Design Your Brand
“We were worker bees. Our shop was queen bee and we did everything to make her happy,” says Megan Hems, co-owner, along with her husband, Roland, of Hems Truck & Auto, in Bristol, Pa.
It’s easy to be consumed by the work you do inside your shop—to put almost the entirety of your focus to the inner workings of the day to day. The issue with that hyperfocus is that, soon, the external image of your shop is forgotten. Your past marketing efforts begin to fade and your branding becomes dated. The ultimate outcome to stagnant branding is a stagnant customer base.
Through the help of marketing agencies, both Hems Truck & Auto and Croce’s Transmission Specialists have gone through recent rebranding journeys. They were able to completely redesign facets of their shops’ brands and online images. Now, they have professional representations of their businesses’ values and personalities, which ultimately, allow them to charge more for their business, resulting in larger profit.
Evolving Beyond Main Street
With the help of a big-budget TV show, Hems Truck & Auto redesigned its logo—and cemented its future.
Hems Truck & Auto had been in business for 10 years, and they were struggling. They had Bristol, their small Pennsylvania town’s, business, but they needed to expand. They needed to broaden their customer base beyond their almost exclusively “locals only” clientele.
Enter, Small Business Revolution: Main Street, a Hulu show produced by Deluxe Corporation.
The show’s premise entails having America vote on an inspiring small town to win a $500,000 revitalization. Each episode of the season focuses on the transformation of a local business in the chosen town. With the help of marketing expert Amanda Brinkman (known for her work with Reebok, BMW, Sony and Virgin Mobile), entrepreneur Robert Herjavec, and Deluxe Corporation small business specialists, the show’s panel of experts give the town’s “Main Street” a makeover.
Guess which small town was chosen as the season two town recipient? Bristol.
Hems Truck & Auto was selected to be one of the small businesses to get the life-changing transformation. Over a four-month period, Small Business Revolution set out to help the Hemses redesign their shop, business plan, and of course, their marketing.
Take a Look at Your ‘Digital Storefront.’
Before working with the Small Business Revolution team, Megan Hems described their “digital storefront” as just as messy as their actual storefront, with the Hems Truck and Auto logo front and center on all of their marketing efforts.
That logo featured a large jagged edged “H” near a smaller “ems” in a entirely different font, to read “Hems.” Prior to joining the show, the Hemses actually didn’t see their logo as part of their branding problem.
“Our logo is fabulous,” Megan Hems recalls thinking. “They’re not going to touch it!”
After all, it had everything a logo needed, including a big “H” in the shape of both of the Hems’ astrological sign, Pisces.
But Chris Alberding of Deluxe Corporation begged to differ. He and the team agreed immediately that it should be completely redesigned.
In fact, Alberding thought the old logo had the possibility of being confused with an emergency medical services vehicle, considering the isolated “ems.”
That’s when the Hemses learned the first lesson in their rebranding journey: one’s logo should represent your company.
“Ultimately, we understood what they were saying about it being clear and concise,” Megan says.
And the logo redesign began.
Clean up the Design.
So, what goes into a good logo?
When the Hemses began work on their business’ logo, they were first asked a series of questions to determine their vision, attitude and vibe by Chris Alberding, the vice president of products for Small Businesses Service at Deluxe Corporation, and his team. The answers to those questions then form the design.
Basically, the logo should be a clean, visual representation of a shop’s brand. Clean is key, and contributes to the functionality.
“Logos have to translate into many things,” says Alberding, “shrunk down for a business card, on a building, an online banner, promotional item.”
A busy and cluttered logo will only look busier and more cluttered when made smaller.
After Small Business Revolution dug deeper into Hems Truck and Auto’s story and mission, the new Hems logo was born.
The logo is now modern, concise, and tells a story, with a consistent font style and size that follows through every letter of “Hems,” and colors to match their shop. For the important connection to the repair industry, the shop’s name now lies in the center of a shape resembling a bolt head. For an even sneakier tie-in, turn the “H” on its side and the design now resembles a railhead, to communicate the specialized work they do on trucks. Above all, the new Hems Truck and Auto logo demonstrates that they are reputable, professional and in the auto repair industry.
Ultimately, the new branding gave the Hemses confidence in the direction in which their shop is going.
“We saw a future, but now we see a concrete path to that future,” Megan says.
Put it on Everything.
Once the logo redesign was complete, it was put into action, and plastered over all fronts of their website and social media. Shirts were designed for the members of the Hems team using the new and improved logo, as well as hats. They now even have a little keychain that comes with every service, all to keep their brand in front of their customers.
Needless to say, the rebrand worked, and allowed for the Hems Truck & Auto to charge more for their time.
Their journey on Small Business Revolution still leaves the Hemses overwhelmed with the whirlwind of outcomes. Megan says that the entire process was all-encompassing and intense. The rebrand even gave them the confidence to apply for a business loan.
The redesigned logo also ended up helping with social media. Megan says that she used to just post a photo with a cute caption on their Facebook, without leaving the opportunity to engage their customers and followers. But now, she utilizes their clean and creative logo by posting pictures with it in front or behind a car, as an example.
“With Revolution, we were able to literally and figuratively step outside our shop and look at it from a business owner’s perspective instead of worker bees,” she says. “We now have goals beyond 5 p.m.”
They now have yearly goals and even a five-year plan.
Hems Truck & Auto’s monthly gross sales went from $15,000–$20,000 per month to $40,000 after the rebranding. Currently, Megan and Rolan rent their 5,000-square-foot shop, but they have looked into buying the space.
The new professional and reputable logo is now directly correlated with who Hems Truck & Auto is: professional and reputable.
The 21st Century Website
Despite being an early adopter in the Internet, Croce’s Transmission Specialists still needed a website refresh.
Maryann and Tony Croce joined the industry to take the fear out of auto repair. They knew nice people in the industry but noticed that the perception was less than desirable. In 1999, they opened up their shop, Croce’s Transmission Specialists, in Norwalk, Conn.
Their shop’s first website looked like, well, a website from 1999. Clicking through their almost 20-year-old webpage using waybackmachine.com gives a pretty good idea what the Internet looked like at the turn of the millenium. With a stationary blue background covered in blocks of multicolored text of all sizes and fonts, crocestran.com could be described as “crude” nowadays.
“Customers were just amazed we had a website. Period,” jokes Maryann Croce.
The Croces began getting involved with trade associations, they wanted to learn what others were doing, and were excited to share what worked for them at their shop. They started making connections and, eventually, met Danny Sanchez and Margaret Klemmer of Autoshop Solutions.
That was five years ago now, and although their website wasn’t as “crude” as their 1999 page, it still needed a refresh to better communicate who Croce’s Transmission Specialists is and what their company stands for. Maryann describes her old website as cookie cutter, similar to every other auto shop’s page with no way to differentiate who they are.
“Our website didn’t represent our brand,” Croce says, “it didn’t express our personality.”
But Maryann knew what she wanted her website to look like. She wanted Croce’s Transmission Specialists’ online presence to convey its dedication to the community, its specific personality, and Croce’s dedication to safety and reliability.
Make it Professional.
When potential customers visit your shop’s website, Croce says, they don’t just compare it to the other repair shops’ sites—they compare it to every other site they have visited that day. Meaning, your shop’s page is being compared to the store’s website on which the viewer online shopped and their bank’s site they went to in order to inevitably make sure they had enough money for said shopping spree. To be seen as professional, your website needs to stand up to every other professional website.
Croce wanted to continue to grow its business but realized that she couldn’t do it all herself. She wanted somebody to redesign her website who was on top of the online trends, was constantly doing the appropriate research and understood Croce’s Transmission Specialists’ brand.
Communication is the most important factor when working with a marketing agency, specifically communicating with them about your brand so they can then communicate your brand to your audience.
Croce’s web designer asked her to describe everything about her business with an in-depth questionnaire. They asked about the personality of the business, their history, how they were founded, what they do in their community, if they’re involved with any associations and more.
“We take those questions and really dig in and enhance the things that differentiate their shop,” says Margaret Klemmer, vice president of business development at AutoShop Solutions.
Showcase your Shop’s Personality.
Not only should a shop’s website focus on qualifications, it should also focus on its differentiators, Klemmer says. It should showcase how they care for their customer and their involvement in the community of which they are a part. Those things, combined with reviews, will really aid the consumer in deciding with whom they do business.
“Try to highlight technical and soft skills,” Klemmer says.
Over the past five years that Croce has worked with her marketing agency, she has had three different remodeled websites. This is because of the everchanging online trends and technology advances. The shop now also has a mobile-responsive website.
The current Croce’s Transmission Specialists website has a clean design, flows, and is easy for consumers to use. In order to give a personal touch to their page the Croces have added a space to showcase their team members, making sure to keep up with titles and members.
“It gives personality to your business when people know who works there,” says Croce.
A community page has also been added. Croce’s Transmission Specialists’ community role has always been something it took for granted; now, there is a place where customers can see with what organizations it is involved. Croce’s constantly referred their customers who decided not to fix their car or get rid of it to Wheels for Wishes, a non-profit that donates cars to people in need. Crocestran.com now has a link to connect customers directly to the Wheels for Wishes website, along with other nonprofits it supports.
The Croce’s Transmission Specialists website has come a long way from 1999—all websites have, really. But its updates go beyond the change in technology. Its website now conveys their shop’s personality, values, and role in their community—everything Croce wanted for her shop’s website back in 1999.