What springs to mind when you think of branding? Coke versus Pepsi? Calvin Klein jeans? Does the word immediately remind you of the TV drama “Mad Men,” where marketing agencies charge large sums of money for something that doesn’t show instant revenue increases? Are you unclear on what “branding” even means? Well, you are certainly not alone. Even people who work in the field of marketing can find branding to be a confusing topic. In some cases, they even question the overall value of investing in branding.
The more relevant question is: Does branding have a role to play in the auto repair business, particularly in small- to medium-sized businesses? Yes, but in order to do so, these businesses must remain focused on creating long-term relationships with all customers and work on adequately differentiating themselves from their competitors, especially those larger companies, dealerships and regional players. Branding will help you do just that.
For starters, define the purpose of your brand, why you exist, your values and your promise to your customers and employees. This is where you should consider defining what differentiates you from your competition.
In order to achieve this goal, consider defining your current user base and their buying habits and compare it to your target market. Information such as customer count by age group, average household income, average repeat purchase rate, revenue per customer, lifetime value of a customer, market penetration by zip code, etc. can all be valuable in developing the right message.
Conducting customer surveys and overall target market surveys can also be a critical element of understanding the needs and wants of your target demographic. Asking them about what they love about your business, what they don’t like about the business and what they would like to see more of, and then comparing their feedback to your current messaging, will help you align your future messaging.
Creation of your brand’s identity should include having a unique name, for example. Operating as a manufacturer-branded name may not be best for long-term success of your business. Additionally, you should work on creating a visual identity that includes focusing on a logo, colors, etc. It may be tough to believe, but font types, colors and logos leave a strong subliminal impression over time.
Take a look at the logo of a company like FedEx or Starbucks. These companies operate in very different industries but use their logos very effectively. FedEx’s use of negative space and colors in their logo is impressive, and the evolution of the Starbuck’s logo and the focus on the mermaid is fascinating. Also, look at the recent logo update of Wiygul Automotive Clinic — an auto service organization. The colors, font, the negative space and usage of a wrench and tire in the logo all are meant to leave an impression, create an emotional connection and make the brand stand out.
Customer experience is also a big part of your brand. This includes a focus on customer service, in-store experience, speed of service, convenience, etc. We recommend surveying your customers to understand what drives them to do business with your business. Additionally, identifying their pain points as it relates to in-store experience, speed of service, convenience, etc., could guide you to not only improve your processes but also guide your marketing message.
It is also important to define the price category of your services in comparison to your competition. An ideal way to start this process is by conducting a regular competitor price comparison and by sending out customer surveys. The latter will help you learn their perception of your pricing and ensure you are ideally positioned in the marketplace.
Next, create a marketing strategy that helps you deliver a consistent message to your prospective and current customers across the most effective marketing avenues.
Well, there are a couple of relatively easy ways to measure success. For starters, keep track of your website analytics. Growth in organic and direct visits on a month-over-month and a year-over-year basis (while accommodating for seasonality) is a good way to gauge success. If your message is resonating with your users, then you should definitely see an increase in your visits.
You can also measure how many new customers you have coming to your business and continue surveying your current customers to gauge the success of your branding efforts. An ideal survey will ensure that you can measure the core areas that you are attempting to improve with your branding message.
The above, along with increased revenue and customer retention over time, is a great way to measure the success of your branding. Remember, branding is a longer-term marketing initiative. If you invest in it strategically and methodically and measure your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) consistently over time, your business is bound to enjoy terrific results.
Check out the rest of the October digital edition of Tire Review here.