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SHOP STATS: Regal Collision Repair   Location: Vallejo, Calif.  Operator: Jim Boyle  Average Monthly Car Count: 100  Staff Size: 17(6 body technicians, 7 in the front office and 1 parts person/ 2 paint shop workers and 1 detailer)  Shop Size: 9,000 sq ft; Annual Revenue;$3 million  

When Jim Boyle opened his shop, Regal Collision Repair in Vallejo, Calif., some 20 years ago, marketing wasn’t exactly at the forefront of his mind as an owner.

There were bills to pay, customers to service, cars to repair—all with little money to waste. However, as business grew and Boyle was less focused on the day to day, he began to turn his attention toward marketing.

But the question remained: How could he run an effective marketing campaign with a small budget?

Despite the challenge, Boyle had a distinct advantage in his back pocket: He was from the area. And more than that, his entire family was from the area. In fact, he was third in a long line of body men. His grandfather operated a body shop in Vallejo in the 1940s and both of his uncles also worked at the family shop. Boyle himself had worked at numerous shops in the area since the 1980s and even helped open Regal Collision Repair, long before he purchased the shop.

That’s when it occurred to Boyle: Could he leverage his long-standing ties in the community in a way that not only brought in customers, but also spread his shop’s name and reputation in a direct, aggressive way?

 

The Backstory

Helping the community has been a goal of Boyle’s since he was a kid in Boy Scouts of America, he says. But, Boyle’s foray into the collision repair world was a slow progression, he says. He joined the field and did not know anything about the business. That all changed when he became part of an apprenticeship program in 1980.

Since then, Boyle has leaped into involvement in the community and learned lessons along the way.

Boyle also serves on the UTI technical board, the Contra Costa College Advisory Committee and testified at the state Senate to protect consumer’s rights to choose a shop of their choice.

 

The Problem

Boyle bought his shop with intentions to help others, he says. Yet, for the first two years of doing business in the area, he did not realize he could help the community and also market his business.

The moment that Boyle and his wife started in the business, they did not have much money, Boyle says. So, they sought out to help others in the community in similar positions and share their success as it came.

Despite their mission, Boyle realized the business was losing out on a way to market their shop. The partnerships in the community opened a way for the shop to spread its name.

 

The Solution

From participating in the annual fundraiser hosted by the Humane Society of North Bay, to joining donation programs through his paint group, AkzoNobel, Boyle continues to hit his annual revenue goal of $3 million each year and get more customers through the door.

Here’s how he did it:

1. Ramp up the number of social media posts.

While there was never one huge solution, Boyle says he first started forming community relationships by joining collision associations and verbally spreading the word.

Then, Boyle formed agreements to share other business posts in return for social media posts on his shop.

The shop partners with the Benicia Classic Car Show to share each other’s social media posts on Facebook, Boyle says. More nonprofits have offered to post in exchange for a post but Boyle has only taken up on the offer of goodwill from the humane society and AkzoNobel.

2. Use a paint company’s resources.

Another essential factor to the shop’s success has been the store’s paint partner, AkzoNobel, Boyle says.

Through the paint company, Boyle and his team got involved in the benevolence program. The program provides refurbished cars to deserving organizations or individuals during the holiday season. Regal Collision Repair has participated in the program for 11 years.

3. Constantly think about networking.

In order to find cars to refurbish and a place for the vehicle to be donated, Boyle needed to form connections in the area. He asked customers or other businesses to recommend someone who deserved to receive the car and then discussed the donation with his team. Taking into account the time to find the car and refurbish it, adding new upholstery, tires and any other repairs, the whole process takes a year.

“It’s expensive and time consuming but once you know you’ve impacted someone’s life, it does bring a tear to the eye,” he says.

Boyle searched in all areas to find people and organizations to donate to, he says. As an added bonus to help the industry, he picked a San Francisco-based organization that shuttle kids around after school, taking them to different skate parks and teaching them a high level of skateboarding.

Boyle says that the kids from these programs will often later go into the repair business.

4. Look into local educational institutions.

To continue promoting his shop as not only a shop for customers but for potential employees, as well, he joined the Contra Costa College advisory board. At local car shows throughout the year, Boyle says he takes the college technical instructor with him and sets up a booth. The duo comes to the show equipped with virtual reality spray gun simulators and virtual welding simulator.

“It’s a way to promote the body shop and the college at the same time,” he says.

If a parent and a student stop by, they can not only direct questions to Boyle, but to someone who can offer them information on how to enter a college program, as well.

 

The Aftermath

Boyle and his team are in the process of implementing a new management system and tracking CSI more extensively in the future, a process that Boyle says he realizes is important to do.

“While it’s hard to track, when asked, people usually respond that they’ve heard good things about us for years,” he says.

And, an “astounding” amount of people come into the shop saying they read reviews on Yelp, Boyle says. As a result of the community standing, Boyle says the shop just won an award from the community as the best auto body shop.

 

The Takeaway

Not only do community partnerships provide a way of gaining more customers through word-of-mouth advertising, Boyle says it also helps with another problem: the technician shortage.

Boyle says he has learned often other businesses are worried about tracking more people into their industry.

“And that is our problem too,” he says.

 

 

Expert Advice: Partner Marketing

The concept of “partner marketing” has been around for ages, says Jenna Gross, chief marketing officer for Moving Targets. Symbiotic relationships are what a shop should focus on in order for partnerships to develop.

Gross says it is not just about companies that bring big sales. The partnership needs to provide value in both directions so that the customer benefits, making it a win-win for all.

What to Remember:

  • Partnerships do not need to be a formal, business-to-business function, she says. Instead, it can be as simple as chatting with the owner of a deli the shop orders lunch from or maybe a technician has a friend at a local grocery store.
  • Partnering with another business can double the shop’s exposure. This is helpful to customers because they receive a larger pool of referrals from a trusted source.
  • Find partners that will add value to your customer’s lives and vice versa. Car washes, gas stations, or auto detailers are all great fits, while not being competition for the business.
  • Have partners donate prizes for a contest or giveaway. For example, partner with a popular local restaurant and give away free dinner. This can be away to grow the shop’s email list and reach members of the community that may or may not be familiar with the business.

 

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