Designated as an ‘essential service’ or not, this is a difficult time for automotive service businesses. It’s almost impossible to market automotive repair, service, or maintenance when the majority of your clients and potential customers are sequestered.
There are, of course, elements of your messaging that can help you remain relevant. Top of mind. But you have to wonder how much they are likely to help when all but a very few of your clients feel comfortable leaving the security of their homes. Harder yet to imagine they will reach into their pockets for any non-essential services when the economic realities we are all facing are so dire.
It’s hard to compete with the Safer at Home messaging that is central to the coronavirus/Covid-19 crisis. A message that is consistent across much of the country. Certainly, we can communicate the steps we’re taking to keep our clients and our team members safe as my friend and colleague Nick Modesti has at Modesti’s Car Care Center. Like disinfecting contact surfaces, door handles, seats, steering wheels, and controls. Or, the use of plastic steering wheel covers, floor mats, and seat covers.
We can show them we are wearing gloves, masks, and using face shields. Or, remind them our team members are continually washing, sanitizing, and disinfecting the contact surfaces of both their environments and ours.
We can create awareness of the many services we offer safeguarding the integrity of the stay-at-home directives they have received. Like, picking up their vehicles for service and then delivering them safely when service is complete. Or, the ability to complete transactions remotely, online or over the phone. And, we can remind them that productive maintenance will ultimately save them money.
We can go the extra yard and provide extraordinary services far beyond anything that was offered before, like picking up and delivering groceries or medications. We can communicate all of these things clearly, concisely, and often. More often, more honestly, more completely than we’ve ever had to communicate in the past.
But the question that still remains is whether or not our ability or willingness to provide any of these services is really what our clients want or need. What they need to know. Whether or not they will listen to what we have to say. Whether or not any of these services will resonate for them. Whether they will find them as attractive—as relevant—or, as much of a value, as we do.
I’m pretty sure they won’t because in the majority of cases they never asked for them. And, because they were never requested, it’s unlikely they will perceive the value provided by your sacrifice as a benefit. Or, care all that much if they do.
The problem is what we may have missed…
The problem is what we may have missed. Perhaps, the most fundamental element of all successful marketing programs. A question that provides its own answer.
What is it that I can do for you that you are unable or unwilling to do for yourself? What do you need that only I can provide? Asked from the client’s perspective: What do I need you to do for me that I cannot, will not, or am unable to do for myself?
If you’re thinking in terms of nuts and bolts, ratchets and sockets, illuminated Malfunction Indicator Lamps or failed sensors and actuators, you’re wrong!
If you are thinking purely in terms of automotive service, maintenance, or repair, there are countless shops around the corner or down the block that appear virtually indistinguishable from yours. Shops that will be perceived as more than adequate to address any or all of the above. Shops that may appear just like yours to a person who doesn’t know any better.
But what happens to the conventional model of automotive service awareness if you choose not to play that game. If you refuse to become a commodity in an industry filled with commoditized products and services.
What happens if you decide you aren’t in the business of automotive repair but have instead chosen to provide freedom and mobility as your product instead. What kind of a difference would that difference make?
I would argue the difference is profound… If you could find a way to communicate that difference to the community of motorists you serve. If you understood and internalized it. If you shared it with your team. If you could tell that story in a clear and compelling way. In what marketers refer to as your fifteen or twenty second elevator pitch.
Freedom and Mobility
Freedom and mobility are far more compelling as an offering than service, maintenance, or repair, no matter how well done.
Don’t misunderstand. Every one of the services described earlier are essential. Cleaning. Sanitizing. Pickup and delivery. Shopping for groceries. Or, delivering medication. They all have value.
They are all powerful marketing tools. Especially, in times of crisis, disruption, challenge, and change. But it would be hard to argue that you couldn’t amplify their value if they were offered within the context of insuring a client’s freedom. A customer’s mobility.
If you aren’t sure. If you remain unconvinced. Think about freedom and mobility in terms of your seniors. That segment of your customer base that needs to know (with a perfect faith) that the under-utilized vehicle sitting in their driveway or parked on the street absolutely must get them to where they need to go. Particularly in an emergency. Especially, when freedom and mobility translate as independence.
So, while you’re considering all the services the very best shops among us are offering during the pandemic. Ask yourself the one critically important question that may yet remain unanswered.
What can I offer that no one else is offering? What can I do that no one else can or will? What can my clients get from me—from us—they can’t get anywhere else?
If it turns out to be freedom and mobility, communicate that to your customer base. Build interest. Create desire. Confirm that you and your team are their best resource. And, then, deliver.