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Friday, 09 October 2020 21:28

Your Online Presence

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Index

In last month’s article I discussed how, due to the COVID pandemic and having limited mobility, more people were conducting more business online.

As this article is being written, more businesses are being opened and travel restrictions are easing, but many experts think the switch to greater e-commerce predicated by the pandemic will remain long afterwards. The “new” normal is a greater reliance on the internet to find and buy products and services.

 

Based on my last article, I looked at about 50 random body shop websites and Facebook pages. I looked for some shop websites based on a Yelp listing and never found the shop’s own site!

 

Here is what I learned.

 

Make sure all information is current: A couple sites showed information that was obviously old. Two noted---in August 2020---their shop was closed for the Christmas/New Year’s holiday in 2018.

 

Spelling counts: Remember when you were in third grade taking a test and you asked the teacher if spelling counted, and she said yes? Guess what. It still does.

 

Grammar counts: Correct grammar and proper syntax makes your message easier to read and understand, not to mention more professional-looking.

 

Make it easy to navigate: What is important to your customer? Your shop name, location, phone number, email address, hours of operation, how to find the shop on Google Maps and services available should be prominently displayed and easy to find. Granted, other information is important, but if they can’t find the most basic information, nothing else matters.

 

Make it easy to contact you: Make your phone number, email address or social media contact information prominent on your site. When you receive an inquiry, be sure to answer promptly. Nothing says “we don’t care about you” quicker than an unreturned contact.


If you have OE certifications, or other industry-recognized qualifications, list them: If you are certified by an OE, are I-CAR Gold Class or ASE Blue Seal, chances are you worked hard and spent time and money getting there. Why not promote it? Customers will be looking for it.

 

Use contrasting colors for text: Make your site easy to read. White text on an almost all-white background is difficult to read. Black on white, or other contrasting colors, is preferred.

 

Don’t promote what the average lay person doesn’t understand: You might have just spent a pile of money for the latest whiz-bang welder or other piece of equipment and you and others in the industry might think it’s really impressive. But to the average customer, meh. It’s enough to say you have the latest equipment to handle any repair needs.

 

Use high-quality photos: Most people are very visual and photos are great. But make sure they are in-focus and not distorted.

 

Promote your own people: While we are on the subject of photos, seeing a before and after photo of a vehicle you fixed is OK. But how about photos of your most valuable assets, and the thing that makes your shop unique---your people?

 

Don’t confuse your customer: As far as potential customers are concerned, your shop exists to provide collision repair services and that’s what they are looking for. If you are involved in racing or some other extracurricular activity, and you want to mention it, great. But don’t let that coverage overwhelm your main message.

 

Keep “social” in social media: Social media, especially Facebook, is meant to foster two-way communication. For the 2.4 billion people worldwide who use Facebook, nothing irks them more than to not be able to leave a comment, or to have their comments or posting threads removed. This is sure to repel any potential customers.


Keep your social media fresh: Be sure to post new items regularly to keep people interested. Facebook pages that look “abandoned” are a major turn-off.

 

Mark Claypool, AAM, founder and CEO of Optima Automotive, a leader in the automotive repair industry for web design, social media management and search engine optimization also offers the following:

 

Many collision shop websites need to be refreshed: Many look old and dated and way behind the times

 

Make sure you have a “mobile-friendly" site: According to BroadBandSearch, an internet consultancy, in 2009, less than 1% of those people who had internet access used a mobile device, such as a phone or tablet. Today, 51.5% of internet users use a mobile device. Can your site be viewed on a phone?

 

Make sure your message is clear: Let people know that you are an essential business and ready to serve your clients.

 

Make it easy to do business with you: There are a lot of people online but not everyone is internet savvy. Make it easy for your potential customer to contact you, upload a photo or request an estimate.

 

Drop-off and pick-up procedures: If you are still using social-distancing procedures, be sure to spell those out on your site.

 

Make sure you rank high in an internet search: Go to Google and search for a collision shop in your town. If your shop is not coming up at the top---or worse yet, not coming up at all---you may need to do some search engine optimization so people can find you.


Dealership body shops need extra care: If your shop is part of a dealership, you should have your own web presence, not simply a sub-domain of the main dealership site. Being part of a dealership site makes it two to three times as hard for people to find you and makes it near impossible to compete with independent collision shops.

 

If you are still wondering about the impact of the internet and how it is affecting your business, consider the following stats from BroadBandSearch:

 

  • 61.4% of the world’s population uses the internet
  • 89.4% of Americans have internet access and use it on a daily basis.
  • There are 351.8 million registered domain names in the world. You need your customers to find just one---yours.
  • The average time it takes a web page to load in the U.S. is 5.6 seconds. According to Google, the best performing sites take 3 seconds. Every second a user spends waiting for a site to open is an opportunity for them to click off the site. If your site takes between six to 10 seconds to open, the customer is probably already gone.
  • Facebook is the fourth most visited website in the world. Does your shop have a Facebook presence?
  • Thinking of making a YouTube video? There are 1.8 billion unique monthly visitors to YouTube. 50% of internet users watch YouTube videos and product demos before buying anything.

 

If you don’t have, at minimum, a website and Facebook page for your shop, you need one of each. And if you have one of each, make it a good one. Your future business depends on it.

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