Utilizing Community-Based Marketing

Nov. 1, 2017
Community-based marketing can be an effective way to boost your department’s reputation in the community, provided you spread your giving around.

Back in the day, Greiner Ford’s body shop suffered from a less-than-stellar reputation in the community of Casper, Wyo.

In 2017, however, that seems like a distant memory.

Thanks to nearly two decades of giving back to the community, Greiner Ford and its body shop now enjoy a reputation as impeccable as the collision center’s shop floor. The facility doesn’t have to worry about fighting the typical stereotypes associated with body shops, such as that they’re dirty shops run by leaders that don’t have customers’ best interests at heart.

“We probably fought [negative preconceptions] initially, quite a while ago,” says Bob Dixon, the dealership’s general manager.  “I think everybody struggles with where to market all the different departments in a dealership. Our body shop has done very well, because of donations, and the reputation that we have in the community.”

Body shop manager Gene Witte says his department hasn’t had an issue with getting full workloads in 15 years, and its CSI scores are nearing the mid 90s. By all indications, the fact that Greiner Ford consistently donates to charitable entities, like food banks, has given its fixed ops department supremely positive word-of-mouth for miles around.

Dixon and Witte shared their strategies for community-based marketing during a recent interview with Fixed Ops Business.

Stepping Up

The body shop managers at Greiner Ford have always made every effort to have up-to-date tools and equipment, and to run a facility with peerless cleanliness.

“The dealership is clean, and we keep it that way―people eat with their eyes, right?” says Witte, a 35-year industry veteran who currently leads a body shop staff of 11.

Unfortunately, running a shop that’s aesthetically pleasing isn’t always enough to capture the attention of customers. So, two decades ago, the dealership began stepping up its charitable efforts, partially in an effort to upgrade the image of the entire facility.

“Casper, Wyoming, is a small community,” Dixon notes. “People are friendly, people are happy, but they want to see everybody helping everybody else out. So that’s why we started” giving back.

“And it has just snowballed to the point that now we do an awful lot of community work. … And it just provides that community spirit.”

These days, Dixon makes sure that his dealership gives to food banks, Masterson Place―which provides lodging for the loved ones of local hospital patients―and to fundraising concerts, to name just a few initiatives. Greiner Ford also occasionally hosts charitable events, like those for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and for the Boys & Girls Club.

Dixon advertises on the radio, and even markets to area insurance agents. But such marketing efforts are largely unnecessary at this point, because Greiner Ford’s charitable nature has spurred positive word-of-mouth for years.

“People are used to seeing us” give back, Dixon explains. “And people are just a lot friendlier when they come in. They know that we take care of the community, so they have that comfort level.”

Seeing Results

The leaders at Greiner Ford note that the dealership’s main motivation for giving back to the community is its sense of civic duty.

But the charitable giving certainly appears to have benefited the dealership from a business perspective, too. The 20,000-square-foot body shop is “very profitable,” Dixon says.

“It’s a well run body shop,” the GM says. “Gene is a great body shop manager. He makes sure people are happy.

“Profitability wise, we’ll do over $1 million this year.”

Witte says his facility, which does 103 ROs per month, had a CSI score of 93.9 as of last summer.

Keys to Community Giving

Dixon knows his 120 dealership employees enjoy peace of mind due to their employer’s charitable efforts. And, he is certain the community of Casper appreciates Greiner Ford’s good deeds, because he sees proof of it often.

“We get thank-you letters all the time,” Dixon says. “We get calls. And, when you get those, you just feel good about it. Because you know that, if there’s one letter where somebody’s saying that, there’s 10 other people that are thinking it.

“When you give back … it just gives everyone a warm feeling.”

And those positive vibes do more to market your body shop, your fixed ops department, or your entire dealership than any radio ad ever could. Dixon says it’s key for your dealership to give back in a manner that doesn’t feel forced, though.

“It has to come from the heart,” the GM explains. “You can’t say, ‘Hey, we give these people so much money. ... It just doesn’t work; people see through that. If you do it on an annual basis, year in and year out, people see that.”

“If you take care of the community, the community’s going to take care of you.”

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