Clever Marketing Tricks: Car Service Edition

Alex Greenwood
3 min readDec 2, 2020

Bear with me if you’ve heard this one, but my attention was once captured by a marketing postcard from the Honda dealership service center my wife uses. One side of the large postcard had a generic car-oriented graphic and the words “FREE Front End Alignment for Your Other Car.” In the lower right corner were the dealership and Honda logos.

Flip the card over and in fairly conversational copy you’re offered a tire change, or a free “truly free four-wheel alignment for your non-Honda, never-before-serviced-at-our-facility, ‘other’ vehicle…”

The copy then goes on about how winter potholes play havoc with alignment–this is a good time to get your car checked before it screws up your tires, etc. The copy then answers the question most people have at this point “What’s the catch, why the heck are you doing this?”

“We at XXX simply want to prove to you that our world-class service department takes the best care of you and your car. Regardless of the make or model, we want you to confidently come to us when you need service…It’s as simple as that.”

A phone number and convenient online scheduling URL are given and the reminder that this is a “$150 value” and to “schedule today.”

Okay, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the marketing value of this promotion:

  • The dealership probably sent these cards only to active customers–those customers (like my wife) who bring in their Honda for regular oil changes, tune-ups, etc. They want to double their business from these presumably satisfied customers; guessing that most customers have two cars (like us) — and that if they don’t have another car on their service roster from that family address there’s a reason. The reason is likely that it’s a different make of car, purchased elsewhere (Yup, that’s us); therefore, it’s being serviced elsewhere. Of course, the Honda dealership wants that car in their service bay.
  • They find your alignment indeed does need work, and true to the promotional material they do it for free. That makes you happy and predisposed to coming back, right?
  • There’s every chance that they may find something else wrong with your car and offer you an incentive to fix it while you’re there–the classic up-sell.
  • If they don’t find anything wrong, they’re banking on their service personnel’s professionalism, the shuttle service, or the coffee in the waiting lounge to make you think of them when your car does need service. Heck, you might even kill time and wander the lot looking at the new Hondas…
  • If nothing else, they have touched a regular customer with a generous offer–this increases brand loyalty. As you know, the news is rife with stories of automobile companies across the board scrambling to retain market share.

Pretty smart. It cost them comparatively very little to print and send the postcard; even if only 2–3% of this cohort responds it’s a success.

And yep…I scheduled an appointment to have my car alignment looked at.

Alex Greenwood

PR Consultant, Speaker, Podcast Producer/Host, Editor, and Award-Winning Writer of the John Pilate Mystery Series. Accomplished belly laugher.