These past 12 months have been a whirlwind for not only our industry but industries in general. Working so hard to find ways to stay safe, yet profitable (or at minimum to breakeven) during a global pandemic has been a year full of difficulty, strain and a ton of worry for many.
With the majority of the collision repair industry experiencing record low financials, it's been our top priority to figure out how we, at Auto+ Performance, could help and support the industry we know and love to get past these changes and find additional ways to increase sales and improve profits for Collision Repair Facilities all across North America.
In the early part of this year, we decided to reach out and speak to as many managers, owners and team members as possible (Thank you to all who helped provide such great feedback). What we learned from these knowledgeable resources was something that we knew we had to share amongst other like-minded shops and individuals.
Below you'll see that we collaborated a list together that includes feedback from many different auto repair shops from all over the USA and Canada, and provides 30+ creative ideas that will hopefully provide you with the support you need to move your business forward.
Some of these ideas will be a given and very familiar to you, but we really encourage you to look more into the ones that aren't as familiar. What are some shops doing that others are not?
Our goal in this article is to get your mind thinking about different ways to be creative, stand out and be different than your competition in your local communities.
So, without further ado, we present to you the list...
1.) Build and Maintain a DIRECT relationship with your customers. Spend LOTS of time on marketing and branding your business in your local communities. Why are there never ANY marketing budgets in most of the businesses that we go to? Securing the relationship directly with the customer can provide HUGE benefits to securing loyalty and trust with your customers.
2.) Build Dealership Relationships with ALL Dealerships in town...if they already use another shop in town for repairs, ask to be the next shop in line if the shop they are currently using is full. Offer FREE estimates for their customers and full VIP treatment.
3.) Focus on Customer Retention. When the customer picked up their repaired vehicle, how do you know that they will return back to you the next time they need repairs? What are some things you can do to ensure that your customers are overly happy with the repairs and service they just received? We suggest something like a superior CSI program that captures TRUE feedback on your customer's experience and find out ways that your business can improve.
4.) Have Relationships with Insurance Companies- You'll want to work, build strong relationships and partner up with as many Insurance Companies as possible. The majority of the time, they are your powerhouse and provide most Collision Repair facilities with 70-90% of their business.
5.) Word of Mouth- Always remember that whether you do a good job or not, customers talk.
6.) Get Google Reviews- The majority of customers base their decisions on google reviews and ratings. Work hard to get as many google reviews and a 5-star rating as possible.
7.) High Google/Search Engine Ranking- Do you know which page number your business is ranked on Google? We suggest spending the money to make sure you're website is ranked properly on google and with other search engine companies (SEO). At Auto+ Performance, we can provide you with details on where your business is currently ranked and suggest ways on how we can organically improve your overall ranking.
8.) Have a SUPERIOR Website- The online world is now the best source of information and data today yet for some reason businesses still don't focus on having a great website (or sometimes no website at all). Why is that? What information could you provide your customers on your website that gives your customers VALUE?
9.) Social Media Marketing- Did you know that over 70% of your customers are on social media? With that being the case, we suggest building Business Pages across your social media platforms and interact with your customers online. Being online allows you an easy opportunity to build and maintain great relationships with your customers and keep your business "top of mind" for when they may need you next.
10.) Reputation Management- Whatever you do, make sure you turn an unhappy customer into a happy (or somewhat happy) customer in the end.
11.) Local Networking/Community Involvement- Participate/Volunteer in all kinds of events that the community puts on. (Even if they are online!). They all provide value by getting to know and building great relationships with individuals in your local community.
12.) Get Referrals from Other Businesses (Mechanical Shops, Tire Shops, Collision Reporting Centres, any business that works with cars or accidents).
13.) Get Sponsorships- ask to be sponsored by suppliers or other local businesses. We suggesting that before you ask to make sure you have a purpose for the sponsorship and indicate how them investing in you is worth it for them. What's in it for me? is usually the question.
14.) Find ways to get as many OEM Certifications as possible. OEM Certifications just make sense. Majority of the time, you get put on the Manufacturer's website and get referrals from the local dealerships...why wouldn't you get OE Certifications?
15.) Do your Glasswork internally. Do you know how much easier life gets (time, costs, profits, etc) when you choose to do your glass work internally?
16.) Join your local Chamber of Commerce
17.) Join a BNI Group (Business Network International)
18.) Partner and work with Fleet Companies. We guarantee there are a TON of fleet companies or even companies with company vehicles in your area....really study the businesses in your area. Food Banks, Floral Shops, Bakeries, Radio Stations and News Stations are just to name a few.
19.) Participate in local Car Shows. Even if they are virtual today, they still play a huge part in building key relationships, getting exposure and having people recognize who you are and your brand.
20.) Offer Detail Packages and upsell on these packages. You're practically doing the work anyway, why not do a little bit more and get paid for it all?
21.) Join Banners/Networks. Taking part with a banner or network can have its perks. We recommended speaking to other franchise, and network partners and look at all your options before making a decision if this would be a great fit for you.
22.) Rental Car Companies. Rental Companies have a lot of cars and have a lot of relationships with people who just got into car accidents. We recommend building a strong relationship with your local rental car companies in town and asking them if there are any opportunities for repairing their cars and getting any referral business.
23.) Consider Calibration Bays. It appears that over the last few years that in house calibrations or individual calibration centres are now becoming the newest and biggest thing. If your business has the proper footprint, why not get the training and tools to complete calibrations in-house to your customer's vehicles? Maybe you only offer calibrations for specific brands and the rest you sublet out but it certainly will help with profits, costs and even turnaround time.
24.) In-House Mechanical- This is usually the department that we have to sit and wait, spend lots of money on and work around other's busy schedules, this department also impacts our cycle time and overall service. With customers wanting more of a "one stop shop" for all their automotive needs, why not look into offering more in-house services instead? Some suggestions would be to purchase a wheel balancer (anywhere from $1500-$2500) to help with tire season, or purchasing a wheel alignment machine (between $10,000-$35,000) to do wheel alignments in-house, and how about doing oil changes and brakes are just to name a few.
25.) Have Strong Brokers/Agent Relationships. These agents are influencers. Get to know and build great relationships with your local brokers and agents in town and see how to set up a referral program to capture more of their customers.
26.) Call on other collision centers in town and offer to take the overflow. Sometimes it's better to share the business than to have horrible KPI's and aggravate your customers.
27.) Relationships with Lawyers in town. Speak with attorneys that specialize in auto accidents and see if they would like to take part in a referral program.
28.) Charity Involvement allows you to give back to your community and build great connections and relationships with so many great people.
29.) Upsell, Upsell, Upsell! You should be upselling on every single job. Detailing packages, polish, glass repairs, scratches, dings and dents. There is always extra money to be made on upselling.
30.) Offer Incentives- "If you book with us today, we will fix that stone chip for you free of charge when you bring your vehicle in for repairs!"
31.) Writing a 100% accurate repair estimate. This part saves you so much time and money to just do it correctly from the very beginning. Take the time to disassemble and properly inspect the vehicle from the very beginning. Want an easy way of measurement? If you still have a lot of supplements, you still have a HUGE area of opportunity on writing 100% accurate estimates from the very beginning.
32.) Take Part in Online Digital Networking. Add local businesses, mutual connections, and businesses on your social media platforms that could provide you with great referrals. Start engaging and building great relationships with them so your name comes "top of mind" when the timing is right.
33.) Google Ads. The saying "Pays to Play" is accurate. Although, you will want to make sure you have a great foundation before you start investing your money into google ads. Feel free to speak with one of our coaches if you want more information on this.
34.) Target Marketing- Marketing your business using Geofencing and Geotargeting services allows you to fine-tune and market your business in specific zones to gain more specific and targeted exposure. Basically, no more "general" marketing tactics. Target Marketing efforts allow you to zone into exactly where you want to target your customers.
35.) Online Customer Service and Zoom Calls. Do you now offer facetime or zoom calls to look at your customer's damaged vehicle to provide them with a rough idea if the vehicle is drivable, safe to drive or not?
36.) Find things to sell online. Selling Rims and Tires, Travel Accessories, Gift Cards, Detailing Products, Glass Repair appointments, Sun Shades, Emergency Safety Kits, Car Mats, etc on your website. This will help to generate traction to your website and improves your search engine rankings.
37.) Become a "One-Stop-Shop"...it makes sense (even if it's a bit more work on your end) to provide your customers with a "one-stop-shop" experience. This is a spot where they can drop off their car and you service everything they needed for them. Even if it's a sublet job, you still make a $ off this.
So there you have it, 37 great ideas to get your business moving forward.
Something to mention here too is that with everything listed above, this can be a lot of information and a lot to work with to start with. That's why we suggest picking your top items to start working on today and then giving yourself a chance to work towards the remaining items over the next 1-3 years.
It would be great to get your feedback, with our industry-changing at such a rapid pace, was there anything that you would add to this list?
At Auto+ Performance, we are a full automotive-specific Marketing, Performance and Solutions company offering many different services including Marketing solutions in your local communities, SEO, Website Design and Performance, CSI Programs, Reputation Management, Managing your Google My Business Accounts and so much more.
Reach out to us at any time to learn more about who we are and how we can help your business.
Ph: 705-717-2089 or Toll-Free -1-888-603-0338
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