Thursday, 24 May 2012 10:50

Why Your Body Shop Can’t Ignore Social or Digital Media

“Social Media is Word of Mouth on Steroids”  —Frank Terlep

There’s no escape. Nearly everyone and their grandmother is using social or digital media. Is your shop up to speed with the age we live in?

According to Frank Terlep, CEO of Summit Software and Marketing Solutions, more than 112 million generation X and Y consumers, 60 million baby boomers and 20 million seniors are on the Internet, emailing, texting or using social media. And these numbers don’t even reflect the younger generation, those between 18–34 who comprise an outsized proportion of consumers who watch online videos, visit social networking sites and blogs, own a tablet and use a smart phone.

“In today’s world, every shop needs a website and social media presence to attract consumers to their brand and business,” said Terlep. “Getting involved with digital and social media is not a matter of ‘if’ - it’s a matter of ‘when’ - because shops will end up doing it anyway and they may as well do it now and be a winner instead of a loser. Waiting to join the social media world is losing an opportunity to increase your business.”

To connect with, market to, service or retain today’s ‘digital consumer,’ a shop must consider several digital marketing tools, techniques and strategies, such as digital databases, email, text messaging, social media, mobile and location-based marketing, smart phones, phone apps, micro sites, search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, digital ads, promotions, e-coupons, videos and more, said Terlep.

A digital consumer is an individual who uses smart phones, text messaging, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, YouTube and other digital or social media technologies to perform their jobs, communicate with business associates, friends and family or to educate and entertain themselves.

According to Terlep, the three most critical steps repair and collision shops should take regarding social or digital media are:
#1. Know how their website is performing
#2. Continue communication with existing or previous customers
#3. Participate in social media
Your Website
“The shop’s website is the hub of the shop’s whole digital marketing strategy,” Terlep said. “A shop’s website is their online lobby.” Knowing how well their website is performing should be a priority for every shop. “Shops need to make sure their consumers can find their website from anywhere, whether it is a local search or from a variety of search engines,” Terlep said. “A website is performing well if your shop ends up on the first page of engine search. Less than two percent of customers will go to the second page of a search.”

Your Customers
Staying in touch with previous or existing customers is an important marketing strategy that many shops overlook. Terlep believes that most shops don’t market to previous or existing customers. “It’s easier to get business from old customers than it is to find new customers,” Terlep said. “Shops think, ‘Why should we keep in touch with previous customers if, on average, consumers only use a body repair shop only seven to 10 years?’ Car accidents are a bad experience and most customers want to forget about it as soon as possible, and that means they forget about the shop too. After a couple years, people tend to forget where they even had their car repaired.”

Getting customers back in the door is important to the success of a body shop, and the way to do that is to offer additional appearance-related services, such as detailing, glass repair, headlight restoration, mechanical repair services, or any other type of non-collision repairs. “There is a huge opportunity to market to existing or previous customers and many shops aren’t doing this,” Terlep said. Social and digital media are successful ways to stay in touch with your customers to get them back in the door for other services.

Your ‘Friends’
One of the biggest reasons why a body shop should be on social media is because their customers are already there. Terlep suggests a shop focus on one of the ‘Big 5’ —Facebook YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google Plus. Posting items that are educational and entertaining and offering exclusive deals will get more attention than random facts.
Shops should participate in social media for two important reasons: it helps shops stay in touch with their customers, and it gives them the ability to position themselves to be online experts in their field with an online audience within their community. “A shop should want their customers to know them as an expert so their customers can tell their friends, and being on social media is the best way to do that. Social media is word of mouth on steroids,” Terlep said.

Email Marketing
With all that said and despite the frenzy over social media, Terlep said the best digital marketing is still email because “80% of consumers still prefer email over Facebook or Twitter to get their information.” Customers are comfortable getting surveys, e-newsletters, e-coupons and other promotions by email. Terlep said shops are moving away from phone-based customer surveys because electronic surveys garner better and more honest feedback, as well as improved tracking.
Another good reason to switch over to digital marketing is it is much less expensive than traditional marketing. E-newsletters cost only about $50 a month compared to thousands of dollars it costs to print and mail print versions of newsletters. And social media is free!

Phone Apps
Another digital marketing tool for shops to consider is a phone app for their business. According to Terlep, more than 50% of the U.S. population who own a cell phone use a smart phone, and that percentage will increase as the older cell phones become obsolete. He recommends an Apple or Android app as those two platforms have the majority of the smart phone market. The benefit of a body shop having an app is that it will allow a consumer who has just been in an accident to be able to push the app on their phone without having to remember the location, phone, name or email address of the body shop. An app allows the customer to take photos, file a report and send information to the body shop, insurance and police. “A body shop who has their own app owns a piece of real estate of the consumer’s smart phone,” Terlep said.

Goodbye TV?
The three most prevalent screens today are, in order: the TV, PC and then the smart phone, tablet or mobile device. In the next five years, that order will reverse as the smart phone will become the No. 1 screen people will look at the most, becoming more popular than the television or computer screen.
So, why aren’t shops up-to-date in the electronic world we live in? It’s time and expertise, Terlep said. Most shops don’t have time during their daily operation to properly market their business digitally. And many just don’t have the expertise. “They don’t know what they don’t know,” Terlep lamented.
“Social media and digital marketing is not a passing fad. It’s here to stay. Body shops will end up using digital marketing at some point, and those who don’t wait will benefit the most,” Terlep said.

For more information about Terlep’s business, visit their website at www.emarketingsherpas.com.