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I do a great job running my business, but not marketing it--what should I do?

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I have 20 years experience in high quality collision repair. My auto body shop is more like a home cooked meal than the normal fast food auto body shops that just look at their customers like a number and a paycheck. I offer interest free financing on customers deductibles and can sometimes wave them altogether. I work well with all insurance companies but not for them. I have a small shop so the overhead is lower, and that enables me to afford the best materials. I am personally responsible for all repairs and customer service. My customers actually get to talk to the guy who is repairing their car. I have also built and painted many award winning custom cars and bikes where quality is judged by the best. I am proficient in all facets of auto body repair and if I can't fix something I have a network of craftsmen I can contact to fix what I can't. My weakest point is selling myself as I am not knowledgeable in marketing and I have little capital to put towards marketing.
Marketing is like air--without it your business cannot thrive as well as it could. Think of it as a mindset and sets of actions that you implement in a very strategic fashion. Even if you have limited capital, you need to create a budget for different kinds of initiatives to help get the word out about all the great stuff you do in your auto body shop.

Ideally you should allocate 10 percent of your gross revenues a year to fund a variety of strategic actions that all leverage each other. Since I'm sure you would not recommend that people attempt to do their own body work (and expect sterling results) you need to think the same way about your marketing plan and tools by outsourcing those tasks to professionals who can deliver superior results to you. On a limited budget that could mean doing some or all of the following:
  • Getting a professional logo designed and professional business cards (seek out a graphic designer for this)
  • Creating a colorful professionally designed and written 6 x 9 brochure (stay away from typical tri-folds and work with a professional copywriter for the messaging)
  • Creating and mailing an oversized direct mail piece (aimed at the custom car and bike crowd)
  • Attending local or regional networking venues where you can hand out your brochure and postcard
  • Partnering up with a local repair shop to host an open house benefiting a local charity (food bank, veterans home, etc.)
  • Attending local/regional car shows to hand out your literature
  • Getting a professional press release written about your shop and its old fashioned, friendly and personal approach (submitted to local papers, cable networks, radio stations)
  • Get a 3-5 page website up online, so people can find you that way. Again, work with someone to design it to match your logo/colors (brand) and a professional webmaster to code it. Make sure you own your own domain name (the name of website address.)
I'd be happy to recommend some great resources to you if you'd like!

Best of luck to you in all your endeavors!
Pattie S.
Pattie Simone

Written By

As president of Pomona, N.Y.-based marketing-advantage and founder of WomenCentric, Pattie Simone empowers ambitious companies, individuals and entrepreneurs, helping them to develop strategic, integrated, well-branded communications that engage diverse audiences and fuel sales.