Multi-Shop Operators (MSO)

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Stock your marketing toolbox

Twelve ways MSOs can build name-recognition, win new customers, and encourage referrals
Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 06:00
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Consider cable

Before Mike Quinn sold his Arizona-based MSO to a larger MSO, he was a proponent of cable television advertising. He said cable companies will produce such ads, which can save advertisers thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

Quinn recommends getting the camera crew to shoot as much footage as possible while they are one of your locations, so you’ll have more options down the road even if your initial ads don’t use it all. Have them get good shots of the building, signage, and employees doing all the key steps of the repair process, for example.

Another plus for cable is you can more carefully choose channels with the demographic you are seeking to reach. Quinn said his company chose a  target market of women 30 years or older. He ran their cable television ads on HGTV as well as on Nickelodeon, which moms often watch with their kids. He said cable marketing representatives may try to sell you “excess inventory,” ad space they haven’t sold, so it’s best to know what you want rather than rely on their recommendations.

He also said a rifle approach to marketing is more effective than a shotgun. Don’t scatter ads on a lot of different radio or cable stations, for example. Focus in a few stations, with multiple airings of your ad within a specific time frame. Choose the morning or afternoon commute time on the radio, for example, and “own” that time slot with multiple ads. Repetition is the key, Quinn said.

Marketing Misfires

Not all MSO marketing efforts are glitch-free. Checking out MSO websites, Facebook pages and advertising materials yielded a few missteps.

One large MSO, for example, has a “specials” section on its website, where potential customers can see what discounts or offers are available at the company’s various locations. The MSO’s locations in one particular state, for example, are shown to be offering qualifying customers three free days of a rental car if they don’t have rental car coverage, or a free rental car upgrade if they do. But even into this fall, the website was saying the offered expired December 31, 2014  – eight months previously.

Several MSO websites offer the option of a “live chat” with a customer service rep, which can be a nice service for customers and potential customers. But one MSO chat operator wasn’t overly helpful. When asked if the MSO has a shop in a particular state (which they don’t), the operator didn’t look up the information but instead only forwarded a link to the find-a-location page of the MSO’s website. So much for making things easier for the customer.

Keep them coming back for detailing

One marketing tool McCollum Auto Body has been using for over a “Detail for Life,” which offers qualifying customers four vehicle details a year. It’s an idea the 4-shop MSO based in Portland, Ore., learned about in a Masters School of Autobody Management course. Customers love it, the MSO’s owners say.

“That’s sold a lot of jobs,” Joey McCollum said.

McCollum said “Detail for Life” is technically offered only to those with a repair job above $2,500.

“But our [sales staff] can make the decision on whether or not to give it to other customers based on other circumstances they may dealing with,” McCollum said. “So if it makes the difference in getting that $2,200 job, or it’s for a repeat customer, or maybe a single mom stressed out with two or three kids.”

He said the program helps keep the shop fresh in customers’ minds, and gives them an opportunity every few months to see if there’s body or mechanical work – the company offers both – that the customer might need.

“We actually have people who haven’t qualified for the program buy it for themselves or others, especially around Christmas,” McCollum said.


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