Building an Internet Marketing Plan for your Auto Body Business

By JR Seidel

Well, a new year is upon us. Let us all hope that the New Year will bring with it great success, an abundance of blessings to our work and our families and political leadership in D.C. that has the courage to tackle the economic problems of this country (but that's for another blog somewhere else!). Our true hope at Web-Est is just to empower you to run your auto body business as smoothly as possible, while saving you as many pennies as possible. That's not a joke or a company tag line. It's the simple truth. We're in business to bring you business and to help your business.  That is always our goal and that is our hope for you this New Year. So I'd like to spend as much energy as possible to give tid bits on getting maximum exposure to your business at the lowest possible costs. The absolute best way to do that is through the Internet.  The Internet is brilliant.  It levels the playing field for small businesses and gives them a chance to succeed with abundance.  You just have to understand it and know how to work it. Know how to do that, and you'll be on your way to success. So I'd like to spend some time laying some foundation for building an auto body marketing plan, most of which will come from the Internet. In order to do that, you have to do some research on your business, on your customers and competition and set some goals.

When it comes to marketing your business on the Internet, you need to crawl before you can walk. It's real easy to want to jump into the marketing trends of the day without first asking some basic questions. This is one of the reasons why utilizing a marketing plan is so important. If you just jump into the latest trends without knowing your marketing goals, target customers, competition or anything else about the Internet, you'll end up wasting time, money and other resources. It would be like driving to a destination without a road map. Once you answer some of these basic questions, you'll be able to dig into an Internet marketing plan. You'll be able to explore what the Internet can do for the goals you have, namely, how to reach the customers you want, how to accomplish your goals and how to beat your competition.

First and foremost, what is your product? What are you selling? It seems a little too basic, but that's the point, and it will make a difference how you decide certain things later, mainly, your keyword selection. This, of course, is determined by your expertise, resources and interests in general. Are you offering paint services? Frame services? Paintless dent repair? Strictly restoration services? Are you doing collision work? Would you rather focus more on glass repair? Narrowing your products down to what you can handle is important, but from an Internet marketing perspective, it's even more important. If it's just restoration services that you want to offer, then when it comes time to decide keywords, you'll want to focus just on words related to that product. (Side note: keywords are basically the words you identify that your business is relevant to, and work to become more and more relevant to so that you can use the search engines to gain visitors to your website, and hopefully to your shop...more on that later). You'll want to target words like "auto restoration" or "classic car" or "corvette repair," etc. If all you're providing is restoration, then you'll want to avoid the keywords "auto collision repair" or "paintless dent repair" or "auto paint service." If you don't provide (and put it on your website), it will waste website visitors' time and it will waste your money.

What about your potential customers? Who are they? Always an important question. First of all, where do you live? Do you live in the Rippon, West Virginia's of the world (a beautiful, rural town in the Shenandoah Valley that my wife's family hails from...population 250!)? If you live in a town like Rippon, chances are, Internet usage could be scarce, which would require that you either enlarge your reach into neighboring towns, or even explore offline marketing opportunities. Or do you live in the Atlanta, Georgia's of the world (my hometown with a church and a body shop on every street corner, all of which are named Peachtree)? If you live in a place like Atlanta-population 6 million-then there's probably 250 people living within one-quarter of a square mile from where your business is located. And chances are they're all Googling, Facebooking and Tweeting at this very moment (Are you?!). All of this makes a huge difference from a marketing perspective. It will dictate the methods you use. The type of town your business is located may be the difference between you using Facebook to reach your younger audience, Google advertisements to reach online shoppers and searchers, or newspapers and TV to reach an older audience.

What about your competition? Who's your strongest competitor? I've had the chance to speak with shop owners the last several years, and you guys are like a fraternity that bands together like no other. But any business is competition, plain and simple. It certainly doesn't have to be nasty and ugly, but you're trying to run a business, thinking about your future, your family and your employees. You're faced with the task of building out your brand to be the best on the block. So what about the competition? What are other shops doing? Where have they dropped the ball in the community that you may be able to pick up and nab a few new customers? What services are other shops not providing that you have the resources to provide?

These are just some simple questions to be asking before you start developing your Internet focused marketing plan. It will go a long way. Perhaps you already have these things decided in your business plan. That's great. It means less research for you and for your team. But once these things are decided, then you can get into more technical decisions like your keyword selection, website development and structure and where and how you market online, such as with Facebook, Google Search and pay per click advertisements. More on that next week.

Questions? Feel free to contact me at