Craig Camacho has seen it all during his career in collision repair, and has learned over the years what works and what doesn’t.
To share his marketing, advertising and public relations skills gleaned by working for several MSOs, Camacho started 4C Collision Consulting, LLC to help large chains and small independents alike.
Camacho, 55, discovered he had sales skills at age 10, and hasn’t looked back.
“First, I sold greeting cards and vegetable seeds door-to-door and did very well,” he said. “When I turned 12, I started selling the Bulletin, the premier daily newspaper in Philadelphia at the time. The Sunday edition was so large, I had to load them all in the front basket of my bicycle, which took two runs to get them all delivered.”
To find a career in which he could use his ability to sell things, Camacho looked at different forms of retailing. First, he landed a job at a paint store and was the No. 1 guy there rather quickly, then worked at a series of car dealerships, before eventually migrating to the collision side.
Camacho landed a job at Collision Specialties in Glenolden, PA, as an estimator and was quickly managing the shop.
“I realized that it’s all about sales in the collision repair industry, so I felt at home working in a body shop,” he said. “The people at Collision Specialties were continually shocked when I could get the customer’s keys even before I even wrote the estimate. Sales is the same regardless of the service or product I’m selling and, in this case, I realized I was selling myself and it was all about building trust with the customer.”
For the next 22 years, Camacho held several job titles for dealer-related collision centers and mid-size and large MSOs. He learned from many of his employers and taught a lot to some of them as well, he said.
“I was lucky because in some cases, I was able to take the reins and create my own marketing systems and they worked. Whether it’s a big MSO or a small independent, the principles are still the same," Camacho said. "Everywhere I worked, I stressed things like...
...community involvement, team building events and charitable programs, while implementing unique and out-of-the-box marketing in the mix.”
Autobody News sat down recently with Camacho to glean some takeaways any shop can use.
What are three things any shop should do as part of their marketing, advertising and public/community relations?
Creating and maintaining a Facebook social media page and enhanced website that engage your potential customers are the obvious ones that work well, but there are many other things that can be done. Here are a few suggestions.
Getting involved within the communities where your shop or shops reside---this can be done by hosting a weekend car wash and raising money for a local charity. Once I committed to doing this it became an annual event, and both the charitable organization and the car wash customers paid it back in dividends with their auto claims business!
Becoming part of your local Chamber of Commerce, networking business groups and being on the board of charities proved to be very effective. These come with either annual low-cost dues or no fees at all, but they enable your shop’s representative to shine your business in the brightest of ways.
Attending meetings and discussing challenges these organizations may be experiencing will illustrate the fact you and your team are problem-solvers and valuable members of the community.
What are some of the things shops are currently doing (marketing, advertising, special events, social media) that don't work, and why?
Many shop owners believe spending money on radio and/or TV advertising will bring them customers. Advertising this way may have an upside if you’re consistent and willing to invest in it, but advertising on the radio or TV is difficult to track when trying to calculate your ROI.
Many shop owners take the time to create their own social media pages, but then they don’t maintain them, and it ends up doing more harm than good. Social media is more important than ever, so I always make sure I...
...have someone who regularly posts articles, events and news. Anything we post is designed to keep our customers engaged and coming back for more.
If an MSO wants to grow, what are the most important things to keep in mind?
Most MSOs don’t become MSOs without relationships with insurance companies, also known as DRPs. These relationships can be very fruitful when looking to grow in different areas. Insurers will tell you where they need coverage, and as long as your shop produces the KPIs (key performance indicators) acceptable to them, they have the ability to add your new shop to their program.
If the MSO wants to grow with the intention of being sought after and a target of a consolidator for an actual sale, paramount is making sure everything in the organization seems as one and all processes and people in place are hitting the mark. Once this is accomplished, duplication can then happen, and the growth can begin.
Any MSO knows the due diligence required to find the right location is as important as the growth itself.
Is conventional advertising effective for body shops, such as radio/TV and print?
The only time this type of advertising is effective is when it is consistently done for brand awareness, which ends up being very costly. Even when done correctly, it is the hardest marketing strategy to measure in terms of ROI.
If you entered a shop, as a consultant, and they were doing zero marketing, where would you steer them and why?
First and foremost, I would make sure they were properly branded. Branding is extremely important because it separates your business from the competition and creates a connection with your customers.
Once accomplished, I would steer them to create an online presence ASAP. A great website, social media presence and some SEO go a long way and are very affordable in the big picture of a marketing budget.
Making sure your shop or shops can be found on Google and other search engines is no longer an option but expected by those who are looking for reputable shops in their area.
There are many other low costs avenues that can serve the independent shops and MSOs out there quite well.