Collision Department

The Keys to Cost-Effective Marketing

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Tips for creating local awareness without wasting your shop’s marketing dollars

Steve Rainville has little interest in playing by the rules.

Despite what conventional wisdom might suggest, when his Wisconsin body shop requires a new marketing campaign, Rainville turns down any assistance. After more than three decades in the auto industry, he knows several cost-effective ways to market his facility—from passing out Green Bay Packers schedules that include his business card, to advertising on Facebook.

“I do all of my own marketing,” says Rainville, who manages the body shop at Fred Mueller Mazda in Schofield, Wis. “And I’m saving a ton of money.

 “You know, people are hiring these third-party marketers. … I did that for two years and found that went absolutely nowhere. So, we decided to do all of our marketing in-house, as much as we can.”

Rainville seeks out cost-effective ways to create local awareness of his shop, taking measures such as sponsoring the local high school football squad. He knows that, by doing so, he’ll keep his collision repair center relevant in the minds of community members. Along with simply wanting to do something positive for his community, he also wants to keep his employer at the top of mind for potential customers, on those rare occasions in which their vehicles require repairs.

“There’s a lot of companies out there that don’t sponsor anything for the high schools,” Rainville notes, “and everybody knows who they are.”

Rainville, about to enter his 35th year in the industry, shares some budget-conscious ways that body shop managers can effectively market their business.

Don’t Forego Radio.

In 2018, it obviously pays to utilize evolving forms of technology to market your business. For example, Rainville gives out low-cost flash drives that show before-and-after photos of Mueller Mazda’s repair work—something he often catches customers staring at on his facility’s TV monitors. Yet, a few old standbys, like radio advertising, still offer great value, he says.

The key, Rainville says, is utilizing radio advertising on a seasonal basis.

 “Like just before bow hunting season, when the deer are going to start running, do a deer commercial,” he says. “Or, just before the snow flies, do a commercial on the radio—you know, ‘Snow is coming, so make sure your tires are good. And, if you have any crashes, remember Fred Mueller Automotive, [where] we have 24-hour towing.’”

Create Your Own Coupons.

At Mueller Mazda, department managers typically “benchmark” marketing campaigns by tracking them for as much as six months, studying such statistics as the subsequent amount of new customers that visit the dealership. And, of all the marketing measures the body shop has utilized in recent years, like TV advertising, creating their own coupons has been among the most beneficial strategies.

The shop recently created a flier that explains its repair procedures and, on the bottom right, on the front, is a $50 off coupon that can be redeemed during a future visit. Every visitor of Rainville’s facility gets that stapled to their repair bill, which they seem to appreciate.

 “And,” he explains, “we print them right here, in house, so it doesn’t cost me anything.”

5Ks are Your Friend.

Marathons, 5Ks, charity fun runs—you’ll find Mueller Mazda employees at virtually every such event around Schofield. Usually, they’ll be hanging up Mueller banners, or passing out T-shirts with the dealership’s logo, or handing out water to runners.      

Sponsoring those types of events typically only costs around $1,500, Rainville says, and yet those appearances offer invaluable exposure for a business. Plus, he adds, they’re simply the right thing for a civic-minded staff to get involved in.

“You’ve got to get a team [of employees] together to donate their time to do those things,” Rainville explains, “but I’ve found all these little things paid off. It’s three hours on a Saturday morning, which is no big deal.

“It’s good for the community and good for your business—it shows you care.”

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