By Jeff Sanford
Toronto, Ontario — November 22, 2016 — Marketing through digital channels is a given today, but the way in which digital messages are received and processed has changed in profound ways over just the last couple of years. Frank Terlep, founder of Summit eMarketing Sherpas, was the featured guest on the latest Guild 21 tele-conference. Summit eMarketing Sherpas is a digital marketing software and services company that specializes in helping automotive businesses with digital-based sales.
During the call, Terlep updated listeners on the new basics of modern digital marketing practices for collision repair centres.
Terlep is more than qualified to speak on the subject. He has more than 30 years of tech experience in the automotive, collision repair and claims industries. He has held executive positions at AkzoNobel, Mitchell International and Carstation.com. He is a past Chairman of Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) and has launched shop management systems for autobody and repair organizations. Most recently his company launched The Demand Engine, a digital-based sales marketing and customer retention service for the auto industry. His deep experience in the industry allows him to talk authoritatively about how to service today’s “connected consumer.”
Today the sales of smartphones have outpaced laptops and desktops. The shift in the form of the technology is changing the way people communicate. Today, consumers are simply online all the time. The average person is connected permanently to the network. This is a shift in behaviour from even 10 years ago when people had to sit down at a desktop and take time to get online. Terlep quotes some of the stats defining modern connectedness.
According to one recent study by A.T. Kearney more than 50 percent of the 10,000 consumers surveyed about their digital marketing were “connected” every hour. The time spent on digital media, including laptops and smart phones, has increased dramatically from just 2008. Today a majority of people spend almost six hours per day with some form of digital media, up from 2.7 hours in 2008. A full 19 percent spent this time on social media.
These numbers are averages of all consumers. Younger users, of course, skew even higher on these scores.
In terms of the devices used to access the network the new mobile options now account for almost “two out of three media minutes” spent online. Smartphone apps are used in half of all digital time spent online. Collision Repair magazine’s own numbers seem to confirm this. There’s approximately a 1 in 2 chance that you’re reading this on a smartphone.
Millennials clock the highest usage, with 36 percent of this demographic saying that they check their phone now at least twice an hour. According to Terlep, many people are interacting with their smartphone up to 150 times a day. This might sound like a lot says Terlep, “But I challenge you, track your usage … you’ll be surprised.”
These new forms of behaviour inform the way businesses manage their digital strategy. “If you’re putting out an email you have to make sure it can be read on a mobile. That’s how people are viewing this,” says Terlep. “Eighty percent of people are on Facebook. Mobile devices are the way they want to be connected.”
Taking these ideas to a deeper level is to understand that media is no longer about a top down message delivered from ‘one to many.’ Today many messages are being sent constantly between all. Everyone is talking to everyone else—this dynamic has changed the way the average person thinks about a business or brand.
“A brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is—it is what consumers tell each other it is,” says Terlep. The reputation of a local business is generated among locals. This happens through websites like Yelp, where customers rate and post their experiences with local businesses.
“Today’s connected consumer does not trust your brand. The messages they trust are other consumers like them,” says Terlep. He details today’s purchase process. “The consumer takes a couple of different steps. When it comes to awareness, they’ll think, ‘How can I find a nearby business to take care of my problem? How does this business compare to others in my area?’ One of the first things today’s consumer is going to do is to go to an online directory. Once they’ve gone to Google or Yelp, they’re going to go to the business website.”
Frank Terlep notes that customers trust each other more than they trust brands. This
means a strong presence on customer review sites like Yelp is critical.
The basic reality of modern advertising: “Consumers trust online reviews more than marketing and advertising. Connected consumers do not trust individual brands. They trust what other consumers are saying about your brand, not what you’re saying about your brand. Online reviews are trusted by more consumers than any other advertising or media today. They scan sites, and so you have to have a strong call to action. Once they’ve done that they’re going to purchase through a mobile app,” says Terlep. He goes on to recommend that local shops should have an active or formal process for capturing positive online reviews and making those available to those who are looking. “After that purchase online reviews are critical for repeating that consumer push process,” says Terlep.
Terlep notes that today’s customers have a very low sense of loyalty to their insurance company. “Twenty-nine percent of clients switched insurers in 2015,” he says. According to Terlep, fewer than 45 percent of clients get their vehicles repaired through a DRP. This means there are still a lot of people looking for a good local independent operation with a great reputation.
“And they find those recommendations digitally through friends and other locals. If the individual businesses are not focusing on the consumer, there is a good chance they consumer will go somewhere else,” says Terlep.
This may sound difficult to navigate, but these trends also carry a wealth of positives.
“The good news here is that once a business completes a successful transaction that business has a chance to own that customer and offer other services,” says Terlep. Better yet, if someone is pleased with the service they are going to pass on that experience to friends. Shops would be smart to give clients a chance to share that experience digitally through the company website. “If the consumer is happy, and wants to share, you have to give them the opportunity to do that,” says Terlep.
Other necessary digital pieces today include videos and a blog on your website. “Educational videos are a great way to keep people connected to your site,” says Terlep. “Consider the website as the online lobby. Would you allow them to wander around your physical lobby without anything to look at? It’s the same thing with the online lobby. You should have a welcome video. Tell the story of the company, and ask for their business. You will get more people in your digital lobby than you will ever have in your physical lobby. If they find your website, you have five to 15 seconds to get your message to them.”
Another practical reason for having blogs and videos on a site: “Search engines love content. Each time you do a blog, it creates more links for the search engine to pick-up,” says Terlep. “The importance of having video on site is that it allows you to end up on the front page of searches. If someone is searching for you, you must be findable … YouTube is the second search engine.”
Those managing a digital campaign should also get used to using Google Analytics as a way of charting ratings and performances. It also goes without saying that shops today have to create digital media that is mobile-compatible. “If you don’t have a mobile friendly website your search index will be split between mobile and PC desktop index. You have to have a mobile site strategy.”
It also helps to buy some pay-for-click ads on Google so that you have some space on the first page. Facebook ads are also a smart idea. “Facebook ads are your best value today,” says Terlep.
Another tip: Create a custom branded post-delivery email. Send a follow-up email with some offers 30 days after the job is completed. Do that through email, not on social media or direct messaging. “Digital marketing is going to deliver the highest ROI,” says Terlep. “Email marketing is more effective than social media. Most people don’t want to be marketed to on their social media. They do, however, want deals through email. Most consumers would prefer you send an email to make them aware of any specials or promotions.”
Another good tip: Never use your Gmail or Hotmail Outlook account. It’s just not professional. Get a registered domain and send emails from that. Also, make sure all social media sites are complete and professional. Perhaps the most important tip of the day: “You need to make yourself aware of email marketing laws,” says Terlep.
In Canada, the most important law in this regard is Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL). You can find a primer on CASL here.