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A Q&A with Todd Westerlund, Kukui

More than a software company, Kukui takes an enlightened approach to put your shop out there.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 07:00
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Combining technology and marketing brings an enlightened look at getting information on today’s repair shops to the general public.

And that’s the goal of Kukui, a software company with a focus on marketing, says Todd Westerlund, president of U.S. operations. He adds the name actually means enlightenment in Hawaii, where the company started.      

What is Kukui?
Kukui is a software company that is passionate about technology and helping people. That’s really at our core. The name actually means enlightenment. It comes from Hawaii, and that’s where we started.

What do you offer today’s repair shops?
What’s different about us is that it’s a revolutionary marketing platform. It combines all of the technologies that relate to your marketing strategy. We put that into a very innovative way so the shop owner can see everything right there, real simple, all in one place.

One of the taglines we use is, ‘Why write five checks when you can write one?’ So when I say a platform, there’s a lot of companies out there that do email marketing, postcard marketing, website marketing, review marketing, so we do all of those things. When somebody comes on board with us they usually cancel the other four different companies.

People for years have heard about SEO, but why are analytics just as important for today’s shops?
It’s really kind of a groundbreaking change that’s happening out there. There are a couple of key elements that a website has to have. The big terminology we’re looking at right now is called conversion rate. In the past, we really focused on things like what’s your click-through rate. How many impressions are you getting, how long do people stay on the website. Really at the end of the day, that’s great if I put together a nice shiny report for Tschanen and look at that and have a nice little chat about that. Really, at the end of the day what you’re going to hold me accountable for is does the phone ring and do people come in and spend money? We track all that stuff, but we hold ourselves accountable with did the phone ring and did they come in.

A shop isn’t too excited about people are going on my site and staying there a long time. That really doesn’t do anything for me. I’d really like them to call me.

Three things that go along with that that we always have fundamentally  built into every website is relevancy. We remove everything, if you take a look at all the companies we work with, we really remove a lot of stuff and keep it very simple and keep it very relevant.

We used to have you on Google+ on there, Facebook on there, Twitter on there, Pinterest and all of these different things. There’s 45 different choices for somebody’s who’s just assaulted when they visit the website.

Now I want it to be real simple. I want them to build trust and value. Really as human beings, we read left to right, so you’ll see reviews, so that’s credibility and trust; in the middle we have brand, we really have value and their logo and build the brand of the shop; and then over to the right, we also have the phone number. I don’t want to put anything in between there. I trust, I look, this is the brand I’m looking for and I can call them.

Any time you put anything in between the human eye going from left to right, you lower the chance of them coming in. So if we have Facebook there, guess what might happen. If it’s a small shop, I may go on Facebook and I may reach out to everybody on Facebook and ask them who they take their car to. Just by putting the Facebook link in there, you lower your chances of somebody visiting the shop.

When this interview appears in the magazine, it still will be early in the year. Because of this, why should owners lay out a marketing plan for the entire year, keeping in mind it can be flexible?
One of the things that is really different about us, we’re a business visibility tool into their marketing funnel. Since we’re connected into all the marketing, we actually do postcards, so we track postcards. We do all of their email marketing, text message marketing, Google AdWords, Facebook, Yahoo, Bing, if the consumer of the shop wants to sponsor a golf tournament, we can track that. What we’re looking at is historically as a business plan, you want to have data to make the business year, but to also stop things that aren’t working. I’ve seen shops in the United States that do a lot with Yellow Pages and I’ve shown them what’s happened with Yellow Pages, and they realize, wow, I’m not getting any business. There are other pages, maybe they’re not a big fan of Yelp, but I can get them to take a look and see I’m getting huge business of Yelp. Really getting that visibility into what works is very important. We continue to do what works and cut out what is not working.

My statement on a plan is always the same. If you think of a ship leaving the harbor, if you don’t have a plan, it starts wandering aimlessly. We’re heading kind of in that direction, toward the United States. But if you have a plan, it really is like the GPS. You can get where you need to go directly. They really do need to have a plan month by month, what are we doing in February, say for Valentine’s Day. What are we doing in April for Easter, what are we doing in July for Fourth of July. All of these things need to be planned out.

What are some key elements that owners should have on their websites and highlighted early and often on the site
It’s really important to make sure that relevancy, trust and value are really what’s in the top 600 pixels of the website. The phone number needs to be clearly visible at the very top. We’ve tried all sorts of different patterns, different types of platforms and all different ways for websites, and the absolutely best conversion rate is a very clear phone number at the top. Really, we like the upper right, but it could be slightly to the middle, that could work.

Google changes their algorithm constantly. The one thing we do see out there, is with the colors on the website, if you stay away from some of the really, really bright colors, just be careful to not have neon, all sorts of flashy things. When that happens, that really lowers that conversion rate. Having some of your very crisp, clear basic colors will have a higher conversion rate.

The top 600 pixels really needs to have relevancy, trust and value.

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