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Sewells best practise: It's good advertising, it works and it's FREE!

'If you ask service managers how they market their departments, they tend to talk about service or MoT reminders. They might also mention direct mail campaigns, and face-to-face or telephone selling and upselling. What you are least likely to hear about is advertising in local newspapers, because, they will tell you, this is not cost-effective if you have a limited budget. In fact, even if you had the budget, advertising for servicing and repair business in local newspapers is unlikely to see an immediate return, because these are distress purchases. Even a lavish local media campaign might not attract much business in the short term.

But what if the advertising was free? Free advertising? What we are talking about, of course, is PR. And we came across an excellent example when carrying out service department reviews for a car manufacturer. During one visit, our consultant reported that the service manager's efforts for Red Nose Day had attracted the local press. The following week, he sent us a copy of the resulting near full page in the local newspaper, which included an embarrassing shot of our consultant.

This service manager's well-intentioned fundraising stunt was effective in creating awareness and long term it will have left the right impression with potential customers. As a result of this splash, this service manager has since put out half a dozen press releases, and his local paper has printed four of them.

The point is that PR can cost virtually nothing, and local papers will be more interested than you think – especially as your sales department will be among their best advertising customers. PR is also relatively easy to do. The best subjects for local PR, and the ones most likely to get into print, are 'good works'. Very popular, for instance, are talks on basic car maintenance for Women's Institutes or similar groups. But don't stop there, as almost anything can be newsworthy – from taking on a new apprentice to buying the latest four-wheel alignment equipment.

Keep press releases keep and to the point, and always include a good picture. You might think PR is naff, but it works.'

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