AVAILABLE NOW: AutoLeap’s 2022 State of the Auto Repair Industry Report

Part I │ Taking Your Auto Shop to the Top: Tips for Success from Four Industry Leaders

Is your auto shop keeping up with today’s constantly changing technology?

Think about how far we’ve come—from the simple fossil fuel-powered engine to today’s more innovative ideas, such as cars that drive or park themselves, vehicles powered by electricity, and hybrids that run on alternative fuels. Modern automobiles are equipped with AI machine learning algorithms and Predictive Maintenance (PdM) technology that keep drivers informed with things such as maintenance reminders, while also saving lives by preventing accidents through the use of sensors.

The dizzying array of technology available in vehicles today is more than enough to make any mechanic’s head spin. Running an auto shop takes mechanical skill and know-how, but it also means understanding how technological changes in modern vehicles and the repair industry impact your business. Repair shop owners are also always adapting to new possibilities, such as learning to work on novel technologies, like electric vehicles instead of internal combustion engines, and new features like advanced driver assistance systems.

In a recent webinar, Bob Cooper, President of Elite Worldwide, sits down with four leaders in the automotive industry to discuss critical strategies for staying well ahead of your competitors during these changing times. In this two-part series, we’ll cover:

  • How tires and technology can boost auto shop profits (Part I)
  • How to stand out with branding and marketing strategies (Part I)
  • How to improve an auto shop’s online presence (Part II)
  • Auto shop technology trends for 2022 and beyond (Part II)

Cooper first introduces the four industry leaders. They include:

Chris Monroe, owner of Monroe Tire and Service in Shelby, N.C., and Business Development Coach for Elite Worldwide. As a second-generation business owner in the tire and auto repair industry, he employs 12 and brings in $1.8 million per year. Monroe, a featured speaker in multiple industry news outlets, demonstrates how he’s using tire service sales to secure his future.

Brian Weeks, who co-owns atc AutoCenter in Augusta, Ga., with his brother, Chris. The pair operates two auto-service locations, employs 12, and reels in $2.5 million in sales each year. The Weeks brothers recently rebranded the business, and Brian explains his unique marketing strategy for keeping the two nationally recognized auto shops well ahead of the competition.

Mike DelaCruz, Elite Worldwide’s Vice President of Sales, is a West Coast-based industry expert with nearly 20 years of sales and business development experience and more than 10 years spent helping advance the automotive aftermarket industry. He offers tips for maximizing your auto shop’s online presence to grow your business.

Steve Lau, co-founder, and co-CEO of AutoLeap, a modern all-in-one auto shop management software for shops, speaks on the seismic changes happening in the world of technology and the pitfalls you need to avoid.

In Part I, we’ll explore the future role tires will play in the automotive industry, and the best ways to think about marketing to attract more customers.

Tires and technology can boost auto shop profits

Technology can disrupt any industry—and the automotive service sector is no exception. Even so, Monroe says, most auto repair shops need to focus on, and plan for major changes made to the propulsion of vehicles.

“As auto parts slowly start being minimized, drivetrains are going to change. Whether that’s hybrid, all-electric, hydrogen, or whatever the fuel of tomorrow is going to be, it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s going to be propelling something that’s rolling,” Monroe says.

No matter the technology upgrades, he says, vehicles will always require wheels to roll (at least until we invent the Jetsons-like flying car), and that’s where tires can play a strong supporting role for any auto service business through maintenance, sales, and repair.

At Monroe Tire and Service, the company derives 55% of its revenue from tire sales and 45% from auto service. Monroe says offering both services helps him bring in more cars than the average auto repair shop. With developing technology leading to fewer service intervals, why not help customers with their tires too?

Here’s what Monroe has to say regarding the importance of the tire business:

Play Video

“It’s an opportunity for relationships, over and over again. If somebody has a mobility issue, I want them to be thinking about us,” says Monroe. He added that the goal is to be on customers’ minds, whether they need help with a low tire light, a rotation, service, or maintenance.

Some manufacturers are embedding computer chips and sensors in their tires to track tire pressure, tread conditions, alignment issues, and more. It’s up to forward-thinking auto shop owners to start preparing for these new opportunities. However, Monroe advises that before jumping into tire service, companies must do their homework and know their revenue streams.

“I think you really have to look at it long and hard, because there is a cost to get into the business today, and do it right,” he says.

Think in terms of mobility solution strategies, Monroe says, and then work to establish a good relationship with vendors who can logistically meet your needs for supplies, training, and installation.

While Weeks says he wants to learn more about computer chips in tires, DelaCruz says Monroe hit the nail on the head when it comes to understanding how auto shops need to think about the future. Lau agreed.

“Even if tires may not be the highest margin type business that you do, it keeps those customers coming in, and you’ve got to think about the lifetime value of those customers, not that one specific tire job,” Lau says.

Stand out with your branding and marketing strategies

When Weeks and his brother purchased Augusta Transmission Clinic from their dad and uncles, it operated strictly as a transmission business in Augusta, Ga., hence the name. In order to expand services and locations, the brothers wanted to rebrand the company “atc AutoCenter” (the “atc” means “at the center”). From this experience, they learned several valuable lessons.

Avoid marketing traps

Thinking they only needed to make simple changes to the company’s name and logo, the brothers hired a local marketing agency to design their rebranding campaign. Weeks says they spent nearly $20,000 before firing the company and now considers it a very expensive lesson.

“They presented 20 logos to us, and they were like, ‘Alright, pick one out.’” Weeks added that the company failed to provide a proper reason for the change.

When he asked about the psychological impact of the new shapes and colors for mobilizing customers to action, the marketing agency’s representative leaned back in his chair and said, “I don’t think you guys understand. You throw enough money at this, and we can make them believe anything you want them to believe.”

“That’s when we pushed away from the table,” Weeks says, and instead hired a new company with a totally different approach.

Rebuild your brand

“They [the new marketing company] followed us around for three months, asking questions. They sent out questionnaires to our employees, our employees’  families, our families, to our vendors, and it was simple questions like, ‘Who are you?’ and ‘What do you stand for?’” Weeks says.

Once they unpacked all the answers, the company’s core values rose to the top to help define its enduring brand.

Weeks believes that understanding what his shop stands for opened the doors for success.

Play Video

“If we all stick to one common goal, one common vision, and our values all align, then we will be able to present to the public how we care and create relationships,” Weeks says. “For us, it’s about creating relationships. We just happen to work on cars to do that.”

Word-of-mouth marketing for repair shops

In the 22 years he and his brother have owned the business, Weeks says there was never a need to market the company with specific calls-to-action (CTAs) through typical advertising channels, such as television, radio, print ads, or direct mailers.

“We’ve never done any of that,” he says. “We believe so much that if we just had people understand who we were and how we care, then that would create basically a tribe around us, and it would spread to their friends, families, and coworkers.”

This theory was put to the test when they invited five loyal customers to the grand opening of a new outlet. Four of the five showed up, and the phone rang once, Weeks says. The next day, a new customer walked in, and the phone rang three times. After that, they just continued building upward.

“We didn’t have to get into that cycle of throwing so many things out there, mailing this or doing that, because the minute you stop that, the process stops, and you’ve got to start that back up again,” Weeks explains. “We believed if they truly trusted us and believed in us, then that part of it would spread. I think that’s the reason why we stand out.”

DelaCruz believes Weeks’ strategy truly sets atc AutoCenter apart as one of the top-performing shops in the country, and he wholeheartedly agrees with not falling into the trap of wasting money on marketing that fails to produce results.

“You’re right; once you stop the advertising, the work stops. You have to create this consistent process. Now I know the reason why you guys are super successful,” DelaCruz says.

An inside-out approach to branding

Lau says AutoLeap went through a similar exercise with branding, spending way too much money and receiving little ROI.

“Your branding exercise needs to be authentic to who you are as a company and your values as a company, and it doesn’t come from the top down. It comes from within the company,” says Lau. “When your people believe in it, they live and breathe it every single day, day in and day out, and customers can see it.”

“What it also gets at is building trust with the consumer base. There’s a lot of distrust between customers and auto repair shops. By building a brand, you’re able to build upon the trust and goodwill that you’ve built over the years. They’ll trust you when you recommend five additional services because they need it,” Lau added.

In the video below, Lau discusses initial setbacks he faced while marketing AutoLeap and how he tackled them:

Play Video

Cooper says Elite Worldwide actually hired two marketing companies to conduct a branding exercise at the same time, but with no knowledge of the other. Both conducted their due diligence, and both arrived at the same conclusion: Elite is all about its people and its principles.

“This made us feel good about who we are, and that’s marketing when you start to realize who you are and what’s important to you,” Cooper says. “Then when the customers understand the principles and people are important to you, then the cars, the dollars, and everything else just naturally follows. It really isn’t rocket science.”

Closing thoughts

In Part I of this series, the industry experts provided an overview of the importance of tires, improving your branding efforts, and knowing what to avoid.

Cooper suggests doing some soul-searching to understand what your business stands for, and carrying forward that identity to build and promote your brand. Look out for Part II, where you’ll learn ways to improve your shop’s online presence, and tackle technological advances in the sector.

Auto Repair Shop Management Software

AutoLeap is a powerful all-in-one auto repair shop software that helps to keep complete track of your business – from scheduling appointments to managing technicians and generating invoices.

Auto Repair Shop Management Software

AutoLeap is a powerful all-in-one auto repair shop software that helps to keep complete track of your business – from scheduling appointments to managing technicians and generating invoices.

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