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Jeanne Silver couldn’t be everywhere at once. So she hired someone who could.

Well, sort of. Silver—owner of CARSTAR Mundelein in Mundelein, Ill., and Hall of Eagles inductee—wanted to ensure her shop was properly tending to insurance agents, community events, the chamber of commerce and local organizations, all of which seems impossibly daunting on top of managerial duties. So she brought on Marian Rodriguez full-time as the business’s marketing manager.

The results since speak for themselves: In the past two years, CARSTAR Mundelein’s market has expanded beyond Lake County into two neighboring counties, causing the shop’s referral rate to jump to 98 percent, insurance scores to skyrocket, and annual revenue and car counts to increase over 15 percent each year.

Rodriguez’s sole job is navigating the shop’s tri-county market, meeting with insurance agents and fleet accounts, reaching out to potential customers, and ensuring that anyone within a 50-mile radius knows that CARSTAR Mundelein is the shop for them.

“Our clients are anyone who drives a car, or anyone that knows a person who drives a car,” Rodriguez says. “It’s your next-door neighbor, it’s your employee, it’s your grandchildren—everyone. So any time I spend out in the community is beneficial to my company.”

From morning to evening, Rodriguez recaps one of her busy, marketing-heavy days and the strategies she uses to drive business to her shop.

 

I like to plan out my schedule by month. Very little of that time is spent in the office. I believe every minute with someone is valuable time, so I need to spend every possible minute of my day reaching people. 

Each month, I’m aiming to visit every client we have—that includes insurance agents and fleet accounts—attend chamber of commerce meetings, attend local women’s group meetings, and volunteer with local non-profits.

For my schedule, what I do is I go through the calendars for all three chambers I serve on and figure out what events I’m going to. I’m looking for family-oriented events, things that will draw a big crowd. Then I go into my women’s groups, like the Women's Industry Network, and look at their calendars and plan to attend their meetings. And then in between those events and meetings, I plan my days based on which clients I’m going to go visit.

That’s spread out over three different counties, so I hit towns within those counties one at a time. When I started here two years ago, we only covered one county. But as I was speaking with clients, I started to realize how many people worked in Lake County, but lived in a neighboring county. So I started to branch out and network with nearby chambers and businesses and insurance agents. Now I’m just as much a part of those communities as the one I started with.

 

This morning I started off early at a meeting for the Buffalo Grove Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce. I’m on their special events committee. That means I volunteer to do all the photography for the chamber. I go to all the events and snap photos. People recognize me all the time, because I’m “the lady with the camera.” And that makes them very comfortable with me. I’ve been working events with this one woman for almost two years, and she just came up to me and said she set up an appointment with the shop. 

A lot of people acknowledge CARSTAR Mundelein for giving back to the community. We also  volunteer at the Northern Illinois Food Bank and help package food for those in need. We’re on our sixth Recycled Ride for someone in our community. So we do things that are not typical marketing, per se, but we really believe in giving back is going to reward us—and it has. We’re very well  known.

I volunteer a lot of extra hours for organizations not in the collision industry. I’ve put in hundreds of hours with the Union League Boys and Girls Club in Chicago, and the Boys and Girls Club of Lake County. I photograph their events, and I play with the kids. All of their parents have vehicles that will need to be fixed at some point in their lives. For putting in so many hours with that organization, I’ve received the President’s Volunteer Service Award. You can’t underestimate how many people will see that in the local newspaper, and how much business that will bring in.

 

Then I went to visit some clients. I don’t want to just walk in, say hi and bye, and then I’m out the door. I sit down and talk to them and answer any questions they have for me. It takes a lot of time out of my day, but it’s time we’re giving to help them better get to know us. A lot of them need that hand holding. They need that reassurance that we care as much as they care about their vehicles. I tell them how our owner checks every vehicle that comes out of the shop, and how committed we are to quality.

I listen to everything they have to say and let them talk about their personal lives. With many of them, I know who their kids, their grandchildren, their pets are. I know what they like to eat and don’t like to eat. I learn what their needs are.

I like to change things up each time I go in. We try to have some sort of theme each month. In December, I’ll put on some reindeer antlers and bring in some cookies and ornaments. For Easter, we fill plastic eggs with candy and deliver them in a basket. For Halloween, we make a special trip to an apple farm in Wisconsin to buy apple cider donuts. I show up dressed like a witch with the donuts, and everybody wants to take a picture. Those are the moments they’re going to remember when they need to recommend a shop.

 

“You just want to have conversations with people, and offer your expertise where you can.”

—Marian Rodriguez, Marketing Manager, CARSTAR Mundelein

 

When our customers check in, our receptionists will ask who referred them, and they’ll say from which agent they came. The receptionist will then either text or email me a sheet that lists the agents that referred customers that day, and if I’m in the area, I’ll stop in and give them something as a thank you.

 

Later tonight, I’m having dinner with one of our clients. Sometimes I’ll schedule events at night as well, whether it’s a dinner or something in the community. I try to never come off like I’m pitching my business. You just want to have conversations with people, and offer your expertise where you can. 

When talking to people, I’m wondering what I can do to make their lives easier. We just celebrated our 20th year, so we’re very well known and respected in the community. We offer classes on safe driving and issues people should know about when it comes to their vehicles. 

So whenever I talk to someone my concern is to keep that standard and improve on it. When I hear stories about people’s children having a car accident and how petrified they were, I’m offering a way of coping. We want to take that concern away from them and offer them something more.

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