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The Independent Body Shop's Guide to Marketing

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The Independent Body Shop's Guide to Marketing
Guidelines for becoming the most trusted shop in your community.

Extend Your Reach to Business Partners.

When Steve Ward breaks down his marketing approach, his strategy slowly becomes more and more convoluted. But not because he doesn’t have a systemized approach—it’s because he’s in Southern California.

“It’s one of the most competitive markets in the nation,” he says. “We have thousands more shops than most markets. One city bleeds into the next. When you break shops down by zip codes, they overlap. Major cities connected by a single street.”

As the owner of California Marketing Group, Ward and his wife, Debi, have helped dozens of collision repair shops nail down a local marketing approach. But their specialty doesn’t lie in appealing to everyday walk-in customers—they focus on marketing to business partners (insurance companies and fleets) that improve operations and offer new revenue streams.

That’s why Ward is so aware of the zip codes bleeding into one another: When insurance companies or fleets research collision repair shops, they search from region to region for the best partnerships. Just as you would do for any paying customer, you should  understand these outlets’ needs and desires—doing so has allowed Ward’s clients to stand apart.

“It sounds like body shop marketing 101 to me. But ... shop owners have no idea that their marketing money should be going towards getting exposure in any area that produces a profit,” Ward says.

This becomes especially important when you consider how attentive MSOs are to insurance carriers’ needs (“For the smaller guy getting into game, this is his biggest challenge,” Ward says). Marketing on a local level, however, can fill that gap. It’s not about being the biggest option available, but presenting yourself as the most enticing option available.


Creating a Proposal Letter

If a body shop really wants to secure business partners in the area, Steve Ward says you must take one simple step: draft a proposal letter.

But this isn’t just a sheet of paper with some text—Ward’s “proposal letters” are packets that break down everything the operation has to offer. As the owner of California Marketing Group, Ward has created hundreds of these packets for repair shops and dealerships in Southern California, and says the ROI on the few hours of research and compilation required is comically huge. While it sounds like a lot of work, he says an effective proposal letter that makes your business stand out in the community contains just a few basic elements:

  • Basic information that tells companies you’re reputable, safe and trustworthy. List surface information, like square footage, staff size and sales numbers.
  • Any services you can market, such as on-site rental cars, office space for insurance adjusters, fenced-in parking and drive-through estimating.
  • Brochures that contain further information about the shop, and business cards for the shop’s owner.
  • Universal information that doesn’t appeal to just one potential partner. The letter should be reprinted and passed out to any desirable companies.
  • A simple, yet professional, design. Work with consultants or graphic arts services to find art that fits your brand.
  • It’s short and concise. It contains the necessary elements to close the deal, and that’s it.

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