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Automechanika 2018. Footnotes.

Yet another Automechanika in Frankfurt closed its doors. I haven’t missed a single event since my very first visit to Frankfurt in 2002, but I still feel a slight adrenaline rush when I enter the hall 11, where the majority of the refinishing stands are located. As a visitor and as an exhibitor, despite the decrease of the exhibitions’ importance in our business (actually in any business), I do enjoy the buzz and the energy of this venue. I guess it is in my blood already.

What I enjoy most is meeting people. Many of them I know, many faces are familiar, but we have never had a chance to be acquainted. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the players in our industry are known. “Oh, I remember this guy, he is Greek with a horse brand (Etalon logo features a horse).” – I overheard a whisper in Spanish while in the queue in cafeteria “Bellavista”. In some ways, all the people you meet in the paths of the fair can be divided in three categories: customers (existing, potential and former), suppliers (current, potential or past) and competitors (competitor is always competitor). Meeting customers is probably the most exciting, but simultaneously the most alarming. Where is he going now? I hope not to meet the other guys?

When you return from the event, like Automechanika, you are asked pretty much the same question: What new have you seen? To be short, apart from the long awaited new spray gun from Devilbiss – DV1 – I haven’t seen anything really new. Of course, I could have easily missed something. Correct me please if I am wrong. As you may have heard any business, industry or organization is going through the life cycle in different ways, like revolution and evolution. This process has been described by Larry Greiner in his paper called “Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow.” Sometimes this theory is described as Greiner Curve. Revolution is characterized by fundamental change, which affects the way we do something (repair vehicles in our case). Evolution, on the other hand, is an upgrade, an improvement of the existing products and processes. Our industry is going through evolution phase without any breakthrough in the horizon so far. In no way I mean that the evolution is not good; it just underlines that automotive refinishing business is a mature market.

 

While I didn’t see a particularly groundbreaking product, I must admit one significant shift in our trade – much better marketing. For many years, collision repair materials suppliers hadn’t paid attention to the look and feeling of their products. Probably this year’s presentations in Automechanika marked the shift on this matter. The best example is probably the packaging of the newest Devilbiss flagship spray gun DV1. It reminds me the box from the luxury Swiss watch.

Those of you, who attended the fair last week, would probably agree with me that SATA had the most chic stand from all. SATA for some years now dedicates their impressively big stand to a particular theme – “Sweet Sixties” this year. SATA’s team welcomed their guests in stylish uniform, while presenting a dedicated special addition SATA 5000 model. Great job from the marketing team. They totally dismiss a stereotype that everything German is well-built, but boring…

I left the fair with solid feeling that I really enjoy the industry I am in, and, as always, regrettably, I didn’t have enough time to spend with my colleagues, customers, suppliers and competitors (yes, I have very good friends with whom we compete). Friends from Australia, Argentina, Serbia, UK, Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Spain, Hong Kong, China, Kenya, South Africa, Italy, Norway, and, of course, from Germany, I will be looking forward to see you soon!

 

 

Quality of products or services in the car refinish industry comes only second to …

When we talk about collision repair industry (or, in fact, about any industry) the most frequently used word to describe a brand or business you hear is “quality“. Our clearcoat is of fineness, with that spray gun you will achieve the highest quality finish, in our bodyshop we deliver the highest quality refinishing job … While I has no problem whatsoever with the term, I do believe that quality is not the most important. How is that? Some of my esteemed readers or marketing specialists may not agree. Let me explain myself.

what-is-quality

The problem with the term “quality” lies in its vagueness. Apparently, perceived quality for different customers vary significantly. For example, a high quality clearcoat for a Greek painter may refer to the superior UV resistance, while in humid English Highlands quality has to do with fast drying; a salesman, the owner of hardworking Ford Fiesta wants fast delivery of his vehicle, while Ferrari owner requires the highest possible gloss level for his precious four-wheeled beast. And don’t tell me that you can have it all in one package. Not in this world at least. Let me bring another example, not from our industry. Do you believe that iPhone is the highest quality mobile phone in the market? I can bet that Samsung fans will find dozens of technical features in which the Korean brand is far more superior to its Californian rival. So what? Apple still has the most fanatic fans, which will spend their last savings on the newest model. I don’t remember anyone sleeping outside Samsung store to buy the last Galaxy model (I hope Samsung lovers won’t be upset with me). So, where is the difference? What is the secret? Well, whether you are selling paint, cellphones or spray cars, quality (perceived quality actually) comes second to … Hold your breath… customer experience. The difference between okay business and a thriving one is predominantly in great customer experience!

What is a customer experience in collision repair?

I have a simple definition for customer experience – it is a feeling, smell or taste a customer is left with after spraying  a X brand clear or driving away from Y collision repair workshop. If you understand which things particularly influence this feeling, what ingredients leave sweet taste, and then you can create a unique customer experience.

customer-experience-1

How can we understand what is a great customer experience for our business?

The one and only way to answer this question is to put yourself in your client’s shoes. Ask! Ask! And ask! Don’t rely solely on your perceptions and believes.

 

Great customer experience for a bodyshop.

One research I read a while ago, which was conducted by a big chain of bodyshops, revealed that satisfied customers remembered mostly good coffee in the reception, new car scent used by the bodyshop before vehicle delivery and free touch-up bottle with 10ml car color inside! Keeping acceptable refinishing job constant it is coffee and a small freebies, which made a bodyshop to stand out from the competition.

 

Great customer experience for paint supplier.

Here I will share some observations I have had throughout my career as automotive refinishing products supplier. Many of Etalon customers preferred our products because… they liked the horse image on our cans, because of fresh design and even because the paper in our catalogue “feels like velvet”, and, yes, our calendar is sexy… On the other hand, we had to change one product, because it smelled bad and a packaging company, because the boxes looked like Chinese! One of our customer switched to Etalon simply because we are not arrogant like salespeople of one big multinational competitor. Of course, products must be good and at reasonable price, but it seems that many of us miss the key point – the experience our clients have with us.

To sum it up, I strongly advice to conduct a research on how your clients actually feel when working with you. Fine tune your operations and have the edge on your rivals. And remember, your customers are willing to pay extra for outstanding customer experience!

 

5 Strategies for Social Media Marketing for Auto Body Shops

Social media

 

Social media is changing the way marketing
works for most businesses. Car refinishers have a lot to benefit from social
media marketing. Have you thought of incorporating it in your marketing
strategy? Social media can help you promote your business, while at the same
time interacting with your customers and getting feedback from them. With most
advertising methods being far too expensive for some businesses, it is a cheap
way to get your message across to a large number of people.

 

  • Share content that matters with your customers

Facebook, YouTube
and Twitter, being the most popular
social networking platforms, with a great deal of potential customers, are one
of the first places businesses should have an online presence.  Business profiles should be attractive and
show exactly what your business has to offer, such as services and products.

  Social media 1

Car refinishers, for instance can use these
networks, not just to post general content, which usually doesn’t interest your
customers, but to provide them with information about your business. Special
tips regarding cars or repairs, how-to videos and photos of your business in
action, are the things that really matter. Also, these profiles can be a great
place for answering questions customers might have or responding to comments
and they can also help you get feedback from your customers and find ways to
make your services and products even better.

 

  • Get reviews that speak for you

Foursquare 1

Foursquare, which is a location based social network, is
a great place car professionals can promote their services. The customers which
are close to your business can be notified of special offers and sales, and it
is also a good opportunity for customers to view reviews and comments from other
users, who have visited your bodyshop and are satisfied with your services.

 

  • Show off your work.

Flickr

Flickr is a great photo sharing platform which
allows you to show off your finest work. 
You can post before and after photos of car refinishing, repairs or your
products, so customers can see for themselves what you do. This is the easiest
way to show the world just how good you are at your job. Classic example of "before" and "after" jobs easily visualize completed collision repair operations.

 

  • Track down the competition

LinkedIn 1

Linkedin is also a platform that every business should
take into consideration, because it allows you to make connections and view the
competition, see what other car refinishers are doing in terms of service,
products as well as marketing techniques. It helps you stay ahead and have a
strictly professional profile that informs people from automotive body repair industry.

 

  • Get the most out of Social Media

In order for all these techniques to work for
your business, you have to learn how to use them. The key to becoming popular
on social media is interacting with
your customers. Always provide them with interesting and helpful information
and respond to anything they say. Try to become the “expert” and you will see
people lining up to take your advice and come use your services. Don’t forget
that all these social media accounts should be integrated into your website and
easy to find. If you follow these steps, you’ll see the benefits of social
media in no time.

 
Social-media 2

9 Affordable Advertising Ideas for Auto Refinishers

Social media

When economic conditions are tough as they
are now, the uncertainty of the future puts customers and business owners into
savings mode. People quickly begin foregoing little luxuries and businesses
start to trim unnecessary expenditures from their budgets.

For many auto refinishers, one of the first
things to be cut is often advertising. Unfortunately, this is one of the
deadliest mistakes that you can make for your auto refinishing business.

We all know that word of mouth is typically
the lifeblood of the auto refinishing industry. If times are prosperous, you
can rely on your customer base to spread the word about your business when
their friends, family members and coworkers need refinishing work. When people
begin to cut down on perceived luxury items due to unemployment, concern about
the dropping value of investments and other issues, it's far less likely that
your customers' contacts will be interested in refinishing.

Still, there are people in your community
that will need refinishing work that simply can't or won't wait until times are
better to have their cars refinished. By advertising, you have the chance to
promote your business to a larger audience and hopefully, find some of these
individuals and draw them to your shop. 

Advertising an auto refinishing shop
doesn't have to involve expensive methods like television and radio
commercials. There are many affordable, effective ways to advertise body shops
and paint shops, including:

– Create a web page of your body shop, if
you don’t have one. Running a business without a proper internet site nowadays,
is like working without telephone line twenty years ago. It shouldn’t be too
fancy, but straight forward information with all your services clearly stated.

– Social media – It's simply not possible
to emphasize how beneficial a social media presence can be for advertising your
business. By providing content that people look forward to reading and sharing,
such as informative articles about car care, reviews of the latest vehicles,
stories about new automotive innovations and the like, you can build a large
following of prospective customers who will remember you when refinishing work
becomes necessary. Make sure that your Facebook, Google +, Twitter or Linkedin
pages are integrated with your web site. Running a blog with interesting information
would be also a great and inexpensive inbound marketing. 

– Event hosting – By having a simple event
that is well promoted, such as offering free rust damage inspections, you can
help bring new people to your shop to meet you personally. Make sure you get
the names and telephone numbers of every attendee, so you can follow-up by
sending them a thank you letter and a coupon for discounted services.

– Direct mailing – Purchase a direct
mailing list from a qualified company with experience in creating lists for
your community. Every 6 weeks, send a mailing to everyone on your prospect
list. Make sure you vary the type of mailing that you send to keep things
interesting. For example, start with an introduction postcard with a coupon for
a reduced service, and then 6 weeks later, send a flyer about the dangers of
leaving dents unpainted.

– Community involvement – If there's an event coming up in your
community, consider becoming a sponsor and putting up a booth. Offer a raffle
or drawing for a prize or for a free service like auto detailing. At your
booth, distribute promotional items that people are likely to keep, such as a
high quality refrigerator magnet or letter opener.

– Cross promote – Team up with other automotive businesses in your
area, such as tire shops, auto mechanics, car dealers, panel beaters, auto
parts stores and automotive insurance agents. Provide your advertising partners
with promotional items to distribute to their customers who are need of refinishing
and distribute promotional items for them. When you do refer a customer, call
your advertising partner and let them know to expect the call of your customer.
Not only will this make your customer feel special, but it also ensures that
your partner knows you gave him or her a referral, increasing the chances that
you’ll receive referrals back.

– Phone directories – Taking out a quarter-page advertisement in
telephone directories is often an effective advertising method. Make sure to
keep your ad short and to the point. It's better to offer a coupon and provide
your company's name, phone number and a short tag line like "The leaders
in refinishing for 35 years" than to list all of your company's selling
points in a phone directory ad.

– Newspapers and coupon circulars – Although fewer people are reading
 the newspaper on a daily basis, those
who still look forward to the daily paper are often middle-aged people who have
more disposable income or are more concerned about the condition of their vehicles.
By placing ads in newspapers or running promotions in coupon circulars, you can
reach this target market that may be likely to use your services.

– Billboards and signs – Taking out a billboard along a busy section
of street can help draw in business. Also, make sure the sign outside of your
shop is large enough to be noticed from the street and attractive enough to
draw people in.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and
you don't need to try every advertising technique listed here at once. Start with
one or two methods and track your results. Make sure you ask new customers
where they heard about you and keep a running total of how much new business
each of your advertising methods generated. This way, you
can continue doing what works and replace ineffective methods with new
strategies.

Remember, advertising is a work-in-progress
and results develop gradually over time. Be persistent and don't give up on
your efforts to promote your refinishing business. If you are diligent and smart
in your advertising efforts, they'll pay off in the end.

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