Volume 11, Issue 3 - May/June 2009

To the Market 
Innovative Ways Companies Promote Their Services
by Penny Stacey

When it comes to marketing, these days the possibilities are endless. There’s the web, television, radio advertising and more. But which of these methods works best? Well, it seems to vary from repair business to repair business. It depends not only on your market, but also on your bank account and what you’re able to invest—both of your time and money.

Only Online
When it comes to a service like auto glass repair, these days, most consumers—unless they already have a company in mind—turn to the web first. Whether they go to Google™, Yahoo!® or any of the other endless search engines available, are they going to find your company?

Gene Henderson, owner of Crack Doctor in San Diego, Calif., recently contracted a company to optimize his website. He’d been online several years, but consumers weren’t necessarily finding his site.

“It took about three weeks to get my site on the front page [of the searches], but once it got there, my business doubled,” he says.Henderson was able to work with a company that is located next to him in the office complex with his shop. He had the company modify his site so that it would come up easily via searches for keywords such as “windshield repair,” “auto glass repair,” and more. He also utilizes associations he has, such as working with his local Better Business Bureau.

“If a consumer were to look up ‘Better Business Bureau windshield repair San Diego,’ [my company would] come up,” Henderson says.

Before he had the site optimized, Henderson says he was doing three to five repairs a day.

“Now I’m doing 10 to 12 repairs a day, and that depends on the day, actually,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll have 20 a day, sometimes seven, some days three, but if you average it out, you’ll get 10 to 12.”

Alan Geiger, owner of Glass Aid in Oklahoma City, has had his website up for about three years.

“We’ve used the Yellow Pages a little, but I’ve leaned more and more on the Internet,” he says.

Geiger has found that those customers that find his site online are more apt to book a job than those who find him via the Yellow Pages.

“With the Yellow Pages, you’ve got a chunk of [customers] who still don’t know what repair is,” he says. “When you’ve got them on the website, you’ve got a more informed customer right off the bat. It cuts down on phone calls with people price-shopping.”

Geiger developed his own website using information from the company that hosts his site.

“I sat down and played with it,” he recalls. In addition, Geiger has a mobile site, www.glassaid.mobi, designed for viewing on portable devices, and a .tel domain, where he can list all of his other sites/associations in one short format.

Geiger also recently discovered Twitter—and he’s using it in ways he never dreamed of.

“I originally set it up so that I could use my cell phone out in the field to tell people that I have an opening,” Geiger says. “We’re now seeing opportunities to be able to market through Twitter.”

On the Tube
When consumers aren’t Twittering, working or online, many are still watching television. And for Gerald Zwart, known as Dr. Chip in his hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, that’s a good thing. He’s been advertising on television for several years—and with much success.

Though he also uses radio ads, he’s found the best success with TV.

“If you can afford television, that’s the better way to go,” Zwart says. “Anytime you can put a picture with words, it has more punch.”

Zwart started his television ads several years ago, and he learned quickly it’s best to sign up for a year at a time.

“It saves you time—it’s a done deal,” he says. Plus, it’s cheaper that way.

He also warns, it takes time for the ads to become effective.

“Do not, do not, try it for 30 days and see if it works,” Zwart says. “If you cannot sign an annual contract, don’t do it.”

To create his commercials, Zwart usually thinks of the concept and, because he’s on contract for his ads, the television stations with which he works usually produce them and edit them free of charge. 

Word of Mouth
Of course, if you can’t afford television advertising or aren’t yet prepared for the investment, free marketing is another optimal way to go—and Henderson has discovered a free and convenient way to gain some additional business: referrals.

Henderson has teamed up with two local replacement shops to offer “trade-offs.”

“They send me repair customers and I send them replacement customers,” he says. Originally, Henderson just participated in this agreement with one other local company, but recently he added another—and has also sent out letters to various shops in his area offering the same type of agreement.“This has improved business considerably,” he says.

Giving Something Back
There’s another kind of trade-off available in the market too; it comes in the form of providing donations and service to good causes. Geiger has achieved particular success—and has benefited others too—by working with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“I knew someone who was affected by multiple sclerosis (MS),” says Geiger.

He now leads a team in the annual MS walk in Oklahoma City, and also offers customers the option of completing a special authorization form allowing the company to donate 10 percent of the cost of their invoice to the Oklahoma MS Chapter.

“We get a lot of positive feedback on this,” says Geiger. And, he finds that sometimes customers who’ve been affected by the disease—or have had someone in their life be affected by it—seek him out specifically because of his dedication to the cause.

Henderson has chosen to take his opportunity to give back in a different direction. Once or twice a year, he visits local high schools that offer auto shop classes and does demonstrations for them.

“I’ll contact the auto shop teacher and tell them what I do, and I offer to do a demo for one of their classes,” he says. “And if one of the students has a parent with a chip in their car windshield, I’ll do the repair for free [as part of the demo], and then the other students go home and tell their parents about it.”

While there, he offers pens, fliers and coupons, so that the students can share with them with their parents.

“Even [the students] who don’t care still pick up some of the information and tell their parents,” Henderson says.

Finally, many shops are also finding that marketing the environmental friendliness of windshield repair is proving beneficial

Zwart, who also does replacement, said he’s seen a particular upswing in his customers’ concern for the environment recently.

“In the last couple of weeks, it’s amazing how many people have asked, “What are you doing with the old windshield?”

David Casey, president of Superglass Windshield Repair in Orlando, Fla., actually gives his repair customers a certificate for their dedication to helping the environment by having their windshields repaired.

“One of the things I’m doing in my company is recognizing the actual carbon emissions that every windshield repaired saves,” he says. “We show customers how many pounds of glass they kept out of the landfill. And, for every windshield, there’s about 50 pounds of carbon emissions.”

Casey notes that in Europe, citizens are actually recognized for reducing carbon emissions and cutting down on pollution—and he hopes someday the same will be true in the United States.

“We’re trying to show customers at least that we recognize them for this,” he says. “The certificate does nothing at this time but at least it shows they’ve reduced some carbon emissions, and who knows? Eventually it may turn into a credit.”

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR magazine. She also edits AGRR’s online news service, www.glassBYTEs.com.™

AGRR

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