my mechanic can teach you how to be a better marketer.

Sounds like a stretch? Hear me out. I’m naturally inquisitive. I love to learn why people do what they do for work and how they do it. Every conversation I have with someone - a landscaper, a restaurant owner, a tin roof saleswoman - reminds me of the common threads that run across all professions. It's so easy to get bogged down in our day-to-day. We forget about the core principles of our jobs. We put creativity on the back burner in favor of our long to-do list.  I’m sure that happens for my mechanic, too. As we were talking last week, I was reminded of their extensive professional expertise, creative approach to problem solving, the value they bring to their customers, and how that relates to marketing.

First, a brief intro to my mechanic. Janine and Owen run a small shop in Southern New Hampshire. They've been in partnership for years - personally and professionally. Janine runs the front of the house, while Owen works on client’s cars and manages a team of BMW master mechanics. I found their shop on Yelp after a long, long search and many expensive and frustrating interactions with technicians at dealerships. Janine and Owen are the absolute best at what they do. 

As my credit card was being processed, I asked Janine… 

Erdie: How did you get into this line of work? 

Janine: I’ve always been really mechanically minded and I enjoy working with people. Growing up my dad and brothers were into fixing cars and motorcycles and I would help them out. I met Owen when he was opening his shop, and the rest is history.

Erdie: But how did you get to know about all the details? What you do is SO technical. Did you have to get certified?   

Janine: Yes, I have some certifications, but really, I learned as I went along. I get the guys to explain each problem to me in a lot of detail. You have to know the ins and outs of what you’re selling, how it works, all of the different parts and how they come together, and how we fix it, so you can help customers understand the root of the problem and their options. I want customers to realize the value of our work and what we’re billing them for. If they feel like they have a clear understanding of what happened and how we solved their problem, they trust us and they come back. 

We talked for a bit about the very obscure issue with my coolant system that they just fixed.

Janine: I love with coming up with creative solutions for each problem. In your case, if you went to a dealership they would tell you to replace the whole system. I work with my distributors to see if we can replace just a sensor, or just a gasket, and also what brand of parts are best for each job based on their prior performance. When customers have issues with replacement parts, we log it and tell our distributor so we know not to order that brand or type of part our contact knows, too.

Here’s how Janine’s approach (and arguably the approach of any awesome small business owner) aligns with the some of the core principles of marketing:

  • Truly know what you’re selling, even if you aren’t the target audience.
    Give prospects and customers the details they need and do it in a way that will be easy to understand. Don’t assume they’ll “get it” just because you do.
  • Do the best by your customers, even if that means offering them a less expensive solution that better meets their needs.
    This will gain their trust and loyalty. They’ll tell their friends, and their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends. Remember I found Janine and Owen on Yelp?.
  • Don’t promise customers something you can’t deliver.
    If you offer to build new a product or service for a customer if they sign on - that’s great, but be 100% confident that you can fulfill on your commitment. Janine didn’t reference this in our conversation, but it's one of their values. She and Owen will be the first ones to recommend taking my car to an outside expert if they don't have the equipment or know-how to resolve an issue in-house. That has undoubtedly saved me and other customers time, stress, and money.  
  • Take the time to really get creative when solving problems.
    Don’t do what you do the same way every time. Try a new or different approach. Think of the different tools that could help get the job done faster or better. Rely on the expertise of external resources. 
  • Track what works, and what doesn’t (i.e. data) like crazy. 
    Dig in so you can improve overall performance of your campaign, product, or service and drive (pun intended) more value for your company and customers. 

In summary…
All of this might sound familiar, maybe even self-explanatory? We all know these things, but have we taken them for granted lately? As you go forth into this great world and meet different professionals, take the time to really talk to them. Ask them about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it. There may be surprising parallels with your work, and learning from them might help you do what you do even better.  

Who have you learned from lately? Share your stories in the comments below. 


Thumbnail photo credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash