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Now these functions have been coming together again, to become a more complicated tool we could simply call "marketing." For example, most invoices you receive in the mail these days will also have offers to purchase other products or services. Your website may well have links to other businesses. If you do work for a dealership, your advertising will probably be at that dealership and their advertising will be at your shop. Even your phone message may refer to insurance companies and other businesses. These and other aspects of marketing are probably well integrated into your shop's communications with the outside world. Or are they? If not, you may be missing out on many simple (and possibly free) ways to market your business.
For simplicity sake, let's start with "free." Today it's nearly impossible to buy a product that doesn't have reasons printed on it why the product you just purchased is the best choice, the most cost effective and perhaps the healthiest. Many stores attach a multitude of coupons and offers to every sales receipt. The package, sales slip or labeling had to be printed anyway, so whatever message is placed there is essentially free. Do most shops give customers printed invoices? Maybe not, but they could.
Before we get into what messages could be added to customer invoices, receipts or warnings and warranties, let's take a look at cooperative marketing. Your local grocery store may attach, in addition to food items, offers for car washes, auto insurance, medical insurance and even legal services. These are blatant exchange deals. Anyone redeeming one of these deals will generate a commission or finder's fee for the store. While a shop could offer detailing, pinstriping, accessories and more, the revenue from referred business is found money. Collision repair shops have natural connections with upholstery shops, glass shops, entertainment system shops and more, all of which would welcome additional business.
Most businesses rely on a few simple marketing and sales basics to build new business and keep customers coming back. Collision repair centers may not rely on the same basics, but are there ways they could?
The six more general marketing and sales objectives include:
- Simply increasing the number of customers,
- Increasing the number of customers coming back,
- Increasing the number of products each customer buys,
- Iincreasing how often customers buy their products,
- Iincreasing the total dollar value of customer purchases, and
- Increasing the effectivenss of advertising and marketing to bring in both new and prior customers.
Some shops do well at getting new customers and keeping many coming back. Others keep improving the effectiveness of their advertising and marketing to attract new customers and keep old ones coming back. But most shops seem to neglect 3, 4 and 5. These basics don't easily apply to the collision repair business, but if a shop can find a way to implement these basic strategies, it should enjoy a nice increase in both volume and profitability.
Dealerships make better use of these basics. If a dealership has a collision repair shop and also the usual mechanical maintenance, accessories store, and repair shop, they have an opportunity to increase frequency of visit. They may also be able to increase the dollar volume of sales during those visits. But do they use this advantage to increase 3, 4, and 5 for their collision repair shop? I found many dealership body shops that failed to take full advantage of their relationship with their mechanical maintenance and repair shop. Marketing today means seizing an opportunity to attract new customers from every possible connection, or to make a profit by helping other businesses get new customers.
Possibly the most neglected dimension of marketing in collision repair shops is public relations. This is broadly defined as using publicity and the media to say nice things about the shop without it being a paid advertisement, but even that has changed today. Except for an occasion article in a collision industry publication, it's rare to see a story about a body shop in any newspaper. Today the Internet serves as the common press medium. Comments on Yelp and other rating sites are nearly all the publicity shops receive, but it doesn't have to be that way. People still love to read about pets being saved and heartfelt stories about babies and children. The right photo and story can go viral on YouTube, but it takes a very talented public relaitions person to capture it.
Marketing basics haven't changed that much this century but the forms they now take call for a keen eye to see how to apply them.