10 TIPS TO GROW YOUR AUTO BODY SHOP OR SMART REPAIR BUSINESS
Updated: Aug 17
How do I get more customers? What's the best way to market my business? Why aren't I getting more calls for estimates? We aim to answer these questions to help you turn them into actionable results to get business booming!
1. Get yourself on Google My Business
Google is the most powerful search engine in the world, the days of advertising in the local newspaper are pretty much gone (although it still has its place).
It's time to go digital and as scary as that may sound, it's really not that hard.
Simply click this link and download the app. Once signed up, Google will guide you on how to set up a profile.
Upload your business logo, post a few before and after shots and voila! You have now just become more visible to potential customers.
On top of that, you can post videos and choose to have a button where customers can directly message you, so you are more directly connected than ever before. We need to make it easier for our customers to find us and this is how it doesn't matter if you don't have a body shop on the main road or a sign written van, all customers want to know is if you're reliable, trustworthy and will do a good job, getting the best value for money, after-all how many times have you found a business on Google and read reviews before you've gone there? Exactly. So get those good reviews and go smash it! (metaphorically of course).
P.S. Google gives you easy to understand business analytics relating to what keywords people use to search for your business, how many times your profile has been viewed and more. This combined with SMART Estimator analytics and you'll be a data scientist in no time! Okay, maybe not a scientist but you'll make better business decisions.
2. Create a profile on Yell.com
Like Google my business, Yell.com is another app/website where you can set up a professional-looking business profile with all the details a customer would need to make an informed decision before contacting you for an estimate.
The app is simple to use and you can upload images, request reviews, chat directly to customers and see analytics on how people are engaging with your profile.
But beware - Yell.com will most likely call you to get your profile more exposure, get you more views and make you feel like you're about to win the jackpot of customers if you pay to get their advertising.
You are not obligated to pay for their services and it is free to have a profile, before you commit to a long contract it may be worth seeing how things go without paying first as you could end up not getting a high return of investment.
When I first signed up to Yell when I opened my body shop, I fell for it and although they didn't mislead me, they used a bunch of figures which made me feel like I would get more work I could shake a stick at.
Guess what? It didn't happen... I had 2 customers in 1 year from Yell.
Luckily the SMART Estimator app allows you to ask how they found your business and puts it all into a pie chart, so you know what's working for you and what isn't, saving that monthly budget.
Don't get me wrong I had a bunch of views and my profile looked great! Maybe it will work for you, but it didn't for me.
3. Build a Facebook Business Page
This is obvious I know, but if you haven't got your business on Facebook then you're missing a trick, apart from being free advertising and practically a free website, having a business profile on here is like putting a sign out on the road but virtually.
Not only can people instantly message you asking for quotes and sending you images, again, making customers lives easier and creating a faster connection to your business, friends can tag your business when people are asking for recommendations (which sometimes is annoying) but if you comment fast enough that one job that's come through the door? Just put money in your business account!
So yes it's worth it.
Make sure your page looks professional, with your logo, business details and a nice page cover photo, all of which you can create with a designing app on your phone. If you're not comfortable doing this, then contact someone who will be willing, after all, not everyone knows how to repair their car, so a favour for a favour.
Insider tip: If you have a business website, having more pages link to your website will help rank you higher on the Google search results page.
4. Join Facebook Gossip Groups
Ah, Facebook! The place where we hate to see so many Ads but use them for our business because "they can reach 500-20,000 in our local area"
So how do we manage to reach locals without shoving our business in their face just as they're trying to find another funny cat video?
We go straight for the jugular! People often forget social media is for.... socialising!
So where ever your business is operating, it would pay to get involved with the local community, that's where "gossip groups" comes in.
Search on Facebook: "(local area name) gossip group" or "(local area name) gossip board"
But you have to play your cards right, make sure you are allowed to post business posts before showing everyone that lovely bumper corner you just painted... and go for a more show and not tell approach. e.g. Instead of "We are the best body shop in the area" go for "We have over 10, five-star reviews on Google and pride ourselves on our core values of being ....."
Show people why to use you - be friendly, approachable, not desperate.
With all the key info about why people should choose you, maybe offer a discount to the local community to get yourself known as someone to trust.
5. Get Reviews, reviews, reviews
So you've set up your new shiny business profiles! Nice!
Now it's time to do the work and ask for reviews, don't be shy! Once you have asked once, you've asked 100 times. Customers who are happy, love to share their experiences with others! It's called "social currency",
People subconsciously think "I look cool for sharing this great body repairer because they were great and value for money!"
Think back to the last time you ate at a lovely restaurant, did you tell people how good the meal was? Or how nice it felt to eat there?
Of course, because you want others to have that same experience and whether or not you know it, you want it to be because it was you that said it! It's a win-win for everybody.
So open the notepad of your phone and copy your profile website links to all your pages, then copy and paste them into the SMART Estimator app to send at the push of a button, or have them ready to just text as a gentle reminder for a customer to leave you a review, or just put them on the bottom of your invoices within the app settings.
It's important to note, people live busy lives and if they haven't left you a review after a couple of weeks, just send them a little nudge! "Hi customer name it's ______________ from _____________, hope you're well and you're happy with the work we carried out! If you do get a chance in the near future, it would mean a great deal to my business if you could leave a review on one of our pages! Appreciate you using us to repair your car and if you need anything else please don't hesitate to call".
6. Become a LinkedIn Warrior
Yes, I know, it's another social media website that you may not know how to use... But hear me out.
Bread and butter work is usually what we all strive for, constant income to pay for all the overheads, with retail being the real money maker.
So how do we get that bread and butter?
Set yourself up a profile on LinkedIn, fill out all your info and qualifications, so when people check your profile, you look credible and someone who business owners or fleet managers would trust to work on their vehicles.
Then create your business page and update your employment status as the owner of your business, making you look credible and professional, after all, LinkedIn is where professionals engage with other professionals.
Once you have done all this, instead of spending a day driving around to companies that have fleets, giving them your business card and praying they call, you can do this all from sitting at your computer, every now and again, making contacts and potential customers.
First, you need to think of some fleet cars you've seen driving around, e.g. Taxi companies / Building Contractors / Estate Agents / Plumbers / Electricians, think of people who probably lease their vehicles and need to return them back in a good condition.
Now you've thought of these companies, start searching for them, when you've found them, go into their employees and find the fleet manager, or director and ask to connect with a small message explaining who you are, and how you can benefit them, and even if they don't need your help right now, you'd be happy to help if they ever need it.
Don't get disheartened if people ignore you, you haven't used fuel to drive all over the place, you have embarrassed yourself in front of an office full of people, and you haven't lost any earnings through wasting your time for no return on investment.
7. DM like an Instagram Ninja
The work you do is VISUAL and Instagram is for a VISUAL audience, who want to SEE what you do! And if you knew how many users Instagram has (1 Billion monthly active users)* then it would make you want to get your brand on there.
But there's more, Instagram allows you to search for hashtags, and if you search the hashtag for your business area, for example, #KENT, you will see all the top or recent posts this hashtag has, AND the people that have posted them.
So find a few local influential people and start engaging with them, and if you find some of these people love their car (by checking their profile) all it takes is "Hey we're only round the corner from you, if you ever need anything, we'd be glad to help!" to land into someones DM's (direct message inbox) and boom, potential customer all in 30 seconds flat, or just keep following locals and liking their posts, leaving genuine comments and you never know!
Inside tip: When posting your photos on Instagram using the location hashtags for your area so others who follow this hashtag (the locals) will see your work when looking at posts, just like you did!
8. Create your FREE Google website!
If you're thinking this is another thing you cannot do, then think again. Google My Business allows you to create a very easy and simple to use website builder which allows you to select a template and it pre-populates all your business data, photos and posts, from your profile that you've created for free on Google My Business app.
It's a great way for customers to engage with your brand in a more familiar, conventional way, allowing those who don't use social media to find out more about your company.
So every time you set up a profile, have this website ready and copy the website link into your company info, and whenever you update your Google My Business profile this website gets automatically updated, allowing you to focus on what matters - getting the jobs out the door!
Brand like a boss
With the blurred lines between small businesses and big corporations and people not being able to tell the difference, it's getting increasingly difficult to stand out in a world of logos, profiles, adverts and your competition. You could be the worst SMART Repairer in the area but if your profiles look great, and your logo looks flashy, you'll get those calls, and it works the other way too, you could be the best quality workmanship for the customers' money but where they can't find your profile because it's not there in the results, or your logo looks outdated and something created by a 10-year-old, it could lose you, customers.
So how do I sort this out I hear you ask.
Quite easily actually - go to that app store and download a logo creator or pay someone to create you one, it's a great investment and doesn't cost as much as you imagine, not only that - it's the best feeling ever to see your brand come alive and give that much-needed motivation to take your business to the next level!
Exceptional customer service
Yep, it's no longer enough to just do a great job and that's it. Customers expect more now more than ever, why?
Because competition is rife and when there is someone not providing a good service, then there will always be someone who will.
Luckily for you, you're going to offer a good service, but how...
Be honest and transparent, if you're running behind, as soon as you know, let the customer know, they'll appreciate your honesty and it will give them time to rearrange any plans they have around picking their car up or taking it out if you're a mobile guy.
If the job hasn't come out quite as you had hoped, ask the simple question, "are you happy with it?" if they say yes then it's happy days.
But if you're not happy with it, then maybe come clean if you think it will come back to haunt you.
(Why do we always seem to get black dots in a white paint job, or white dots in a black paint job, AND RIGHT WHERE THE REPAIR WAS!)
If it's a small imperfection just say you can re-do it at the customers' convenience or offer a small discount (it's cheaper than a rework!) at least then you have taken control of the situation, by letting the customer have control over the situation, which in turn drops their defences down, making them more relaxed and likely to pay without fuss (unless you get that one magnifying glass customer). In any case - you have done the right thing and your reputation for honesty will go a LONG way.
Business cards with an appointment section on the opposite side to your business details
A simple business card with the date of a customers book in date, total price, description of work and deposit amount is taken will help make the customers' life easier - which again, goes a long way.
Plus if there's any discrepancy in price or scope of work, just take a look at the business card or use the SMART Estimator app, with photos of the car and descriptions or check out the PDF with all info collected on the date of the estimate there's no room for error.
We hope this has helped you and it gets you more work, if it does, let us know, we'd love to hear that it's helped our followers!
Just remember to post as much content as you can, it can't do you any harm and builds a massive portfolio of work customers can look at, after all, who is more likely to get the work?
Someone with a profile of photo goodies or Fred in the shed with no online exposure?
Tom - SMART Estimator Founder