Whether it’s fair or not, people do judge a book by its cover …and your potential customers are making decisions about your shop based on its curb appeal.
Why is this?
Because we instinctively know the best a business will take care of us is directly related to how well a business takes care of itself.
Would you assume that a dirty restaurant has an immaculate kitchen? Of course not. If anything, it’s a smarter to assume that the areas of the restaurant we can see are better than the parts that are hidden.
For a moment, imagine a boy who might want to date your daughter. He shows up in a car that clearly hasn’t been washed since the day he bought it, there’s break dust on the rear wheels and trash scattered all throughout the vehicle, his clothes could stand up by themselves, and his hair looks like he washed it in a fryer.
Are you excited that this could be the guy your daughter ends up marrying? Of course not.
Every day, people driving by your shop are making the same judgement based on the first impression of your auto shop.
We’re not saying that a clean shop does better quality work or that a dirty shop does poor quality work. We know that’s not true. You may be neglecting your shops exterior because you are busy providing quality work. But people driving by your shop every day don’t know that, and you are losing new customers.
On top of this, there’s tons of online advice specifically telling people never go to a dirty shop when looking for a new mechanic.
The truth is, people associate a dirty and cluttered auto shop with poor quality service. Forget about your website, post cards, email, and Google.
Your #1 marketing strategy is your storefront.
In fact, after making storefront improvements, 80% of businesses report an increase in new customers and 90% report an increase in sales.
Little hinges swing big doors. If you suffer from ugly shop syndrome, making a few easy improvements could significantly increase new business.
1. Remove Clutter
Removing clutter is any easy, no-cost way to improve your auto shop’s curb appeal. Below are some things that can make a big difference.
- Ensure that the parking lot is tidy and trash free.
- Remove all parts, cans, etc from public view. If you have oil recycling, place it behind attractive fencing with an “oil recycling” sign.
- Get some shelving for the inside of your bays and a system that keeps everything organized. Don’t leave parts and tools scattered about.
2. Clean, and Clean Some More
Cleaning is another low-cost way to improve how inviting your auto shop is. All it takes to make the following tips happen is a little elbow grease and some cleaning products (especially degreasers). Once the place is sparkling, it only takes a little regular maintenance to keep your auto repair shop looking great.
- Set a weekly cleaning schedule once you get your shop sparkling. If you have a lot of work to get it that way, and you’re on the I’ll-get-there-when-I-get-there plan, keep up on the areas you’ve already cleaned until you’re satisfied that you’re there.
- Windex all glass and anything smooth. Get your windows, counters, coffee maker, and bathrooms as close to looking like new as possible.
- Use degreaser and powdered laundry detergent to remove nasty oil stains the parking lot, bays, and lobby floors and walls.
- Scrub your floor and walls to remove dirt and oils. Degreaser is your best friend here.
- Make sure your mechanics do a wipe-down of their work area, including benches and toolboxes and the end of each shift, as well as picking up anything that is no longer in use.
Tip: Try a natural orange degreaser, which is made from orange and citrus peels (available at any Home Depot or Lowes). This has become the only degreaser I use. It works as well as chemical degreasers and will leave your shop smelling great!
A little more costly than the last two tips, but often a necessity, is paint. Paint covers a multitude of sins and can be a great way to start over after years of neglect. Regardless, if your shop suffers from unsightly blemishes or fading paint, it’s time to cover that up with a fresh coat. When painting the shop, don’t forget about your sign post and frame.
In addition, consider painting the inside of your shop with easy-clean paint (the kind you get for your home when you have kids). The right paint can allow you to easily wipe away the dirt on the front of your counter and any of the door frames your technicians commonly touch.
Don’t forget that your clients see the inside of your bays. Even if they don’t come in, they’re open any time your shop is. Consider painting all walls and using a good enamel pain on the floor that will hold up and can be easily cleaned. Also, have your mechanics clean their area at the end of each shift. They made the mess. They need to clean it up.
Depending on the type of repair, this could be affordable or costly. Regardless, regular repair needs to be done to hold the value of your shop and bring in new customers. There are a multitude of things that could need repair, from a bad coffee maker lid to hanging roof eaves. Below are some commonly neglected areas of auto shops.
- If you have old peeling and bubbling window tinting, remove those with a straight razor.
- Pavement cracks. Filling pavement cracks or resurfacing isn’t just good for making your shop look great. It also extends the life of your lot. If you have cracks, get an estimate on crack filling. And, if your lot is faded, consider resurfacing it.
- Awnings go into disrepair quickly. Consider replacing or removing if they don’t add to the look of your auto shop.
- Change counter top and window displays when the materials fray, yellow, or fade.
- Everything in the bathroom! We might spend a total of 10 minutes in the bathroom each day, so we don’t really notice that the mirror is cracked or peeling or that the sink is hanging slightly. Your customers, however, do notice these things. Aim to make every customer experience a pleasing one.
Keeping the grass areas mowed and adding attractive shrubbery can add a lot to your auto shop’s curb appeal. When you do this, keep in mind that everything you plant will need upkeep. Often, a mulched area (that can be treated with roundup) and a small tree can add just as much curb appeal, without adding as much maintenance, as a dozen shrubs.
Your signage is the first thing anyone sees. Most people can see it half a mile up the road. Your signage should look professional. If your signage is old and fading, consider replacing it. If it’s time to update, consider spending a few hundred dollars to have a professionally designed logo. It’s not cheap to replace a sign, so spend a little bit extra and make it count.
Beyond these tips, think about what makes a store in your area inviting and apply those same values to your auto shop. It could be anything from landscaping to engaging signage. Make a list and think about how to incorporate them in the auto shop.
Also, think about what you would do to improve your shop if you were trying to sell your auto shop …because that what you’re doing every day. No, you’re not selling your business property, but you are selling your business services …and that affects your sales and your business’ value.
I’d love to hear from you. If you do any of these tips, have done them in the past, or have additional tips that have worked for you, let me know in the comment below.