Body shop owners know how to fix cars back to their pre-accident condition, but when it comes to marketing, they’re often relying on others or simple guesswork. Here are some marketing snafus that are regrettably too widespread in today’s collision repair industry. Hopefully you can sidestep these potentially catastrophic marketing mistakes by reading these five dilemmas, as well as AutoBody-Review’s recommended solutions.
1. You’re Wearing Too Many Hats!
You’re the owner, estimator, front office person, receptionist, painter, marketing director, body technician and detailer. Not to mention the janitor, therapist, and a shoulder to cry on when required. Wearing too many hats means you’re doing too much, and marketing should be the first hat to remove from your busy life.
Solution: Shed the Marketing Hat and Concentrate on What You Know
Give the marketing hat to someone on your staff. Without realizing it, you may already have someone on your crew that can help you in your marketing efforts. Maybe that person is one of your estimators or front office people. If not, hire a marketing firm, but do your due diligence first, as always.
2. Don’t Wait
Without a strategy and an annual marketing budget, you’re shooting in the dark, and the first casualty could be your business. Too many body shops overly comfortable when the cash flows in, but then all of a sudden the competition comes to town, or they lose a DRP and jump into panic mode (which is often too late). Act now with your marketing plans and don’t look back.
Solution: Make It a MUST
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 it’s because their marketing is a priority while you treat it like a hobby?
3. Be a Realist
There are many so-called “marketing” firms out there that prey on people’s lack of knowledge, so if any company promises you anything—get it in writing and don’t pay them until they deliver. In marketing, what you don’t know can really hurt you, especially if you sign on the dotted line with an unscrupulous company.
Solution: Develop a Plan and Don’t Deviate
Too many business owners (not just body shops) develop a “checked box” mentality when it comes to their marketing efforts. Marketing, advertising, and public relations are not a start-and-stop thing, and that’s why you should never even look at the finish line. I always tell people that marketing is like a large redwood tree, and you’re trying to knock it down with a pen knife. So, keep hacking away and pretty soon that tree will at least wobble.
4. Seize Your Independence!
You have some sweet DRPs that bring you business, but if they make up more than 80 percent of your total revenue—be very, very careful. What happens if you botch 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: ABB-Always Be Branding
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. All of these methods work together to brand your business, so that when consumers do have a choice, you’re on their radar and insurance companies are less likely to steer them away from you.
5. Too Much Micromanagement
Too many body shop 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.
Solution: Flatten the Learning Curve
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.
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