Out with the old, in with the new. Some of the marketing strategies utilized in today’s collision repair industry are as outdated as Grandma’s living room carpet. They’ve been exhausted so much that they could be used in a GEICO commercial with the tag, “Everybody knows that.” In other words, they’re a waste of valuable ad space.
Every time I see repair facility ads with taglines such as, “Free Estimates” or “All Makes and Models,” I cringe. Hats off to the industry for making those bits a staple, but it’s time to refocus.
Find Your Selling Points
Instead of pushing the same selling points as your competitor down the street, get creative. What can you offer that they can’t or don’t? Selling points will vary, but several should be standard.
One selling point should be a lifetime warranty. Most insurance company service agreements specify that a facility must include this on their work, so use that to your advantage. Customers want to have peace of mind that quality work is performed on their vehicle. Market that peace of mind by guaranteeing your work for life!
If you’ve been in the industry any amount of time, you know the importance of cycle time. Most of you are already tracking cycle time, so why not use it as a selling point? If you average four days start to finish, that should be shouted from every mountaintop. Market that you’re faster than the industry average. It’s a fast-paced world, and people want their vehicles back yesterday. Would you rather promote yourself as working on all makes and models or that you’re faster than the opposition? It’s pretty simple.
Being locally owned is another selling point that applies to most shops. Big box retailers are becoming a thing of the past. People are slowly trickling back to hometown businesses. However, mega chains continue to pop up on every block. If other business trends are any indication, people prefer locally-owned repair facilities. Even if you’re an MSO, this can be valuable since most of you still fit the bill.
Customer service is a selling or failing point. It’s not just about being nice to your clients; it’s about serving them. Find services to offer them. Yes, offering free estimates is a service, but it’s expected in today’s industry. With technology becoming more and more accessible, we need to welcome it with open arms.
CCC just launched CCC One Touch, which uses Windows-based tablets to operate CCC One estimating. It’s obvious what this product will do to make our lives easier, but how about our customer? Sure, it’s appealing to be able to impress a client with your tech savviness, but that doesn’t translate into a real selling point. Let’s generate a real benefit to our customers by offering mobile estimating. Instead of a customer going to the trouble of getting an estimate, why not go to them? The old “Free Estimate” banner should now say, “Free Mobile Estimates.” People want convenience, and it doesn’t get any better than offering mobile estimates.
Again, get creative and think of new services that your shop can offer that actually serve the customer.
Almost everybody in our industry states that word-of mouth is the best marketing tool. I don’t disagree, but how do you ensure person-to-person referrals?
No. 1 is quality work. If you perform first-class work, it speaks for itself. No matter how good your work might be, though, you’re still going to have blunders.
We all dread a corrective repair, but the key is how you handle the situation. There’s a fine line between a satisfied and unsatisfied customer. The first words out of our mouth should always be, “I’m sorry.” Obviously, you want to rectify any issue they have, but you also need to go that extra mile.
A follow-up phone call afterward is always a great place to begin. Follow that up with an apology letter that includes a gift card to a local restaurant. In the end, you’ll have gained a customer for life. They immediately have peace of mind that any dilemma is going to be handled appropriately.
We need to let our customers know we appreciate them. Thank-you letters are a great place to start. Take this opportunity to remind them of your lifetime warranty. People will only endorse you if they had a good experience. It’s our job to ensure that they’re satisfied and their encounter was pleasant.
Another way to create a word-of-mouth referral is by being active in your community. Get involved and attend networking events. The more people you build relationships with, the better chance you have of getting word-of-mouth to work for you.
A New Day
The old-school ways of marketing are over; it’s a new day. Pay attention to other industries’ marketing strategies. Most small- to medium-sized collision repair facilities are using outdated marketing tactics.
The suggestions in this article are not meant to be a comprehensive marketing plan, but as a place to start. Good luck!