Auto Repair Marketing Direct Mail – The Least Mistakes Wins!

Auto Repair Marketing Direct Mail – The Least Mistakes Wins! When winning means much higher profits, not just higher car count.


Auto Repair Marketing Direct Mail For Higher Income. Not just higher car count.

The entire purpose of this article is to show you how to stop making profit smashing mistakes with your auto repair marketing direct mail. Chances are that your are guilty of quite a few of these right now. By fixing these direct mail mistakes, you will start to see big differences in your response rates. You will also get better customers and higher incomes then ever before. 

For You – The Auto Repair Shop Owner…
Auto repair marketing direct mail is the subject of this article.
But we are going to look at it from a very different angle.

In football, most coaches adamantly teach this one basic, foundational principle. THE TEAM THAT MAKES THE LEAST MISTAKES WINS! AND IT IS TRUE!

However, when we start talking about auto repair marketing direct mail, the guy who looks at the mistake side of the industry is often thought of as NEGATIVE.
But since there are far more shop owners out there who are making these mistakes – than those doing it right – I will take the risk of being labeled “NEGATIVE” to help you become a winner. The Goal? To Help You Make A Lot More Money.

What Are My Qualifications To Write Such An Article? Well here they are. If you don’t know my experience, how can you judge if I know what I am talking about?

I have had 45 years of marketing, advertising, public relations and professional photography experience.
First with the Stewart-Warner Corporation in the Alemite Auto Repair Equipment Marketing Division as a product manager. Within 2 years I was promoted to the youngest Regional Manager in Stewart Warner history at 26. I covered the South West United States for the Instrument Division.

Then my Dad called me in to work with him on the introduction of Mr. Coffee – With Joe DiMaggio as our spokesman. We took a $49.95 coffee maker (allowing no discounts) and ran it up against $14.95 percolators and captured 50% of the coffee maker market the first year. We even won the CLIO Award for best TV commercial 1982, titled  “Remember”, which I have on my desk since Dad passed away 3 years ago.

Then we did it again with the La Machine Food Processor – taking 40% of the market away from Cuisinart.

AND NOW? – 30 years in the auto repair marketing direct mail business.
I have become a seasoned pro on how to attract the right car owners, to deliver the higher income you are seeking. I don’t care about higher car count. I only care about creating higher income – for you. You’ve got to hit them in the heart to win the upscale customer. We’ve been doing it for 30 years.

What does that mean to you? It means that I can share with you, how to avoid the profit leaking pitfalls and mistakes that are holding back your auto repair direct mail marketing success.

So – right here – right now, we stop talking about achieving higher, unsorted car count and start talking about higher profits. All done simply by using the correct strategy for your auto repair marketing direct mail.



1) The Wrong appeal.
What is the appeal? It is the strategy, the hook, the main point of interest that attracts the type of customer you are looking for. It is the point-of-interest that draws the potential customer to your auto repair direct mail marketing postcard.

Most general service shops use the simple “Shop Appeal”. They have a photo of their shop on the front. Using a headline that says, “We Repair Everything” or “Need Auto Service?”

On the surface, this may look like a straight forward, simple but effective approach. However, it is an instant turn-off for the guy who owns a $45,000 Lexus – a $41,000 Honda Pilot – or an $80,000 Mercedes who is looking for a specialist to make sure his BABY is treated right. So, with this approach, you are scaring away the very customer you most desperately want! The customer you make the most money on.

Maybe you are a European or Japanese specialty shop. But you do the same “Shop Appeal”. You have a photo of your shop and list the cars you work on. Once again, you don’t appear to be a specialist “On My Car”. Reluctance and doubt sneaks in – they go back to the dealership.

2) Bad headlines And Copy Writing.
Mix bad copy and headlines with the wrong appeal and your auto repair marketing direct mail is an instant failure. (Or sometimes worse. A great success at getting in the low income customer.)

“We Repair Everything” or “Need Auto Service” for a headline? Sorry but I heard better headlines in Junior High art class the first time the teacher gave us the assignment to come up with an advertisement. Even just putting the name of your shop as the headline – doesn’t hit any of the hot buttons for the customer.

And if anyone really cared enough to look, you could find (in the advertising research and readership surveys done over the last 50 years) that question headlines like “Need Auto Repair” are not the best at getting anyone’s attention. And, headlines like – “We Repair Everything” – shouts Jack of all trades and Master of None. You are inviting the low income customer who is looking for cheap prices. But you chase away the high income customer who is seeking someone who knows his specific car.

Most copy writing that I have seen on auto repair marketing direct mail consists of stuff like this…

We have the best technicians in the business. We are friendly and professional. We give you shuttle service home. We have the best diagnostic tools in the industry.
In short – – – We are the best. We are the best. We are the best… We, We, We, We all the way home!!!

This is what you call ME ADVERTISING!
Your copy consists of sentences that are merely saying, We do this. – We do this. – We do this. This – of course – makes for very boring auto repair marketing direct mail and turns off most customers right away. Postcards that hit the trash can seconds after coming out of the mail box.

The problem? The shop owner is telling the potential customer what HE wants them to hear. Where successful advertising tells the customer what THEY want to hear.

3) The Wrong Image.
If you want to make money from your auto repair marketing direct mail you have to match your image, to the image of the car owner you are trying to reach.

4) A Rotten Mailing List.
The way you select your target market is critical to your higher income success.
Most people think that selection by income level is good. But it is not.
Income level does not tell you what kind of car the customer has.
It does not tell you how old the car is.
It does not tell you how likely they are to spend good money on auto repair.
Selecting your target market by Car Make, Model and Year is by far the best determination of your customer’s potential to spend well with you.
Auto repair marketing direct mail success starts here.

Below is one of the worst examples of using the wrong list.

A TRUE STORY! We had a European auto repair shop owner call and tell me the last direct mail he did was using the Every-Door-Direct-Mail method. The company that designed and sent the cards for him actually talked him into doing a saturation mailing.

The problem? European cars make up only about 5% of his market area. This program had a planned waste factor of some 95% from the start. He got 1 card back. But the marketing company got full price. The kiss of death to our auto repair marketing direct mail.

If you are trying to bring in fine car, high income car owners, you don’t use zip code saturation or a median income list.

The best way to get high paying customers is to get a list of more expensive cars sorted by car make, model and year. If you select upscale cars as your target – you are 90% sure that the person driving into your parking lot is willing to pay well to keep that fine, upscale car running to perfection.

And even more important, these Prime Customers are about 70% more likely to come back as loyal full price customers.

Cheap customers never come back at full price. They can’t afford to.
The DMV auto repair marketing direct mail mailing list is available in 16 states.
And the Comp A List – is the very best compiled list for the other 34 states.
How do we know it is the best compiled list?

We tested many compiled lists – comparing them directly to The Holy Grail of auto repair direct mail marketing lists. The DMV List. Car make by car make, year by year and zip code by zip code. Only one list stood out from the others.

And it is that list the we call our “Our Comp A List” It is the closest to reaching DMV accuracy. This is the list we use in the non-DMV states.

5) Targeting The Wrong Customer.
This is somewhat similar to item 3 above. However, this has more to do with how you make your mailing list decision.

Most shops want to go cheap on their auto repair marketing direct mail.
So instead of selecting the car make route, they select a cheaper method.

As such, they will usually select an auto repair marketing company that uses the Every-Door-Direct-Mail saturation method, or a coupon packet mailer.
Both these methods will hit every household in each zip code.
Sure you can choose a median income level, but medium income selection has problems of its own.
See #8 below for explanation.

6) A Poor To Lousy Postcard Design.
First – If you are using the “Shop Appeal” (showing a photo of your shop and listing the cars you work on), you are doing exactly what 99% of all the other shops are doing. How does this make your auto repair marketing direct mail stand out from the clutter??? It doesn’t. Instead of lifting you above the clutter, you are the clutter.

Second – If you are not showing them something personal to get them interested in what you have to say, all you are doing is showing them that you are there. And frankly, when the same people are getting 5 to 10 auto repair marketing direct mail postcards in their mailbox each week, what have you accomplished? Little to nothing.

Third – The only thing that means anything to the low income customer is the cheapest oil change price. That is why almost all auto repair marketing direct mail, delivers mostly low RO customers. With little or no retention.

Forth -  Even the best mailing list in the world can be completely nullified if you don’t have a great card design.

The DMV direct mail mailing list is available through us in 16 states. (
The DMV List is the benchmark, the authority, the standard by which all other auto repair mailing lists can be judged. Clients have used it for the last 11 years and no one stops using it once they have tried it – with one exception…

You can purchase the DMV list from us without using our Ad-Card auto repair direct mail marketing program. But here’s the catch.

After selling the list only for a couple years now, we have found that 8 out of 10 DMV List buyers (who use their own postcard designs) call us back to tell us how bad the list was. When 9.5 out of 10 of our Ad-Card clients that use the DMV List rave about the results.

You can have the best mailing list in the world and have it completely nullified by a lousy postcard design. We will gladly sell you the list alone, but you better have a great postcard to go with it. Or it will be a guaranteed failure.

7) Poor To Lousy Photography.
Nothing can kill your auto repair marketing direct mail postcard faster than bad photos. Photos are the visual side of your presentation and create instant assumptions whether good or bad.

Great photography makes for a great auto repair marketing direct mail postcard.
However, if you don’t have great photography, don’t bother wasting your money on direct mail or a web site for that matter. Bad photos drive away the very customers you seek.

How many times have you seen an auto repair shop photo with the doors all closed and no cars in the lot? And the marketing company this shop selected “Actually Uses This Photo??? NO! You never use a photo like this. You add photos of the cars you want to bring in.

auto repair marketing direct mail photography that doesn't make the mark.

The most beautiful shop in the world, when displayed like this, makes the potential customer very squeamish about stopping in. Thoughts like, “There are no cars! They must not be doing very well.”  “I wonder what’s wrong with that shop”. “Maybe I better try another shop.” This photo would be good only if you were trying to sell the building. (But even then, it would be better with a full contingency of cars to make the business look successful.)

And boy am I tired of looking at photos of a mechanic with his head in the engine compartment, and his butt sticking up in the air, in a poorly lit garage. Talk about a complete turn-off for a customer. Especially the women! And their are marketing companies out there who will use these photos too??!! Does anybody there understand the basics of auto repair marketing direct mail???

This is suicide photography.
And yet there are many advertising companies actually using photos just like this.

How do you select a new restaurant to go to?
There are a lot of ways, but if you see a restaurant with no cars in the lot, you probably won’t go there. Same thing for an empty auto repair shop. Suicide!

We at Motor Service Marketing are so perfectionist about using great photography on your Ad-Card product, that we give you a photo guide to show you how to do it right.
As a professional photographer myself for 50 years, I am willing to even put together a photo setup for you, showing you how to get the right angle on your shop, how to stage your lot, and what time of day to shoot it.

If you send us a bad photo, we send you back to shoot it again.
Why? Because bad photography is a guaranteed failure for your auto repair marketing direct mail.

Yes – we are a pain in the neck – but it is that pursuit of perfection that has given us clients that stick with us.

We have Ad-Card clients that continue to use our program for 3 years, 5 and 6 years, even 8 and 10 years, up to 15 and even 18 years. Why? Because it continues to bring in higher profits than any other direct mail marketing program in the industry.

8) Choosing Prospects By Median Income.
The word median means middle.
So if you choose a median income level of $60,000, half of our leads will have $60,000 and above. The other half will be below $60,000.

THE PROBLEM? You are still wasting about half the cards you send out on lower income people. But if items # 1, 2, 5 and 6 above are not done right, it doesn’t really matter where you send your cards. They won’t work no matter how great your list is.

9) A Strategy Based On The Up-Front Cost Of The Auto Repair Marketing Direct Mail Program – Rather Than Back End Profit Increases, Higher RO Averages And Customer Retention.
Cost-per-card-mailed is completely meaningless. It is an arbitrary factor that has no relationship to the success of who comes through your door. All you are doing is cutting the up front price. And usually cutting your back end profits at the same time.

And yet, this (strategy?) is often taught as a critical element of your auto repair marketing direct mail decision making. As if it had anything to do with the financial success of your program. The only strategy should be based on back end returns, profits and retention.

Do you think that auto repair shops would be paying us a little more cost-per-card-mailed for 5 years, 10 years, 15 years and 18 years if the profits on the back side weren’t seriously better than anything they had previously tried? This is auto repair marketing direct mail that works.


You are in business to make money. As much money as possible.
That requires large numbers of fine car, high income, Prime Customers coming through your door. Is that happening right now with your current auto repair marketing direct mail program?

The up-front cost of a postcard is completely unimportant if – for a few pennies more – you are hitting exactly the right customers and it delivers higher IN-POCKET-PROFITS. Plus – these customers are far more likely to come back at full price over and over (if they like you).

Let’s face it. If you get a one time customer that buys only your cheap oil change and chooses not to fix any of the problems you found in your FREE inspection, you have just lost between $20 to $40 in employee time. Plus, they won’t be back and they don’t give referrals. Add those extra expenses to the cost of your “CHEAP” auto repair marketing direct mail program to calculate the true price.


The shop owner who buys their auto repair marketing direct mail postcards based on up front price alone, is simply letting people know they are there. But, you are not giving the Prime customer the elements they need to select you.

10) Not Enough Repetition.
Minimum repetition is 3 times over a 4 to 6 month period. Then, once you see that working, you keep it going all year long (FOREVER) as long as it keeps making you money! Repetition keeps the fires burning in the heart of your prospect.
It keeps you on their mind. It makes you look extremely credible.

Steve Louden at Louden Motorcars in Dallas (our longest running client) has used the Ad-Card program for 18 consecutive years. He also uses the DMV mailing list as well.

11) Not Waiting For 2 Or 3 Months For The Cards To Kick In Before Quitting.
(This applies only to auto repair marketing direct mail programs that have a great postcard design.)

Yes – it may sound crazy, but auto repair direct mail is a strange animal. Sometimes it hits right away. Other times it takes multiple repetitions and 8 to 12 weeks to start hitting hard. That’s just the reality of direct mail.

EXAMPLE: We have a client in Boca Raton Florida. They service all the upscale European and Exotic cars.11 years ago we created his first Ad-Card auto repair marketing direct mail program for their 2 locations.

After the first month they called to say they hadn’t gotten any cards in yet.
I told him to just have faith. Sometimes these things have a slow start.
Just have faith. Just keep sending them out.

Next month he called again with the same problem.
I told him that I knew it was hard, but just keep sending them out at the weekly rate. It will hit. In the third month it finally hit – and it hit hard from there on out.

This client now has 3 locations and has been with us for 10 years.
He is now sending out 5 separate auto repair marketing direct mail cards – at the same time – to different car makes in the Boca Raton and North Miami area.

What we do is send out each card at a rate of about 500 per week for all 5 cards. That way, they never get overloaded, but have a continuous flow of new customers every week of the year.

(Most of our clients do experience card responses within the first week or shortly thereafter. Not everyone has to wait 3 months. In fact, our Boca client is the only one that has happened to.)

12) CLAIMING SUCCESS – Based On Higher Unsorted Car Count – Instead Of Higher First Time RO, Higher Profits And New Customer Retention.
Higher Unsorted Car Count does not mean success.
Only higher profits mean success.
In-Pocket-Profits! Not cars in shop!
If your auto repair marketing direct mail does not bring in high paying customers – you have achieved nothing more than busy work and aggravation – at a very high cost.

13) Using An Auto Repair Marketing Direct Mail Company That Works With Your Direct Competitors At The Same Time As You, Sending Their Cards To The Same Homes As Yours.
As far as I know, after 30 years in business, Motor Service Marketing is still the only auto repair direct mail marketing company in the industry who offers EXCLUSIVITY.

When Motor Service Marketing takes on a client, you will be the only client we work with in your market area. Because our one-and-only job is to deliver the most new, fine car, high income, Prime Customers to your shop. For you alone.

Do you think this concept of EXCLUSIVITY might be important to you?
You Bet It Is!

I have received 3 and even 4 cards – in my own mailbox – on the same day – from the same marketing company – representing 4 different, directly competitive auto repair shops.

The Problem? Each shop will be getting only 25% of the response that market has to offer. Even though they all paid full price to the marketing company. Did you know this could be happening to you? Even right now with the cards you are currently sending??

The cheap price may be nice. But if they are working with your direct competitors, it is killing your income. Non-Exclusivity only benefits the marketing company.

Non-Exclusivity could be costing you up to 3 to 4 times more per lead than you thought you were paying. And you thought you were buying auto repair marketing direct mail that was cheap. If this is happening to you, you could actually be paying quite a bit more per new customer lead than you would be if you used our Ad-Card program!

Be sure to ask any and every marketing company if they give you exclusivity in your market area. They won’t tell you this on their own.

The secret to profitable auto repair marketing direct mail is simple.
You have 2 tools that are equally important.
Both of which must perform perfectly to get customers with money into your shop.

A) YOUR MAILING LIST. It must be targeted to the high income, fine car, Prime Customers only. By car make and year. Not by median income.

B) YOUR POSTCARD DESIGN. Must hit the right customer, with the right message, the right appeal and the right image to get them to call you or to come in.
If either of these elements are weak, you lose.

So – you buy a cheap card and a great mailing list – you lose.
So – you buy a cheap or saturation mailing list and have a great card – you lose.
So – you buy a cheap card and a cheap way to mail them out – there is no hope for a win!

Why The Cheapest Option Is Not Always The Best:
Do you still use a BUBBLE BALANCER to balance tires? NO! Why did you pay $5,000 to $15,000 or more for an upscale, computerized wheel balancer. Because the bubble balancer is obsolete. The computerized balancer does a better job and makes you more money.

The same is true with auto repair marketing direct mail. Mass mailings may be cheap, but the response rates, RO averages and retention rates for this kind of advertising haven’t changed in the last 40 years.

It’s time to move up to something that actually brings in customers with money in their pockets. Who are willing to spend that money on their car. So you can put money in your pockets.

If you are a plumbing company and want to hire a plumber, do you put a want-ad in the paper for a short order cook?? NO! You place an ad for a plumber.

If you want to attract fine car, high income, Prime Customers, do you send your auto repair marketing direct mail to everyone? NO! High income, Prime Customers are the smallest segment of the market.

Instead, you send your auto repair marketing direct mail to fine car, high income car owners ONLY.
And the best way to do this kind of mailing, is to select your target market by car make and year.

When you do your direct mail marketing this way, you know, almost 90% for sure, that when that Mercedes, Acura, Lexus, BMW, Audi or Navigator pulls in, you have hit the jackpot.

AND – this works especially well for you, since all the other shops are sending their auto repair marketing direct mail to short order cooks!

So in actuality, with a highly targeted program of Car Make Marketing, you may be paying more cost-per-card-mailed – but what comes through your door is exactly what you are looking for. People who have selected a fine car, do so because they like the features and the image that goes with it. Let’s face it. With some of these fine car owners, even their ego is tied up in their car. And they will spend whatever it takes to keep their ego glowing.

Nuff Said.

Call today please. You will like what you hear. 800-428-0286

Auto repair marketing direct mail that builds your CASH-IN-POCKETS Profits. Not just ENIE-MEANIE-MINIE-MOE car count.

You Won’t Be Disappointed. Call today and ask your toughest – most important questions. If you need more information, go to my FREE online book. “The Art and Science of Selling Auto Service”. 30 years experience on each page. And no – you don’t even have to sign-up to get it.