In the first 6 years of running my business, I had no idea how to market my shop. I flew by the seat of my pants, throwing away money to anyone that would promise me more business. The only thing I learned here is that most people did not have my best interest in mind. With the help of a consulting company, I invested more of my time in learning about marketing and understanding the various strategies that will help increase revenue. Almost immediately after implementation, sales grew — and continue to grow — at a steady 15-20 percent. Here are some basic, easy-to-implement strategies that should work in most collision shops.
First and foremost, let's start with online presence. Your website represents your business and a first impression is often determined by what a website looks like and also, how it functions. Essential to marketing, your site should include a call to action, such as "request an estimate." This gives potential customers a place to go to should it be after hours or on a weekend. Websites need to have enough content to introduce your shop and the services that you offer but try to keep it simple. Generally, five to six pages is sufficient.
It's common to wonder if you're using the right social media. My suggestion is to pick one and get really good at it. You can implement more as you go. I have seen shops create a Facebook page and actively post for two to three months, then claim they didn't see any results and quit using it. Social media marketing takes time and there is no quick and easy solution.
Start with two posts per week and gradually increase until you reach the point where you are posting daily. In my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes shop owners make is they keep all of their posts car related. They call it "social media" because it is supposed to be social. Try mixing it up with trivia games, funny memes, comments or photos from kids, employee pics, giveaways, etc. Start by inviting your friends to "like" your page and, hopefully, they'll invite their friends.
Referral marketing is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to market your business. If you haven't already, create a referral program. This begins with asking for referrals and, possibly, offering a small gift as apprectiation. Leave handwritten thank you cards in customers' vehicles and/or mail out a short survey. It's good to have some sort of ongoing mailing scheduled a couple of times per year at minimum. You want your customers to return and you want them to refer you, so be sure to keep in touch. For example, our shop sends out a bi-annual newsletter to our entire database. As with all marketing, a referral program takes time to build so try not to get discouraged.
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In 2011, I became sincerely active in my community through the local Chamber of Commerce. All chambers need volunteers and it's a great way to help while meeting new people. Shortly after, I was chosen to be on the Board of Directors and this eventually led to me becoming Chairman of the Board. During those 4 years, I connected with hundreds of people and many became loyal customers. This also created a pathway to other business relationships. It doesn't have to be the Chamber of Commerce but you could sponsor a local sports team and mentor students at a nearby vocational school. Whatever that may mean for you, allow your good intentions to help develop personal relationships.
There is no "magic pill" when it comes to marketing. You just need to know where to start, remain dedicated and try to enjoy the process. If you don't have time or interest, hire someone. It's a low-cost investment with great potential for long-term return.