“You should open your own auto shop.”

These seven words begin a journey into business ownership for most mechanics.

Here’s how to overcome fear with branding.

At first, the new business fills you with excitement, optimism and accomplishment. You’re on an emotional high that you feel will never disappear. Friends and family use your shop, and a new referral walks through your doors occasionally. Things are great! You can keep wrenching on cars, take the weekends off, and go on a good vacation with the family. This is life.

Then it happens. 

Work slows down, and now you wonder how to increase it again.

You’ve tapped out every relative, friend and family member. 

You make a few posts on social media, but there is no traction. 

You run sale after sale, but no one seems to care. 

You are now fearing the future. 

Bills are mounting. Employees are thinking of leaving. With the bit of work you have, you need to spend more time at the shop and not at home. You are saying to yourself, “Open your own shop, they said! Why did I do this?” (followed with a few explicit words, as you can guess). Self-doubt creeps into your mind. Your world feels like it’s crumbling around you, and you have no idea what to do next. Here’s what happens.

Things start to get ugly.

The moment it feels like everything is failing, our instincts tell us to peer into what our competitors are doing. When we see that they are successful, we see it as a sign that our business will rebound if we do the same. So we copy what they are doing.

We go to the extreme. 

We copy our competitor’s words, visuals and behaviours. We spend money on marketing and design services that give us a slight uptick in revenue, but we quickly flatline again. 

Failure keeps coming. What are you supposed to do?

Questions fester in your mind. Do you look at your competitors again? Do you spend the night scouring the internet for business gurus with promises to fix your revenue in as little as seven days? Do you spend money on marketing contractors who over-promise and under deliver…again? Yes, let’s do all of that. 

Fear-charged copy-paste actions are the new normal. 

Why do we torture ourselves by doing the same fearful thing repeatedly? Is it because this way is much easier than the alternative? We are pulled in many directions that we cannot look to the obvious – our future. Working in and on our business is on our plates every day, and we can’t look up. We want to get through the day.

If someone asked us to answer a simple question like, “What’s your long-term vision for the company?” We find the question comical. We can’t think that far ahead when there is so much to do today.

Our time is finite.

Deep in our minds, we know a missing link is holding us back. We secretly admit that our copy-paste antics are not the right move, but we can’t overcome this barrier. We know branding and how powerful it can be for our company, but we can’t invest in this service. We need wins today. 

There is no time to dig deep into what makes us different from our competitors and permanently fix it. As failure after failure continues, fear overshadows logic. As more questions come to mind, the more they are met with justified self-doubt about why branding is not the answer for our business.

We are just another repair shop.

Who is really going to care?

It’s too expensive.

I have no time.

I can’t afford another mistake.

I’ll have to change everything in a couple of months, so why bother?

I can’t think about long-term plans right now.

Fear sets in and never goes away. 

The truth about fear.

Fear is funny, and I never entirely understood it until I read Napoleon Hill’s book Outwitting the Devil. Note: This is not a book on religion. It’s a book on how to eliminate fear from our minds. 

Fear will cause us long-term suffering.

Fear compounds when left alone.

Fear makes us unhealthy in mind, body and soul.

Fear will stall us and our businesses.

Fear holds us back from achievements.

Fear is on your shoulder, whispering sweet nothings in your ear, and sometimes it can be quite deafening. We can easily give in to fear without noticing until we wake up from the spell. When we wake up, we see that time has gone by at an extraordinary pace. We feel left behind and lost. Then anger seeps in, causing harm to ourselves, our families, our employees and our businesses. We are lost. Now what? 

Branding eliminates fear.

I’ve been around businesses since I began my career in 2002. I have analyzed and talked with auto shop owners many times, and the stories are all the same – watch what everyone else is doing and do it as well. It’s frightening and gross to observe what is happening in this segment of the auto industry. No one is branding themselves.

I will jump on my soapbox for a moment and make a plea to you – auto shop owner.

Branding makes you better.

When you properly brand your auto shop, your marketing problems go away. Branding gives you the tools to create clear and focused marketing strategies. These branding tools are data, research, strategy, messages and imagery that allow you to develop laser-focus marketing materials that speak directly to your intended audience. They create consistency in everything you do- helping you attract the right customers and employees.

Branding is your accountability partner.

You never have to doubt your marketing actions when you brand your company. Those gurus whom you thought were going to help you fix your mistakes? YOu no longer have to worry about them. Marketing contractors, who think they know better? No longer an issue.

Branding is your manual

The significant part of branding is that you can refer back to your brand anytime you feel stuck or pulled in another direction. It will always bring you back on track. It is your guidance manual and your recruitment manual. Branding helps you find the right employees and retain them. 

Why brand your business?

Here’s the truth. Competitors are attacking you from across the world. Consumers can get what they want wherever they want, from anywhere. It has made global competition real, and we must pay attention to them, whether we like it or not. 

Most new competitors will start with a copy-paste attitude. They will replicate branding and marketing tactics everyone uses because it’s easier than doing the latter – branding properly. Their fear-based assumptions put you in an advantageous position. 

When you brand your business, you stand out.

As a well-seasoned auto shop, branding is easier than your new competitors. Your wealth of experience and knowledge of your customers is something these new businesses don’t have – making your journey to branding properly much more effortless than theirs. To gain market share, your competitors need to accelerate their branding beyond your speed and source more money and resources to close the gap. The easier way is to copy-paste what they see. They are running on fear. 

How-to brand your auto shop.

Let me remind you that branding takes time. It is not a quick fix. It is an investment in the long-term stability of your company. You have to dig deep into the soul of your company and reacquaint yourself with WHY you started your auto shop. 

You need to address every detail of your existing brand. What is working, what needs improvement and what needs to be changed must be analyzed – inside and out.

Build the foundation

Create a purpose statement. 

Rewrite your mission, vision and values. 

Flesh out your brand’s persona. 

Examine and research who is your target audience.

Analyze your competitor’s customers with a fine-tooth comb.

Dig deep into what makes you different from everyone else.

Build a community around your brand.

Analyze your existing creation

Is your name, slogan, unique selling propositions and stories aligned to your target audience? Does your existing logo make the right first impression, or are you blending in with the crowd? What is your customer experience like from beginning to end? Can you improve it with Omni-sensory stimulation?

Take action.

If you have always wanted to specialize your auto repair shop, do it. Specializing creates stronger marketing and branding tactics. You can accelerate your reputation as a specialist because you have been in business for a long time.

If you were scared to show your face on your website, don’t be. Customers want to know the people behind the business. Transparency creates stronger bonds and can be a unique selling feature for recruiting employees. 

If you thought shop tours were a waste of time, toss that fear aside. These are opportunities to get to know your customers and build strong relationships. You can learn more about your customers from a simple 10-minute tour.

Suppose you wanted to start a social media feed with a unique approach unseen today. Do it. Customers want to be entertained or educated in unique ways, and approaching social media from a different angle can help your company attract attention.

Collect email addresses if you want to keep in touch with customers but struggle to find an easy solution. Email marketing will always be a valuable tool to repeat buys and continued brand awareness. Your customers permitted you to keep in touch. Take advantage of that by sending emails once every two to three weeks!

Friends and family are bonuses.

Remember when you started your auto shop? Remember the excitement when your first customers – friends and family – spent money at your business? Do you recall when a referral walked in unannounced? 

Those were good days.

They can happen again when you brand your company correctly. You will no longer be reliant on friends and family to generate revenue. They now become bonuses to your business.

And that fear you once had?

Fear is no longer screaming in your ear. It’s a dull whisper and a soft tap on your shoulder that you can quickly ignore. Why is that? Because you decided today that your company is better than everyone else, and you tossed fear, self-doubt and limiting beliefs aside. You decided today was the day to put time aside to think about the long-term vision of your business and take action to build its brand correctly.

An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in Motor Age Magazine https://www.vehicleservicepros.com/shop-operations/article/21270426/overcome-fear-with-branding