Detail Management - August 2009

Website — Critical To Your Detail Business
By Sharie Sipowicz

Before developing and building a detail website, you need to know who your target customers are and what their needs are, or your efforts will be in vain. Most businesses, let alone detail businesses, have a very poor understanding of how to build and maintain a good website. The proper way to start is to take an objective look at your company’s present website.

Knowing what is wrong (and right) with your site is difficult, whether you are a one-person operation or a 100-plus-employee business. Even giants like Nike or Intel have problems. There are several things to consider when creating a website that will effectively cater to all potential and current customers, supplier partners, employees, job seekers, and even the media.

First, step back and try to consider the bigger picture. Look at how each element of your website works with the others to form a consistent message. Unless you know what you are looking for, you cannot plan (and budget money and resources) to improve the site to meet your customers’ needs.

The following is a checklist you might use to review your current site or one you plan to build; it is based on the best practices of hundreds of websites:

URL

You need to know what people have to type in to reach your site. Hyphens and abbreviations can be difficult to remember. Your domain name should include, if possible, the keywords in your detail business name. Consider URLs that can redirect people to your site, to capture those looking for specific types of detail services you provide — for example, paint touch up, windshield chip repair, invisible film protection, PDR, etc.

While there are nearly 100 million URLs, there are still a great many specific (proper) names, and good ways to describe your services. URLs cost only a minimum of $10 per year, so owning a strong name, and search-worthy alternatives makes good business sense.

GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

There are enough bad photos taken with old Polaroids and low-pixel digitals on websites, so be sure to have professional photos taken. Avoid stock photography you can buy online. Your detail business is unique because of your location, your employees, and the cars you service. You must visually represent your business so that the photos are relevant to your detail business, you, and your services. Customers will connect more personally if they can see who you are and what you can do.

HOME PAGE

Your website should be customer-oriented. Most of them are not. Know whom you are trying to attract. How does your home page attract your target market(s)? If you have primary, secondary, and tertiary target markets, they all must “see themselves” immediately on your home page. For example, exotic car owners, single women, mothers with new minivans, auto dealers, boat owners, airplane owners, etc.

If you want to focus on exotic cars, these owners should immediately be able to see something that lets them know you are an expert with Ferraris or Lamborghinis. Boat owners probably want to see detailed boats or a reference from a local marina in the area. You can also use proper messaging for each target market so they can self-segment.

USER INTERFACE

Navigation should be very easy for visitors to the site. If the truth were told, most sites merely confuse people. You need to make things clear and simple without neglecting your goals. Each click on your site should drive customers to content they will find valuable, and lead to them making an appointment or stopping by. Try to determine whether your site is laid out correctly and if the pages are created in a way to “make the sale.” If that is not the case, then you have work to do on your site — now, not tomorrow.

CONVERSION

Your website messaging must ask customers to form a relationship with you and your detail business. Ask visitors to provide their personal information to receive car care newsletters and car care tips, or even to contact you personally if they have questions. If you allow appointments to be made online, tell customers the benefits of having their vehicle detailed by your company, and why they should make an appointment now. The number one rule is to drive user action. You want to convert people on every page of your site.

SEARCH

Have you taken any steps to ensure your website is as organically search-optimized as possible? Have you looked into local paid search (pay per click)? Create specific goals for your local search campaign. Have a plan for improving your performance in local search. If you do not understand these terms then Google them or go onto Craigslist.com to find a reasonably priced web designer to assist you.

SITE CHANGES

Do you have a system set up to evaluate your site on an on-going basis? Have you set aside a budget to make improvements to your site? Make sure you have these capabilities through a Content Management System (CMS) to update your site with news, events, new products, and services. Never be at the mercy of on-or-off-site programmers. The maintenance of web content should be a marketing function, not a technological function. Have a marketing-driven plan for improvements.

The goal of this article is to help you plan and build a more effective, lead-generating website. Do not be discouraged if your website is not what it should be. Most company websites —including those of your competitors —have much room for improvement. If you do a good job on all the items on today’s checklist, over time your website will beat 90 percent of your competition out of the gate.

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at sharie@detailplus.com.

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