Do you run your shop or does it run you? I spend many hours in collision repair businesses and unfortunately what I see is usually the latter. The collision repair businesses that are really getting it done these days take a systematic approach to success. Today’s article focuses on how successful shops own their days, their months, and financial future through the use of a simple daily system.
There are two ways to promote your shop: 1.) Advertising and 2.) Marketing. Advertising is when you buy space or time or impressions and you pay a fee for the exposure. Marketing is an enormous category that includes product marketing, branding, re-branding and a whole list of other things that are used to hopefully bring you new business while strengthening your position in your market.
For many years, body shops have not been able to precisely quantify how much adhesive they are using on each particular repair. By basically guessing and operating in the dark when it comes to figuring out the volume used to perform plastic repair and related procedures, shops have not been getting properly reimbursed from the insurance companies, in many cases.
20 years ago in the collision repair industry (July 1995)
A 1995 Collision Industry Conference (CIC) survey…found that 70 percent of shop owners, and 83 percent of insurers, are dissatisfied with the way business is practiced between the two industries.
The survey results are among the first steps taken by a CIC committee focusing on the “invoicing methods and practices” used within the industry. The committee’s long-range goal is to try to help the repair and insurance industries develop a new method of doing business.
Although non-OEM parts were, not surprisingly, the focus at the recent Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA) convention in Chicago, there were plenty of other topics of interest to collision repairers.
PartsTrader, for example, announced that vendors can now designate in the system which parts a shop returned and why. A year earlier, parts distributors at the ABPA conference told a PartsTrader speaker that because the monthly fees they pay PartsTrader are based on their total sales through the system, they should be able to indicate in PartsTrader if a part was returned (and thus potentially lower their fees) even if the shop doesn’t indicate the return in the system.
Collision repair shop owners are mainly in the people business. The days of one-man shops are long gone. Every shop has employees, and most have technicians specialized in body, paint, structural and more. The typical shop owner came up through these ranks and is sufficiently knowledgeable about the details to hire competent workers. But marketing is different. Few shop owners come from a background in sales or marketing, and only fairly affluent shops can afford to hire personnel solely for marketing and sales. But that doesn't mean the need isn't there. To survive today every shop needs to bring in new customers and that means reaching out with sales and marketing. And it may mean that some employees have to do double duty. Generally that means estimators and front desk people, but it could include the parts guy and even some unusually communicative technicians.
You’ve decided to do some advertising—in your local newspaper, radio station, TV or cable station, but are wondering what can you say in your ads without getting into trouble? If your ad is effective, consumers will hopefully see it and/or hear it, but also remember—your competitors will too! Even though you have the best of intentions, if your advertisement is deemed false and misleading, it could become your worst nightmare.
Body shops and the collision industry in general have taken on the role of imparting useful safety information to its customers. If you’ve ever read a body shop blog, you will often find short posts like Leaving Kids Alone in Cars-Know the Risks and Consequences; I Put the Wrong Fuel in My Vehicle! What Should I Do? ; Tire Safety Tips and 3 Misconceptions about Passing on the Road, for example.
But isn’t there a conflict of interest there, because body shops make money when people get into accidents, right? Bruce Miles, a blogger for the collision industry disagrees.
Technology doesn’t stand still and that’s why no one was surprised when on April 21, Google, the planet’s leading search engine, released changes to their algorithm giving mobile-friendly websites a boost on devices with smaller screens. It seems like an obvious move, but change is always painful and website operators don’t like surprises, so many of them are allegedly shocked and perplexed.
Almost every shop owner I speak to tells me he or she wants more business. But when we start talking about business growth, I begin to hear reluctance. Too much growth means hiring more people, which means more paper work, more reports to the government, more insurance, and on and on. It also means more capital investment to cover additional equipment and to cover accounts receivable during the interval between the time parts are purchased and checks arrive for completed jobs. Everyone wants to grow in profitability, but very few want to face the costs and pains of growth.