You have probably been in the Transmission business a long time, you have the knowledge and experience to diagnose, repair or rebuild just about any transmission. Clutch replacements are something you can do in your sleep. Over the last 15 years you have seen Transmissions last longer, the auto makers are doing a better job of designing and building transmissions. So you have decided to start marketing your transmission shop as a general auto repair shop, what changes do you need to make so you can start to efficiently do that?
Budget for Changes
As the owner of a repair shop, you are probably already well versed in the art of budgeting. Before you begin the process to integrate general auto repair into your shop, you need to be able to project how much it will cost you in the end. Determine the cost of new equipment, posibbly increased insurance rates, construction, new lifts, new shop software to diagnose general repair problems and even new employees.
In a small shop, particularly a transmission shop, you may have only had a couple of employees and they are long term Transmission guys. Their skillset is all about removing, repairing and reinstalling whatever Transmission they see. Many technicians do not have the experience or knowledge to do general repair as well as transmissions. If you decide to integrate general auto repair, you will need to either get your current staff extra training or hire new team members with general repair experience.
Invest in Automotive Shop Software
If you did not have transmission shop management software already, you need to invest in it right away. Consider a cloud-based managerial program. This way you never have to risk losing your files and you can see your shop numbers anywhere. As your car count goes up things like vin decode, canned jobs and time clocks become more important as they help to speed up your estimate process and help your new jobs to be profitable ones.
Advertise and Market
How do you get the majority of your transmission repair work currently? If it is from local general repair shops who refer the work to you, or they come and buy the transmission from you directly, they may not be happy with you taking their general repair work. So be ready to see a drop in that referral work. Once you have worked that out then it is time to start advertising for new work.
A change in business means a change in advertising. No matter how long you ran your shop as a specialty shop, the moment that it changes, you will need a new advertising scheme. The average general repair bill is in the $800 range, the average transmission bill is $3k , so you will need to increase your car count dramatically. To do this you need to bring in more customers, so you have to increase and diversify your advertising.
Start with the low hanging fruit, your past customers. They know you, they have come to you with their transmission issues so asking them to come to you for everything is not such a stretch. If you have already integrated your system with a auto shop marketing system like Kukui then it should be easy to email , and do a postcard drop, to every single customer informing them of your new offer. This is not a one off process, you need to work to be the first shop in mind when their car won’t start or their engine is making a funny noise. This means you need to email and mail regularly with new offers
You need to make a marketing plan, short term (3 months) and long term (1 year) , that includes what your advertising budget will be and where you will spend it. Make sure that you have a mechanism in your shop to record where each new customer comes from, this is the only way you will be able to find out what works.
Something as simple as adding “& General Repair” to the end of your Transmission shop name can help. “Bobs Transmission Servicing” becomes “Bobs Transmission and General Repair”, make the change to billboard as soon as you can and make the change to your website/social media straight away. Word of mouth is a strong marketing system and renaming your business to include the general repair information will help.
The transition away from being a transmission repair only shop can be a painful one and it definitely has a learning curve but it can be very profitable and that is why we are in business.