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Eight Ways to Make a Good Impression Online

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When a customer gets in a crash and needs to find a shop, the first place they go is the Internet.

Which causes Danny Sanchez to ask: Why are so many collision repair shop websites ineffective? “

A website that looks like it was built 10 years ago? Well, that’s not going to convince me you can fix my 3-year-old [vehicle] with the latest technology,” says Sanchez, CEO of Autoshop Solutions, an industryleading digital marketing company.

It’s all about that first impression: When customers find your shop through Google and click to your home page, what steps can you take to ensure a phone call? The first page they “land” on—aka landing pages— must convince them, in a simple and concise manner, to entrust their wrecked vehicle to your shop.

For years, Sanchez has helped numerous automotive care and body repair shops revamp their websites. Now he’s taking all his knowledge and outlining not only how to get a customer to your home page, but how to keep them clicking to find out more.

1. Populate Your Website with Keywords

Sanchez says there are two key steps in getting a customer to call your shop. One is providing all the relevant information a customer needs in a few simple pages. But, before that can be effective, the first step is getting people to your website in the first place.

The term search engine optimization (SEO) is thrown around often when discussing modern marketing— but how can shops actually ensure that their websites appear high on a search engine list? A key step in improving your SEO involves populating your landing pages with keywords and phrases that will be searched by potential customers.

Keywords must be placed within the “meta tag” located in the head section of a webpage’s HTML code, which may require professional help— but you can get a head start on the process. Take a look at the services you offer and make a list of words people may search after an accident. When people search those terms in Google, you’re more likely to place higher in the results.

Start with simple phrases, like “collision repair,” “paint repair” and “dent repair,” and then narrow the focus based on your business model. If you specialize in Subarus, the phrase “Subaru repair” might land you at the top of the list.

2. List Your NAP in Multiple Locations

Sanchez says one of Google’s biggest concerns is promoting local businesses—which means improving your local reach through search engines.

This is done through listing your NAP (name, address and phone number) on as many reputable business directories as possible, such as Yelp, BBB, Citysearch, InfoUSA, and even your local chamber of commerce’s website. Sanchez says there are more than 350 sources from which your NAP can help achieve improved search results.

Sanchez says the tiniest of errors in NAP can kill your search engine ranking. Google is looking to promote legitimate businesses, so even the tiniest of mistakes and inconsistencies—such as a period in the wrong place—will cause Google to think you have an “SEO spam site.”

3. Cater to Your Shop’s Ideal Customer

It should be simple: The first page people see once on your website should visually encapsulate your services and provide the information necessary to a customer.

Yet, Sanchez says he sees the same mistake time and time again:

“It’s not uncommon to see a photo of a Lamborghini on the home page,” he says. “There’s not a Lamborghini within 400 miles of most shops. The representation to the customer is you’re a high-end shop that won’t work on my Prius. The home page needs to represent the type of customer you want.”

Use phrases and photos that reflect the services you offer, whether you specialize in BMWs or offer general collision services. The customer shouldn’t have to read more than a few sentences to understand how you can help.

4. Keep the Menu Simple

Sanchez says the average user only clicks two or three times while on a site, which usually involves three specific menu items:

“About Us” is the page visited most often after the homepage, Sanchez says.

“It makes perfect sense why: They want to learn more about who the company is,” he says. “You should have a brief background of the company and pictures of people who work there. The customer will think, ‘These look like nice guys. This is a company I want to do business with.’”

“Services” is the next page customers visit after they trust your story and staff. You should list all of the services your shop offers, from painting to bumper touchups to fleet services to hydraulics to the types of vehicles you service.

“Contact” is usually the final page a customer needs before making the phone call. This page should provide your shop’s phone number and address, in addition to an online contact form that offers to set up an estimate.

5. Make Contact Info Easy to Find

Remember that note about NAP? Well, it’s not just for SEO purposes; it’s important on your site, as well. Make sure you list the phone number on every page—twice if possible—at the top and bottom.

“The phone call is the ultimate tool for getting business in,” he says. “You can’t use your website to eliminate interactions with people. That’s not our business model. Being friendly and available will never go away.”

Sanchez says a good conversion rate (percentage of people contacting your shop after visiting your website) is 10 to 15 percent, although many shops reach 25 to 30 percent. He says you can increase your conversion rate by offering more ways of contacting the shop, such as a “request an estimate” page.

6. Guide the Customer Through Your Shop’s Collision Repair Process

Differentiating your shop from the competition is key, and a unique offering he suggests is a page dedicated to the repair process.

“People are upset at this point, possibly injured,” he says. “They need a page that says how we’ll fix the car and work with the insurance company to make it all better.”

Since most customers don’t understand the process, explain the procedure from beginning to end, from setting up an appointment, to vehicle repair, to picking up the finished product.

As an example, one of Autoshop Solutions’ websites, for Spotlight Automotive, lists the process in five steps, including this blurb for the “Remove Damaged Parts” stage:

“Your vehicle is in the shop and is ready to be disassembled. Once parts have been removed, a secondary inspection will determine if there is any damage that couldn’t be detected initially. If more damage is found, a supplemental report will be completed, along with digital images, and sent to the insurance company. Once approved, any additional parts will be ordered and an updated completion date will be given.”

7. Offer Towing Information

From the vehicle getting towed from the collision site to impound to your shop, Sanchez says most people haven’t experienced the towing process. Guiding users through the procedures can be reassuring and gain their trust.

“You have to be instructional and educational,” he says. “The more you look like you’re being helpful, the more likely you’ll get the call.”

8. Keep Your Branding Consistent

Throughout While each page should contain different information, the design, tone and color scheme surrounding the information on those pages should remain consistent and accurately reflect your shop’s overall branding efforts. Your logo and menu should always remain in the same spot from page to page.

The design itself needs to be simple so it isn’t too distracting, yet modern enough to reflect that your shop is up to date with the times. The colors should reflect your logo, but you also shouldn’t make bright colors too overbearing. Utilize plenty of white or grey to fill in areas surrounding text.

“Design is extremely complex in affecting people’s decision-making processes,” he says. “There is an emotion we’re trying to get the user to feel during their research. They are subconsciously seeing what they want to see. Good design makes people feel like the company is professional and trustworthy.”

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