How to market your auto repair business even when you have no marketing budget

As an auto repair shop owner, you know that growing your new customer base is just as critical as having the right shop supplies and tools on hand. 

What can you do when figuring out how to grow your business feels as elusive as finding that 10mm socket? 

A simple marketing plan will help you leverage free marketing tools to connect with new potential customers.

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive

When you’re planning out your shop’s marketing strategy, it doesn’t have to be complicated or costly for you to compete with the chains and dealers in your area. There are plenty of great ways for small businesses like yours to connect with your community, no matter your budget. 

Living in a digitally connected world means that there are a variety of low-budget ways to make sure you’re getting your name in front of potential customers and building brand awareness.

Low-cost marketing ideas for your auto repair shop

One of the biggest advantages that local businesses have is that you are already familiar with the geographic area that your target audience predominantly comes from. Your current and future customers are generally your friends, neighbors, your child’s teacher or other community members. 

The options for connecting with new customers can be an easier and more cost-effective marketing strategy than you think!

1. Claim and update free online listings

When a potential customer is looking for a service you offer, it’s critical to be easy to find on a search engine like Google. 

One of the easiest ways to be visible is to claim and maintain free online listings, such as Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), Waze Pins or Bing Places for Business. 

These sites let you list important information like your phone number, address, hours and photos of your shop, making it easy for customers to find or contact you. Most offer the opportunity for you to collect and respond to reviews or complete other further optimizations to better connect with customers.

2. Optimize your free online listings

On some platforms, such as Google Business Profile, you can also create posts, add videos and additional photos, collect reviews or add listings for your specific services. If you offer competitive shop labor rates, you can add pricing to your services to further differentiate you from chain or dealer pricing. 

Adding this information enables you to take advantage of local search engine optimization (SEO). Taking the time to maintain these on a weekly or monthly basis can help you rank higher in search engines, giving you an edge over other shops that may not be investing the time.

3. Connect on social media

Social media marketing using platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn is a great way to connect in your local area. You can create a free account on these platforms, build an audience and start sharing so they can get to know you. People prefer to spend money with people they know, like and trust. 

As a shop owner, you (and your team) have a wealth of expertise. This can be translated into helpful how-to or informational content to build trust with your customers. You can highlight your community involvement, volunteer partnerships or business awards you’ve won. Generating high-quality posts and videos can be the basis of a strong content marketing strategy.

Besides the no-cost posting options, you can also run Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns if you want to add a little bang to your marketing tactics. With options to target people by location, you can start with a minimal budget to reach potential customers near you.

4. Ask your customers for a review

It’s no secret that nearly every consumer reads customer reviews before they make purchases, and auto repair is no exception. Building your online word-of-mouth reputation is an easy and cost-effective way to allow your current customers to do your marketing for you. 

The easiest way to seamlessly grow your reviews is to work with a platform like Broadly that offers automatic review requests. You can still employ simple routines to encourage customer reviews, even if you aren’t using a software tool.

  • If you have a website or email signature, include a link to your current review sites, such as Google Business Profile, Facebook or others.
  • Ask for reviews on your printed marketing materials, such as business cards, brochures or repair orders.
  • Ask your current loyal base for customer referrals to friends and family. If it’s financially possible, consider a formal referral program to offer discounts to referring customers.

5. Stay connected with current customers via email or text

Email marketing and SMS texts are low-cost ways to stay connected with your current auto repair customers, ensuring they’ll think of you next time they need service. Creating your list can be as easy as asking permission when a customer is in your store or offering a small discount when they sign-up for your mailing list. 

If you’re creating posts with car-care tips for social media, such as in step three above, you can repurpose this content for your email list. You can pair these tips with seasonal services or specials you currently offer to help educate your customers on when and why they should return.

These types of campaigns should not go through your regular email account or cell phone, as there are laws governing them. Several paid and free marketing platforms are available to help you manage email and SMS lists in compliance with privacy laws. 

Broadly is a comprehensive platform that ensures your campaigns are compliant. It also offers additional ways to leverage your customer’s email and SMS text contact information to request customer reviews, send mobile invoices and collect payments. 

6. Connect in your community

Building face-to-face connections can be a powerful way to meet prospective customers and earn their trust. If your local community holds events such as annual festivals and city-wide celebrations or has an upcoming large event, like a bicentennial, it can be worth getting a table or booth. 

Being physically present at these types of events allows you to meet those in your community, provide information on your auto repair shop and answer questions about your business.

If it’s in your budget, offering free product giveaways or a larger prize that attendees can enter to win, like a gift card or an oil change, is a great way to capture names and contact information to follow up with. For family-friendly events, giveaways for the kids, like Hot Wheels or car-related coloring books, are memorable items to keep your business top of mind with parents.

How much time should you spend on marketing?

Small business owners wear a lot of hats, but how much time should be spent in any one area? For marketing, the answer is: as much as you can afford to do consistently.

When it comes to low-cost digital marketing strategies, the trade-off in your budget is often the time invested to do them. Some seasons in your auto repair shop’s business will be busier than others, making it harder to spend the time. But the time to invest is often when your business is most active, helping to fill your repair order pipeline for slower periods.

One of the best ways to make sure you’re investing in your auto repair shop marketing regularly is to schedule time for maintaining your profile and reviews, instead of spending hours less frequently when it feels like everything needs to be updated. 

Here are some suggestions on how you can invest in your free online marketing ideas regularly without feeling like it’s taking over your day:

  • Social media: 5-10 minutes/day (per platform) to read and respond to messages and comments, 20-30 minutes/week to create and schedule content for 2-3 days of the week
  • Online listings: 10-15 minutes/day (per platform) to respond to any new reviews, 15-20 minutes every 1-2 weeks to add new photos, update services or make any other changes as needed
  • Reviews: ask every customer at check-out to leave you a review or make a referral
  • Email + SMS: 30-45 minutes/month to create an email or SMS marketing campaign for that month
  • Community events: plan for 1-2 per year, based on opportunities in your community and schedule

Let Broadly help you promote your business

If you want help Marketing your automotive business, Broadly specializes in creating tools to support local small businesses just like yours to boost your online presence. 

The platform helps you simplify and streamline your marketing efforts by helping you automate online review collection, consolidate review management and centralize customer communication. 

Want to learn more? Schedule a demo today to see how Broadly can help you grow your small business.