Effective body shop marketing strategies to increase profits

March 6, 2018
Referral marketing is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to market your business. If you haven't already, create a referral program. This begins with asking for referrals and, possibly, offering a small gift as appreciation.

In the  first  6 years of  running  my business,  I had no idea how to market my shop.  I flew by the seat of my pants, throwing away money to anyone that would promise me more business.  The only thing I learned here  is  that  most  people  did not have my best interest  in mind.  With the help of a consulting company,  I  invested more of my  time  in learning  about marketing and  understanding the various  strategies  that will help increase  revenue.  Almost immediately after  implementation,  sales grew — and continue to grow —  at a  steady  15-20 percent.  Here  are  some basic, easy-to-implement strategies that should work in most collision shops. 

Social media 

First  and foremost, let's start with  online presence. Your  website  represents your business  and a first impression is often determined  by what a  website looks like and  also,  how it functions.  Essential to marketing, your site should include a  call to action,  such as "request  an  estimate."  This gives  potential customers  a place to go to should it be after hours or on a weekend.  Websites need to have enough  content to introduce your  shop and the services that you offer  but  try to keep it simple.   Generally,  five to six  pages is  sufficient.  

It's  common to wonder if you're using the  right  social media.  My suggestion is to pick one  and  get really good at it.  You can implement more as you go.  I have seen shops  create  a  Facebook  page and  actively post  for two to three months,  then  claim they didn't  see any results  and quit using it.  Social  media marketing takes  time and there is no quick and easy solution.   

Start  with  two posts  per  week and gradually increase  until you  reach the point where you are posting daily.  In my opinion,  one of the biggest mistakes shop owners make  is they keep all of their posts car related.  They call it "social media" because it is  supposed  to  be social. Try mixing it up with trivia games, funny  memes,  comments or photos from kids, employee pics, giveaways,  etc.  Start by inviting your friends to "like"  your page  and, hopefully, they'll invite their friends.  

Referral marketing 

Referral marketing is one of the  least expensive  and most effective ways to market your business.  If you haven't already, create  a referral  program.  This begins with asking  for referrals  and, possibly, offering a small gift as apprectiation.  Leave  handwritten  thank  you  cards in customers' vehicles  and/or  mail  out a  short survey.  It's good to have  some sort of ongoing  mailing  scheduled a  couple  of  times  per  year  at minimum.  You want your customers to return and you want them to refer you, so be sure to keep in touch.  For example, our shop sends out  a bi-annual  newsletter  to our  entire  database.  As with all marketing,  a referral program  takes  time to  build  so  try not to get  discouraged.  

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Community involvement 

In 2011,  I  became sincerely active in my  community  through the local Chamber of Commerce.  All chambers need volunteers and  it's a great way to help while meeting new people.  Shortly after, I was  chosen to be on the Board of Directors  and this  eventually led to  me becoming  Chairman of the Board. During those 4 years,  I  connected  with hundreds of people and many became loyal customers.  This  also created a  pathway to other business relationships.  It doesn't have to be the Chamber of Commerce but you could sponsor a local sports team and mentor students at a nearby vocational school. Whatever that may mean for  you, allow your  good intentions  to  help develop personal relationships.  

There is no "magic pill" when it comes to marketing.  You just need to know where to start, remain dedicated and try to enjoy the process. If  you don't have time  or interest,  hire someone. It's a  low-cost  investment with  great potential for  long-term  return. 

About the Author

Mark Probst

Mark Probst is the owner of Probst Auto Body in Dieterich, Illinois. He earned the Master Elite Shop Management award from Management Succes in 2016 and has served on various local committees and organizations, some of which include the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce, the Dieterich Business Association, and the Effingham Career Academy.

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