How Word-of-Mouth Has Changed
There is no denying the power of word-of-mouth. Whether you opened your shop fifty years or five weeks ago, referrals and recommendations from customers, friends or family members have kept your doors open – and your bays full.While word-of-mouth keeps business coming in, it’s also one of the most-common reasons shops fail to grow to their full potential.
Once a shop is established in their local market, the magic of word of mouth takes over. As long as the shop does great work for customers, it can rely on those customers sending more new customers their way. Shops get comfortable and assume the steady stream of new customers will continue indefinitely… until it doesn’t.
It makes sense shops would react this way. 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know – and are more likely to buy when referred by a friend (Nielsen). If somebody can get a good recommendation from somebody they trust, they don’t need to look any further and simply take the recommendation.
Increasingly, customers are asking for that recommendation via social media. If they don’t have a strong network of friends or family members locally, they turn to online directories for ratings and reviews from past customers. Or they’ll simply search for the closest auto repair shop or best mechanic in their local area. If you are overly reliant on traditional word-of-mouth, this is where your shop is losing money every month.
Consumer use of social media, online directories and local or mobile search has significantly increased over the past five years. More and more consumers are skipping the offline word of mouth process all together, opting instead to use these online resources. It’s a faster, easier and more-credible option for the majority of today’s Internet users.
If you’re actively using your website, search engine optimization (SEO), online directories and social media to drive new customers to your shop, give yourself a pat on the back – you’re in the minority. If on the other hand you’re not leveraging these resources to find new customers – or help customers to find you – the time has never been better to start. For example, searches for “auto repair shop near me” were at an all time high this summer, as consumers get more comfortable using their smartphones to search for local businesses.
Word Of Mouth Works
You’re not wrong believing that word of mouth is all you need to keep customers coming into your shop, it’s just that more and more of that word-of-mouth is moving online, and you’ll be in better shape over the long-term if you start to take advantage of these opportunities to grow your shop today.
Many auto repair shops opt to not invest in a website or online marketing because they have strong word-of-mouth. Their customers have been a positive influence within the community and locals know about the shop through friends and family. For newer generations, it is not just about what your friends or family say about a business. If they’re considering going to a new business, they’re much more likely to check out a business online. Websites and online reviews are as much a part of a business’ reputation as a positive remark from a friend.
For newer generations, it is not just about what your friends or family say about a business. If they’re considering going to a new business, they’re much more likely to check out a business online. Bottom line, if customers are looking at local auto repair options online, and they’re trusting online reviews and recommendations they get there, you need to be there.
Make It Easy for Customers to Find, Recommend You
All local businesses need a website to generate new customers, though some surveys estimate up to half of small businesses still don’t have one. The average person doesn’t know the phone number to their local auto repair shop. A website will quickly provide this information to your customers and they won’t have to spend 30 minutes looking for the correct phone number. They will just Google a generic term or your shop’s name and call you when they need to. This also applies to addresses, business hours and scheduling appointments and so on.
When looking for a specific service such as auto repair, users expect for search engines to direct them to a selection of auto shops within their area. Search engines like Google have improved the way search results are shown to users to make sure the businesses they will choose from are related to the search terms they requested. As search has developed, results have become more and more detailed for users. In addition to the nearby auto shops, Google will display reviews, star ratings, directions and a website (if available). Without a website, your listing is missing a key piece in the Google search results which could push your listing down in the search results.
Make a Good First Impression
Your website will help define your shop. We’ve included the most important reasons as to why a website is key to improving your word-of-mouth marketing:
- A website acts as your digital business card. Websites give customers the information they need to reach you and visit your shop. Unlike a small business card, your website gives you pages and pages of extra space to talk about your shop and show customers why your shop is the best in your area. This is your chance to boast about your shops achievements with blogs and photos. Show your customers the reason as to why your shop is different from other nearby auto shops. Your openness on your website will also help keep your customers informed about your shop.
- Improve the look of your business with a website. Your brand is crucial to developing your customer base and establishing a recognizable name in your community. A well thought out logo and shop brand will help solidify the look and feel of your business.
- Credible businesses have websites. It’s a simple as that. If your auto shop doesn’t have a website, customers may question whether or not you’re still an active business. It seems harsh, but nearly half of all small businesses DO NOT have a website. This is a shockingly high number considering that 4 in 5 consumers conduct local searches on search engines.
- This is your business’ first impression to customers. First impressions are critical when you’re working on getting new customers. A clean and modern website will give your business a professional look to help with your brand. It is worth spending the money to have the professionals get your website set up if you don’t have the experience or time to do it yourself. Most companies will work closely with you to make sure it will best represent your business.
Ask for Reviews and Recommendations
A website allows your business to reach new heights as far as word-of-mouth marketing is concerned. Your auto shop does not solely rely on your repeat customers anymore, you have the ability to reach a new market. This doesn’t mean that you should only focus on new customers and leave repeat customers to fend for themselves. The goal of getting new customers through your website is to continue to grow your customer base as well as establish your company as a top auto shop provider in your area. Every new customer becomes a potential fan of your business and can help drive more traffic to your shop.
At the same time, the rules that helped you build your business to this point using word of mouth also apply online. You’ve always asked for referrals from happy customers in the past. Asking your customers to share their reviews and recommendations online is no different – but the value it drives for your business will be tenfold. Online ratings and reviews reach far more people over time than a few referrals one of your best customers may have sent your way in the past.
Traditional word-of-mouth marketing hasn’t lost its credibility, it has just evolved and become more powerful online. It’s essential for local businesses to stay up-to-date with these changes as they come (reading CarCareCONNECT's blog is a great place to start).
As new generations are driving on the roads and looking for local repair shops, auto repair marketers should add online word-of-mouth marketing to their marketing toolbox. Auto shops have consistently grown into one of the most-searched industries online. As this trend continues and as car owners continue to need repairs, your shop must keep word-of-mouth marketing alive with a website dedicated to your shop.
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