What I’ve Learned Running an Agency in our Industry: How To Run A Shop That Doesn’t Suck

In my time operating a thriving shop, learning from my own mistakes, running a marketing agency, and having a front-row seat to watching businesses repeatedly make the same mistakes over and over, I’ve decided to put together this guide to help some shop owners identify some issues with their business hopefully. 

To be fair, most of this I have learned the hard way AND have been taught this by my amazing wife, Chelsea. She is smarter than I am and has helped me see errors that no one else has. So credit where credit is due. 

This guide is what I would consider essential reading for anyone that wants to grow. Refusal to understand these concepts almost guarantees your failure. 

The Pitfalls of Over-Reliance on PPC Advertising

As a marketing agency specializing in the auto detailing and auto film industry, we’ve seen many businesses put all their eggs in the PPC basket. While pay-per-click advertising can be an effective way to drive traffic and leads, it’s not enough if you want to build a sustainable business.

In service-based industries like ours, referrals are often more valuable than any ad campaign. Cultivating strong relationships with clients and incentivizing them to refer others is key to long-term success. Unfortunately, many businesses overlook this aspect of growth in favor of short-term gains from paid advertising.

Don’t neglect the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Build a culture that rewards referrals, ask your satisfied clients for recommendations, and watch your business thrive over time.

Organization and Management

This industry requires more than just technical skills. It also demands strong organizational and management abilities. Unfortunately, many businesses in our industry neglect this aspect of their operations to their own detriment.

I have seen too many owner-operators act like installers, focusing solely on the technical aspects of the job while ignoring critical business functions like sending quotes or responding to clients in a timely manner. This lack of attention to management can lead to missed opportunities, unhappy customers, and, ultimately, lost revenue.

To avoid this trap, it’s important to prioritize organization and effective management from the top down. Make sure you have clear processes in place for tasks like client communication, scheduling, and billing. Invest in tools that can help you stay organized and efficient. (Such as our GRIT Suite CRM) And if you’re not comfortable with these aspects of running a business yourself, consider hiring someone who is.

Remember: your ability to manage your operation effectively is just as important as your ability to deliver high-quality services. Don’t let disorganization hold you back from achieving your full potential.

Don’t be a Potato: The Importance of Charisma and Interpersonal Skills

In the world of high-end detailing & film sales, technical expertise is only part of the equation. To truly succeed, you also need to be able to connect with clients on a personal level. Unfortunately, many operators in our industry lack basic interpersonal skills that could make all the difference.

I have seen too many salespeople get caught up in the smallest details or fail to build rapport with clients. This can be a major turnoff for potential customers who want to feel like they’re working with someone who understands their needs and cares about their experience.

To avoid this pitfall, it’s essential to cultivate charisma and develop strong interpersonal skills. This means learning how to read people, communicate clearly and effectively, listen actively, and build trust over time. It also means being personable, likable, and overall pleasant to work with – even when dealing with challenging clients or high-pressure situations.

Don’t Drop the Ball: Why Follow-Up is THE Key to Growth

Following up with potential clients can be the difference between success and failure. Unfortunately, many business owners drop the ball regarding follow-up, expecting every client to convert on the first touch without further effort. This mindset is a major mistake.

The truth is, if you want to make money in this industry, you need to be consistent in your communication and follow-up efforts. Some clients prefer to communicate via text, while others prefer phone or email. By limiting yourself to one channel or failing to follow up at all, you’re missing out on potential sales.

Another issue I see all too often is operators leaving leads uncontacted for days or weeks. This lack of urgency can lead to lost opportunities as clients move on to other providers who were more responsive. Do you know that I have been accused of ripping people off because clients can’t convert leads because they didn’t make contact in a timely manner? It’s absurd.

To avoid these pitfalls, it’s essential to prioritize follow-up and communication from day one. Make sure you have clear processes in place for following up with leads through multiple channels.

If you don’t want to sell or don’t have time for follow-up efforts, hire someone who does. Ignoring potential clients or failing to follow up consistently will only hurt your business.

Qualified Leads Are A Fugazi

There’s a common misconception that marketing agencies can deliver “qualified leads” on a silver platter. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Advertising on channels like Facebook may seem like an easy way to attract potential clients, but it’s important to remember that these platforms are only guessing at the type of client you’re looking for. They may deliver plenty of leads, but not all will be a good fit for your business or ready to buy immediately. Google will always be where you buyer with high-intent will be.

That’s where your job as a competent business owner comes in. It’s up to you to put in the work to vet and qualify leads, finding out what they need and determining whether they’re a good fit for your services. This means building relationships with potential clients, asking questions about their needs and preferences, and educating them about your offerings over time.

Marketing agencies can help get people in the door, but ultimately it’s your responsibility as a business owner to build lasting relationships with clients and close deals. Any agency that promises “only qualified leads” is likely overselling its capabilities and setting unrealistic expectations.

Building a successful business takes hard work and dedication. Don’t rely solely on marketing agencies or other external factors – take ownership of your success and put in the effort required to qualify leads and grow your business over time.

One-Size-Fits-All SEO Solutions Don’t Work Here

Search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to any online marketing strategy, especially for service-based industries like ours. Still, unfortunately, many businesses fall prey to agencies claiming to offer SEO services for a flat rate of $500 per month or less. As someone who has been running an agency for 2 decades, I can tell you that these claims are often too good to be true.

The truth is, SEO isn’t a one-size-fits-all service. Each market and industry requires different effort and expertise to achieve meaningful results. A reputable agency will take the time to understand your business, research your target audience and competition, and develop a customized plan that meets your specific needs and goals.

Unfortunately, many agencies take advantage of businesses by offering generic or automated SEO services that don’t deliver meaningful results. If you’re being charged less than $800 per month for SEO services, it’s likely that you’re not getting the level of attention and expertise required to succeed in today’s competitive online landscape truly.

Remember: when it comes to SEO, there are no shortcuts or quick fixes. It takes time, effort, and ongoing investment to achieve sustainable results. Don’t fall prey to agencies promising overnight success – instead, work with a reputable partner who understands your business and is committed to delivering measurable results over time.

The Importance of Employee Training and Retention: Why Investing in Your Team is Key to Success

Poorly trained employees are often the root cause of damage, comebacks, and issues with client vehicles. This can lead to lost revenue, damaged reputation, and even legal liabilities. That’s why it’s crucial for shops to invest in employee training and retention.

One common mistake that many shops make is taking on too much work before their team is properly trained and prepared. This can lead to mistakes, oversights, and, ultimately dissatisfied clients. It’s essential to take a measured approach to growth, ensuring that your team has the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver high-quality work before expanding your client base.

Another key factor in employee training and retention is ongoing education. It’s not enough to train new staff members – you must also provide opportunities for continued learning and development throughout their tenure with your shop as an installer.

Investing in your team is an investment in your business’s success. By providing comprehensive training programs and ongoing education opportunities, you can ensure your employees have the skills to deliver exceptional service and build lasting relationships with clients. Don’t overlook the importance of employee retention – it costs far more to replace a skilled installer than it does to invest in their ongoing development.

Standard Operating Procedures

Having clear standard operating procedures (SOPs) is essential for success. SOPs help ensure that everyone on your team is following the same protocols and delivering consistent, high-quality work. Without them, businesses can quickly become disorganized, chaotic, and prone to mistakes.

One common mistake many shops make is assuming that their installers will know what to do without explicit guidance. This can lead to confusion, inconsistencies in service delivery, and ultimately dissatisfied clients.

Another issue with not having clear SOPs in place is that it can be difficult to identify areas for improvement or measure performance over time. By establishing clear SOP’s for how tasks should be performed, you can more easily track progress, identify areas where additional training may be needed, and make adjustments as necessary.

Establishing clear standard operating procedures isn’t just about avoiding chaos – it’s also about setting your business up for long-term success. By ensuring that everyone on your team is on the same page when it comes to how tasks should be performed, you’ll be better equipped to deliver exceptional service and build lasting relationships with clients.

Why Focusing on Value Is Key to Long-Term Success & Matching Your Price Isn’t.

I’ve found that it’s common for businesses to get caught up in price wars – constantly undercutting each other to win business. While this may seem like a viable strategy in the short term, it can ultimately be detrimental to your long-term success.

Focusing solely on price can lead to a race to the bottom, where businesses are forced to lower their rates to compete continually. This cuts into profit margins and can make it difficult to deliver high-quality work consistently.

Another issue with competing solely on price is that it doesn’t necessarily attract the type of clients who value quality service and are willing to pay more for it. Instead, you may find yourself working with clients primarily concerned with finding the cheapest option available – which can ultimately lead to dissatisfaction and negative reviews because that client will always find issues with the service you provide because it is the very mindset that “cheap” attracts.

Setting yourself apart from competitors by delivering exceptional value is key to long-term success in this industry. By focusing on providing high-quality workmanship, outstanding customer service, and unique offerings that set you apart from competitors, you’ll be able to attract clients who value what you offer and are willing to pay a premium.

Additionally, properly branding your business and online presence towards your ideal client rather than just trying to appeal to those looking for cheap services will help ensure you’re attracting the right clientele who will appreciate your value proposition.

The Importance of Having a Long-Term Plan

Some may expect their businesses to grow quickly, even with top-tier marketing, without any real plan or goalposts set. However, the truth is that without a solid long-term plan in place, it can be difficult to sustain success over time.

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), about 20% of small businesses fail within their first year, and roughly half fail within five years. One reason for this high failure rate is a lack of planning. Without clear goals and direction, it’s easy to get sidetracked by day-to-day operations or short-term opportunities – which can ultimately lead to missed opportunities or misaligned priorities. Chasing the easy cash from PPF & Coatings seems like a good idea but it will fail you long term.

Having a long-term plan in place can help you stay focused on your goals and ensure that you’re making strategic decisions that align with your vision for your business. This includes setting realistic goals that are measurable and achievable, as well as identifying potential roadblocks or challenges along the way.

A long-term plan can help you stay agile and adaptable as the market evolves over time. By regularly reviewing your progress towards your goals and adjusting your strategy as needed, you’ll be better equipped to navigate changing market conditions while staying true to your overall vision for your business.

Overcoming Hiring Anxiety

One common challenge that I see shop owners face is anxiety about hiring new staff. This is often due to concerns about losing money on material and lost time, as well as worries about finding the right people who can help grow the business.

However, while it’s true that hiring new staff can be a risk, it’s also an essential part of growing any successful business. Without a team of skilled and dedicated installers, scaling operations or taking on larger projects can be difficult.

To overcome this anxiety, it’s important to focus on training and managing new hires effectively. This means committing and time-blocking training time or bringing in outside training. This includes setting clear expectations for job performance and providing comprehensive training to ensure that all installers have the skills they need to succeed.

It’s also important to manage installer perfection-driven anxiety by creating a culture of continuous improvement. This means encouraging your team members to share feedback openly and honestly and working together to identify areas where improvements can be made.

Enduring the Dip: Strategies for Surviving Slow Periods

In any business, there are bound to be slow periods where demand dips and revenue slows down. This is especially true in our industry here on the east coast, where market trends and search history can change rapidly throughout the year with the weather.

However, while these slow periods can be challenging, they also present an opportunity to focus on other areas of your business that may have been neglected during busier times. By filling the downtime between rushes with productive activities like blogging, creating content, sending marketing emails, or developing standard operating procedures (SOPs), you can stay engaged with your customers and prepare for future growth.

The Power of Content Creation: How Becoming an Educator Can Help You Command Premium Pricing

In today’s competitive market, establishing yourself as an expert in your field is more important than ever. Creating educational content demonstrating your knowledge and expertise can build trust with potential clients and command premium pricing for your services, especially tint and PPF. 

Educational content can take many forms, such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, or social media posts. The key is to provide valuable information that helps educate your audience about the benefits of professional auto detailing or auto film installation. This could include topics like the benefits of ceramic coatings or how to properly maintain a vehicle’s appearance over time.

By positioning yourself as an educator rather than just another business offering services, you can help differentiate yourself from competitors and establish a stronger brand identity. This can be especially important when it comes to commanding premium pricing – if customers understand the value of what you’re offering and see you as a trusted authority in your field, they’ll be more willing to pay higher prices for your services.

Fortunately, creating educational content doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. With tools like InShot or CapCut on your cell phone and a $160 DJI Gimbal, you can create high-quality video content that showcases your work and highlights key features of your services.

The Importance of Taking Great Photos: How to Showcase Your Work and Attract More Customers

In today’s digital age, taking great photos is an essential part of marketing for your shop. However, many businesses overlook this important aspect of their branding and fail to showcase their work in the best possible light.

You don’t need an expensive DSLR camera to take great photos – all you really need is a newer smartphone. Even basic Samsung and iPhone models can take high-quality photos that can help attract more customers.

Take the time to clean up your shop or workspace before taking any pictures. This means removing clutter, organizing tools and equipment, and making sure the area looks as professional as possible. Centering the entire vehicle in the photo, wiping off your camera lens, and turning on lights (or moving the vehicle outside) can make a huge difference in the quality of your shots.

When it comes to actually taking the photos themselves, there are a few key tips to keep in mind. First, try to shoot during daylight hours whenever possible – natural light tends to look better than artificial lighting. Second, experiment with different angles and compositions until you find what works best for each shot. And finally, don’t be afraid to edit your photos using simple tools like brightness and contrast adjustments or filters.

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