Lefler Collision & Glass Repair Centers Chief Marketing Officer Megan Williams oversees all marketing efforts of the 66-year-old MSO, which has three locations in Indiana and one in Kentucky.
Autobody News recently interviewed Williams about how the company's marketing and advertising succeed in a highly competitive market.
Q: How have you devised a way to connect all of your marketing events to your philanthropy?
A: We are able to connect our variety of marketing events to our philanthropy because our core mission is to be a resource to the community in any way we can. We do not only support certain segments, but more of a variety of organizations and events because we want to see our city continue to grow and we want to assist where help is needed most. The least we can do is give back to the community that has supported us since 1952.
Q: How do you work with the local media to publicize these events?
A: When a significant event is approaching, I work with the local media by sending out a traditional press release to all of the radio, television and local paper connections. This is an excellent way to send out a 'heads-up' that Lefler’s is going to have something coming up. Around five days out from the event, I will get on our Lefler Collision Twitter account and personally tweet any of the local news reporters, radio personalities or reporters, and this is where I have seen a substantial increase in media turnout for our events. I think pairing the traditional method of the press release with the more modern approach of utilizing social media as a tool helps get their attention. We have had multiple news outlets at our events since implementing this strategy.
Q: Are you able to track your activity so that you know how many new customers you attract through these events and your other marketing efforts?
A: While there is no KPI available for us to track how our commitment to being an active member of our community [attracts new customers], we feel that the positive brand image, word-of-mouth and top-of-mind benefits help us when it comes to potential customers deciding where to take their vehicle.
It is challenging to track such referrals, and our main marketing goal is to be widespread throughout various organizations in the community while also being prevalent on traditional marketing platforms such as television, radio and social media.
Q: You hold a teen driving class and a Ladies Night annually. What is the value of these events to your business and the community?
A: A good (free) way to get involved with your community is to pair up with a hospital or business and hold a teen driving class. We have done this with our local hospital and law enforcement for many years, and it allows us to go and speak to a group of teen drivers and their parents to highlight topics such as what to look for when shopping for a used car and what to do if you get in a wreck. We are able to leave them with a bag of “Lefler swag” that includes an important document holder and car safety tool. It also helps position us as a reliable resource to the young drivers and their parents.
Our most notable community outreach event has always been our Lefler Ladies Night Out. We hold this ladies-only car care clinic every spring and have increased the attendance from 50 to more than 200! We hold this in our largest body shop and have local vendors for shopping, provide dinner and a bag of quality Lefler-logoed items and discuss topics such as insurance coverage, safely traveling alone, vehicle fluids and more. It is a fun-filled evening paired with quality information taught by our CEO, Jimmy Lefler, and COO, Ed Dietz. This event is free and fills up every year. I utilize radio ads and paid Facebook advertising to spread the word of our upcoming Ladies Night Out.
We have also held a few Lefler Paint Parties in the estimate bays at one of our locations, which was a way for us to pair with a local nonprofit and essentially offer to host a paint party event while giving them a portion of the proceeds. We had a local art studio come in, which provided wooden door hangers in various designs, paint and creative assistance.
Q: On your website, you list more than 300 nonprofits to which you provide donations and/or support. How do you pick the ones to support?
A: We are thankful to be able to support the 300 nonprofit organizations we have listed on our website. While it is very difficult to determine who we can and cannot assist, I have a few things to look at before deciding. Once I receive a donation request, I look at the organization’s Facebook and website to get a better idea of what they do and how many people seem to benefit or support their organization. I then try to decide the most beneficial way for us to help them. It may be that they want us to post their event’s information on our digital road signs, or they want a donation basket for an auction or for us to donate money to assist in the purchase of something they are in need of. We always want to make sure we are giving to organizations that are helping further our core mission---the betterment and growth of our city. We also want to ensure our money is going to the right place and is actually going to the people in need.
Q: I know your #1 mission with philanthropy is your incredible work in Myanmar. Can you give us an update on what is going on?
A: In 2017, our CEO, Jimmy Lefler; his wife, Stephanie; and I started a nonprofit called Reclaimed Lives International to help the women of Love Loom House in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Jimmy has been to Myanmar to volunteer and work with Love Loom House and the network of orphanages more than 11 times in the last decade. Following his intense passion for the people of Love Loom House, he has taken me and other Lefler Collision team members to Myanmar to assist in the mission multiple times, so it has become a unifying cause we are passionate about.
The majority of these women were rescued from human or sex trafficking, were previously orphans or were in dire need of a job. By working at Love Loom House, each woman is taught various textile skills to create handmade blankets, scarves and travel bags. Reclaimed Lives International then brings the items to Evansville and sells the goods and sends back 82 percent of all proceeds, which provides food, shelter and a livable salary to all the women of Love Loom House. We incorporate this into our Lefler Collision locations by having blanket displays set up in each of our locations.
Q: Are there any new marketing approaches that you're going to embark on in 2019?
A: In 2019, I plan to focus the majority of my efforts on three things: geofencing, Facebook Live videos from our shops and search engine optimization. I also plan to find a way to better highlight and feature some of our team members on our social media platforms because I feel it is important that they get some of the recognition they so deserve. I think 2019 will be a very impactful year for the industry as changes take place with insurance companies, vehicle scanning technology and OEM certification programs, so those will be a top focus of mine as well.
Q: You're very successful with your social media; there are multiple posts, heavy engagement and a lot of photos and videos. Tell us why it's important and how you're so successful on Facebook.
A: Social media marketing was my first passion in college, and I was able to get a lot of good experience with content creation during an internship I held prior to joining the Lefler Collision & Glass team. Since 2015, when I joined, we have been able to grow our Facebook followers from 1,100 to almost 7,400 through a variety of methods.
The most important tips I can give for increasing your social media followers is to post regularly, interact promptly with your fans, and be sure to post about a variety of things (not everything has to be about wrecking your vehicle!). People will not “like” or “follow” a social media account that does not have at least a few months of regularly posted content. It makes the business appear as though it is not a priority for them or is an afterthought.
It is now 2019, and Facebook and other social media platforms are increasingly more important for businesses. They are free, so take advantage of them!
One of my favorite things to do on our Facebook page to encourage conversation and fan interaction is create a giveaway for something small, such as asking them to post a picture of their Christmas tree to win a Visa gift card. It is a cool way to be able to comment back and forth and ‘personify’ your brand by interacting with people on your page. It is also something out-of-the-box that no one would expect a body shop to do. With an industry like ours, no one knows when they may be in need of a collision repair center, so staying top-of-mind through a variety of different ways is crucial.