September is Automotive Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your auto service and driving more new and repeat business. 

Not an auto professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!

more customers for auto service

The automobile glass industry has come a long way since  the first laminated windshields were assembled in the 1920’s. The problem is that most of your customers aren’t looking for your solution until they have an accident, or an unfortunate meeting with a rogue rock on the highway. It’s a reactionary business, and (sadly) usually seen as an inconvenience. Something that’s necessary to get them back on the road, and on with their lives. So, how are your marketing efforts best spent in such a specific scenario? You don’t want to waste them on customers who aren’t receptive (those with a healthy, in-tact windshields or sidelites, for example). Where should you start?

To stay competitive and ensure that these customers find you when the need arises, you need to invest in your business’s online presence. In 2016, this is the first stop on any buyer’s journey. They might have a vague, subconscious remembrance of the catch SafeLight jingle, but chances are they’re turning to Google, or other search engines, to find out what their local options are. This search is followed by a reputation check on various online reviews sites, such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook, among others. Read on, we’ll be reviewing the key components to setting up your auto glass business for success.

Get started off on the right foot: Invest in a professional website

For most of your future customers, your website will be the first impression they get of your business, so it’s important that it sets the right tone. There are a variety of website creation tools and platforms, such as Weebly, which even has a free offering that you can use to make a current and sleek site. Many auto glass professionals didn’t get into this line of work because their love of building websites though, and that’s ok. If you fall into that category, then there are plenty of professionals who you can enlist to help you in this task. Either way, be sure that you are involved in this process and that the new site being built is:

  • Accurate
  • Up-to-date
  • Easy to navigate and understand
  • Conveys all the information they might need: Hours, Services, Pricing, Phone Number, Address, Email
  • Fast load times on desktop and mobile
  • Responsive (layout looks good and is easy to access from both desktop computers and various mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets)
  • Reassure customers’ doubts and reinforce your professionalism (through testimonials)

And that the look and feel is:

  • Professional
  • Modern
  • Intuitive
  • Representative of your business and expertise

Think of your new site as a home base for all your customer acquisition and engagement efforts. Everything you do, should be either driving potential customers back to your site, or at least leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to help them quickly be able to access the information when they need it, or are ready to transact. It’s especially important to make sure that your site is optimized for mobile devices, with fast load times and responsive rendering and doesn’t look weird when viewing on a smartphone or tablet (for example, ensure isn’t super zoomed-in on just your header, or require lots of scrolling and links that are hard to find). With 53% of all mobile searches having local intent, it’s important that you provide a good user experience, if you expect them to convert.

Set yourself up for success by collecting contact information

If you don’t already do this, you should make it a priority, moving forward. Contact information, whether email address or cell phone number, or even address is an opportunity to keep the conversation going, keep your business on their mind and ultimately increase the odds that they’ll eventually become a customer. Email marketing has been proven to yield 4300% return on investment, so the sooner you can start collecting addresses, the more impact it will have on your bottom line.

windshieldIt’s much easier to manage this process, digitally. Hand-written signup lists, while better than none at all, leave a lot of room for error, and rely on time-consuming, manual data entry. It might make sense to invest in CRM (customer relationship management) software that helps you keep all this data organized and easily accessible. As a reminder, Signpost’s Mia does this automatically for you, by keeping a perfect customer record for anyone who calls, emails or transacts at your business

The easiest way to do this on your website, is to add forms wherever possible. Whether asking them to subscribe to your email list for promotions and special offers, a blog for industry insights, or a free estimate, be sure to add a few different opportunities and “hooks” to prompt more of your audience to fork over their contact info. You can test different approaches, and see which performs the best in terms of completed form submissions. Being diligent in your customer data collection, moving forward, will amplify your marketing efforts, and drive more conversions.

Content and Directories

Now that you have set up a professional website, it’s time to start directing more traffic back to it. For organic (read: unpaid) traffic, this is done primarily through inclusion in directories, SEO strategy, social media, and review sites. All of this is done in order to give your business exposure to new audiences that have the potential to become paying customers at some point.

The more links back to your page, the more likely your site will appear in one of the coveted top spots, or ranks on search engine results pages. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If  you were looking for a good chiropractor in your area, you might ask around and see if any family members or friends had a good recommendation. But, at the same time you’d probably start researching your own by searching on Google, Yahoo or Bing. Your potential customers are following a similar process to find the best auto glass experts.

Sharing your expertise through content, such as a company blog or FAQ, can be a great way to establish  your reputation as a knowledgable industry vet, as well as help with discoverability. Sharing tips for maintenance, preventing windshield cracks and damage, or safety precautions people should take following a crack, and more can help provide value to consumers who might need your services.

Similarly, potential customers who are conducting research might come across directories for businesses in the area, so you want to make sure that yours is one of them, and that it has as much info as possible, to convince them to call or come in. Here is a list of free directories to get you started.

Online Review Sites

The final step is to claim and create robust profiles on popular review sites, such as Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, and Angie’s List. These not only help with SEO efforts (especially when it comes to Google My Business), but more and more consumers are beginning their research on these sites. It’s important that you have reviews that are positive, plentiful and recent. This shows that the great experiences customers are reporting are not just flukes, but your usual dedication to delivering quality results.

Today, a majority of consumers trust online reviews as much as friends and family when looking for a recommendation. It’s unsurprising then, that online reviews have a tangible effect on your bottom line. Additionally, Yelp claims that just by claiming a free business profile on their site, owners can expect to see an additionally $7,000 in annual revenue.

Make it as easy as possible for current customers to leave a positive review by using buttons or links from your website to your specific profile on a few of the sites that matter most (remember, Yelp and Google My Business should most likely be top two!). You can also include in your email signature, to subtly remind whomever you’re corresponding with to leave you a review. You can also put signage in your garage or office.

Once you have profiles on these sites, you’ll have to be diligent with your online reputation management strategy. You should respond to any critical reviews and attempt to find a resolution. This can not only help to win back a customer that you might have lost otherwise, but will also prove to potential clients that you value customer satisfaction, and are committed to finding a solution.

Whether you’re just getting started with online reputation management, or already have a plan in place, we’ve distilled some of our best practices in this short video presentation

Online Reputation Management

So there you have it! If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a powerful online presence that will help you get the attention of customers when the time is right. Be sure to allot time for maintenance and upkeep, as with anything else, this is an ongoing endeavor, and some extra time and resources can help sustain and continue to grow your customer base. Now that you’ve have a quality presence, you can start focusing on a communications plan. Check out some of our other resources to discover how you can start building better email marketing campaigns!