A Marketing Risk

Jan. 1, 2019
In order to navigate the often uncertain world of marketing, it’s important to first understand customer expectations.

Ask Bob Coleman what he wished he knew about body shops before starting his marketing company and he doesn’t hesitate:

“I wish I knew some body shop owners didn’t ever think about marketing,” he says.

“I guess it would have made it easier going into it,” he adds. “Now, I have to educate them on marketing.”

The problem that often occurs, Coleman, the owner of RC Marketing LLC, says, is that there’s a lack of body shop owners actually marketing their own business. According to the FenderBender 2018 Industry Survey, just shy of 50 percent of respondents had updated a shop website within the last year. And, only 21.9 percent of respondents promoted the shop on social media daily.

Coleman, who is aware of business changes and how long it takes to build a business in the industry, began his marketing career at Hertz, worked his way up to a manager position, and then moved onto working for CARSTAR locations in New Jersey.

While most of Coleman’s marketing consulting is done for New Jersey body shops, he says there are keys to marketing that each owner or manager can use to start marketing right now.

“Most marketing successes do not happen by accident,” he says. “This is the most important part of the business because it brings people in the door.”

As told to Melissa Steinken

Understanding Customer Expectations

Some people are completely oblivious to marketing and that’s fine. I would prefer if people tried a marketing endeavor even if it fails. Then, I can go in and help customize their individual business needs in terms of social media and whether they want me to represent the shop at community events.

I’ve become sort of an alternative for people that want a marketing representative but don’t want to spend a full salary on one. While I like doing this, I’d rather focus my marketing techniques in that way.

Tip: Try marketing the shop through social media platforms and customize the message to the shop’s culture and values.

Tracking the Customer

I wish shop owners knew how important it is to constantly keep track of how the customer has heard about the business. The most important marketing information for a shop comes from knowing what got the customer to walk through the door.

These shop owners should know what percentage of business these customers are, and whether an insurance agent referred them or if they saw an advertisement online or via social media.

Tip: Start keeping a record or survey of how each customer heard about the business before entering the shop.

Incorporating Savvy Marketing

It’s vital for shop owners to put compelling content across multiple social media channels. Most that I have helped either do not do it or do it haphazardly.

You need to monitor the reviews the shop gains on Google, Facebook and Yelp. And, the content that is being pushed out across the channels needs to be up to date with industry trends.

Tip: For example, you should keep tabs on what type of technology is in the vehicle to repair and advertise that new technology. Autonomous cars are becoming more popular so marketing that new technology could be beneficial.

Remembering to Follow SEO

There are a lot of variables to a successful marketing campaign. I come in and I take a look at their in-person marketing presentations and customer demographics. Important factors for improving search engine optimization include how many dealerships or fleets the store partners with, how many direct repair relationships the shop has and which other shops are in the area.

Tip: Visit dealerships and insurance agents monthly to start to build a relationship and later on, have the sources send you some of this information. It could take a year or two for an agent to start trusting a shop, so it’s key to act fast.

Perfecting the Website

It saves time if an owner can go and make sure all the website pages look uniform, and have a consistent message and logo.

Promote that you’re a trustworthy part of the community. Put your compelling talent across those channels. Tell others about events the shop has in the community.

Tip: Remember, above all, to make the website read like it would be a story in a magazine. Otherwise, most people don’t think about auto body shops often.

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