The automotive industry has been muttering for years that the vast majority of garages probably don’t drive enough business in from the female market. We know from previous investigations that being exclusively focused on meeting the motivations of the traditionally male, ‘boy-racer’ or petrol-head market will turn many women off.
However, in the age of equal opportunities and given the increase in popularity of unisex marketing, is this concern still valid? Certainly there are many men who could be included in the category of ‘people who don’t know much about cars’, especially as nowadays fewer motorists get the chance to work on their own. Is it still appropriate to generalise that gender has a bearing on consumer behaviour?
If we want our business to appeal to a broad market, is a bunch of flowers, a bit of pink on the logo and a spruce up in reception really the answer? Or is this an out of date stereotype that is missing the point?
We needed some facts upon which to base the decision of how we approach the thorny issue of attracting the female market to a garage, so we turned to Steph Savill FIMI, a Marketing Consultant in the motor industry who also runs FOXY Lady Drivers Club. As this includes a UK network of female-friendly approved garages, over to Steph.
THE FEMALE BUSINESS CASE
“According to the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), the missed opportunity of targeting the female market could total as much as £125 million a year in lost revenue, all because the trade isn’t marketing its services to women effectively.
A recent IMI survey confirms that many women drivers have yet to find a garage they feel comfortable with. Talking to women drivers as often as I do, I know this to be true and that many consider it a shopping chore to endure or delegate. Perhaps because it’s seen as a chore, women tend to focus on the MOT, or fixing problems after they have occurred. They tend not to attend a garage in a pre-emptive or proactive capacity, like routine servicing. The lack of desire to attend the garage, coupled with a fear of spiralling costs, and anecdotes about women being mis-sold motoring services they don’t need, seem to be behind this decision.
Focusing on building trust, and educating on why regular servicing means more reliable cars that’ll last longer, could pay dividends. There’s certainly considerable business to be had for those garages that become the female choice for family cars and the referral work this would promote. I run a motoring club for women, so I wouldn’t necessarily know if men behave in this way too, or worse, but it’s probably worth remembering that there are nearly 18 million women drivers in the UK and we’re influencing 80% of new car sales and increasingly shopping for garage services for family cars.
If women don’t have a preference of one unknown garage over another, they will most likely plump for one that’s convenient i.e. nearest to home or work, or one offering a car collection/delivery service. This approach usually favours garages in residential locations or near business parks. Alternatively, she might find a comparison website or a garage broker where you must discount to compete for her business.
COMMUNICATING WITH WOMEN
“If the garage industry had a sex, it’d be male. But if its customers had a sex, they’d be female. Therein lies the communication challenge in this mainly masculine industry. Both parties need to understand each other better, with cowboys forever disrupting industry reputations and relations.”
To be seen as a good, trusted and female friendly garage requires a genuine commitment to be precisely that, whilst recognising that women and men may start with different perceptions and needs. Here are some ideas to help you address female expectations. The bonus is that when you raise standards to cater for fussy females, you’ll likely delight many men too, who mightn’t have mentioned this otherwise…”
When we ask women for garage feedback, ‘cleanliness’ is the one area that consistently under performs most and yet is easiest to put right. Clean floors, staff overalls and an organised workshop prove to me that an employer cares about working conditions for staff, as well as customer facilities.
When it comes to reception areas I like to see that they are decorated regularly, that a cleaner is evidently employed, counters are regularly de- cluttered and wiped, and that chairs and settees are clean and modern.
My personal bugbear is customer toilets. If you only have one garage toilet, never share this with customers – chances are, they’ll judge you badly by it. Use paper towels, not grey- looking fabric ones and empty bins daily.
2: COMMUNITY EVENTS
Community events are perfect to position your business as one who cares. Use Tyre Safety Month to raise awareness among local groups and spread the 20p tyre test knowledge where you can. I take a small trailer wheel with me as a prop to demonstrate this at all networking events and invite attendees to ask me about tyre safety concerns.
Consider a ladies evening in your garage. If you want to do this for men as well, think of a different name, but market it to women because they are increasingly keen to learn how to save money/run safer cars by doing their own car maintenance.
Make sure they have, and know about breakdown services – too many women go without.
Invite local businesses to display female wares during community events – I’ve been to evenings offering head and shoulder massages, children’s clothing and even flower arranging displays. More women will attend when there’s more on offer than just motoring matters.
3: GARAGE RELATED JARGON
When you talk about cars do you use jargon? I imagine you probably do because you understand it and are talking to people who understand it at your workplace. But chances are that few females understand this jargon so think how you can make your point without relying on this. Maybe it’s just the way you tell it in person but is your website straying into jargon-heavy territory too? Make sure there’s something to welcome her on your homepage. It might be a photograph of happy male and female staff or customers or a great testimonial from a local lady?
4: GARAGE WEBSITES
Many garage websites favour a black background featuring photos of typical engines, lots of B2B trade logos and recommendations about oil products and performance gizmos. If that sounds like your website, it doesn’t make this a bad one but it’s probably lacking female appeal.
Always make sure all customers can find what they need, in language they understand. Give me a simple ‘at a glance’ price menu that’s mobile friendly, include photos of female customers like me, and reassure with measurable signs of quality, awards and staff training. Introduce your staff but tell me more about their qualifications and training than their hobbies – this is an opportunity to show off signs of quality that others may not be able to compete with.
Steph Savill will be continuing her marketing advice in the next issue – www.foxyladydrivers.com