Flying High: Automotive ImpressionsPosted 8/18/2006
By Levy Joffrion
And while flying high, it's making a lasting impression on all its past and future customers.
Onlookers can't help but remember the firm's unique marketing tool: a hot-air balloon named "Sunday Cruise." The balloon has a 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air going right through the middle of it. The corporate logo is on the face of the balloon.
Automotive Impressions has a crew called The FLYNHI Balloon Team that sends "Sunday Cruise" aloft. The team has three pilots, including Jerry Burns, AAM, and two of his sons - Tommy, the oldest son; and Bryan, the second-oldest son. The balloon chase crew includes Burns, his wife, Liz, and their four sons.
The balloon flying overhead is a familiar sight to local residents. "The industry cannot rely on impulse buys so name recognition is important," says Burns. "The balloon provides top-of-the-mind awareness with our customers and their children. We don't do extensive television and radio advertising; however, our radio and television ads use the same audio jingle, and our television ads feature the hot-air balloon as well."
Automotive Impressions also flies over events and often tethers the balloon for special occasions. Albuquerque, the hot-air balloon capital of the world, is just minutes away, so "Sunday Cruise" and the shop's jingle are well known in the Albuquerque/Rio Rancho area and neighboring communities.
The Burns family uses hot-air balloon pins to trade at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, an event held every October that attracts people from all over the world. Sometimes there are more than 900 colorful hot-air balloons rising into the New Mexico sky during the nine-day event.
Automotive Impressions representatives pass out hot-air trading cards to children. And they give all customers a key chain that has the firm's hot-air balloon on the front and shop information on the back.
Capitalizing on the marketing tool even further, Automotive Impressions uses the hot-air balloon on stationery for estimates and customer correspondence.
There's also a link to the balloon on the shop's Web site, www.automotiveimpressions.com.
Obviously, the balloon is a strong marketing tool. But Burns believes his shop's best advertising tool is to do the best job it can, one customer at a time. "We also realize," says Burns, "that everyone who walks through our doors - customers, vendors, employees or someone needing directions - develops an impression of our company. They can potentially be a customer or know someone who needs our services."
Jerry Burns is president of Automotive Impressions. His wife is vice president. All four sons have helped around the shop, and currently two are working there full time. Bryan manages the shop, and Scott is in charge of customer service.
Burns has been working in collision repair 26 years. He took automotive collision repair classes at Technical Vocational Institute, then began working as a collision repair technician. Later he was a refinish technician and finally, advanced to managerial positions. He developed specific ideas on how to make the collision repair process more professional and customer friendly, but his visions did not always coincide with his employer's concepts. He decided to open his own business and put his vision into motion.
So he and his wife opened Automotive Impressions in August 1994. There was just the two of them. He wrote estimates, made collision repairs and refinished the vehicles. She learned how to write estimates, ran the front office and prepped the vehicles in the paint shop for refinishing.
Today, Automotive Impressions has 11 employees: four collision repair technicians, two refinish technicians, two estimators, one parts person/detailer and two administrative personnel.
Burns is I-CAR trained, ASE certified and has been designated an Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) by the Automotive Management Institute. His wife is also an Accredited Automotive Manager.
He recently was named to the board of directors of the Automotive Service Association and has served on ASA's Collision Division Operations Committee since 2001. He is currently assistant director of the Collision Division.
The Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) cited Burns' outstanding leadership in 2005. Burns received the Rio Rancho Outstanding Business Award for Small Businesses in 2002, and he has been honored by Quality New Mexico, which administers the New Mexico Quality Awards program and is modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards.
What's ahead for Automotive Impressions? Burns says the family has discussed the possibility that they will open a second location within the next three to five years.
Meantime, it looks like the sky's the limit for the Burns family and their outstanding collision repair shop.
Shop StatsName: Automotive Impressions Inc.
Location: Rio Rancho, N.M.
No. of employees: 11
Square footage of business: 6,500
No. of years in business: 12
Projected annual sales volume: $1.3 million
Web site: www.automotiveimpressions.com
On the benefit of being an ASA member: ASA gives me the support I need as a collision repair business owner and also shows my customers my commitment to them by participating in an association of ASA's caliber.
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