When Times Are Slow, Don’t Cut Back On Digital Marketing

Everyday shop owners and managers make important decisions. You have to make the right call on dozens of decisions on parts, personnel, supplies, budgets, free time, family, life balance, etc. etc. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. When you consider your business budget you look at sales and expenses.  Sales must at least meet your expenditures and you have a goal of a certain percentage above that to ensure you are making a profit. Profit = Good, More Profit = Even Better. However, on the other side of that, when business slows down due to the economy, a recession or other market conditions, your job gets tougher. You are forced to decide where to cut expenses. Often these decisions can be made in the wrong areas, like marketing, including digital marketing. As you will see in this blog, cutting your marketing budget is often cutting your nose off to spite your face.  Allow me to explain…

Cars TO The Door Vs. Cars THROUGH The Door

When a manager makes cuts to certain expenditures it will have an impact on one of two categories, either cars TO the door, or cars THROUGH the door.  What does that mean? Consider this example of a cars THROUGH the door cut:

About 15 years ago I was running the Mentors At Work apprenticeship organization, which is now part of VeriFacts.  I had founded Mentors At Work in the year 2000 to address what was one of the greatest challenges the industry faced at the time, finding and training skilled workers (sound familiar even today?).  When the recession hit in 2008, the workforce issue was suddenly not a priority anymore. Few shops were investing in the workforce of the future.  Then, when the economy started bouncing back, the need for skilled workers was a hot issue again. The workforce challenge was, and is, worse than it was in the 90’s and early 2000’s.  The decision to cut workforce development out of their budgets in 2008 had consequences that many shops are still struggling with to this very day.  You’ve got to have skilled people to get cars THROUGH the door.

And then there is marketing, a budget item impacting cars TO the door.  In 2008 many shops made cuts to their marketing budgets. They struggled with spending money on marketing because it is difficult to draw a clear line between spending on marketing and sales. This is especially true if you aren’t tracking your referral sources.  As such, many owners and managers make cuts in their marketing budgets when things get slow.  But research would suggest that this is exactly the opposite of what businesses should do.

As a web marketing agency, we at Optima Automotive have monitored surveys on marketing (Examples: The AdCouncil and Columbia University) These surveys consistently show that companies who allocate 10% of their revenues on marketing are found to be leaders in their industries.  Spending 5% of your revenues on marketing provides a relatively successful ROI. But those that spend 3% or less see their market share stall or shrink.  What percentage of your revenue are you spending on marketing? Have you ever looked at that figure?

The Right Marketing

Importantly, we are not talking about spending money on just any marketing, but the RIGHT marketing.  Over and over, these studies show a 10-1 return on investment when money is spent on the right things.  However, if you are not a marketing specialist, how do you know where and how to invest your money? Likely you aren’t a marketing specialist, and there is no disrespect intended here.  You might do alright, or you could miss the mark entirely.  Looking at your competitors and thinking “if I just outdo them and how they are marketing themselves we’ll win”.  No, that falls short of an effective strategy. You truly have to do something unique to you, something that makes your brand stand out.

If you don’t have people to spare for marketing, or don’t have people with the training and/or aptitude for it, which is very important, then you will need to consider outsourcing to an outside company to do the marketing for you. This outsourced company must be one you truly trust who really knows our industry.


That’s why I founded Optima Automotive, a web presence management agency. Outsourcing your online marketing to a company that does website development, social media management, directory listing management and/or reputation management will provide you with those higher ROI’s and bring you cars to fix. Traditional methods of marketing aren’t effective anymore and haven’t been for some time. Now, digital marketing is a great tool to get your brand out there in front of your target audience. Agencies like mine know how to track the results of the dollars you spend there.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for society at large.  Branding is at the core of marketing, where you are exposing the public to your brand and helping them remember it when it counts. That requires repetition.  That’s what social media management for business should do, providing multiple impressions of your business brand. For a body shop that requires good quality, value-added posting that isn’t exclusively advertising, or before and after photos or your reviews.

Some say we are in a recession now. Many financial experts are warning of tough times to come in 2023. Either way, it is safe to say that it’s only a matter of when, not if, things slow down again. Maybe you are already experiencing it.  It’s part of the normal cycle of business in our industry. Don’t be tempted to cut your marketing budget, especially your digital marketing, when it does.

By Mark Claypool, AMAM

President and CEO, Optima Automotive