Foundational Marketing Practices for an Auto Body Shop

When owning a small business, the owner has to keep in mind that a successful marketing strategy hinges on individual customer experience. As advanced as our technology has become, and as advanced as our business practices have become, nothing has exceeded the primacy of the old phrase, "The customer is always right." Even if the customer is wrong, they're still right. In fact, with Internet technology, customers have the ability to spread the word about a bad experience much easier these days, with tools like blogs, community forums, social networking sites, and a whole bunch of others. For example, popular Internet blogger, Randy Cassingham, wrote a blog entry titled "Dell Hell" and it destroyed Dell's credibility and profits for the remainder of the year. On the other hand, a customer that walks away having loved the service received is your absolute best marketing tool, especially for local small businesses like auto body shops. Every customer that walks through your door represents 5 or even 10 more potential jobs for your business. When it comes to marketing, making the customers you have happy is one of the best ways you can generate more leads.

The idea that the customer is always right suggests a mentality about the business: customers are top priority. The mentality that every customer you have is the top priority in everything you do can pay huge dividends as you go about marketing your business. I say this because marketing is about getting customers to believe you're the best person for the job they need done. That requires getting the word out and using different tools at your disposal to make that happen. But all the tools in the world won't help a business succeed if they don't care about their customers. You just can't have a good marketing strategy for your business if you don't have a satisfied customer. Or to say it in another simply can't market a brand successfully that sucks to the customers you've had. Its that simple. This is true even more so for a business that relies on local residents. There isn't a single gadget in the Internet world that will replace your services as the foundational tool for bringing you more business. Keeping these things in mind as the "Auto Body Marketing" blog moves forward to provide new ways to maximize your shop's exposure, here are some things to take note of. A business that builds around the "Customers First" strategy requires at least two practices: providing quality customer service and quality work.

Providing Quality Customer Service
Providing quality customer service is important because of how it can impact the impression your customer has as they're leaving your business. We're not suggesting you whistle around your shop so gleefully that you seem like all is perfect in your world (that's just annoying and unrealistic). We're suggesting that you focus on creating an environment for your customer that leaves a lasting positive impression on them. You know whats best for your business, so we're not going to tell you to reformat everything you do at your shop. We're simply recommending that you do you what it takes to make your customers believe that the work they just gave you is important to you and you want them to come back. Keep that principle in mind and tailor your shop practices around it. Build a waiting room if you can and keep it clean, provide transportation for customers if they need it, have coffee available to all walk-ins, or any other small thing that you think a customer would find valuable. Focus on creating the impression that they're experience with your business is your top priority. John Webb of CSi Complete says in his Body Shop Business article that auto shops should shift away from viewing customers just as transactions and focus on building relationships with customers for the sake of long-term loyalty. This is big for marketing your business because if you can manage to develop an impression in their mind as they walk away that says, "They did great work and I'm never again going to another body shop other than the one I just went to," then you just earned their business the next time they need repairs. Even better is that you just established a marketing partner. Every time someone close to them needs repairs, then recommendations to your business will come easy to them.

Providing Quality Work
Providing quality work is very important in generating that positive impression in your customer's mind. You want them to walk away with the mindset that your the best on the block at what you do. Creating an environment that's focused on the customer helps generate that mindset, but ultimately, they're coming to you for services on their vehicle. Provide good work by implementing good practices in the shop. Again, you know what's best for your business, and we don't think we know more about your business than you do. But build everyday practices around the strategy of "Customers First." David William's article in Body Shop Business shared a story regarding Fred Haas Collision Center in a suburb of Houston. He says that when they were struggling and shops around them were closing, rather then cutting guys to stay afloat financially, he started adding guys to the payroll. Doing that allowed his employees to pay closer attention to customers and their repairs, thus making customers the top priority. Now, I understand that Fred Haas was a dealership that had a ton more resources, but take note of the mindset. They had a business strategy that was focused on the customer and tailored shop practices around that to make their work more quality for their customer. Ultimately that translated into more success as more customers kept coming in.

Make the Customer First
We say all these things to help initiate some thought about your shop. Are you having a hard time getting jobs through the door? If so, take a magnifying glass to your shop's practices and see how you can improve. Ask yourself questions for the sake of improvement. Ask questions such as: what are some internal alterations we can make to gain an edge over our competition? How can we make our potential customers think we're the best there is? What can I do to my shop to make customers feel more comfortable coming to me for their business rather than someone else? How can the work I do for them give them the impression that our work is the best there is? Ask yourself these questions and work to make your business "Customer First" oriented. We're not promising business will start pouring in after all this, but this is a good foundation to build your marketing strategy around, and that's what "Auto Body Marketing" is set up to talk about. We'll show you some tools in this blog on how to maximize your shop's exposure. But again, you can't successfully market a business that customers don't want to return to.