These days, businesses have a vast array of methods they can use to promote their products and services. With auto trim shops being service-oriented businesses, it’s easy for owners to fall into the mental trap of expecting customers to just drive up with cars that need work, or that auto enthusiasts will ask the car builder working on their cars for referrals to local trim shops.
It’s also easy for many owners to get so tied up with what’s going on in the install bay that anything more than keeping the books and paying bills, such as any efforts to go out and get more work, may seem impossible.
The key to getting the word out about your business’ services is to integrate new promotional practices into your daily work flow and to devote a set amount of time to actively promoting your business through a range of channels each day, for example 30 minutes every day first thing in the morning.
Let’s start with the basic ways trim shop owners can bring in new business.
First off, you’ve got referral business. You can increase the number of referrals you get by simply asking your existing customers to refer their friends to your shop. You can even create an incentive program for your customers. For example, you can offer a discount on future work to every customer who sends additional paying customers your way.
Next, you can promote your business everywhere you go by wearing a shop shirt, from at the local restaurant to every weekend car show you attend. Let’s say you happen to go to a restaurant that you haven’t been to before on a weeknight and you notice there’s a cruise-in going on. If you’re wearing a clean shop shirt, have pictures of your work on your phone and have a few business cards, you’ve got a much better chance of getting work from guys at the cruise-in than if you walked in unprepared. Beyond that, even if you specialize in auto trim, you could talk to the restaurant owner about any seat repairs they might need. A professional appearance and pictures of the work you’ve done could go a long way toward getting that business.
From here, there are many other ways you can promote your services.
One traditional method that can work well is direct mail.
If there are local automotive-related newspapers or magazines that you can run ads in, that’s a place to start.
If you participate in local charity events, you can likely get coverage in your local paper, especially if you can tie in any of the services you offer to it. If you re-upholstered seating for a church pro bono as part of their fundraising event or if you organized a local car show as a fundraising event and had a contest for best interior, doing so could easily get your business into the local newspaper, both in print and on their website.
Online marketing is an inexpensive and effective method for promoting your business. Although it seems intimidating at first, the two places to start are to set up a website and then a Facebook business page-not just a Facebook profile, you need to create a specific page for your business.
Your website must have your business’ full contact information, location information, a list of all the services you offer and a gallery that shows your work. Note that you need to regularly update your gallery to show off your best, most-recent work. Although regularly updating your website is possible with many small-business web platforms, and is a really great way to keep people coming back to your site, your Facebook page is what you want to update at least once a day with something related to your work.
Facebook has more than 500 million users today. Many of your customers are already on Facebook and, via that platform, their friends can become fans of your business’ page. Good things to post are works in progress, for example an awesome custom door panel you or your staff just completed, or a really nice seat cover. In the spring, post pictures of the boat work you’re doing if you’re in a coastal or lake region.
Most auto trim shops that have been in business for any length of time have a list of current and past customers somewhere, and that list includes customer e-mail addresses. There are numerous e-mail marketing services you can use to send out either promotions or news about what your business is up to. Many of these marketing services offer payment by mailing rather than monthly fees, though there are monthly subscriptions often starting around $10-15 a month.
With all that in mind, the key thing to remember about marketing is that you need to do some sort of marketing effort on a regular basis, and that you track how effective it is. Start with asking for referrals and being prepared to promote your business at any time, get a website and then a Facebook business page that you update daily, and get involved in your community at automotive and charity events. Make that effort and you’ll get more business.