Digital Marketing for Auto Body Shops (and Everyone Else Too!)
At Online Advantages, we’ve worked with many different business owners and businesses. One sector in which we have enjoyed a lot of success in our online marketing efforts was the auto body industry. We’ve dedicated a great deal of time and effort learning what works, what doesn’t and what is likely to appeal to the broadest possible client base. Here are the top five tips, tricks and tactics we’ve discovered to make your website as appealing to viewers and search engines as possible, working from our experience with auto repair shops!
1. Website Responsiveness and Special Tools
A good website looks okay whatever device or platform you’re viewing it on. But a great website features back-end customization which supports optimal end-user experience, regardless of the device. While many hosting companies include platform optimization, some don’t, and even the ones which do may not work quite as well as you or your clients would hope. Your site architecture and priorities will dictate whether built-in optimization will work well enough, or if you need to consider a custom build. If your website is not responsive or mobile ready, consider investing in a new site. If you’re not sure if your website is mobile responsive, this online tool from Google can help. https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly If you need a quote for a new website, consider us for a quote. We have very affordable website solutions starting at $35 per week!
Automated chat responders are a valuable tool for auto body shops. No one wants to feel like they’re on their own, no matter the time of day. Odds are, these website visitors either came referred to you by your insurance or are seeking their options. It’s nice to let them know you’re ready to handle questions and concerns whenever they arise. Chat responders are an effective way to reassure your clientele they’re dealing with a business who really cares about them and their needs without engaging extra staff or having to pay premiums or incentives for less desirable second- and third-shift work.
Call trackers which allow you to monitor where your prime customer base is originating can help you target and expand your advertising dollars and social media strategy to the people who need it most. These tools tend to be fairly nonintrusive and “lightweight” from an architecture standpoint, which makes them handy for evaluating, assessing and predicting trends. In addition, call trackers can be immensely helpful in determining business hours and other considerations which may impact your customer service paradigm.
2. Social media
You may have heard marketing gurus scream, “If you’re not on EVERY SINGLE SITE and engaging with your audience EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF THE DAY, your business is doomed to fail!” This sort of scaremongering is not only incorrect, but it gives the rest of us a bad name.
In actuality, we found sticking to Facebook and Instagram gave better results overall. Twitter is a great platform for many things, but promoting an auto body business simply isn’t one of them, although individual results may and do vary. Facebook is great for creating a business homepage where customers can quickly find you, while Instagram is useful for another reason: showing off your results!
Before and after pictures of damaged cars make for great advertising, and can boost client confidence in your abilities and the finished product. However, these come with some important considerations.
First, you should always get client consent before posting pictures of their vehicles. Some people don’t want images of anything to do with them online, and this is entirely their right.
Second, even with consent, you should always obscure or block out the license plate just to provide a little extra security and privacy. Just because someone’s okay with their car’s picture online doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to give everyone who sees it a ready means to locate them. With identity theft, stalking and other cybercrimes on the rise, the extra precaution can pay huge dividends in terms of customer trust and repeat business!
Your search engine optimization protocols, or SEO, is one of the most critical and yet least understood factors in your business’s success. Anyone can slap together a quick string of vaguely related words and phrases and hope they work out. In actuality, SEO done well is a carefully calibrated, even bespoke, method of separating yourself from the competition and increasing your online visibility, funneling customers to you rather than your competitors.
Your local organic SEO rankings matter. Just Google “your city” plus auto body shops. This can be a competitive environment, especially with the number of businesses all striving for “page one, above-the-fold” rankings (i.e. the top 1-5 results). If your business doesn’t even show up until page 3, your chances of being seen by prospective customers drop to virtually nil, as even in the first-page rankings on Google, the first search item to appear gets over 20% of click-throughs and drop off sharply for #2 and below. SEO can help you change how your business appears and in what position, attracting more eyes and clientele.
Again, a modern informative website is your best possible SEO weapon! We often say the secret to great SEO is having good content on your website and social media outlets, while also linking to other websites with similar great content. Make sure all your business citations are accurate on Yelp!, Google My Business, Yellowpages.com, LinkedIn and other relevant business and review sites. If your customers are still trying to call a number you haven’t had since 2014, or are looking for your business at a location you vacated a year ago, you’re going to lose revenue because once those customers get burned once, they will go to places which keep their pages up to date. Perhaps even worse, they’ll ensure your online reputation suffers as a company which can’t even give customers an accurate address or business hours; how on earth can they trust you to fix their car?
4. Video Marketing
In the writing world, “showing” is always considered superior to “telling.” Anton Chekhov, the famed Russian poet and playwright, allegedly said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Actually, he never said any such thing in so many words; this is a misquote from a letter Chekhov wrote to his brother. Nevertheless, the point is more than valid enough to have become a staple of conventional wisdom in the writing community which has endured for well over a century.
It’s all very fine and good to tell visitors to your website and social media what you can do for them. It’s better by far to show it, as in #2. But if you can show it in real time, that’s got to be best of all, right? If you’re doing quality work, many of your customers would be glad to give you a testimonial, and even use their vehicles as the canvas for a video blog such as this one.
As you see in this video, it tells a complete story in under three minutes from none to done. It starts from Terry explaining how his vehicle came to be damaged, to the owner of Da-Les discussing how he knew there was frame damage to the truck, to the actual repair, to the customer’s reaction when he saw the completed vehicle.
While video marketing may not be the perfect solution for every brand or application, when used properly it can give your target clientele the confidence they need to go with your services or goods rather than your competition. Even better, video marketing is usually considered evergreen, meaning it doesn’t lose its value over time. In this case, as long as Toyotas and ground-based pickup trucks are still a common mode of transportation, this video will continue to showcase the company’s work. What could be better than that?
5. Online Reputation Management
ORM, as we call it, matters! But…why?
When people see you as a recommended auto body repair shop, they will look you up! Just Google your own auto body shop right now. Do you have any results? Are they good? Are you satisfied with your search engine rankings, or do you feel like you could and should be placing higher? Do you have a number of good, fresh reviews from actual customers? All these points are important and matter, of course. They speak to your online reputation, and the likelihood you can translate that reputation into more clients and dollars!
Of course, if your ORM isn’t looking so good, with lots of 1- and 2-star ratings, angry reviews and so on, you need to clean that up. This is where the “management” portion of the program comes in. Ideally, you have a disaster response plan, or DRP, in place so if your company offends a county commissioner’s kid for some reason, your company doesn’t end up paying the brunt of it out of your customer base. If you don’t, a good ORM program will include DRPs for contingencies which may arise, within your control or otherwise.
Also, fake and bad reviews are becoming more prevalent as a means of punishing businesses who don’t “play ball” with private, public or corporate entities. Part of good ORM is identifying and dealing with these reviews in a constructive, noncombative way. If someone has to be the bad guy in a war of words, let it be the other guy! A good DRP considers what a fake review with ill intent looks like, versus a legitimate review with honest concerns, and how to deal with them to leave your company appearing strong and transparent in managing its affairs.
Finally, good ORM is about being seen to be visibly active, interested and engaged with your online presence and responsive to clients’ interests, questions and concerns. This means, if you get a good review, you’re quick to thank the customer and let them know you appreciate the time and effort they took to rate and review you. If you get a bad review, you rush to apologize and reach out to them to try to figure out a way to make things better.
So how does one get started on the road to becoming an Internet marketing rock star? There is no simple answer, because every person, business and situation is unique and so will be the blueprint for marketing success. It takes hard work and time, but here are some quick tips you can use as a sort of “tear sheet” to decide where you’re doing well and what you could do better.
- Starting with a new website helps. People are always attracted to something new, even if it’s a fresh face on a business they’ve been going to for decades.
- Be active on social media. Presence, persistence and participation are the keys to success when it comes to getting your name out there online. There’s no such thing as an overnight success, but there is certainly such a thing as a signal boost to a success who’s already on the radar!
- Ask your customers if they would mind being in a repair video. A little advice here: some of your customers are business owners themselves! They will usually jump at a chance to provide you a testimonial if you just let them mention their business. In this way, you both benefit.
If you’re a busy auto body shop owner and don’t have time for all this, consider calling a digital marketing agency which can handle all the things and more we’ve discussed in this article. And consider us while you’re searching. We can set you up as one of our clients or offer you specific informative coaching at competitive hourly rates. Either way, we’re here to help you and your business become as strong and successful as they can be. Email us through the Online Advantages website to learn more today!