Thursday, 21 February 2013 11:42

Speaking to Body Shop Owners is a Tough but Rewarding Gig

To view a pdf file of this article with photos, click HERE.

I have been a standup comic for 15 years, so I’m familiar with tough crowds. Luckily, I didn’t get any hecklers when I talked recently about social media and Internet marketing to the Santa Clara chapter of the California Autobody Association (SC-CAA) at their January meeting.

I put my arsenal of one-liners, knock-knock jokes and shadow puppets on hold. I tried to provide a presentation focusing on useful information that body shops could put to use almost immediately.
Overall, my presentation, entitled “Marketing and the Internet for Body Shops,” went well—until I mentioned Yelp, at which point the 50 people in attendance frowned in unison and rolled their eyes almost on cue.
Body shop owners have their multiple issues with Yelp for obvious reasons and when I told them about my opinion of the highly-popular site, they didn’t like my stance in general. “Yelp is like commuter traffic,” I told the membership. “Trying to control it is difficult or even impossible, so spend your limited time doing other things where you can have more significant impact. Shops that have only positive reviews on Yelp can backfire, because the public knows no one is perfect, even for shops that have the word “Perfect” in their name.” After some discussion on the topic, I realized that I had opened Pandora’s Box and that Yelp warrants its own presentation in the future. Search Autobodynews.com for previous articles on Yelp, pro and con.

Here are some of the other things I shared with the SC-CAA membership in attendance, consisting of body shop owners and their personnel, car dealership parts people and various vendors. First we tackled the basics, starting with a question I still hear often from body shops—Why do I need a website? For the same reason why you need a business card and a sign out front. Having a website is as important as having a paint booth.

Most consumers will use your site primarily for three reasons: Directions to the location, contact information, and a list of your services and capabilities. Bells and whistles and other features are nice. (Photo galleries, testimonials from satisfied customers, how-to articles, etc.) But in the end they mainly want your address and phone number. One thing I can’t understand is when body shops don’t have their contact information on their home page. It should always be large and prominent and the first thing visitors will see, because time is money and people have miniscule attention spans.

Then, I tried to pinpoint several forms of social media that are most appropriate for the collision industry, because not every form of social media works for body shops, in my opinion. For instance, I suggested that unless Justin Bieber is your newest estimator or Paris Hilton is your receptionist, Twitter is probably not ideal for you. Even though Twitter is popular in the collision industry, the Twitterverse is best suited for directing traffic to a website.

To be effective in a consumer-oriented social universe that changes daily, I suggested to everyone that they save time and research by concentrating on the following and in this order: Facebook, Google, YouTube, FourSquare and LinkedIn. On top of that, by performing monthly Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts and establishing a blog, any body shop can quickly establish a presence online without dedicating a large amount of time and money to it. Think of it as a “Social Media/Internet Starter’s Kit,” and after setting it up, maintaining your social media and website can be achieved in less than 10 hours monthly.

I talked about the subject of blogs and how you really need one and how they can cost very little. Many people have misconceptions about blogs, because they’ve seen so many bad ones online, consisting mainly of baby or pet pictures and somebody’s bad poetry. But the reality is that blogs are now increasingly popular and more and more body shops are creating them. Two important tips for blogging: 1) Provide only 100% original content for a blog and 2) Make it fresh by posting at least two new blog articles every month, at a minimum.

I also talked about Google, YouTube and LinkedIn at some length, three portals that I greatly value because I have seen them work for body shops nationwide. Google is an amazing company that provides approximately 30 business tools for businesses, including Google+, Google Places, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google forms and of course, Gmail. After a quick tutorial, you can quickly learn how to use Google to improve your shop in a multitude of ways.

YouTube is now one of the most effective search-oriented sites on the web. Collision repairers producing fun, informational and/or witty videos and posting them on YouTube while linking them to their websites, blogs, Facebook pages, has proven to be very effective. YouTube videos can be inexpensive to produce and can provide an easy way to disseminate useful information while differentiating you from the competition.
With LinkedIn, body shops can strengthen their position with their vendors and the business community. It can also be used to find and hire good front office people, estimators, techs and other personnel.

After my presentation, the SC-CAA covered some new business, outlining the chapter’s schedule of meetings and other events to take place during 2013. One piece of exciting news was the announcement of the chapter’s Trade Faire, and event that has been a huge success in the past, but was suspended for a few years due to financial constraints and limited participation. Now, it’s back and slated for sometime in September, according to 2013 SC-CAA President Randy Greenblat. Also, the chapter’s golf tournament will be back again this year, after being a success and a money maker for the organization in 2012. In March, the University of Toyota will be on hand to talk about its curriculum and most importantly, how to properly work on hybrids, according to Alex Ornelas, SC-CAA board member and parts manager at Toyota of Palo Alto. After the meeting, the SC-CAA swore in its 2013 officers and board and presented them with plaques for their service to the chapter in 2012.