Have you checked these out? How effective do you think the contents on these promotional tools are? How do they compare with yours? Have you even looked? Are these articles of ‘little value’ that you might ‘pilfer’ and then polish to increase the value and fit your own needs? Your competitors may have spent dearly to get these tools created, but their designs and ideas are yours to copy if you modify them to showcase your shop. It’s been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but I’m not suggesting that you settle for a cheap copy of your competitors’ ideas. You need to improve—and improve greatly—on what you see.
Actually, you may already have your own version of what you see on your competitor’s site and other media, but this battle for the eyes and minds of on-line shoppers has just begun. Your shop may be smaller than any of your competitors, but if your website and other media are more powerful and impressive than they are, you will be the biggest in the shopper’s mind. How can you beat that for inexpensive expansion?
Your first line of attack is to identify which of your competitors has media elements worth pilfering. Don’t settle for one or two. Look at as many as you can. Then expand your search. Scour the country for shops that have spectacular sites and media presence. If you’re going to pilfer ideas, why not steal from the best?
Actually, most collision repair sites will have the same elements. Photos of the shop, personnel, and equipment with promotional information and customer satisfaction statements that make up a good part of most sites. The trick is to showcase yours in a more creative, eye-catching and ear-catching way. For example, getting an aerial photo view of your shop is possible in most parts of the country, but it’s seldom seen in on-line promotions. One shop’s site I viewed had 360 degree viewing of the inside of the repair area. This could be of value in promoting to an insurance company, but have little value for a collision repair shopper. You have to decide which public you’re most interested in impressing.
Look for the use of color. Many sites seem to have a lot of gray images or background. Spring for a design specialist with a flair for color and dramatic imagery. Think auto show. If your site and media look like everyone else’s, viewers will pass it by in a flash. When you’re scanning other shop sites, watch for images and colors that grab you instantly. Now it’s time to pilfer an idea worth copying and polishing. And don’t forget sound. Think about the background music on commercials that grab your attention. Loud sounds can be a turn-off, so a pleasing sound for your site will keep visitors looking.
Now for the hard part. You may want to create a showcase for your shop that puts the competition to shame, but you have very little material to work with. If you want colorful images and your actual shop is a study in shades of gray, it may be time to put your painter to work creating a more colorful place. Do you have expansive walls that could display a dramatic mural? Using image wraps normally used for commercial vehicles would allow you to put images of your favorite high-end vehicles right on the walls of your building. And consider the appearance of your crew. With a little imagination you can blow the competition away with your shop’s appearance.
Finally, watch for what’s missing in the competition’s presentations. Do you have a niche that many shops ignore? Do you provide special items for the aged or handicapped? These can show your shop as having compassion for others. Do you have a waiting area with elements for parents to entertain their children while they’re waiting? Do you provide special door-to-door service with rental cars, or after-hours rental car drop-off? Do you have key personnel that you might showcase? Have you worked on celebritys’ or local politicians’ vehicles? If you have old photos of interesting jobs or shop events you can probably have them scanned into digital images.
And don’t forget social connections. Affiliation with girl scouts, boy scouts, charities, hospitals, local schools or churches and more can connect you with like-minded viewers and separate your shop from the crowd.
You may not be able to afford regular events but it only takes one to provide you with plenty of images for your media and sites. One Ford dealer I helped with marketing put on a spectacular event with an armored vehicle from the sheriff’s department and a couple of concept cars from the Auto Show. With images like these on the opening home page, few viewers would pass it by. Get creative and you can beat anything the competition could come up with.