The cost for the body shop for piggybacking on the Volvo dealer’s event was very little. Two people attended to pass out T-shirts, pens, and other specialty items. They also prompted questions from attendees on the condition of their vehicle’s autobody, and offered a free diagnosis for paint wear, structural problems and more. Several potential jobs came out of these discussions.
With business volume and profits down these days, shops need to look for ways to cut costs and this includes marketing. Generally when business is slow the last expense a shop should cut is marketing, but piggybacking is a great way to stretch those marketing dollars. This same shop took advantage of another opportunity to share in an inexpensive event at a local high school. The school held a driver awareness day sponsored by the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Auto Club and a local TV station. A personal connection enabled the shop to set up an information table during the event. Since schools in this state no longer offer driver training programs, there is a good opportunity for collision shops to promote opportunities for events like this in local high schools. An insurance partner is likely to participate, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to recruit a local driving school and possibly even a towing company to join in.
Another shop has capitalized on a strong relationship with the owner’s church congregation. The church has a high school and the shop provided free repairs on a school bus as a contribution that resulted in an invitation to share in a church’s community event and to be listed in the church bulletin. Other local community events like parades and family fair days can provide a shop with an opportunity to have an information booth and to be listed in any event literature. Most of the costs of attracting attendees to these events have been covered by the hosting organization, and these are the biggest costs in putting on any event. I know of one dealership where about $10,000 was spent on a one-day open house. The cost of catering was far less that the promotional costs. The shop piggybacking on such events incurs practically no costs by comparison.
Another way to do an inexpensive event is to put on a co-op event with another vendor with a similar customer base. This might be a tire dealer, a glass vendor or an accessory shop, or it might include three or four vendors. The cost-saving advantages are many but most valuable of all is the breadth of the combined databases for promoting the event. A typical tire shop probably has a database of several thousand prior customers and the body shop easily has as many if not more. As long as the vendors are not in competition with one another, a single mailing piece can include every business participating. Bulk mail can keep mailing costs down and if the businesses have been collecting e-mail addresses, promoting the event can be much cheaper.
While piggybacking and co-op events are by far the least expensive way to approach marketing events, a shop shouldn’t overlook the advantages to putting on its own event. At the Volvo Customer Car Care Clinic many of the problems customers asked Volvo techs to address were issues easily addressed at a collision center. Headlight alignment, windshield wiper fixes, tire adjustments and other problems with the car’s body rather than the motor or mechanical parts were most frequently requested. A body shop putting on a Customer Car Care Clinic could actually expand to include protective coatings, upholstery fixes, dash repairs and other elements generally addressed during autobody repair and refinishing.
As the number of collisions diminishes and other elements reduce the volume of straight repair and refinish work coming to many shops, a shop owner might be wise to begin to create an image of the shop as more than just a place for autobody paint and repair. Automotive shops press customers to come in for an annual mechanical checkup. A forward looking autobody shop owner could make a good case for customers coming in for an annual vehicle interior and exterior finish evaluation, and with a little creative sales effort turn those evaluations into some added annual revenue.