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Build a Better Online Presence

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Building a Better Online Presence

It’s 2017, and the Pew Research Center says 77 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones, meaning social media is one extra box a shop owner must check off when it comes to marketing. But when it comes to building an online presence, you have to start with the basics—like a website.

For shop owner Jason Dupree of Xtreme Auto Collision in Raleigh, N.C., building a better website was something he knew he needed to do, but he was still settling for an outdated website he had for years. That meant little SEO, an ineffective sales path and no updated marketing tactics, such as pay per click. The result? Few website visitors were converted into customers, meaning Dupree’s website was essentially acting as an online brochure.

And that simply won’t cut it anymore for today’s digital-savvy customer, says Margaret Klemmer, chief business development officer at industry marketing firm Autoshop Solutions. Shops have 3-8 seconds to make an impression online, she says, and to make that impression, the content needs to be catered to your market and clientele.

That means that a website created by a friend or family member—like Dupree’s old site—will not help make that impression. It’s how he ended up with what was “the most basic website you could ever imagine”: a domain name and a main page that had a couple points about what services the shop performed, no tabs, FAQs, personal information or reviews.

Klemmer—whose work with Autoshop Solutions provides social media, marketing and website guidance for both mechanical and collision repair shops—concedes that collision shops do have a slight challenge to overcome when it comes to their online presence because many customers have likely never stepped foot in a body shop before.

“You can’t just have a website and think you’re going to do great,” she says.

Make sure you’re getting the website your business actually needs, Dupree says; do the necessary research, shop around and ensure your web provider is a true partner in the business.

Since redoing his website a couple years ago, Dupree says he’s learned a number of lessons along the way; key fundamentals that he believes all collision repair shops should keep in mind with their overall web presence. Dupree and Klemmer outline their top tips for creating an exemplary website.


Clear calls to action

One of the most important components that should be on every website is clear calls to action that include contact information. Klemmer says she still sees websites without phone numbers on the homepage.

Without a visible phone number or address, you’ve already lost seconds of impression time. So even if customers have decided to use your shop, their searches for the obvious may ultimately turn them off.

For Dupree, calls to action are exactly what drives his website. Right at the very top of his site is an address and phone number. In the middle of the page is a “make an appointment” button, making things easy to navigate for customers.

Klemmer also says that if the site has a mobile version, make sure there is a click-to-call option: Don’t make the guest have to type in the number and switch back and forth between the browser and keypad. Same goes for the address, she says. If a guest clicks on the address, a map should automatically come up.  

These are the essential first steps to building a successful website, because if the client can’t contact you easily, there is no point in looking into what you have to offer.  


Content, content, content

The content on the site should be uniquely written for the shop, Klemmer mentions. The point of the website is to provide the most relevant information for the person searching.

Klemmer also suggests finding ways to connect emotionally and aesthetically with the customer. To have the website emotionally connect with the client, ask yourself these questions: How are you going to help this person through this stressful time? How can you communicate that on the first page to help the viewer understand that you’re there to help?

In addition, make sure you list any additional services or relevant information to ensure that you are there for the guest. Things like loaner cars, accreditations and service recognitions are all examples of features that, if listed, can only help the website.

“I had those goals and achievements, but no one knew I had them,” Dupree says.

Dupree says that the purpose of having all the relevant information on the homepage is to help the customer make an easy decision, which is something his old website lacked.

When it comes to aesthetics, Klemmer says that pictures are very important. A gallery of before-and-after photos are key for collision shops—something Dupree has on his website under the “gallery” tab—especially if they cater to the higher-end vehicles.

And finally, a simple photo of your staff smiling or a customer interaction is always a crowd favorite.


Mobile-responsive site

According to Google, 80 percent of people who use the Internet use a smartphone to access it, and 39 percent of people search using only their smartphone during an average day.

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, it’s important that whatever website you build appears on all types of devices. According to Klemmer, building a mobile-responsive site is not only beneficial to your business, but is even now required by Google. Without having the ability to be pulled up on a device other than a computer, your site is both losing its reach to customers and limiting your Google ranking, she says.

According to Klemmer, if the search is being done from a mobile device, Google wants to display the mobile-responsive sites first. This may result in your site not appearing in the first few pages of a search.

Having a mobile-responsive site consists of one set of content that scales to whichever device is being used and can automatically adjust to the screen size of the device, Klemmer says. Being mobile friendly not only boosts your chances of being seen, but allows the customer easy navigation through the website and accessibility at any location.


Highlight reviews

Finally, Dupree says clear testimonials that not only attest to customer service, but also the quality of work, are crucial.

For Dupree, having reviews on the website has positively impacted his business and with a 4.9-out-of-five-star rating on Google, he believes the future will be built on reviews.

“My website now is cozy,” Dupree says. “People know about us now and I do think I am that thorn in my competition’s side.”

The reviews not only help aesthetically, but also bring you one step closer to helping that customer make a decision to visit your shop.

“You’re competing for the next business that does the same thing you do,” he says. “I think nowadays you need to really keep things edgy and innovative to catch customers’ interest.”


SHOP STATS: Xtreme Auto Collision  Location: Raleigh, North Carolina.  Operator: Jason Dupree  Average Monthly Car Count: 35-40+  Staff Size: 6-9 average  Shop Size: 12,000 sq. ft. Annual Revenue: $1.4 million 

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