“Build it and they will come.”
You’ve probably heard that line from Field of Dreams quoted over and over again. You’ve already put a ton of work into opening your shop and hiring your techs. Open the doors and you’ll get business, right?
The digital era has opened up a lot of opportunity, but only to those who are willing to play on its terms. The old ways of finding information are rapidly fading into the background; people aren’t picking up the phone book anymore, and they’re skipping advertisements on TV and the radio. They are, however, connected to the internet at all times, which means they can stumble across your site at any time of the day — if you’ve got an attractive, functional website that they can find, that is.
Note that we didn’t just say a website. Quality matters. If your site looks like it was put together in the early 2000s, it’s not doing you any favors. Here’s why you need a modern, responsive website for your shop.
Why is a shop website so important?
Think of your shop website as a storefront that stays open 24/7 and can potentially reach hundreds of thousands of customers. It’s a critical part of your shop’s marketing plan — a place where potential clients can go to learn about your shop and the repairs you offer, as well as numerous other pieces of information that may factor in their decision to bring their truck (or trucks!) to you.
When your ideal customer needs to bring in their truck, odds are they’re going to run a Google search. If they can’t find your shop mentioned in the results, guess what? They’ll go to someone who is listed.
In short, they’ll go to your competitor.
That’s a domino effect of lost business for you: that one customer went elsewhere, and if they had a good experience at your competitor, they will tell friends and colleagues about that competitor instead of your shop. That’s business and money that you’ll be hard-pressed to recoup. If only your shop had a website. Then that customer would have found you instead, and passed your name on to their colleagues and friends.
Why take the chance? Build yourself a nice website and make it easy for your customers to find you. Anything less is pushing business away.
Elements of a successful website
Good websites don’t just appear without some forethought. Once you’ve decided to create a site for your shop, start thinking about what elements it needs to include.
Your website doesn’t need to be a crazy riot of colors and video. In fact, we’d suggest that simple is better, especially if this is your first attempt at creating a site.
Even the most basic shop website needs the following things displayed prominently on the main page:
- Shop name
- Shop address
- Phone number
- Email address
For extra visibility, you may also want to put these items in a header or footer that runs across each page. If potential customers are clicking through your site, or land on something besides the homepage, they’ll still be able to easily contact you.
At a minimum, your site needs to be pleasing to the eye, easy to navigate, and contain the SEO elements necessary to gain the attention of search engines. SEO, by the way, means “Search Engine Optimization” and that’s precisely what it does for your site. It’s an entire post unto itself, one we’ll return to in another blog.
Site design and construction
You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to actually putting the site together. WordPress is a fairly common website builder, and even design novices can pick it up after some studying.
You can also turn to several services that will do all the heavy lifting for you. Sites like Wix and Squarespace are great choices if you want to get your site up and running quickly. They don’t require any coding or design know-how at all; instead, they provide templates and display options that you can change on the fly. Most of their templates are already optimized for computers, tablets, and cell phones, which is an added bonus for anyone who wants to get their website up fast. Check out some companies that will build your site for you here.
If you’d like additional help putting your site together, think about hiring a writer, an SEO specialist, or a website developer through sites like Fiverr and Upwork. They’re often inexpensive and quite skilled at their craft.
Make your site customer-centric
A basic website is an important part of your marketing plan, but these days that’s considered the bare minimum.
Think about your customers — those that exist, and those that you haven’t yet won — and consider what they expect from a heavy-duty repair shop like yours. BodyShopBusiness.com broke down a 2019 report from Yodle that explored what customers want to see from their local businesses.
Some key takeaways:
- 57% of consumers say discounts or specials for returning customers set a business apart
- 67% of customers want new or better websites from their local businesses
- 33% felt that being able to book an appointment online was a feature they expected
There’s a lot of information to digest in that report — any small business should read it — but the takeaway is that customers want more communication across the board from the shops they interact with. If you don’t have some sort of presence on the web, you’re actively hurting your business.
So what else can you do to make sure your shop’s website has a fighting chance at standing out from its competition? Look at the bullets above and consider what your shop can offer visitors. Do you provide any sort of loyalty incentives like discounts for returning customers? If not, consider it; if so, splash that good news across your main page!
Some additional features you can add to your website — provided you offer them — that will draw attention and keep customers coming back for more:
- List of your services. Let your customers see right away what you do and don’t do. Jonny’s Towing & Recovery in Lombard, Illinois, displays the services they offer right on their landing page.
- Get a quote online. If you charge a flat rate for certain services (like tire rotations or oil changes), let customers plug in their truck’s details and find out what the service will cost them without ever having to get on the phone.
- Book service online. This is slightly more complicated than getting a quote and can involve the installation of additional software, but giving your customers a portal to sign up for basic services or repairs lets them do one more thing without reaching for the phone. If you’re interested in adding online booking to your offerings, Fullbay does offer this.
- Mobile-friendly. We can’t stress this last bullet enough. A website that is designed to look gorgeous on a browser is not necessarily going to look good on a phone — and you need it to look good on a phone. Think about it: if you’re motoring along and your truck is acting up, you aren’t going to be able to rush to the nearest computer to find a shop website. You’ll be on your phone, searching for “heavy-duty repair shops near me.” Your website won’t do you much good if the people who need you most can’t read it comfortably on their phone.
Additional perks of having a website
Your site is essentially your online storefront, and there’s a lot to be said for establishing a solid presence online. But if you’re really interested in separating yourself from the rest of the pack, consider adding some of the suggestions below.
- Biographies of your staff. What certifications have they earned? Do they have any specializations? How long have they been working in the field? You hired your staff because they’re the best at what they do — show them off to potential customers!
- A shop calendar. Are you closed for two weeks in July? Do you host open houses were locals can pour a cold one and spend time with their local mechanics? Put your schedule and any upcoming events in a place where people can see them.
- Shop amenities. Do you offer free coffee to all your customers? Do you have Netflix, Hulu, or some premium channels available in the waiting room? Maybe you provide a free ride to their home or office if they’ve got a long wait ahead of them. If you’ve provided some perks that go above and beyond what other shops offer, let potential customers know.
- Maintenance tips. When’s the best time to rotate your tires? Should you be paying attention to engine hours? How can you prep your fleet for icy winters or hot and dry summers? You can format these tips however you like; think about creating blogs around them, or short videos. We particularly like the blog posts on Inland Truck Parts & Service, which include topics like “Heavy Duty Truck Classifications Explained” and “Safe Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers.”
A website is your repair shop’s home on the world wide web. It’s your strongest, best piece of marketing, and a way to attract customers who are searching for the services you offer. Don’t let the competition leave you behind.