If I was asked which way is the best to promote a small business like a car body repair shop, I would reply without second thought- a customer referral or word of mouth. It is free and the most powerful. Although it sounds easy, actually you need to work very hard to make customers your business ambassadors.
Why is the word of mouth so powerful?
It is important to understand why customers’ recommendation is so important. Let’s face it, nobody feels happy when they crash their car. Therefore, in case of a car accident we usually tend to call our close relatives and friends to ask for their advice. If your name will be mentioned as a reliable, fast and reasonably priced bodyshop, then big chances are that you will be the preferred one.
Numerous researches have been conducted by marketing specialists around customers’ behaviour and referral psychology. While the number of people who will tell about their positive and negative experiences vary from survey to survey, what never changes is the following. Happy customer usually tells about 4-6 people about their experience, while a dissatisfied customer will inform up to 10 people. In fact, some small number of unhappy clients will talk to 20 people. Customers will always spread more negative word of mouth than positive. Bad news reach more ears.
How to convence customers to “promote” your bodyshop?
Even though there is no magic formula, below you can find a few ways that have been proved to work:
1. Exceed customer’s expectations.
Last year I wrote a dedicated blog post “How to exceed your customers’ expectations? Without dropping your prices of course…” Among 6 steps how to do this I mentioned faster than promised delivery and free car detailing. Simle steps, great pay back in positive word of mouth
2. Ask for the referral.
Actually there is no harm to ask your happy customer to recommend your bodyshop to their relatives and friends. Just don’t do this while they pay, but rather before or shortly after they give you a pay cheque.
3. Create a well-tuned referral program.
Referral programs are launched to encourage customers to spread positive word of mouth about your company. Discount coupons are a good example. For example, you can offer free wax clearcoat protection or dent repari for every five potential prospects recommendation.
4. Invest in your local community.
You can spread a positive word of mouth not only by doing a great job, but also by offering something back to your community. Be a sponsor of some athletic event, donate to the local charity or offer discount for eldery people.
5. Recommend others to get recommended.
Obviously car body repair shop is not the only business dealing with cars. Establish good relations with local mechanics, car parts traders, car glass repair shops and vehicle alarm installer. If you see that they do great job (and only in this case), take their business cards and give to your customers when needed. It will pay back for sure.
6. Encourage comments through social media.
Even this one is not easy, because negative comments can spread very fast through social media as well, do try your best to get your “likes” and “re-tweets”. The more people approve your bodyshop online, the easier it will be to attract new customers.