The Ultimate Auto Body Shop Marketing Guide

The Ultimate Auto Body Shop Marketing Guide

Whether you currently own an auto body shop or would like to start your own body shop, an effective marketing plan is essential for your success. The competitive auto body shop industry is worth $42 billion in annual revenues, and it’s growing at a rate of 2 percent per year. With today’s economy leading to more new car sales, and advanced technology leading to fewer car crashes, you need to use every tool available to you to let customers know that your body shop offers superior services. This auto body shop marketing guide will help you gain an edge over your competitors, get more customers for your shop, and set up your business for success.

Ready to rev up your auto body shop revenues with a vital auto body shop marketing plan? Let’s get started.

Auto body shop worker fixing a dent in a car.

1Auto body shop: startup information

Auto body shops are part of an enormous automotive industry, yet the number of body shop operators has decreased over the past few years. Although the industry is showing a steady increase in revenue, stringent regulations have pushed car manufacturers to include more safety provisions for drivers, leading to fewer collisions over the past five years.

This has resulted in a smaller client base for auto body shop owners, which has caused some owners to consolidate or leave the business altogether – which, conversely, has increased opportunity for new and established body shops.

To succeed as an auto body shop owner in today’s world you need a strategic plan in place to market your business.

Interested in being a total service auto body shop? Looking for a special niche in the industry?

Body Shop Business Opportunities
  • Auto paint
    shops (including post-collision paint)

  • Auto collision
    repair

  • Automotive glass
    shops (repair, replace, tint)

  • Auto restoration
    shops (restore classic and antique cars)

  • Auto body
    customizations

  • Upholstery and
    interior repair

  • Merchandise
    sales

  • Auto
    detailing

  • Van
    conversion

How much does it cost to start an auto body shop?

The cost for starting an auto body shop varies greatly depending on what kind of shop you want to have and where you want to locate your business. Do you want to work as an owner full-time or part-time? Are you thinking of a home-based business in your garage or do you plan to lease or purchase a building? Will you be hiring staff? Are you thinking of an existing body shop business for sale? Do you want to buy into an auto body franchise?

Body Shop Business magazine states that 85% of body shop owners run a family-owned shop. Startup Jungle pegs the startup costs to run anywhere from $32,000 to $150,000.

According to FranchiseDirect.com, the cost to open an auto body franchise from Maaco runs from $313,338 to $478,338, which includes three months of operating expenses. Entrepeneur.com states that an auto painting business startup cost runs from $10,000 to $50,000, and an auto glass repair and replacement shop’s startup costs range from $31,600 to $134,800.

Cost to Start an Auto Body Shop
  • $10,000 to $50,000 Auto painting business

  • $31,600 to $134,000 Auto glass repair business

  • $32,000 to $150,000 Family-owned body shop

  • $313,338 to $478,338 Maaco franchise

To determine your startup costs, you’ll need to start by creating a business plan for your auto body shop. Your business plan will help you identify what type of body shop you want to start, how and where you will operate, and project expenses and revenues.

You can find free auto body shop business plan sample templates and advice from the following resources:
How much do body shop owners make?

According to Chron.com, the average annual salary for an auto body shop owner is $101,000, although this varies by region.

An industry report from Body Shop Business Magazine gives the following average annual salaries for auto body shop employees:

Senior estimator $59,000

Painter $59,000

Metal Tech $57,000

Mechanic $51,000

Office Manager $42,000

Entry level painter/tech $32,000

Of course, some body shops make much more; others fail and make nothing. How much money you can make from your auto body shop depends on your business acumen, which includes your ability to effectively market your products and services.

2 Auto body shop branding and design

One of the biggest challenges facing auto body shops today is marketing. These tools will help you fine-tune a winning auto body shop business.

Importance of a branded image

Branding your auto body shop is the first step to long-term growth. Crafting a creative and effective brand identity that influences your customers can be a challenging task, but the effort will pay off.

A memorable brand that evokes just the right emotion will almost always win over a nameless, brand-less competitor. Brands build trust. If your auto body shop is not branded, there's nothing to differentiate your company from the competition. You have no competitive edge.

But if you can come up with a compelling brand that conveys who you are and what you can do for your customers, you can motivate emotion, gain recognition, and fuel sales.

How to identify your branded image

Carefully craft an image that speaks directly to your customers. The following five steps will help you identify your brand:

Identify your brand image
Define your niche

What is your niche in the auto body shop industry? Do you perform collision repair work, custom-build hot rod bodies, or do detailing work? Do you cater to personal projects or commercial businesses? Your niche market and your brand are two different things: your niche is who you provide services to; your brand represents the ideals that make you appealing to that market. Ask yourself how you differ from the competition and focus on that to help you define your niche.

Describe your benefits

What you do is one thing; how it benefits your customers is another. Make a list of your benefits and identify why your customers should choose your auto body shop. Be creative, and ask others for help - your current customers can be an excellent source of insight.

Know your customers

List your top customers and identify shared traits to create an ideal customer profile. What are the main services you perform for them? Once you've identified your primary customers, think about your secondary customers. You might specialize in classic cars, but also take on collision repair jobs. Sometimes, your "secondary" customers make up the bulk of your income. If you understand who your customers are, you can establish mutually beneficial business relationships.

State your mission

Where does your business stand today, and where do you want it to be in the future? Your mission should include who you are and where you're going.

Sum it all up

Your brand is an expression of all these things. Jot them down and brainstorm potential taglines that represent your company's core identity. Then, select the most accurate and memorable.

Branding through design

As an auto body shop owner, you're familiar with design. Your artwork cruises the streets every day, seen by hundreds of potential customers. You need to convert the intricacies of your auto body work into a singular branded image that symbolizes what you do, how you do it, and who you do it for.

Your company colors, logo, corporate identity package, website, ads, and print marketing materials are reflections of your brand; so familiar, cohesive design needs to be applied to all mediums.

In time, anyone should be able to see your logo and instantly know who you are. Once you achieve that, you've developed a remarkable auto body shop brand.

3 Auto body shop marketing tools

Investing in high-quality, inexpensive printed materials is a powerful way to attract more customers, boost sales, and increase your profits. Instead of printing your marketing materials on your own, send your online printing jobs to a state-of-the-art online printing company such as PsPrint and let our experts assist with your auto body advertising.

Must-have auto body shop marketing tools
Business cards

No business is complete without them! Print business cards and hand them out to everyone you meet. You can also insert them with other marketing tools, such as sales letters, and leave them in strategic places where potential customers might find them. Consider printing edge-colored ultra business cards to stand out from competitors.

Design your own auto body shop business cards online for free with our business card templates and design tool.

Posters

With the right message and graphic elements, well-placed posters can engage potential customers and increase your brand prowess.

Flyers

Flyers are perfect marketing materials for placement on bulletin boards, windshields, direct mail, storefront windows, and other high-profile places. Print flyers for your body shop and leave them at partner businesses such as insurance agencies, tire stores, and car washes to get your message out.

Auto body booklets/guides

Booklets are a unique and profitable way to give your prospects something they can use. Use a booklet to explain auto body care techniques and to highlight your work, products, and special services. Think "How to protect your paint job for decades."

Postcards

Postcard printing is one of the most cost-effective direct-mail marketing strategies for an auto body shop. Send them out seasonally - such as before the winter ice and the spring rain – and add a special discount offer to motivate response.

Design your own auto body shop postcard fast, easy, and free! Try our free postcard templates and online design tool today.
Catalogs

If you sell auto body care supplies or equipment you can compile your products into a mail-order or leave-behind catalog. Or, pass them out at trade shows and other events. Add value with unique anecdotes, tips, and tricks.

Brochures

Brochures are service industry staple. Add pop and pizazz to your printed brochures with die-cuts and oversized printing. Send them via direct mail, use them as sales tools, and leave them in strategic places your audience will find them.

Calendars

Not only will almost anyone take a free calendar, they'll also use it 365 days a year. Print calendars that highlight key automotive milestones, such as when tires and oil should be changed, along with a call to action to get their service scheduled. Be sure to feature large photos of your work along with your brand each month.

Greeting cards

Showing your customers appreciation for their business and commemorating their special moments with greeting cards will earn you a special place in their hearts. Remember that most purchasing decisions are based on emotion, and then justified with logic. Print greeting cards to help you foster long-term relationships with your best customers.

Design your own thank-you greeting cards for your body shop with our free templates and online design tool.

Stickers

Sticker marketing lets you place your message anywhere your target audience is likely to find it. If your customers routinely return, as is the case with auto detailers, you can print stickers featuring their next appointment dates, then place them on their windshields.

Vinyl banners

Banners are ultra-affordable ways to reach the masses. Place banners outside your body shop, near competitors’ body shops, and in high-traffic areas to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Website, email, and social media

Highlight your auto body shop online. Consider adding appointment setting tools, a contact form, and current promotions. Make sure your URL is included on all your printed marketing materials. Post before-and-after shots on social media, and stay connected to customers with email marketing.

4 Auto body shop marketing: copywriting

Along with your brand image and design, professional copywriting is an integral part of demonstrating to customers that you’re the best auto body shop in town. This four-step process will ensure incredible copy that motivates response.

Four steps for writing winning auto body shop copy
Craft an attention-getting headline

Your headline is what draws readers into the rest of your copy. Make a bold statement that captures your customer’s attention, engages interest and delivers an offer.

Highlight your benefits

What is the benefit of dealing with your auto body shop? For example, if you offer all-in-one auto body undercarriage coating maintenance (a feature), you must tell your audience that this means they'll never have to worry about chassis rust (a benefit).

Develop an incredible offer

Your offer should have value to your customers and be time-limited to get the greatest response in the shortest amount of time.

Motivate with a call to action

Tell your audience in no uncertain terms what they must do next. Provide more than one way to respond - by phone, by website, by visiting your shop - to make it easy for customers to schedule an appointment.

Adding value

One way to increase the effectiveness of your auto body shop promotions is to add value by including coupons, helpful charts and graphs, tips, and other useful information that increases influence and motivates response.

5 Auto body shop marketing: distribution

Once you have your printed marketing materials, you need to get your message in front of the right audience at the right time. Here are some tips for distributing your auto body shop marketing tools:

Direct mail

Direct-mail marketing is a powerful way to reach a well-targeted audience. When you create direct-mail marketing campaigns for your body shop, keep the 40/40/20 rule of direct marketing in mind:

The 40/40/20 Rule of Direct Marketing

  • 40
    percent of your direct-mail marketing success is dependent on the quality of your mailing list
  • 40
    percent depends on your offer
  • 20
    percent is contingent on everything else - design, copywriting, timing, etc.

Take advantage of the mailing list tools available at PsPrint, which will help you identify and compile a mailing list based on key demographics such as income, gender, geographic location, and others.

You might have multiple lists, depending on your target audience. For example, you might have one list for classic car owners and another list for collision work customers.

Advertisements

Seek opportunities for strategic ad placement: flyer inserts in newspapers and print ads in magazines, ad spots on radio and television, paid digital advertising on local and niche websites and blogs, promoted social media posts, posters and flyers on bulletin boards and other public hot spots, and anywhere else your audience will find them.

Word of mouth is the most powerful advertiser, so make sure your family, friends, and satisfied customers spread the word for you.

Community event sponsorship is another great body shop advertising idea and a fantastic way to get your name out there

Following up

Use the three T’s to become a better auto body shop marketer over time:

Test

Variations of your marketing tools to identify best performers

Track

Your responses to understand who your customers are

Tweak

Future campaigns based on your analysis

With this strategy, you’ll be able to easily develop predictable marketing campaigns that maximize your return on investment.

6 Auto body shop marketing: ideas and resources

Try these creative auto body shop marketing ideas and resources to boost your marketing efforts.

Host or attend an event

Invite customers to attend a special event; for example, you might showcase some of the classic cars you’ve restored. You can also set up a booth at car shows, trade shows, and community festivals to show off your skills. Be sure to have plenty of business cards, brochures, and stickers to hand out!

Partner with others

Non-competing, complementary businesses can fuel profit. Auto mechanics, tire shops, detailers, and other businesses might prove to be perfect partners for auto body shops. Develop a multiple-service package or offer a discount to those who purchase from your partners. This is also a great list-building strategy.

Promote unique angles

Come up with exclusive auto body shop promotions for your business. Instead of simply saying you repair collision dents, try giving your services unique and memorable names such as "DentBeGone."

Brand with bottling

A creative idea that helped one collision repair service earn recognition was to print its own hot sauce labels (featuring the body shop) and apply them to hot sauce bottles distributed to local restaurants.

Think outside body shop services

Think of ways you can appeal to all car owners, not just those who are currently looking for auto body shop services. A monthly newsletter packed with tips and tricks for car maintenance, safety, best new cars for families, etc., can help establish credibility and brand your business, so you’re the first body shop customers

think of when they need you.

Resources

Here are some inks to auto body shop marketing resources you can use to boost business.

Full-service printing, direct mailing and mailing list generation.

Information on direct marketing.

Helpful guides, forms and sample marketing plans for small business. The SBA also supports Small Business Development Centers throughout the United States.

The Service Corps of Retired Executives provides free advice in the form of online information and business counseling. Simply contact one of SCORE's volunteer members for business mentorship.

Alliance of Automotive Service Providers.

Automotive Service Association.

Coalition for Collision Repair Excellence.

Collision Industry Foundation.

National Auto Body Council

An extensive list of auto body trade associations, including listings by state.