Branding has been around for a very long time. Ancient Egyptians are thought to have invented branding as early as 2700 BC. The purpose was to differentiate their cattle from others. Modern businesses use branding for the same purpose, to differentiate their products from others. Effective branding creates equity and adds value, so that you compete on that value and not on price. This value also creates emotional attachment with your ideal customer. When your customers feel like this, they will drive past countless other shops on their way to your shop because you have built a brand that they trust.

Many shops do not have a brand. Some shop owners think a brand is a color scheme or logo. If a shop owner will take the time to develop a brand, their shop will be head and shoulders above the local competition. A properly branded shop also benefits from defining the type of customer they want to work with and the type of car the shop prefers – all of this happens on the platform of trust and value.

The mission statement

One foundational part of brand development is to create a mission statement. Begin with your core beliefs as a person. Use that as your guide to develop your mission statement. You want your core beliefs to be reflected in how you do business. Your mission statement should provide the basic structure to guide your shop through daily decisions and toward its stated goals. Your mission statement should describe why your shop does what it does, why it exists, and most of all, what your shop stands for. Keep in mind why you got into business. What about it gets you excited and motivated? What ideas do you want your team to get behind? Give your team input on developing or revising your mission statement. It should be a short, to-the-point statement that embodies how consumers perceive your shop.

The idea of boiling down your mission to a succinct sentence or two may seem like a hard thing to get your arms around. Your shop may already have some key elements you have not considered.

Chances are your shop has a loyal core of customers that prefer doing business with your shop over any other. You can find out why by contacting the best customers in this group. Put together a few questions to find out why they prefer your shop. More important, find out what they would like to see your shop do in the future. It might be adding new services, a shuttle service, a night drop box, or many other possible suggestions. Find out how you could enhance the experience for your most desired customers. What “pain points” could you solve for them? Keep the customer top of mind. We are in the customer-care business.

Your mission statement not only gives your staff common purpose, it also describes your “why.” Here is an example of a mission statement:

“Cooper’s Luxury Auto Care aspires to deliver the best of everything. We provide an excellent client experience with quality service and repair at our state-of-the-art facility. Our goal is to be the preferred destination of luxury vehicle owners.”

With your mission statement complete, you have identified what you do. The next step is to identify who you do it for.

Finding your ideal client

Developing a brand is all about your ideal customer. If you do not have a clear idea of who they are, you will have trouble reaching them. You can develop a profile, commonly referred to as an avatar. To create an effective avatar, you must get into as much detail as possible. Go beyond one dimension to create an avatar that has depth, personality, and interest. Take time to notice the things that interest your ideal client. It could be a key fob, an event T-shirt or a bumper sticker. Ask open-ended questions that demonstrate your interest. Have conversations that are not about auto repair. You will connect with your client on a personal level and learn what is important to them. Discover what motivates them to engage and buy. Here is an example of an avatar:

Name: Busy Brooke

Brooke is 42 years old. She is always busy. She is married with two children – one in middle school and one in high school. She lives within 6 miles of your shop. She is a college graduate working as a commercial Realtor, making about $70k per year. She drives a 5-year-old Lexus RX 350 with almost 100,000 miles on it.
Brooke wants to be informed and appreciated. She gives her clients great customer service and she expects the same when she is the client. She wants to be kept updated on her vehicle when it’s in your shop. She likes her car clean and smudge free, the radio on the station that she left it on, and the seat in the same place it was. She wants to think of your shop as her “go-to” people. Her interests are youth soccer, the environment, reading the latest novel, food and wine tasting, gardening, and she volunteers to help feed the homeless. She values trust, integrity, honesty, and transparency.

The more detail you develop in your avatar, the better you can serve her. Begin by looking at your shop through busy Brooke’s eyes. She expects a very clean shop and showroom. The bathrooms should be immaculate and well appointed. The showroom should have the look of a hotel lobby. You should have complimentary beverages, easily accessible Wi-Fi, and a friendly professional staff.

Make sure you have all the processes in place for the buying experience your avatar is looking for. You need to have great phone techniques and service advisers who focus on excellent customer service. Always contact your customers by their preferred method: text, email, or phone. Be sure the sales presentation is simple, organized, and empowers the customer to make the best decision. Be sure you are solving all your avatar’s pain points. The goal is to create the ultimate buying experience for your avatar.

Now that you have a clear mission statement to guide your shop, and you are prepared to cater to your ideal client, you have to figure out where to find her. How do you reach her in her everyday environment? For example, go to the local high school and check on sponsoring a youth soccer team or event. Attend some of the games. By making an appearance, you demonstrate your commitment in a meaningful way. Giving back to your community is a great idea. Be sure to snap a few action shots during the game and post them to your shop’s website with a message, “Our Screaming Eagles had a great game last night!” Just writing a check to sponsor is nice, but to really demonstrate your interest and caring, you need to show up and be social. Another place you can find busy Brooke is possibly at a wine and food tasting. These events are popping up all over the country. It’s not just your avatar that will be there, but lots of her friends. Birds of a feather flock together. Remember to always post pictures of these events on your shop’s website and, more important, on all of your social media platforms. Get involved in the things that your avatar likes that are happening in your area. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you are into these things; it’s all about your ideal customer.

Now that you are building a brand, your customers will drive past other shops to bring their car to you because they feel a special connection with your brand. You will be able to find your customers, treat them like clients, and turn them into advocates of your brand.