Web sites can be a very powerful tool to help customers say YES to your businesses. More and more people make buying decisions as a result of research done on the Internet.
You don’t have to look beyond the attention given to automotive spending by companies like Google to see how important web presence is to automotive-related consumer spending. Automotive was, by far, Google’s best performing category in the third quarter of 2009, largely on the back of the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program.
Nikesh Arora, Google’s president of global sales operations and business development, said he still believes U.S. auto spending is poised for growth, largely because of the age of U.S. fleet and the shift of dollars to the web.
But many collision shops still don’t have a Web site at all, which is a huge mistake, says former shop owner David Moore, founder and president of CollisionBuilder.com, a Web site design firm. According to Moore, more than 80 percent of consumers between the ages of 33 and 54 research online before they buy a product or service, so if you have no online presence you could be missing opportunities.
“They don’t realize how vital a Web site is,” Moore says. “I consider the Web site to be the foundation of any good marketing program.”
If you own a colision repair shop and plan to be in business 5 years from now, you need to invest time creating or reviewing your business website. You should also check out business websites outside of the collision repair industry because you’ll get fresh ideas.
Also, just because the web is a relatively new tool, doesn’t mean you don’t need to remember time-tested basic principles of marketing. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the bestselling self-help books ever and is just as useful today as it was when it was first published in 1936. It has sold 15 million copies globally. Cargengie’s book and courses teach basic common sense techniques to help people win friends and influence others. The same techniques apply to the web today. Your website can use the same simple and common sense approach to make it easy for potential customers to say YES to your collision repair shop.
Few people take the time to research a collision repair shop in advance. Your web site must gain the trust of visitors, quickly and easily. How might you get some great ideas and exposure at the same time?
Look around. High school students are very web savvy these days. Invite some students and their teachers to help you. Give them a tour of your shop explaining the entire process of repairing a car. Show them your equipment and how it works. Explain how the procedures your shop takes to be environmentally friendly. Explain the challenges with aftermarket parts vs OEM parts. Explain the challenges you encounter with insurance companies. Invite the students to bring their high tech cameras and video recording technology so they can then share the information with others so as to allow input from lots of people. Most high schools have a student newspaper and of course they would be invited to cover the event.
You might invite the students to find a worthy cause to help in this project. Possibly there is someone in the community such as a wife and family of a veteran in Afghanistan and they have a car in need of repair. Possibly there is someone in the local community that is experiencing a financial hardship and their car needs some dents fixed and a paint job. If you invite some enthusiastic young people to get involved in a project that will help someone in their local community, there will be payback.
Figure out a way for everyone to win. As the project progresses post the progress on your site. Include lots of photos of those helping you. With a little imagination and enthusiasm you can see how someone can take an idea like this and position themselves very favorably in the community. Doing so will result in terrific exposure for your business. Your employees will be excited and proud to be part of the experience.
Some good sites I’ve come across that might serve as examples are the following: Joe’s Collision, Body Work & Detailing in Dallas, TX has a great looking site. One look at it gives an immediate impression of high quality professional work. It’s easy to read. It’s got a great colors and powerful testimonials with very professional photos. Check it out at www.joescollisionanddetailing.com.
Len’s Auto Body in Oceanside, CA, has an impressive site with logos from equipment manufactures as well as I-CAR and ASE giving visitors a feeling that it’s a shop that can be trusted to do high quality work. When a visitor clicks on “Shop Tour” a slide presentation begins and shows a variety of photos of his shop and equipment. He also includes a photo of his custom PT Cruiser advertising his shop which is another very creative method of gaining additional consistent exposure. He’s taking advantage of the popularity of that vehicle plus the custom paint job to draw attention to his business. His web site is a nice clean easy to use site that creates a favorable impression to visitors. Visit his site at www.lensautobody.com.
Daland Body Shop of South San Francisco is another excellent example. This website also has a video that begins playing as soon as the site is clicked on. I tend to favor site that use the video technology. Video is the next best thing to an owner telling a potential customer the selling points. The thing is though a video never has a bad day, it’s never tired and it’s available to give that same enthusiastic and professional message 24 hours a day. Visit this site at: http://daland-autobody.com
Don’t overlook the importance of appealing directly to female customers. There’s good evidence that women are in the majority of collision repair customers. Certainly they control the largest share of a family’s budget. There are companies that cater directly to shops by helping to make them more female friendly, such as AskPatty.com, which brands sites as female friendly. See http://femalefriendlydealer.askpatty.com/?d=Js_Auto_Body, for example.
“Up until now, like many automotive businesses, we thought the obvious goal was to ensure that women were treated the same as men. Through the AskPatty program, we’ve learned that treating women the same as men does not necessarily yield the [best] experience for women. This may not sound profound, but with an increased awareness of what elements women seek in a positive automotive servicing experience, our service centers are better prepared to meet and exceed the expectations of our female customers” stated Mark Kim, Operations Manager, J’s Auto Body, in Lanham, MD.
With just a little imagination it’s easy to see how a project like this could be a lot of fun for everyone involved. Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment.