Part II │ Taking Your Auto Shop to the Top: Tips for Success from Four Industry Leaders

In Part I of our “Taking Your Auto Shop to the Top” webinar recap, four auto industry leaders discussed the impact of constantly evolving technology on repair shops. They discussed the importance of the tire business and explained how to implement sound marketing strategies to increase profitability.

In the webinar, Bob Cooper, President of Elite Worldwide, a training, coaching, and consulting company for the auto service industry, talks shop with:

  • Chris Monroe, owner of Monroe Tire and Service in Shelby, N.C., and Business Development Coach for Elite Worldwide.
  • Brian Weeks, who co-owns atc AutoCenter in Augusta, Ga., with his brother, Chris.
  • Mike DelaCruz, Elite Worldwide’s Vice President of Sales.
  • Steve Lau, co-founder and co-CEO of AutoLeap, a modern all-in-one mechanic shop software solution for auto repair shops.

In Part II, we outline ways to dramatically improve your shop’s online presence in a digital world and discuss technological trends that every auto shop needs to prepare for in 2022 and beyond.

Let’s continue.

Take your shop’s online presence to the next level

According to DelaCruz, building your online presence is similar to preparing your home for sale. Much like a home’s curb appeal attracts potential buyers, a brand’s social media presence should encourage people to learn more about it.

“It’s the same thing with your online presence,” DelaCruz says. “When someone in your community goes to Google, and they type in ‘auto repair near me,’ why should that customer call you? Would you call you? Do you have that online curb appeal they’re looking for?”

To improve your online presence, DelaCruz suggests doing the following:

Set up Google My Business and get reviews

The first thing you should do is claim your shop’s Google My Business page, DelaCruz says. Doing so grants you access to all of the analytical data you need to run your business., including clicks, impressions, conversion rates, page load times, and scorecards to show how you rank amongst competitors.

“It might be uncomfortable in the very beginning, but get familiar with it (Google My Business). Log on, play around with it,” DelaCruz advises.

Secondly, ask customers for reviews or hire a company to track down customer testimonials for your auto shop. Word-of-mouth marketing has, and will always be around. DelaCruz says, “Word-of-mouth isn’t going away. It’s how we’ve always run our business, going back to my great-grandfather, and it’s never going to go away. But I think a large portion of that has shifted online, and I call it Word-of-Mouth 2.0. It’s how we choose restaurants, it’s how we select our movies, and so on,” DelaCruz says. “So, try to collect as many reviews as possible to separate yourself from any of your competitors.”

Build and optimize your website

Making your website responsive, mobile-friendly, and fast can greatly improve the online customer journey. Your website should be compatible with whatever devices customers might use to view it while also loading quickly. In the video below, DelaCruz shares some key insights about the importance of website optimization:

Play Video

“You have to gain what I call interest and attention within the first six seconds,” DelaCruz says. “And your website definitely needs to tell a story.”

For instance, display both stock and personal photos of the types of vehicles you work on to showcase your specialty— whether it’s Chevy diesel trucks or BMWs. For a more personal touch, include bios of mechanics customers may encounter. Doing so gives customers a sense of who you are, making them feel more comfortable doing business with your shop.

Lastly, include a call-to-action on your website by displaying your shop’s phone number at the top of the page, and make it a direct click-to-call button from any mobile device. Auto shops can also add a chat feature to their websites to allow potential customers to connect instantaneously.

“Quick and easy is what people want,” DelaCruz says.

Monroe also advises shops to keep their websites simple. Gone are the days when companies waste precious front-page website real estate on long-winded historical timelines or presenting the company’s virtues.

“That needs to be at the bottom,” Monroe says. “But give them the call to action. They’ve got a problem with their vehicle, get them moving as quickly as possible, give them easy access to that schedule or to your text, or whatever.”

Customers hate clicking through a clunky website, DelaCruz says. That’s why it’s important that they can quickly access the relevant information.

“I want to know what kind of services you provide. Do you do oil changes? Can you work on my brakes? You’ve got to have stuff like that. Or you can get creative and write blogs, like how to prepare your car for winter. Those are things that I want to know as a potential customer of yours,” DelaCruz says. “Simple, better, but relevant content is absolutely key.”

Lau summarizes the above points and says, “If you’re neglecting your Google reviews and you have a one star out of five, or you haven’t claimed your Google My Business page, and your website looks incredibly dated, that makes the consumer think about your shop as one that’s incredibly dated.” He adds, “If you’re not up to date on your website, you’re probably not up to date on how to fix modern cars or modern car technology or modern techniques. So just be cognizant of how that reflects on you as a whole.”

Make the most of digital marketing campaigns

When it comes to investing in your auto shop’s website, it’s also important to understand it may take longer to realize any ROI, Weeks says.

“It’s something where you have to commit to spending X amount of dollars, stick with it, and do the things that Mike’s saying,” Weeks says. “It costs money to do that, but that ROI will come tenfold down the road, but it’s not something that’s very easily pinpointed.”

Shops can track ROI by adding specific call-tracking numbers to their marketing campaigns, DelaCruz says. Companies with shop management software like AutoLeap can integrate the numbers with the campaigns, so you know exactly how each customer connects with your shop.  

“Many companies today have the ability to be able to granularly break down that ROI and separate it from new and existing customers to give you that true return on investment,” DelaCruz says.

Whether shops use AutoLeap or any other software management program, Lau says tracking marketing campaigns to know what works and what doesn’t allows auto shops to spend their marketing dollars in a more thoughtful way. For instance, if you see better ROI with ads on Yelp or Google rather than Angie’s List, you can direct more marketing funds to those campaigns.

How much should auto shops spend on marketing? The video below sheds some light on this question:

Play Video

Cooper says that the top shops spend about 4 to 5% of total revenue on marketing. But people revamping their business or specializing in one service like transmission repair will probably spend more.

“Here’s one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to setting a budget for marketing,” Cooper says. “That percentage needs to always be a percentage of where you want to be, not where you’re at. So right now, if you’re doing $750,000 in sales and you want to do $1 million a year in sales, then make sure that budget is going to be 4 to 5% of the million dollars, not 4 to 5% of the $750,000.”

Auto shop technology trends for 2022 and beyond

“I think technology is the single biggest risk for the auto shop industry in the near to medium term, but also one of the biggest opportunities for many shops in the near to medium term,” Lau says. “Technology is changing more than ever, and 100% of the top-performing shops are leveraging technology in a big way.”

“That gap between top shops and bottom shops is continuing to widen, and will continue to widen because of technology,” he adds.

Lau offers four main reasons for auto shops to leverage technology to grow their business:

  1. Attract customers: Managing your online presence and staying on top of reviews can mean the difference between gaining new customers or losing out to a competitor. “Only one in four shops actively manage their online reviews,” Lau says. “I find that insane because right now in today’s economy, nine out of ten consumers check reviews online before making any purchase.” He adds, “I think it’s beholden on a shop to take control of their online reviews and manage it very actively.”
  2. Align with customer expectations: With the proliferation of software, consumer expectations are changing. If they can schedule their dentist appointments via email or text, they should also be able to schedule their auto repair or service online. “The auto repair industry needs to meet consumers where they are today,” Lau says.
  3. Build trust: Technology promotes direct communication and helps build customer trust. For instance, email and text reminders can ease scheduling concerns, while digital vehicle inspections (DVI) build customer confidence by increasing transparency about their auto repairs. “Distrust is something that unfairly plagues this industry,” Lau says.
  4. Know your business: Technology enables auto shop owners to really understand their business, from profit margins to technician efficiency. Many owners prefer to “turn wrenches” rather than understand their financials. “A lot of shops don’t actually look at their metrics or their financials often enough. They may come up for air once a year to thoroughly look at their financials, and it’s mostly for tax reasons, and not for business performance reasons,” Lau says. “Your financials and key metrics are the lifeblood and the pulse of your business, and that’s something you truly need to take some time to understand.”

There’s one thing we know for certain, and that is technology is here to stay. Once you take the leap toward technology, embrace it fully, Lau says, and strive to use all of the features the software offers. He noted that, even for AutoLeap, most customers only use 20% of the available features. It’s also helpful to designate an employee as the lead to effectively implement technology at your shop.

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“The software provider is going to be the coach, and the person you designate in your company is going to be the star player,” Lau says. “That coach is going to help that star player achieve all they can achieve, but they have to be on the hook for making that successful within the company.”

Weeks agrees that presenting a digital vehicle inspection (DVI) report to a customer showing the repairs needed for their vehicle creates transparency and builds trust.

“They can see that this is my car, this is what’s wrong with it. The only thing I’m doing is presenting that in a way that they can get their hands on it quickly and make a good decision,” Weeks says. “When they can see it, touch it, and feel it, it creates that trust.”

DelaCruz added that without DVI, 73% of auto repair customers declined any additional jobs identified during inspections.

Final thoughts

Cooper says that going above and beyond customers’ expectations of quality and knowing what your brand stands for are important for success. With a plan to keep your employees and customers happy, building your brand becomes a breeze. Customers these days walk into a business and expect to be surrounded by technology, so it’s best for auto repair shops to keep up with these expectations.

Auto Repair Shop Management Software

AutoLeap is a powerful all-in-one auto repair shop software that helps to keep complete track of your business – from scheduling appointments to managing technicians and generating invoices.

Auto Repair Shop Management Software

AutoLeap is a powerful all-in-one auto repair shop software that helps to keep complete track of your business – from scheduling appointments to managing technicians and generating invoices.

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