your products and services
  • Rival your local competition

Establish a loyal customer base

It’s one thing to drive in new customers, but it’s another to put on the breaks and keep them with you long-term. When it comes to digital marketing for auto repair shops, channeling your efforts into building a loyal customer base is easier and even more cost-effective than new customer acquisition.

What’s driving this? Two words: established trust. Returning customers already have a positive experience with your auto shop. If they’ve returned, then they trust the services you’ve delivered.  

New customers, though, are starting with a clean slate. You’d naturally spend more time and resources building a rapport with them so they’ll return for their next service. 

AAA reports that over 75 million drivers don’t have a go-to auto shop they can trust. Your loyal customers are your best brand ambassadors to direct this traffic into your shop. If family or friends ask them for a recommendation, you’ll likely be referred to.

The benefits don’t end there. When you keep your loyal customers comfortable and in-the-know on your premises, you’ll also: 

  • Fuel word of mouth about the quality of your products and services
  • Inspire referrals that will establish your auto shop as a trusted service provider in the community
  • Boost profits and scale your business

Improve your shop’s reputation

How would you describe your auto shop’s reputation? Dependable? Transparent? Trustworthy? All of the above? Yet AAA tells us that two out of three drivers in the U.S. don’t trust auto shops

The reasons range from less-than-stellar past repair experiences to unexpected overcharges, unnecessary service recommendations and more. 

Collecting customer reviews is vital to auto shop marketing, especially for building trust later with potential clients. To begin, comb through your current reviews. What have your customers said about your services? How do the reviews compare on your website versus Google, Yelp or elsewhere? 

Take a complete inventory of what these reviews say. Notice any patterns or trends throughout them. For example, have several customers complained about long wait times or unexpected charges?

You can first strengthen your auto shop’s reputation by addressing any issues stated in those past reviews. Then, take a proactive approach and put the pedal to the metal by:

  • Encouraging your customers to leave reviews on popular online review sites, such as Google, Mechanic Advisor and more
  • Creating a feedback form on your website for customers to complete on-premise
  • Developing a referral program with coveted perks, such as discounts for them and their referral
  • Offering incentives, such as free add-on services or products, if clients leave a review on-site or within 24 hours of their service.

Auto shop marketing strategies that focus on customer retention

Today’s customers are busy and on the go. Gone are the days of waiting in an auto shop waiting room half the day while the local news plays. They likely need to return to work or their families,

The J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study reveals an overall decline in customer service satisfaction throughout the auto-repair industry. Customers point to longer appointment waiting times, ineffective communication with their auto shops and more as the root cause of their dissatisfaction.

Topping the list of auto repair shop marketing strategies is customer retention. One of the most effective ways to keep your customers returning to your business is by creating a positive customer experience while in your auto shop. Digital solutions for the auto industry are giving auto shop owners innovative ways to engage, entertain and communicate with their customers.

Improve the customer experience in your shop

Sometimes, long customer wait times in your auto shop are inevitable. Maybe your client’s repair plan requires importing a rare part from another shop. Perhaps their vehicle needs extensive work on multiple systems. That means they’ll need to be comfortable in your premises.

Focus on the physical layout of the shop

Your auto shop should run like a well-oiled machine. The physical layout of your premises can inhibit the efficiency of your team and the comfort of your customers.

Consider giving these touchpoints in your auto shop a facelift:

  • Expand the number of car bays so your crew can work on more than a few cars simultaneously
  • Increase your storage of spare parts to cut back on customer waiting time
  • Are there an adequate number of family-friendly restroom facilities on the premises?
  • For customer convenience, consider bulking up your supply of in-demand auto products

Make sure the waiting room is comfortable

No customer wants to wait hours in a waiting room sitting on a plastic chair without access to WiFi, adequate entertainment or other basic comforts. Besides making your waiting room comfortable with quality seating and drinks or snacks, think of this space as an opportunity to educate and engage your customers.

How often has your team witnessed a customer bring in their vehicle too late? They would have had a cheaper repair bill if they had brought it in earlier when the leak or tire damage was minor. A recent study finds that putting off vehicle maintenance will set back the average U.S. driver close to $1,200 over their vehicle’s lifetime.

Incorporating educational resources that will also engage your clients is a surefire way to make their wait time rewarding and show them your team invests in their safety.

Implement digital signage to engage customers

Car mechanic magazines or leaflets about how to check your tire tread or why regular oil changes are essential won’t entertain today’s auto shop customers. Instead, auto shop owners are using digital auto signage to create an inviting and engaging waiting room experience. 

With UPshow CONNECT, you can power your auto shop’s digital screens with countless educational and entertainment opportunities, such as:

  • Display your range of in-store auto products for sale
  • Link your customers to a feedback survey via QR-code technology
  • Showcase current or expected wait times alongside other educational content with fixed-panel displays
  • Create a playlist of practical auto-repair tutorials
  • Keep your current service and repair specials on-screen
  • Advertise your customer loyalty program and incentivize on-premise sign-ups

Create and advertise a loyalty program

Your auto shop customers will continue returning to you based on the quality of your repair work (and their experience). Sweetening the deal with a loyalty program will enhance the customer experience and keep them coming back for more.

What is an auto shop loyalty program?

An auto shop loyalty program is a rewards-based system for your most tried-and-true customers. The more often they return to your shop for a service or product top-up, the more reward points they’ll accumulate. Whether you choose punch cards or a tiered-points system, you want to make their participation worthwhile.

What are the best loyalty rewards to offer?

The driving force behind the success of any auto shop loyalty program is the reward at the end of the road. Unsure what to offer your loyal patrons? Consider giving them one or more of the following rewards based on the number of visits, the scope of services they come in for or how long they’ve been a customer:

  • For every X number of services, offer them a free oil change.
  • If they fill their loyalty punch card, give them a discount on their next set of tires.
  • Celebrate their loyalty milestones with a free annual inspection.
  • For your most loyal customers, dole out “shop dollars” valid to use on any product or service.
  • Offer a percentage off for a service of their choice.
  • Plan an auto-shop family-friendly event with display cars, service demonstrations, food, and more.

How to get customers to sign up for your loyalty program

The best way to get the word out about your loyalty program is by advertising it on your on-premise digital screens. You can display and track your loyalty program in several ways with UPshow’s auto digital signage solution.

First, you can use UPshow’s multi-panel display feature to spotlight your loyalty program alongside other relevant content, such as in-shop product specials or car maintenance tutorials. 

You could put your customers in the driver’s seat by using the QR code campaign creator to link them to your loyalty program sign-up page and social media channels. This way, they can access the ins and outs of the program from their own devices. 

A loyalty program isn’t a one-way street that only benefits your customers. To prove effective for them and your bottom line, you’ll need access to detailed insights and analytics to:

  • View your clients' mobile engagement with your loyalty program
  • Observe real-time engagement and other performance data by location 
  • Enjoy end-to-end tracking to determine if their mobile engagement is effective
  • Export your engagement data to analyze what’s working (or isn’t)

Educate your customers 

Did you know that over 31% of US drivers keep driving knowing their oil change is past due? The same research shows that 27.3% of drivers continue operating their vehicles with worn-out or bald tires. Talk about a clear safety hazard for your customers and likely an (unnecessarily) expensive repair down the line. 

While people put off car maintenance for many reasons, lacking basic auto knowledge is fueling some of it. Research shows that 36% of American drivers can’t even change a flat tire

Making your customers aware of the safety risks associated with delayed maintenance and mechanical errors can motivate them to act on routine, preventative upkeep—bringing them into your shop sooner and more regularly. 

Plus, by investing in customer education and safety, you’re showing them that your shop is trustworthy and stands for more than just growing your business. They need reassurance that they and their passengers will be safe whenever they get behind the wheel.

Tips for creating engaging educational content for your customers

To get the most out of your auto shop’s digital screens, you’ll want to generate accessible educational content that engages and informs drivers (or passengers) of all ages.

Let’s explore some top tips for creating engaging educational content for your auto shop:

  • Opt for short, easy-to-understand video tutorials or demos about car maintenance do’s and don’ts
  • Use detailed visuals that break down common DIY auto servicing, such as oil changes or how to change windshield wiper blades
  • Use QR-code technology to link them to a customized car maintenance plan to help them keep on top of it
  • Spotlight year-round or seasonal service sales to remind (and incentivize) them
  • Play entertaining automotive content from UPshow’s curated channel packs
  • Design and display automotive trivia across your screens to test their auto-knowledge
  • Broadcast your auto shop’s social media feeds, client photos and testimonials

Improve your client communication strategies 

The last thing you want is for your customers to dread coming into your shop, so it’s vital to ensure their on-premise experience is as positive and rewarding as possible. Well, who better to tell you what would give them a positive experience in your shop than your customers?

Start by leveling up the way you communicate with your clients. Using digital client feedback forms and post-visit surveys will create a two-way avenue of communication. Your clients will feel heard, and their input will give you a clear idea of what would improve their experience. 

When you inventory what’s working for them and what isn’t, you can make customer-centric changes throughout your auto shop. Above all, show them you’re listening and serious about giving them the best customer experience possible.

Getting your customers to fill out feedback forms and surveys

You can lead your auto shop customers to your feedback forms, but can you make them fill them out? The short answer is yes if you make your feedback forms clear and easily accessible.

With UPshow’s QR Code campaign creator, you can generate a unique QR code for your feedback forms or surveys and display them on your front-of-house screens. When you do, visitors can access them from their phones or other devices, capturing feedback faster. Plus, when you capture feedback immediately, their experience is still fresh in their mind, leaving you with more accurate feedback.

You’ll want to keep these tips in mind for capturing and analyzing customer feedback:

  • Keep your survey questions brief and intentional
  • Link them to your feedback form as they’re checking out
  • Offer 10% off their service if they fill in the feedback form before leaving
  • Spotlight past client feedback and testimonials across all of your screens
  • Take action on their feedback by prioritizing pressing or frequently cited issues

How to market your auto repair shop to a new customer base

As of this year, 281,434 auto repair shops are operating in the U.S. New customers have many options about where to go for auto services. Knowing how to market an auto repair shop the right way to reach those customers will take planning and an ironclad strategy.

Create referral programs 

When your existing clients have a good experience in your shop, they can be your best auto ambassadors. Create a customer referral program that encourages and rewards them for bringing new clients to your garage.

Build your client referral program by keeping these tips in mind:

  • Determine the incentives. Use discounts, free products/services and more to motivate referrals
  • Simplify the process using UPshow’s Canva integration to create an eye-catching referral program template
  • Advertise referral specials and deals for first-time customers on your website, social media accounts and on-premise screens
  • Digitize your client referral program by linking your customers to it via QR-code technology

Grow your online presence

Whether you run a mom-and-pop auto shop in a small town or a three-story auto-repair establishment in a major city, you need an online presence to expand your reach.

To drive in new customers, you’ll want to:

  • Leverage the power of Google Business Profile and social media to make your presence known
  • Advertise new-customer deals they can’t refuse
  • Improve your online testimonials and reviews to make an immediate impression on potential customers
  • Ask existing customers to share reviews, photos and more; then, display them on your digital screens
  • Start an auto blog and keep your website updated to increase visibility

Run paid marketing campaigns

Unleashing a paid digital marketing campaign is an effective way to target new customers. From email marketing, social media marketing and pay-per-click (PPC) ads, you can use any or all of the above to drive new business and revenue. With any of these types of campaigns, the goal is to encourage clicks and engagement to maximize your ROI.

To do this, consider the following factors to make the auto-marketing process seamless:

  • Decide your advertising budget and which type of marketing campaign you want to try
  • Target your potential customer base and locations to optimize your campaigns better
  • Your ad content should be concise and encourage the viewer to take action
  • Monitor the performance of your marketing campaign compared to your marketing budget. Are the ads performing well enough to justify the cost?

Tips for maintaining your marketing strategy 

Once you have a solid auto-repair marketing strategy in place, you’ll need to maintain it for the long haul. The key is to remain open to change so you can pivot when necessary to accommodate the diverse needs of your auto shop customers.

Armed with client feedback and UPshow’s robust insights and analytics tools, you’ll be able to:

  • Continue making your content accessible and engaging with UPshow’s Canva integration
  • Study which content your clients engage with so you can amend or delete as necessary
  • Analyze customer engagement and performance by location and screen-by-screen
  • Assess the screen time for your product or service promotions and how long it took for your customers to engage and make a purchase
  • Use real-time customer engagement data to optimize the content you show
  • Leverage end-to-end tracking to evaluate their mobile engagement with your feedback forms, product sales and more
  • Sort and export your engagement data to conduct a more in-depth analysis

Cost-effective auto shop marketing starts with the tools you have in-house 

There’s no best way to approach auto repair marketing; however, now that you know how to market an auto repair shop from A to Z, the key is to focus on creating the most engaging on-premise experience for your customers. 

With UPshow CONNECT powering your screens, you’ll keep your customers entertained, engaged and driving back for more. Put the pedal to the metal by signing up for a risk-free, custom demo of UPshow CONNECT today.

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