The Marketing Plan to Fit Your Brand
You’ve heard it before: You have to market your shop to see a growth in clientele and sales.
But the possibilities for different kinds of marketing plans—that focus on specific mediums, such as social media and ad purchasing—are endless.
There is, however, all-inclusive marketing, which focuses on everything: online presence, community engagement, mailers. But while all inclusive can involve every marketing tactic out there, it is up to the shop to develop an all-inclusive plan that includes the strategies that will help build their brand.
For Christy Jones, owner of R Jones Collision 1 in Des Moines, Iowa, she has found a plan that best fits her needs. And with 80 percent of her customers being either referrals or comebacks, she knows her plan is working.
Find the Plan to Fit Your Brand
Before you start making your plan, Rhonda Hiltbrand, CEO of News Works Marketing Group, says there are a few things to keep in mind. Set a goal on what you’re trying to accomplish, figure out your marketing budget and set aside time for implementation.
Look at your mission statement and choose marketing that will align with that. For example, if you enjoy being involved in the community, volunteer and meet people. Those contacts will soon be the source of word-of-mouth referrals.
As far as budget and time goes, Hiltbrand recommends that 2-3 percent of gross sales should go toward marketing. If you don’t have time to be consistent with your marketing, it’s best you consult a marketing company.
One of the perks of all-inclusive marketing is that you can use something like your brand logo on all things marketing; for example, your logo can go on all your social media, tech uniforms, newsletters, etc. Hiltbrand says that when you pay for one design and are able to post it everywhere, you get a lot for your money.
A great tool to use your logo on is a printable card that outlines what you should do in an accident. Hiltbrand says these are great because they can be put in a glove box and will come in handy if someone is ever in an accident.
You can even take this method and apply it to Facebook by creating a printable post that outlines what to do in case of an accident. She also says that humor in the shop’s marketing is something she always recommends to the shops she consults because it makes people laugh, which is always good for making them remember you.
One of the biggest marketing tips that Hiltbrand stresses is the importance of newsletters. Once or twice per year, a shop can go through their post office and take part in EDDM (every door direct mail). It’s an 8.5x11” mailer that will reach everyone in your community and a great resource to get your name out there.
It’s fairly inexpensive, she says. Each piece is less than the standard mail rate in your area, and gives the shop an opportunity to have one of its mailers put in every mailbox in a particular zip code.
You can also find another purpose for your mailers, Hiltbrand suggests. Ask the print shop for extra copies and approach local businesses about posting them. This is a cheaper alternative to more expensive advertising, such as TV or billboard advertising.
Whatever medium you choose to market with, you need to come across as the expert, Hiltbrand says. You’re the specialist, so you need to convey that you will use the best parts, the best paint, and that you’re not just going to put a Band-Aid on the car because the insurance company says so.
Be Top of Mind for Customers
For Jones, she takes various steps to make sure that when someone needs a collision shop, they think of her. Hiltbrand also believes that top-of-mind awareness is key.
When someone gets in an accident, they’re freaked out, Hiltbrand says. So, as a shop operator, you have to ask yourself: How am I going to make them think of me?
Jones has a variety of tactics that she has found to be very helpful for doing just that.
Networking groups. Jones is a part of Center Sphere, a networking group that is very similar to BNI (Business Network International), another popular networking tool.
There are groups for each region and the groups typically involve one person per industry per group. The purpose of the groups is to refer each other’s businesses, ultimately helping everyone grow.
Jones participates in weekly meetings and finds that she sees the ROI very quickly because she usually makes her yearly admin cost of about $300 back from just one referral.
Hiltbrand also thinks networking groups are a great way to get into an arena of people to whom you can reach out.
Community involvement. Your local chambers not only help you network with people, but also makes you a recognizable name in the community. Jones is a member of three chambers and says that, in addition to Center Sphere, it is the key to having people think of her when they get in an accident.
Because chambers work very hard to support the people participating in them, Hiltbrand says that it’s important to attend the meetings and volunteer.
In addition to chambers, Hiltbrand says that if you’re involved, the community is more apt to turn to you, so extend your involvement by participating in events. Become involved with area schools because you should always be looking for technicians down the road.
Jones does a lot of grassroots marketing, which relies on the same principles. This marketing for her shop includes supporting local schools, football advertising and school scoreboard advertising.
Unique events. Collision shops tend to have a tough time marketing themselves, Jones says, so it’s important to do things that are not so typical. Jones, who is a teacher by education, had a desire to educate women on the process of an accident and what to do.
She teamed up with an insurance agent and a mechanical shop in town to host classes for women on basics about coverage deductibles, what to expect and scenarios like changing a tire or what a service light means.
Jones says that visiting repair shops can sometimes be intimidating for women, so hosting a laid-back class not only gets her name out there, but fulfills a greater good of educating.
The bi-yearly class is free and the shop usually finds sponsors to provide food and prizes. She usually receives a turnout of around 20 people but her largest class size has been 50. Guests also get to take home things, like a kit of information to store in their glove compartments.
All of these tactics are easier said than done, but once you get around to implementing them, it’s important to follow through and stay consistent.
For example, Hiltbrand says that if you're involved with your local school sports teams, it’s not enough to sponsor them or have your name on their shirts. Go out and supply ice cream for everyone or have a cookout after the game. You don’t have to be at every single game, but you need to be present from time to time.
Social media is also a must. Don’t post just once every few months and expect to see a return. You need to be consistent.
In fact, Hiltbrand says a lack of consistency is the biggest mistake shops make. Don’t start and stop. At the minimum, you need to post at least once per week, she says.
Jones also makes a point to try and stay consistent on social media. Her shop website has a live feed of Facebook posts ranging from videos, photos and links.
She says that daily communication with guests is easy to start, whether that be posting educational or informational content or even giving one of your staff members a birthday shoutout.