A different way of thinking about advertising
Traditional auto repair shop advertising has got it all backwards. Typically you spend huge amounts of largely wasted money attempting spreading your message to everyone. If your lucky you attract a few prospects who are reluctantly interested in what you are offering. The problem is that almost everyone has become numb to the daily bombardment of hit-or-miss advertising. We just plain ignore it. Maybe what you need to do is forget trying to communicate to EVERYONE and make it easier for the TRULY INTERESTED prospects to find YOU.
With people keeping their vehicles longer  they are, or will be, looking for your auto repair services! But it may surprise you WHERE they are searching for you. And rest assured the Yellow Pages book is no longer the first place they go. Greater numbers of people are turning to the Internet as their first information source.
WHERE are they looking on the Web?
Sure you have a listing in the on-line Yellow Pages directory. If your really with it you've got a Google Local Search  listing for your website (you do have a repair shop website don't you?). And your spending a fortune on SEO and Google Adwords trying to drive traffic to these on-line ads. But consumers aren't stupid. They see these new marketing methods for what they truly are. Just another form of the old advertising pitch game. These wised-up consumers are now going one step further and totally bypassing Google searches leading to websites and generic directories. They are looking for recommendations they can trust. They're checking out your reputation on-line to see if your trustworthy long before walking through your office door .
It's all about trust. If you want to attract and keep customers they have to find a measure of trust in you. And they no longer believe advertisements that's for sure! A good word from their personal friends about “their” favorite auto repair shop is priceless. But if they can't get those recommendations, shoppers are turning to their on-line “friends” to see what they have say to say. It might be Facebook, Yelp, Angie's List, YouTube or many others. And they might already be talking about you! If your smart you will start building an on-line presence and positive reputation in these social networking arenas. This is one consumer revolution that you can't ignore .
Make friends, not ads
In the good old days if you wanted more customers you just advertised more. Somebody not happy with you? Who cared. They could only tell so many people so the damage was minimal. But today a single dissatisfied customer combined with the Internet can tell thousands. Think of how easily and quickly they can damage (destroy!) your reputation. Consumers are looking to these on-line communities for opinions and they trust the community voice. The marketplace is changing and consumers are feeling in control!
Head in the sand = failure
The old tale that a happy customer will tell a couple of their friends, but an unhappy customer will tell ten others is still true. The scary thing is that the Internet has greatly amplified the power of consumers! The unhappy are very vocal and they can tell thousands of their grief! You have three options to work with this new form of social networking: 1) ignore what people are saying about you (head in the sand method); 2) go into damage control and only react to criticism; 3) or, be proactive and actively build a reputation that wows people and blows away your competition. If you start with option #3 you won't end up doing option #2 which WILL happen if you chose option #1. Take control or be controlled! Your choice.
Give them something to find
It's all about changing how you approach advertising. Rather than trying to hunt down reluctant prospects, build a reputation that people are actively looking for. Don't wait for them to talk about you. Encourage your satisfied customers ones to talk about you. Win back the unhappy. Start building a strong on-line presence and reputation. When prospects go looking for an auto repair shop make your shop THE place to go before they even meet you!
But where are you
Now that these motivated prospects have decided to do business with you they need information on how to get to your shop. The final link in this social networking connection is a website. A good informational website can build on that positive impression of your business and the people they will do business with. If you do a good job of it they'll be talking about even before meeting you!
In future postings I'll write about how to go about building a on-line presence and how to build your strong, positive, attractive reputation.
 Autonet.ca Dee-Ann Durbin - Associated Press (2008-02-21). People keeping vehicles longer: report. Retrieved on 2009-06-23.
 Google.com Local Business Center help. Retrieved on 2009-06-23.