Maybe take your efforts out of social media and use direct mail or billboard advertising, for example. Some shops will do print ads only during their slow times and then drop out when they get busy. Other shops, however, have been sticking with the same old marketing techniques for decades because they still work, but how will they continue to perform in today's ever-changing world of marketing? If you're still advertising in the yellow pages or putting flyers on cars in parking lots, it's time to make some changes, and now is the ideal time to do it.
In the spirit of change, I have decided to alter my writing style a little for 2017 to keep everyone on their toes--so I am writing this column at least partially with rap lyrics. I am surely not 50 Cent, but if my information about marketing is worth at least 15 cents, I'll be good with it, although I don't know how my editor is going to respond to my new approach.
1.) S-E-O, Baby!
Leverage your online presence or start paying your own severance before your shop starts to stumble and eventually crumble, because people are jammed for time and need to find you quickly online every time. That may sound dire and I don't want to start a fire, but with consolidation gaining momentum, smaller independent shops should heed this proclamation.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a necessary evil in today's world and many shop owners hate it because they can't understand it, to be honest. If you're not one of Google's top five shops when people search for your business in your town, that means you're likely buried deep in the bushes and most consumers will not spend the time to chase you down. You don't necessarily have to know what SEO is, but if you are on Google's page three or four, you definitely need to do something pronto. Hire a reputable SEO expert and let them do their magic and most importantly, give them at least eight months to one year for it to go into effect. To move up the ranks via any search engine organically, you need to give any SEO expert enough time for it to happen. Too many shops pull the rug out after only three months, thereby setting it up for failure.
2.) Short Clips and Less Text
With too many data downloads hitting our brains like driving rain, people are getting away from the written word and watching more videos to a point where it's absurd. So, jump in the video game and don't feel shame--you won't need a Spielberg or Scorsese to make production easy.
YouTube used to consist of mostly cute cat videos and recipes about how to make the world's best Lobster Mac 'N Cheese, but now there is a plethora of videos that were created by body shops all over the country. Some show shops fixing cars and educating consumers about the repair process, vehicle certifications, customer testimonials and other valuable and even entertaining information that can be easily and quickly disseminated to the public. If you think they don't work, check out how many people have viewed some of the them on YouTube and then start producing a few of them yourself. With today's technology, you can actually do videos with your smartphones, and editing software is easier to use than ever.
3.) Direct Mail is Back
It used to end up in the trash pail, but now direct mail is back like kale, so it won't fail for shops that can prevail by using this re-energized form that was once considered stale. If your design is spiffy and the message is profound, your customers will be happy and the piece renowned.
In the old days before the Internet, smartphones and email, everyone did direct mail and caused major congestion in many of our mailboxes. But now, with so many shops competing for a strong identity online, direct mail is more common. More and more large companies are gravitating away from direct mail and that's why you're getting less and less of it. This form of advertising has suffered from being called "junk mail" for decades, but now it's back, because if done right, it works. First off, you can buy a list that tells you how many people in your region drive a specific car for which you might just have a certification for. Sending a nice succinct mailer to these people on a semi-regular basis without stalking them will keep your name in their brains for when their next accident occurs.
4.) Pay it Forward
People have trouble saying philanthropy so in simple terms- it's just charity. You don't have to look too hard, because deserving people are in your own backyard. Do it for the right reasons and not just during the holiday season, and you will see results that are both satisfyin' and pleasin!
If you are looking at the most successful shops in any area, I would bet they do more than a few charity-related events and programs every year. Giving away cars or raising funds for non-profits by sponsoring car washes, truck pulls, crab feeds, pancake breakfasts--you name it and they do it and more. Helping other people gets your name out there and shows that you care about the community.
5.) Show Some Love
An occasional illustration of customer appreciation will ease their pain and retain them for the next time they get into a collision for whatever reason. Acquiring new clients is never an easy way to go, so why not stay in touch with the ones you already know?
Many shops are great at customer acquisition but don't do anything to retain them, which is a huge mistake. We know that people get into accidents every 7 to 10 years depending on who you're asking, but they can also refer folks to your shop, etc. A satisfied customer can be a great advertising vehicle for your business, so why not put your name in front of them as often as you possibly can? Follow-up letters, email newsletters and even an annual customer appreciation day is how top shops show love to their existing customer base year-round.