Five Common Marketing Mistakes Body Shops Make

Five Common Marketing Mistakes Body Shops Make

1. Too Many Hats, Too Little Bandwidth

You’re the owner, estimator, painter, front office person, receptionist, marketing director, technician, and detailer. Oh, and I also forgot janitor, psychiatrist, and a shoulder to cry on. As a marketing person, I wouldn’t know how to write an estimate or paint a fender, so why do you insist on trying to do it all when it comes to your marketing, public relations, and advertising? Wearing too many hats means you’re doing too much, and marketing should be the first hat to remove from your busy life as soon as you possibly can.

Solution: Empower and Delegate

In some cases, you may already have someone in your crew that can help you in your marketing efforts. Maybe one of your estimators or front office people can play a role in your marketing scheme. One body shop took a newbie office assistant and turned her into a confident and extremely efficient marketing professional, and now she does all of their email marketing, blogging, social media, and online advertising. All it took was one day of training and she was up and running and ready to take on the world.

2. Too Late to the Party

Without a strategized plan and an annual marketing budget, you’re shooting in the dark, and the first casualty could be your business. Too many body shops get fat and happy when the cash flows in, but all of a sudden—wow, the competition comes to town or they lose a DRP and jump into panic mode. One body shop owner freaked out when three MSOs moved into his city, so he borrowed $50,000 and asked me where should he spend it? Use it for your retirement, I said, because marketing is something you do all the time—not just in emergency mode.

Solution: Make It a Priority

Marketing moves quickly, and if your competitor is working faster and harder than you are, they will obviously capture more market share. There are only so many car accidents in your area every year, so why is the shop down the street fixing 150 vehicles monthly while you’re doing half that? Maybe because they’ve made their marketing a priority while many of your marketing projects are sitting in a constant state of limbo. “We’ll get to that next week…next month…next year,” and then it never happens. Marketing is not a part-time thing reserved for evenings and weekends, it’s fast-paced and ever-changing, and that’s why it needs to be full-time and on the front burner.

3. Too Many Unrealistic Expectations

If a marketing company says that they’ll get you ranked number one on Google within one month’s time, listen to what your father used to tell you—“If it looks too good to be true, well…” Some so-called marketing agencies can get you involved in what they call “black hat tactics” while promising you the world, which can lead to Google sanctioning you and shutting down your website. If any company promises you anything—get it in writing and don’t pay them until they deliver.

Solution: Devise a Plan and Stick to It

Too many business owners (not just body shops) develop a “checked box” mentality when it comes to their marketing efforts. “We updated our website, created a blog, and did some SEO, so we’re good.” Well, maybe you’re good right now, but how about three months from now? Just by checking things off on your marketing to-do list doesn’t mean you can stop or slow down. New content should be added to your site all the time to enhance SEO. Your blog needs new articles, photos, etc. on an ongoing basis. I hate to see a collision blog that hasn’t been updated since 2012, for example. Marketing, advertising, and public relations is not a start-and-stop thing, and that’s why you should never even look at the finish line.

4. Too Dependent on DRPs

You have some nice cozy DRPs that bring you tons of business, but if they make up more than 80 percent of your total revenue, you’ve got too many eggs in one basket. What happens if you fumble a couple repairs and suddenly you’re no longer the insurance company’s flavor of the week? A healthy balance between DRPs and non-DRP business should be close to 50-50, but too many shops don’t get it until they get the axe. By continually hammering away at the big three—marketing, public relations, and advertising—one DRP won’t be able to make or break you.

Solution: Seek Your Independence

If you’re DRP-dependent, you might want to do more consumer marketing and advertising, such as radio and TV broadcast, outdoor advertising, direct mail, online advertising, and social media. You can continue relying on your DRPs, but when times change and the DRPs are harder to attain, you’ll be in a better place and more prepared for a life with fewer DRPs. Plus, it all works together to brand your business, so that when consumers do have a choice, you’re on their radar.

5. Too Much Micromanagement

Perform your due diligence and talk to a lot of marketing experts before choosing which way to go. But once you find the right company or individual, let them do their job and step aside. Too many body shops owners listen to everyone about marketing—their wives, girlfriends, the postman, and the guy at the deli down the street. Hire the right people and let them perform. Sit down with them every three to six months to check the results of their work and re-assess things at that point, but don’t jump the gun when you don’t see instant results. Marketing takes time, like fine wine—but in the end, you’ll start seeing positive results because solid marketing is an investment and not an expense.

Solution: Become a Sponge

Learn as much as you can about marketing, advertising, and public relations and then pass it on to the people who will actually be doing the heavy lifting. If you’re knowledgeable, you won’t have to take advice from people who read something somewhere and aren’t afraid to share it with you. You need to be the final arbiter when it comes to your marketing. You may not have the time to do it yourself, but at least you’ll know what’s going on. The paint companies, professional organizations, and marketing firms offer classes, training sessions, and seminars all the time and many of them are free, so be a sponge and suck up as much of this information as you can because knowledge is power.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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