I just watched an episode of Garage Rehab with Richard Rawlings. He goes around partnering with struggling auto mechanic shops to help them build for the future.
It was interesting that Richard has been looking at research showing that the auto mechanic industry is expected to grow in the next twenty years. And I believe it.
And it's not just the mechanic shops. It's the auto body shops too.
One reason I've seen is that Baby Boomers are retiring in huge numbers. Many have money to burn and want to live a little before they lose the ability. They're buying vintage cars and those cars often need work.
And regular vehicles still need auto shop work too. I live in Wisconsin and we had a rough February recently. The auto body shops have been overbooked.
Anyway, there is opportunity for local auto body shops to grow in the future.
Here are a few tips...
1. Local Event Sponsorship
One of the main goals for any business is to build a solid reputation. The more people that know about you the more people there are to search for you when they need your service.
You probably hear about SEO and that kind of thing. Yes, it's important to turn up for general terms like "auto body shop" in your city. But it's also important for people to know your name and search for that.
One way to build your reputation is local event sponsorship. It could be something as simple as the local youth sports. Sponsoring teams. Sponsoring the league.
Charity events. Music events. All kinds of things. Some of them don't even need money, just the time from you and your team. Maybe even just a giveaway like a set amount of work to give away.
2. Local Influencer Engagement
This is Gary Vaynerchuk's strategy and it really works. Especially for local businesses. You can use Instagram and search by your location. Type in your city. You'll see the top 9 trending posts at that particular time for your area.
Reach out to these people. You can just say, "Hey - great looking photo. Welcome to our city! If you need any tips for food or anything let us know."
Or if you see someone in town with a car, swing by the shop for a free detail or something. Think of something you can give away for free to these influencers.
Say you reach out to 100 a week. Of those, 10 will interact. Of those 10, 1 will likely visit and document their trip and you'll get exposure.
You have to do this consistently and for several months, but if you do that it will bring you new business and a bigger reputation.
3. Video Documenting
Auto body work is cool to watch. Heck, Richard Rawlings built an entire show around it for Discovery. Obviously he's building hot rods, but even the basics are interesting to people. Especially those that have a passion for cars.
Hire someone to record video of what you and the team are working on. Then have them edit it into videos for YouTube and Facebook.
One title could be on fixing car door dents with a mashup of 10 or so jobs you've done on cars to fix door dents.
There are hundreds of topics you can cover and post. All to get more exposure for things people are searching for.
If you don't have a lot of money, find someone for minimum wage that is young with some skills, but maybe not tons of skill. They can still learn as they go and they'll improve. Have them record for 5 hours a week and edit for 5 hours a week. That should be affordable for at least a six-month test.
4. How-to Guesting
Find out who your local media personalities are for TV, radio and even podcasting and blogging. The newspaper. Find those with a local focus.
Reach out and see if they're interested in how-to guest content. Just the other week there was an auto body shop on my local news. They were giving tips for driving in the snow. Another time they were on to discuss how to clean windshield glass and things like that.
This provides the media outlets with content. It helps consumers. And it gets exposure for you.
Towing, overflow with other shops, gas stations, auto mechanics, cash washes, etc.
This was one of the things Richard Rawlings does with the shops he partners with. He goes with the owners to local businesses to form partnerships.
Towing is an obvious one. You want the tow companies to bring you the people they pick up after accidents.
The one that might stand out a little is other shops. I mentioned that the auto body shops around here have been slammed with work with the bad winter weather. If you were a shop that needed some work in this situation you could reach out to see if those shops might send you some of their overflow.
They want to help their customers. They would rather their customer got quality help right now than in two months.
It's almost always good to be friendly with your local competition.
These are just a few of the ways you can boost the sales for your local auto body shop. Maybe don't try to do them all at once. Pick one or two and see if you can commit for 3-6 months or doing them steadily. Based on experience, you should see that boost in sales you've been looking for.