Start with a visual image
A while back I researched and wrote about the pros and cons of a shop having a website. When most shops are reaching out to a radius of less than one hundred miles for most customers, does it make sense to invest in a medium that reaches around the planet? I have found that the answer is an emphatic "YES!" when it comes to integrated marketing.
Creating a website forces a shop to create an image -- a focal point to communicate that shop's emphasis to anyone visiting the site. Most sites have a history of the shop and the owner or manager. Many have a photo of the owner and key people a prospective customer will meet upon arriving at the shop. Every site posts its credentials: insurance and fleet affiliations, employee's ICAR qualifications, paint brand used, type of frame machine and measuring equipment used, and more.
Fewer sites take advantage of the opportunity to tell about community involvement and possibly key customers served. Does the shop do work for the police or sheriff's department or other city or community agency? Is the shop involved in the Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, Department of Parks and Recreation or some charitable organization? Many owners are content to use their website to provide a map directing prospects to their shop, but credentials and connections like the ones listed above can begin to convey an image that will easily be remembered. This beginning of an integrated marketing strategy will help to start the shop on the road to a more prominent image and, of course, more business.
Use same elements in handouts
Once all of the elements of the website are in place, they can be used again in various pieces of literature: in a newsletter, on your business card and in various kinds of ads. In one free booklet we offer -- "Ten Steps to Increased Insurance Business" -- I suggest creating at least three different pieces of marketing literature so you can present or send three different views of your shop's capabilities.
One should emphasize the part of your website that describes your shop's history and offers several photos of the building, office area and working areas. This piece of literature could also draw on the part of the website that describes equipment, personnel, ICAR and other qualifications and DRP connections (if any). This provides an immediate overview of you and your shop.
The second brochure or mailing piece can go into more detail, once again drawn from the content of a website page. I always suggest a section about the owner or owners, with photos and a bit of personal history. These photos and descriptions can reinforce the selection of paint, spray booth, frame machine, measuring equipment and other special features that make your shop more desirable than the competition. When launching a marketing campaign to obtain a new DRP relationship or commercial account, you need this more detailed follow-up after your initial, more general contact.
Your third piece of literature and related website page should be completely customer satisfaction focused. On your website you may have some before and after vehicle repair photos. These are also appropriate for your literature, along with comments from satisfied customers. If you have used a formal CSI surveying company, this is a good place to indicate percentages of customer satisfaction reported. An additional photo might include one capturing your reception area and smiling, courteous personnel who greet new incoming customers.
Capitalizing on your shop's strength
Many websites also feature an area where current customers can enter their name or license plate number and see an update on the status of their vehicle in the shop. Cycle time is becoming an increasingly important statistic when insurance companies are evaluating a shop for potential DRP status. One of the biggest complaints received during CSI calls is "car not completed and delivered when promised."
One site I particularly liked featured a super-imposed image of a family over their vehicle. It emphasized the importance of getting a vehicle repaired to pre-accident condition, completely safe to operate regardless of the extent of damage caused by the accident. Photos of customers with small children along with comments on the solidity and apparent safeness of their repaired vehicle can make an impressive statement about a shop's dedication to satisfying this concern.