How to Guarantee an ROI Online

Sept. 1, 2018
A strong online presence, backed by pay-per-click campaigns and online advertising, is key to growing car count today, says Rissy Sutherland.

The initial inspiration for this month’s article actually came from a frustration with results and inefficiencies that I saw in our shops’ online customer presence and conversion rates. In this industry, we are all looking to increase our car counts and provide top-notch customer service while simultaneously aiming to find the most cost-effective and efficient ways to reach new and current customers. I’ve always been dedicated to the growth of new customers through direct mail, but, there are so many factors that we look at, as well: PPC, SEO, websites, social media, community advertising, etc.

About three months ago, we started diving into all of that to try to find the right formula. As we researched, I discovered the following: our sites had too many words, not enough pictures, were not converting leads to calls, were not mobile friendly, we were bidding on keywords outside our customers’ travel times, and so much more. When this happens, I like to reach out to other experts and shop owners to hear about their experience. As I went through this process, I came across Autovantage Service Center in Auburn, Calif., and talked to Becki and Bryan McGinnis, who have had their entire business turn around since 2008. The key? Their online advertising and the relationship formed with their support company.

Becki and Bryan expressed that they initially had many of the same issues that I am experiencing now. They opened in June 2008 after the dealership that Bryan worked at as a technician closed down. When this happened, Bryan and Becki embarked on opening their first shop. They made many mistakes in those first years: wrong location, wrong focus, wrong marketing program, and much more. They also had many wins. They had the right support from their bank, the previous dealership owner, and vendors.

Their first win was when their bank first said that they would consider giving them a loan, but wanted them to read The E-myth: Why Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to do About it, first. This book helped them to put plans in place that aiding in avoiding business traps, and really laid out the vision of their business as a whole.

Once the McGinnis’ got their business plans in place, the owner of the dealership that Bryan had worked for fully supported their new vision by writing a letter of recommendation for the shop and providing them with the entire customer list.

Over the next three years, they did grassroots marketing, had minimal staff, and operated a sustainable local shop with three lifts on a back road. However, their vision was so much bigger. They operated a good business with flat sales until 2016 , when they decided that just OK was not enough.

At this time, they were offered the opportunity to buy the 11,000-square-foot dealership building that Bryan had formerly worked in. This put them on the main road in town, and gave them the lifts and bays to really ramp up their business. So, they set a new goal to recruit the best techs in the area and really grow their customer base in this new facility. They hired a customer service coordinator that focused on making sure the phone was always answered correctly so that they converted the most leads possible (why spend advertising dollars if you don’t convert them?) and provided an unparalleled customer experience with follow-up calls and timely service. They also added a shop porter to ensure that each car was efficiently put into production, cleaned upon delivery, and kept the back of house and front of house in constant communication.

Once they had all of these new elements in place, they felt ready to really grow their new customer base. They knew that they had a website that was not mobile friendly, was not getting them the number of new leads needed, was not getting online reviews (which customers look at before making buying decisions with a new business) and was not creating the right mix of community and online presence. After a time of searching, they found a relationship that provided them with both an online and operations plan.

When the McGinnis’ approached Kukui to tell them about their upcoming growth plan and the help that they needed, they found a partner that went above and beyond. First the CEO, Todd Westerland, said that he would come and visit their new shop and help them look at how to create the best layout, since he had visited hundreds of shops around the country. Together, they came up with innovative layouts and efficiencies.

Next, Kukui helped with staffing plans by not only looking at how to advertise for new team members, but also by having a staff member’s son apply for and receive the new shop porter position.

They then worked hand in hand to lay out the right site, the right steps to increase online reviews, decide how far away to advertise to new customers, and what keywords were important.

The combination of all of these results has resulted in a growth of over $500,000 in sales since 2016, and they are still growing.

In the last year, their campaign has resulted in an ROI of 2,716 percent of spend versus customer sales. Their website is now converting over 29 percent of customers to calls by having the right layout and call to action on each page. That is nearly 1 out of 3 clicks turning into a lead for the McGinnis. They pay less than $10 per lead and grow their new customer base each day! This is a true testament to the importance of choosing the right partner.

About the Author

Rissy Sutherland

Rissy Sutherland is an auto care industry lifer, having grown up in her family’s automotive franchise business and later implementing the training and operational systems for all 300 auto repair franchise locations for Moran Industries—the automotive giant that purchased her family’s shops. She has opened more than 400 shops in her career as the executive for nearly a dozen automotive brands. She is one of the industry’s foremost experts in shop operations.

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