No matter how many radio/TV ads, newspaper inserts, direct mail and point-of-purchase campaigns you spend your marketing budget on, the best device to bring customers to an auto collision repair shop is: referral traffic.

In other words, word of mouth.

Why?

Because nobody prepares to be in an auto accident. Therefore, they are completely clueless about auto repair shops when their accident does happen. The easiest thing then, is to ask for referrals from people they know who have been in an accident previously, and since they have no personal opinion to fall back on, they choose whichever repair shop is being suggested to them as reliable and reputable.

Winning brand new clients is hard for any business. In the auto collision repair industry, this is even harder because, reputation, trust and integrity are three pillars that your business stands on. If people are going to entrust you with one of their most precious possessions – their car – they got to know that you’re worthy of that trust.

For this reason, concentrating a chunk of your marketing efforts to target present and past customers as referral sources – instead of just new, potential customers – will bring more damaged cars for fixing to your repair center.

People have no reason to believe your advertising. But they have every reason to believe a friend or a family member or a co-worker who readily recommends your business because of his/her personal experience of working with you.

And to stay on-of-the-mind with such past customers, you have to employ every outreach strategy at your disposal to make sure they don’t leave your influence zone – long after their vehicle is fixed and back on the road.

So how are you going to do that?

Here are 4 proven and practical ways:

SEND OUT EMAIL NEWSLETTERS

•  Stay in regular contact with your past customers via email newsletters.

Now you may wonder why your ex-customers need to know about promotions and discounts you’re currently offering. After all, their need for you is over. And unless they get themselves into another car accident, they don’t really have any use for the 20% coupon you’re offering via your email newsletter.

True.

Which is why email newsletters sent out by auto collision companies are not just a vehicle to announce promotions.

They are a device to keep past and present customers engaged with your brand via content marketing.

Give them content that makes their life easier. Give them topical and interesting information, news, countdowns, listicles, DIY hacks, reviews or anything else to do with cars, and they will be interested in reading your newsletters.

Stepping away from the main thrust of your business – collision repair – and broadening the scope your content to all things to do with `auto’ will gradually pull in people who’re not interested in the collision repair part anymore.

And the longer they remain within your influence zone, via your newsletters, the more readily they will recommend your business to anyone who is in need of a reliable auto body shop.

BEGIN TO BLOG

•  Generating content for blogs is a specialized and expensive business and most auto collision companies do not even know where to start. Outsource this important piece of your marketing cake to a professional marketing agency takes that worry off your plate.

The agency’s team of writers will produce content for you that will live on your website forever as blogs. These blogs – once written – will do multiple duties, such as provide content for your emails, bolster your social campaigns etc.

At the root of any online marketing effort these days, content is key. From a search engine optimization perspective, blogging is important too because over time, Google will direct more traffic to your website via blog content.

The more blogs you share consistently with your past, current and potential customers, the more reason they have to stay engaged with your brand.

GET SOCIAL

•  Let’s be honest. The majority of your local competitors in the auto collision business are not digitally savvy. Building a social media presence is still a foreign – and even frightening — concept to a lot of them.

If you start now with a solid social marketing plan, it won’t be long before you race ahead of them in grabbing a sizeable piece of the social media pie.

Fill your social media pages with current, relevant content (your own blogs and links to others that may be of interest to your customer base). Post entertaining pictures and posts that generate likes and re-shares. Host contests and do some free, inexpensive giveaways.

Use social media to improve your customer service by answering questions, responding to comments and making people feel worthy and important.

Don’t bore people into pressing the `unfollow’ button by posting news just about your business. Be customer-facing in your social interactions and give them what they will truly enjoy. If it’s pictures of rare classic cars or cute cats on a road trip, then so be it.

What they are engaging with is not so important at this stage. Your return-on-investment is the very fact that they are taking some action to engage with you on social.

Consider that in itself to be a win, because digital marketing is a long-term initiative. The more you stay consistent, the bigger rewards you will reap in the long run.

ASK FOR REVIEWS AND REFERRALS

•  Here’s an interesting piece of human psychology. If you ask people for something that doesn’t cost them money, they’re often likely to do it for you. There is no shame in asking for testimonials, reviews and referrals. As long as you are not soliciting 5-star but honest opinions about your auto repair business, there is no bar to sweetening the ask with a gift card or a discount either.

Plan your review-collection drive and get to action with it, garnering opinions on Yelp, Google+, Facebook, Linkedin etc. The impact a growing bunch of honest reviews can have on your business is, quite frankly, staggering.

Alicia is the National Business Development Manager at Mastodon Media. She  is loud, in your face, and has a DEEP passion for making your business hum. Chances are she has an idea for your business already. She is an artist when it comes to seeing what you need, and getting the rest of us to make it happen.

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Mastodon Media is a fully integrated advertising agency based outside Seattle, WA. With more than 30 years of experience, Mastodon is one of the leading ad agencies in the region, offering a full-service approach and customized ad solutions.