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Valentine’s Day Promos for Car Lovers


Four ways shop owners can create heartfelt and lucrative connections with new customers and the community.

By Karen Appold

This Marketing Magic series highlights ways to attract business with impactful promotions.

Valentine’s Day and grubby auto repair shops may not sound like the perfect pairing. But from a business and community standpoint, they go together like roses and chocolate when it comes to servicing vehicles before the big date—since more than 62 percent of adults celebrate Valentine’s Day each year. And, according to research from the National Restaurant Association, one-quarter of Americans dine out on February 14, making it the second most popular day of the year to eat out (Mother’s Day ranked first).

With many sweethearts planning to go out and go all out in order to make it a memorable day, making sure they have reliable transportation is all part of the planning process. Therefore, many will make arrangements to get their cars serviced and in prime working order for this much-anticipated occasion. For auto shop owners, this is a prime time to tap into this population and offer a sweet deal for frequenting your business.

Tobi Edmonds, co-owner of Edmonds Import Auto in Palmer, Alaska, performs marketing surveys at least twice per year to gauge customers’ needs and interests. One of her questions includes: What type of offer would you like to see on a promotional piece from the shop? “Never assume you know what customers want,” says Edmonds, Advanced Marketing Program co-presenter at Management Success (a company in Glendale, California, that provides business coaching for repair shop owners and service advisors).

So, as an auto shop owner, it’s up to you to find out want your customers want and then design clever marketing campaigns to lure in this highly motivated segment of the purchasing population with special deals and discounts. If done right, Valentine’s Day promos can help operators bring in new customers, entice current customers to schedule an appointment, and connect with their community at large on a long-term basis. Here’s four ideas to get your creative juices flowing, beginning with details about Edmonds’ promotion.

1. Edmonds Import Auto

She promoted the special on the shop’s Facebook page and on the TV monitor behind the service desk, which runs promotional videos.Edmonds designed the postcard herself using Microsoft Publisher. She then uploads the PDF to Vista Print, a website that allows users to create and customize marketing materials, which handles printing and mailing.


Edmonds hasn’t crunched the numbers, but the campaign is a proven winner. “The key to success with any seasonal promotion is to not abandon successful actions. If something works, stick with it.”


“Customers think it’s cool that the shop gives away a flower or chocolates,” Edmonds says.

Dollars and duration

Edmonds spends $1,000 for the postcard and mailing, and about $100 for the flowers. The postcard arrives in mailboxes early February. The offer is good through the month.

Do’s and don’ts

Make sure the postcard is clean, simple, and easy to read, Edmonds advises. The front and back should be complementary. Choose colors pertinent to the holiday, such as red, pink, and purple. Pick a postcard that’s unique in its size or texture, so it stands out. Also, don’t make your offer too cheap or unbelievable, or you might attract “cheap” clientele. Edmonds plans to do the same promo in 2018. “I’ve found that oil changes are the best overall offer because they appeal to a broader public,” she says.

2. Next Generation Auto

“If you try to cheapen your cost with a smaller postcard, it will get mixed in with other mail. Odd sizes and doing things differently is what works well.” – Jeremy Austrum, Next Generation Auto in Baldwin, WI 


The promotion was featured on the shop’s Facebook page. In its second year, anyone who visited the site could print the card, bring it in, and try their luck with a scratch-off card. Austrum photographed winners who got $25 or more off and posted them on Facebook to promote the campaign.


In 2016 the promotion generated over $21,000 in sales and in 2017 profits blossomed to $22,300.


Customers had fun doing it. “Of course, people who won bigger discounts were very happy,” Austrum says. “Service advisors thought it was great to give something back to customers. It uplifted the shop’s tone.”

Dollars and duration

The card was mailed out before Valentine’s Day. The coupon expired in two months.

In 2016, the campaign cost $3,200. This included design, printing, and postage expenses. In 2017, the cost was $3,300. Although it cost a little less for design and printing costs, the poster was an additional expense. Austrum mailed out 6,000 postcards each year.

Do’s and don’ts

Austrum is a proponent of promotions that are out of the ordinary. He chose a large-sized postcard so it stood out. “If you try to cheapen your cost with a smaller postcard, it will get mixed in with other mail,” he says. “Odd sizes and doing things differently is what works well.” He plans to do the promotion again in 2018, but is still pondering how he’ll sweeten the deal.

3. Turner’s Garage and Transmission

The Sumter, SC, business dubs its Valentine’s campaign, “We Care.” “The week preceding Valentine’s Day we give out carnations to everyone who stops in, whether they’re a customer or not,” says Heather Owens, assistant manager and marketing manager. Only paying customers can enter a drawing to win a dozen red roses the day before Valentine’s Day. The winner picks up the roses at our sponsor, Flowers and Baskets.” The promotion is more than five years strong. Over 50 names were in the drawing last year.


Wendell Turner, owner, promoted the campaign on his weekly radio show, “Turner’s Auto Show,” in which he talks about different car-related topics. In addition, a flyer containing discounts and a registration form for the drawing was mailed to the shops’ customer base and the campaign was promoted in an electronic and mailed newsletter and via text and emails to existing customers. It was also promoted on the shop’s Facebook page.

 “Even if someone is not a customer, the carnation part of the promotion gives them an excuse to come in and check us out,” says Turner.


Although Turner hasn’t calculated the return on investment, business picks up every time he does the campaign—which he can tell because they hand out more carnations every year.

Image courtesy Turner’s Garage and Transmission


“Last year, the customer who won the roses said it was perfect timing because he was having a house party; he gave them to his wife to use as the table’s centerpiece,” Owens recalls. “He was very excited to win.”

“Everyone smiled and appreciated receiving a carnation,” Owens continues. “They were touched that we took the time to show them that we care about them.”

Personally, Owens loves the idea. “Some people may not have a valentine or get anything for the holiday,” she says. “I enjoy bringing a smile to customers’ faces.”

Dollars and duration

The campaign was promoted several weeks before Valentine’s Day and took place the week before it.

The florist provided the flowers free of charge. “He donates the carnations and roses, and we promote his business,” Owens says. “We include the florist’s name on the drawing entry form, Facebook promo, emails, newsletters, flyers, and texts.”

“It is free advertising for the florist; his only expense is the cost of the flowers. It is a win-win for both of us,” Turner says.

The Facebook posting, emails, and text didn’t cost anything, other than a staff member’s time. The newsletter was printed and mailed in-house; Turner hasn’t calculated the cost.

Do’s and don’ts

Get out and talk to non-competing business and try to do a trade-off, Turner advises. Build partnerships with other community businesses. Promote the promotion before it starts. He’ll keep the promotion as is for next year — why mess with increasing success?

4. Automotive Excellence

“I offer a variety of specials because most customers can use at least one of them.” – Mike Pogojeff, Automotive Excellence in Rohnert Park, CA 

“My specials are pretty much the same every cycle; I just change them for the season,” Pogojeff says. “It is pretty basic stuff.” He offers $15 off a minor or intermediate service; $25 off a major service; $30 off any repair or brake job over $200; or $50 off a timing belt replacement.


The postcard is only mailed to existing customers. Mailing it to others didn’t pay off. Promoting it via email and on Facebook had minimal impact.


The postcards generate between $25,000 and $30,000 in revenue per campaign. Pogojeff points out, however, that customers might have had their vehicles serviced even if they didn’t receive the postcard. On the other hand, the postcard might have motivated some people to schedule an appointment.


Customers appreciated paying less. A typical response was, “Sweet, I get to save some money,” Pogojeff says.

Dollars and duration

The postcard is delivered to recipients’ mailboxes a week before the holiday. “I don’t want it to arrive too early, but it needs to hit before the actual holiday or it loses impact,” he says.

Each mailing costs between $1,100 to $1,200 for the postcards, printing, and postage. Artwork design was $200 to $300; the same artwork is used every year. “Customers don’t remember what you mailed them a year ago,” Pogojeff says.

Pogojeff has found that using a mail house to do the printing, labeling, and mailing saves him a ton of time and money. “It’s a seamless process,” he says. “All I have to do is provide them with my mailing list.”

Do’s and don’ts

Over the five or so years that he has done a campaign, Pogojeff learned that it’s best to offer more than one discount to appeal to more customers. “I offer a variety of specials because most customers can use at least one of them,” he says.

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