Digital marketing is, quite simply, any piece of marketing that you put out online – whether viewed on desktop, tablet or mobile. For a small to medium-sized business such as an auto repair workshop, without the team or the budget to organise big advertising campaigns, digital marketing usually means making the best use of your social media, email and websites to connect with existing and prospective customers.
Marketing, digital or otherwise, has always been about reaching your target audience in the right place and at the right time. Most of us spend a significant amount of our time on our mobiles, reading emails and participating on social media. Nowadays many people don’t even watch TV without also doing some online browsing. That means your marketing effort, however large or small, must reach customers in the place where they are already spending a lot of their personal time: online.
As an independent business you probably don't have a marketing team to write blogs and eBooks, or to plan email marketing campaigns that attract new business, but with a little thought and time you can turn digital marketing to your advantage. There are essentially two ways to attract customers using digital marketing: Outbound Marketing and Inbound Marketing. So what's the difference?
Outbound Marketing puts messages directly in front of as many people as possible in the online space; for example, you might pay to place a banner ad on someone else’s website. This is something you have to pay for and unless you have someone in your workshop who knows digital marketing you would typically have to pay a marketing expert for their support. But there are things you can do yourself without paying for either advertising space or for the help of marketing professionals. These come under the category of Inbound Marketing.
Inbound Marketing uses online content to attract target customers to websites by providing information that is interesting or useful to them, for example, a well-written website page that explains what your business offers, or social media posts that make regular news and announcements about special deals.
A great advantage of Inbound Marketing for small to medium-sized businesses is that you need little or no budget to use it. All you have to do is to create interesting or useful content that your audience will want to see, and the only investment you'll need is a little of your time.
So where do you start? The best way to begin is to cultivate an email list of your current customers. You can send these customers discount offers, reminders for service, and news about your business. The trick is to send messages periodically, but not so often that your customers get irritated by the frequency. Make sure that when you do send a message there are clear benefits for the reader, such as a reminder that they need a service, or a money-saving offer. Continue to grow that email list by adding the names of each new customer that comes to your business.
72% of customers open an email due to the discount it offers. Campaign Monitor, 2018
You should also start connecting with your customers on social media. Most of them will be on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so you’ll want to start there. Invite them to follow you on social media when you contact them via email. Share updates daily or as often as you can. You can share news about your workshop and details of discount offers, but not everything has to be carefully written and strategically planned in advance; you can also share things that are much quicker to prepare – such as satisfied customer reviews, photos of your employees and pictures of things going on in your local area that you want to support. All of this will present your workshop as a place that offers not only good work but also as friendly, caring people. And not all your content needs to be generated by you; you can share links from the rest of the internet – useful information about cars, or just fun stuff that you like, or causes you support (just make sure they stay relevant to your customers). Give your customers engaging content, and they will start to interact and tell others about your business.
Social media is, of course, interactive and that means you need to think about how you respond to customers as well as how you put out your own messages. For example, what do you do if you get a bad review? No-one wants to receive a bad review, but you can turn a negative into a positive. Handling bad reviews in a professional manner may actually give you the opportunity to make a very positive impression on prospective customers. Read our blog on How to deal with negative comments on social media.
Also, put yourself in your customer’s shoes, think about the places they are visiting online and make yourself visible and relevant in those places. For example, if you have knowledge of a particular type of vehicle, get involved with forums that people visit to get advice on those vehicles and offer some of your own knowledge. It will be self-evident to potential customers that you are knowledgeable and that you are a helpful workshop that likes to engage with customers.
In summary, digital marketing can significantly benefit your workshop because, with very little cost, it can keep customers engaged with your business, prompt return visits, and establish a connection with you that increases customer loyalty. It can also grow awareness of your business and expand your potential customer base if the customers you reach begin to share your offers and news with their friends.
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