Most auto repair shops would agree that there’s nothing like finding a new customer. New customers not only bring in immediate revenue, but also lifetime value since they are likely to return year after year. And in an industry built on trust, new customers also represent potential word of mouth referrals.
But it’s hard to find a good customer if you don’t have new calls & emails coming in.
Some auto repair shops – especially those with a large, national brand – have a reputation and customer base that brings in referrals and leads with nothing but visible signage on a busy highway.
But for most local & independent shops, you have to go out and market your service to get a quality pool of potential customers.
I’ve consulted on search marketing for several local automotive companies and many local service professionals. Based on those experiences, here are some auto repair shop ideas that you can use to bring in more clients.
Create City-Specific Website Pages
For many customers, regions are too big and neighborhoods are too small for the right auto repair shop, but they do want a local service in their own city.
That may sound obvious, but most auto repair shops that I’ve worked with still don’t focus their marketing on individual cities within a region. It’s a lot of work. It’s tedious. But it can still be worthwhile.
Make sure that every city page is actually about that city and includes all your services. Make your page structure “scalable” so that you can easily expand your service area as needed.
Create Niche Service Pages
Lots of customers have specific services and/or expertise that they want.
This is particularly true in an industry like car repair. For basic car repair, there’s YouTube, DIY car repair sites, and AutoZone. Lean into your own hyper-specific services and expertise.
Instead of listing your services & expertise in a giant list, make detailed pages about each expertise. Try to rank for searches like “[modifier] car repair”.
You can use Google Suggest for ideas. Go to Google and type in “car repair” and hit space, but not enter. You’ll see some suggestions.
You can do this with the entire alphabet and as many modifiers as you can think of.
Create pages that match those search queries to show up when people search.
If you want to take this to the next level, you can use a tool like SEMrush’s Keyword Explorer to provide phrase match search terms in bulk. Here’s an example with “atlanta apartments” – but you can drop in whatever term you want.
Just type in a broad term and see what it’s comes up with.
Create Local Guide Pages
Create resource guides for people moving to or living in your city. Create automotive guides with a local slant. Guides that don’t rank locally don’t matter. Remember that your market is local. Create lots of them. Lean into templates like “how much does [X].”
Use Google Autosuggest to understand what people are searching for in your city.
Find niche car repair questions and address them with local flair. Work in your State’s insurance laws. Work in your city’s weather and highway accidents statistics.
Make a local version for popular car questions. You can also search for ideas outside of Google. Check out my guide to researching content here.
Develop Your Local Citations & Reviews
You should already have a Google My Business profile so that you can show up in Google Maps.*
*In fact, if you are a local professional who can’t run your own website, your Google My Business profile will be your primary search marketing tool.
But you can take it to the next level to show up even more prominently.
First, you can build your Google My Business profile with photos, posts, and full listing details.
Second, go to every local business listing site and make sure that your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number match exactly.
Whether it’s on the Yellow Pages, Yelp, or elsewhere – everything must match. These are called your “local citations” and Google uses them to confirm the relevance of local business.
You can use SEMrush’s Local Listing Management Tool to audit all these listings quickly.
Third, create a local review strategy. Having diverse, unique, and regular reviews on your Google My Business page is the number one way to get more views (aka calls & inquiries) from Google Maps. There are many ways to get reviews, but you can use follow-ups emails, retargeting on social media, and many other methods.
Getting creative with reviews is how you’ll leapfrog other local competing car repair professionals in search.
Fourth, you need to make sure your categorization is comprehensive and complete. Many listings offer varying and multiple business categories. If you are an auto repair shop with multiple services, make sure you are listed in every database.
Steal Ideas from Large Local Competitors / Businesses
I’m not a fan of brainstorming. I think that it’s more effective to build off ideas that have already worked.
No matter your size, you can always look to larger competitors or larger businesses for inspiration.
With auto repair shop marketing, make a list of local businesses that you *think* are being creative – including companies in different industries.
Like local listings and keywords, I then use a marketing tool like SEMrush to spy on those competitors. Type in the URL of a competitor below to see an example.
Here’s what you’ll see.
It looks like a lot. But drill down and categorize each link. You’ll quickly get a sense of what they are doing. You’ll see where they are posting on social media. You’ll see which media outlets have accepted press releases and what types of digital marketing they’re doing.
The trick here is *not* to copy cat them. Instead, take the general idea of what your competitors have done and make it your own – or, make it better.
Work with Local Publications & Blogs
Every city, no matter how small, has an interest in themselves. In Atlanta, where I live, we have a city magazine in addition to the AJC Blogs, Atlanta Business Chronicle, and dozens of smaller neighborhood newspapers and real estate blogs.
Find those and become a regular fixture. All local publications & blogs act on tips & press releases. Very few have a “boots on the ground” journalists. If you can be the place to provide inside information, free images, and consistent write-ups, you’ll earn attention and links.
In the car repair arena, any statistics, trends, or data that you have can easily translate to free PR, which can then translate into links to your website or service profile. Here’s an example from a tax professional.
That extra attention and those links will help every other idea on this list. Google loves links. Social media users find URLs via links.
Your city pages, service pages, and everything else on your website will benefit from more inbound links.
Use Hyper-Local Facebook Ads
A local business has one massive advantage against national brands trying to operate locally – you live in your city and understand it.
Facebook allows for hyper-local advertising. You can run ads that show within a radius of only a few miles. It’s tedious to set up, but it’s relevant and effective.
Learn how to create hyper-local targeting for demographics and geography to find lots of interested clients. Lean in to local car problems.
For example, if you live in State affected by hail storms cap – talk about that. If you serve one of the cities with horrible roads – talk about that.
Whether it’s infamous local highways, extreme weather events, etc, find out what makes *your* area different and talk to the exact people that those car repair considerations affect.
You can run small, targeted campaigns that show multiple places at once.
Use Hyper-Local Google Search Ads
Google Search ads are famously effective and famously expensive. The best client is someone who searches for “car repair in [city]”.
But that search click will be very costly.
In fact, some of the most expensive searches on Google are for car repair queries.
You’ll be competing with huge, publicly traded national brands with near infinite budgets and an army of advertising professionals.
But like Facebook, you have an critical local advantage with Google Quality Score. Google will show ads higher if they are more relevant even if they don’t have the high bid.
Like Facebook, it’s tedious to set up, but if you can set up a hyper-local campaign, you’ll be able to get Google Search traffic that large competitors can’t bid on.
The key is to run landing pages that perfectly match your ads, and run ads that perfectly match specific, local keywords.
If you offer tailored or niche repair services, this strategy can be particularly useful.
Use Hyper-Local Google Display Ads
Google’s Display Network also offers opportunities for local advertisers who are willing to put in the work.
Google serves banner & text ads on some of the best ad locations on the Internet. Many placements are expensive for bulk ad buys.
But again, Google would rather serve a relevant ad with a low bid than an irrelevant ad with a high bid. That’s your opportunity to set up a hyper-local campaign focused on specific demographics in a specific area.
Even if you have a small market, you can always use Google’s Retargeting setting to solicit more reviews & referrals.
List on Locally-Popular Automotive Websites
Automotive websites are a dime a dozen. They will send traffic to your listing. But they are expensive and require a lot of legwork.
The key is to find a few key automotive / directory websites that are popular in your area – and list on those.
You can use Google Trends, client interviews, SEMrush, or simply looking at the Google Search Results to see who is more popular for your city / neighborhood. Sometimes your set of websites will be general sites like Angie’s List and Yelp! but sometimes it will be other, more specific sites.
Either way, the point is to be wherever your customers are.
List on NextDoor & Local Forums
NextDoor is one of many local social media websites & forums. They are hard to find and hard to join, representing an opportunity for any local, enterprising auto repair shop.
These networks are interesting because they are specifically local and extremely relevant for professional services.
They also have an accessible, affordable, and useful local advertising service.
Advertise / Post on Local Subreddits
Reddit is an attractive website for many industries. But local subreddits are especially interesting for auto repair shops for a couple of reasons.
First, they are hubs for local discussion & recommendations.
Second, they are the first place for people to plan a move visit to ask specific, local questions.
Now, they are decidedly non-commercial with lots of rules. You should get to know them before posting or commenting as a commercial entity.
However, you should explore their sidebar wiki or the search for research.
You should get in touch with the moderators to listen to their rules about business posting. And you should look at running ads or giveaways there.
Post Behind The Scenes w/ Photos in Instagram
Think about how you can take client photos & repurpose them across different platforms. I don’t think you should simply post photos on every platform, but instead use photos from listings to create a truly interesting feed on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter.
Obviously this tactic needs some careful privacy planning, but if you can pull it off, the result will be genuinely interesting and will position your business as a trusted, transparent business that can charge more than an average auto repair shop.
Automate Social Media Monitoring
Like Reddit, people often start their professional search on local social media with open-ended, specific questions.
It’s impossible to spend all your time on social media. But it is possible to automate both posting and listening on social media.
Take advantage of Twitter alerts, IFTTT, Zapier, and other tools to automate your social media presence and find great leads.
Identify & Market Popular Client Sources
Take previous & existing customers and try to understand where those customers came from and how they found you.
See if there is a way to build off that success. It sounds cliche and obvious, but the key is in the execution. I’ve worked with plenty of professional firms who knew where they got clients from, but never thought about increasing that channel.
Cross-Promote Local Professionals
Local financial professionals usually have an incredible offline network, but have a poor online network. That’s the same with notaries, banks, real estate agents, and other professional services. If you are investing in your online marketing efforts, try to develop a relationship to cross-promote as many local professionals as possible.
Coordinate Offline & Online Marketing
Use Events To Get Social Media Attention
Events like tours, holiday sales, and new product launches are staples for many car dealerships. But auto repair shops can do the same, you’ll just need a different angle. But either way, events aren’t just for their own sake. Events have a bonus effect online.
You can list them on multiple platforms to get extra exposure. Facebook is the best place for this tactic, but it also works on Google, Instagram, and event apps like Meet and Four Square. It’s less about the event, and more about the exposure that you get from the event.
Use Video Tours To Hack Social Media
Like events, most social media gives preference to video in their feeds. Take interesting video tours of car repair issues with behind the scenes explainers.
Video can be hard, but that means you will get a competitive advantage if you can pull it off. Create “evergreen” videos about topics that will last.
Post the file natively to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Pay a small budget to boost it. And look for opportunities to embed it on your website.
Use Digital Referral Fees for Word of Mouth
Referral fees are also a staple of professionals’ marketing. But they don’t get the same reach as digital referral codes.
Whether you use a simple bit.ly link, manually hand out custom codes (i.e., tag numbers), or use a software service – digital referral codes can help you move limited physical word of mouth to unlimited digital word of mouth.
Find & Sponsor Local Charities
Sponsoring local charities provides a few marketing benefits.
First, you can likely get a link to your website, which will help your other efforts. For many professionals, it’s the cheapest, simplest, and best way to promote your local listing & get links. You get long-term value for a short-term fee.
Second, you can tap into a well-networked organization with lots of word of mouth potential.
Third, you can tap into neighborhood goodwill to help with soliciting reviews to help with your Google My Business efforts.
There are a lot of marketing ideas out there for auto repair shops. You don’t have to do all of them. You just have to do one or two well.
Find the one that fits your interests & resources and give it a try. Learn based on your initial experience and improve.