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Saturday, 28 March 2009 17:00

Franklin --- Update Your Shop Website To Attract More Business

Written by Tom Franklin

I recently checked out the websites of a few current and past body shop clients. In all but a few, there were virtually no changes from the last time I looked nearly a year ago.

In show business, it’s common to see an actor’s photo that was taken ten or more years ago. When you actually see the guy, you hardly recognize him in real life. I’ve found the same problem exists with shop websites and even shop literature. Some shop owners invest in a website and never update it. While the map of the shop and the photos of the facility may not have changed, it’s probable that a shop has added new equipment, changed some key personnel and possibly added new technology to keep up with government regulations and changes in vehicle structures and designs.
    Regularly updating a website and related literature gives a shop an opportunity to keep in contact with previous customers and potential new insurance or commercial prospects. When new equipment or technology is added, a simple letter sent out inviting prospective customers to take a look at the website can replace the need to create a new expensive printed brochure. Literature can be updated once or twice a year, but a website should be updated much more frequently.
    To add interest to your website, you can always write about the latest collision horror story of the month. Then add some driving safety and collision prevention safety tips. This simple action can make you a valued resource for driving instructors and other advocates of vehicle operating safety. After all, probably a fair percentage of collision customers are relatively new drivers.

Can a Website Really Bring In Business?

When most shops are reaching out to a radius of less than one hundred miles for most customers, does it make sense to invest in a medium that reaches around the planet? The answer is a solid “YES” because it forces a shop to create an image —a focal point to communicate that shop’s emphasis to anyone visiting the site. Most sites have a history of the shop and the owner or manager. Many have a photo of the owner and key people a prospective customer will meet upon arriving at the shop. Every site should post its credentials: insurance and fleet affiliations, employee’s ICAR qualifications, paint brand used, type of frame machine and measuring equipment used, and more.
    Beyond that, the site gives the shop the opportunity to tell about community involvement and possibly key customers served. Does the shop do work for the police or sheriff’s department or other city or community agency? Is the shop involved in the Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, Department of Parks and Recreation or some charitable organization? Many owners are content to use their website to provide a map directing prospects to their shop, but credentials and connections like the ones listed above can begin to convey an image that will easily be remembered.

Capitalizing On Your Shop’s Strength

Many websites also feature an area where current customers can enter their name or license plate number and see an update on the status of their vehicle in the shop. Cycle time is becoming an increasingly important statistic when insurance companies are evaluating a shop for potential DRP status. One of the biggest complaints received during CSI surveys is “car not completed and delivered when promised.”
    Managing turn-around time is also vital to a shop’s financial health. Posting and updating projected delivery dates on a website provides a dimension of enforced discipline on the shop to meet or adjust estimated delivery dates. Some management systems also force updating the projected delivery date and even provide e-mail notification of the customer, insurance company and rental car company. If a shop has an exceptional record of meeting projected delivery dates and keeping turn-around time to a minimum, effectively presenting this strength on the website can be a powerful selling tool.

Selling Safety

One site I particularly liked featured a super-imposed image of a family over their vehicle. It emphasized the importance of getting a vehicle repaired to pre-accident condition, completely safe to operate regardless of the extent of damage caused by the accident. In many large metropolitan areas, fraud is found to be a common problem in smaller shops. Shoddy repairs, incompletely straightened frames, and the use of sub-standard parts can result in a supposedly repaired vehicle that is unsafe to operate.
    If a shop has a record of many years of untarnished quality and integrity, this fact should be documented on both the website and literature that is sent out to develop business for the shop. Photos of customers with small children along with comments on the solidity and apparent safeness of their repaired vehicle can make an impressive statement about a shop’s dedication to satisfying this concern.

Links To Reputable Associates

I have used the same mortgage loan broker several times over the past fifteen years. I know that his primary source of new business, very much like collision repair shops, is referrals. I refer business to him whenever I can because I trust his judgement and integrity. If a link to a collision shop appears on his website, his customers will trust his judgement and consider using that shop. A resourceful shop owner will seek to swap links with other reputable businesses and professionals. Most shop owners will surely have a wide array of professionals they trust: a doctor, a dentist, an attorney and more. They’re all looking for referrals too, and will be pleased to exchange links.

Add A Charitable Dimension To Your Site

Demonstrating a civic-minded interest in a local charity shows a shop to be more than a profit-making machine. It adds a human dimension that can attract like-minded customers. Images from charities that assist children or pets will help humanize your website, and those charities will be eager to have a link on your site. If you choose to get more deeply involved, sponsor an event for the charity and you will surely get mentioned on their website too.
    Getting involved with charities can also provide a stronger bond with some customers. Ask each new customer to note the address and phone number of any educational or charitable organization they belong to or support. Offer to donate two or three percent of the job total to a special customer’s favorite organization. Those donations can form a basis for a website story and also generate a press release to a local newspaper or other publication.
    The shop website is a window to the world, where every visitor can come away with a fairly good idea of what a shop is like. But the shop webmaster has to take the time to continually create and update an image that will most effectively invite the website visitor to come to the real shop site.

Tom Franklin has been a sales and marketing consultant for forty years. He has written numerous books and provides marketing solutions and services for many businesses. He can be reached at (323) 871-6862 or at tbfranklin@aol.com.

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