Top 10 Winners Find Unique Branding That Works

Tougher business climate, advancements in technology push list of website winners to strive for excellence.

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This year’s list of AutoInc.’s Top 10 Websites could be described as the most diverse to date. That’s because while some websites excelled at pushing technology to its maximum limits with responsive web design (read “mobile-friendly” site), having up-to-date Google+ reviews and beautifully produced videos, others earned a spot on the list because they have a unique branding message that you can’t find anywhere else that strikes a chord (and following) with customers.

The goal of AutoInc.’s annual contest – which is celebrating its 17th year in 2014 – is to help other shops use their website to improve productivity, enhance marketing programs and, ultimately, increase their businesses’ bottom lines. A panel of three judges assessed this year’s entries, which totaled close to 150! Qualifying websites were evaluated on the award contest’s nine criteria: (1) First impression/visual design, (2) Objective/purpose, (3) Innovation, (4) Credibility, (5) Navigation, (6) Encourages action, (7) Consumer friendliness, (8) Technical and (9) Social media involvement.

Key Trends Revealed By Entries

Here are some key trends that judges observed among this year’s batch of Top 10 entries:

  • Mobile-friendly design gains popularity – With more and more people using smart phones to search for shops and look up ratings, we saw an increase in shops that offer mobile-friendly sites. Writing in the Huffington Post, Don Dodds, a managing partner and chief strategist at M16 Marketing, says, “People are on the go 24 hours a day, every day. Responsive web design accommodates the busy professional during the day and the wide-awake college student needing access to your site at 2 a.m. No scrolling or resizing is needed for any consumer to access your website from their favorite device.”
  • Social media confidence – With social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn here to stay, shops that may have been waiting in the wings to see the lasting impact of these communication channels have jumped in with both feet. Whether it’s done in-house or by a third party, shops are realizing that social media – especially Facebook – can be a fun, free and educational way to connect with their clients, prospective clients and community. Interaction on Facebook is easy to measure and track, and online ads are affordable.
  • Sophisticated call tracking methods – With competition stiff for business and service dollars, we have seen an increase this year in the number of shops that are using call tracking methods to monitor in-bound calls from customers via their websites. “Remember, in the automotive service sector, a phone call is still the preferred way customers want to interact with you. They want to talk to a real person. And the most obvious and simple place for them to get your phone number is on your website,” says McKay Allen, the inbound marketing manager at LogMyCalls.
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Artistic Collision Center Inc., Rancho Cordova, Calif.

www.artisticcollision.com
Artistic Collision Center is the only body shop to have made it onto our Top 10 list this year. Because its needs as a shop are different from a mechanical service shop, it uses a unique method to tell its story: a spokesperson. “Our website spokesperson, who we refer to as ‘Flo,’ was produced by OMG National, a marketing firm that offers video and audio messaging. We chose our spokesperson from a gallery that they provided and then we supplied them with a script that included a brief history of our business as well as our qualifications and services,” says Bryan Welsh, owner of Artistic Collision. The video is highly effective and adds an extra layer of professionalism and hi-tech feel to this website.

Navigating ArtisticCollision.com is a breeze as it’s well organized and doesn’t overwhelm you with information. A “Before” and “After” photo gallery of their work is a nice touch so you can review their work. In addition, prospects also have the ability to check on the status of their repair through the “View My Repairs” feature powered by CCC ONE. Artist Collision recently worked with its web developer to create a mobile-friendly version of their site. The shop uses its Facebook page to keep customers informed of automotive-related news and apprised of their repair status.

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Atlantic Motorcar Services, Wicasset, Maine

www.atlanticmotorcar.com
This is the third time that Atlantic Motorcar Services has made it on our Top 10 list. It’s easy to see why as the website nails every single one of our award’s criteria with excellence. Owner Bruce Howes’ objective with the site was to drive traffic for specific makes. Atlantic Motorcar Services has landing pages for each of the high-end makes that the shop specializes in.

One of Atlanticmotorcar.com’s outstanding features is its blog, which gets updated almost daily, and even multiple times in a day! Howes says the blog is a way for the shop to show their high-tech knowledge of the cars they service. “Our blog enables us to fully showcase, with both photos and texts, the very unique abilities of Atlantic Motorcar Center and its staff. We endeavor to update our blog daily if possible, certainly no less than three to four times per week. It does take a commitment to do so, and having a talented team member on staff who enjoys social media is a real help,” says Howes.

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Certified Transmissions, Draper, Utah

www.certifiedtrans.com
Certified Transmissions has designed its website to speak to those customers who may be timid about investing in transmission repair. It hits a home run with a three-minute video that it prominently displays on its site. The video is well done and builds a compelling story about the shop’s history, introducing you to owner Larry Bloodworth, and its standout reputation in its community. After watching it, it would be hard not to choose the shop for your transmission repair.

CertifiedTrans.com has good and solid content about transmission repair and what’s involved that is simple, straightforward and honest.

The shop has invested in call tracking by keywords. “In our business,” says Lorraine Myers, with Certified Transmissions, “‘transmission’ is one of those words … tons of clicks but few calls, and the few calls are low quality calls that won’t set an appointment. Our hottest keyword by far is ‘transmission repair,’ which results in fewer clicks but a much higher percentage of calls and set appointments, and many of those turn into big ticket work. Get keyword level call tracking. It’s worth every dime we pay,” she adds.

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Dillon’s Automotive, Katy, Texas

www.dillonsautomotive.com
Don’t ever underestimate the power of a website. For Dillon’s Automotive, as a result of its online marketing, the shop was able to move from a six-day workweek to five days, eliminating the need to be open on Saturday. It’s easy to see why after visiting its website. With a punchy home page made up of nice graphics, great photography and well- organized format, it’s easy to navigate.

The newly founded shop has used its website to create an online presence, expanding its visibility and credibility. The “Our Team” section includes pictures of each staff member, along with their credentials and industry experience. Most sites are content to just have a staff picture, but listing credentials creates credibility and trust.

Owner Corey Dillon says that they are especially proud of the mobile site. “We understand how frustrating and difficult car issues are, especially when they are unexpected. We wanted our mobile site to be as helpful as possible so customers could get the information they needed without any additional hassle. We also made sure that getting in contact with us is easy and seamless so that our customers can get their car problem solved quickly,” he says.

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Kinney’s Automotive, Hurst, Texas

www.kinneysauto.com
Kinney’s Automotive does a lot of things well. Its home page is well organized, and the four main button icons make finding information a snap. We like that its phone number and social media buttons are all together, making it easy to contact them or keep in touch, whatever a visitor needs. The site’s objective is to market its wide array of services to the Hurst, Texas, and surrounding communities. The list of specials on the website are updated often, giving website visitors a discount on certain services.

Like other shops on our Top 10 list, Kinneysauto.com uses call tracking to measure the volume of calls that come through its website.

Says Perry Leonard with Kinney’s Automotive, “The call tracking numbers help us see the amount of website traffic that actually makes a call to the location. It also helps us to see what the customers are calling about so we can enhance our marketing effectiveness. It tracks the call to action that you want from your website. You can also see when the phone is ringing during the business day, which helps you in scheduling your staff.”

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Mike’s KARS Inc., Gettysburg, Pa.

www.mikeskars.com
We like Mike’s Kars Inc. because it has strong content to convince any visitor to choose them to service their car. The scrolling reviews are perfectly placed, and there’s even a button to submit your own review. The shop has a Royalty Rewards program for repeat customers, which is a nice perk and can be managed online.

There’s a staff page with pictures and personal bios listing industry experience to build confidence in the shop’s team. Mikeskars.com has a referral page that customers can fill out electronically. Mike’s Kars does an especially good job with its Facebook activity and really personalizes posts instead of general trivia or facts found on many pages. It’s obvious they take pride in building a relationship with their customers and prospective customers.

The shop does an excellent job of using social media to drive fans and traffic to its website. For example, it optimizes its Google Plus page to help its website get found easily in searches. It also cross promotes positive reviews of their shop on Facebook.

Mike Bennett, owner of Mike’s KARS Inc., says Facebook is an important part of the shop’s marketing. “The posts that have worked the best for us have been more ‘personal’ posts that ask for a response. For example, we posted a photo of one of our customers with an Aston Martin asking for the name of the vehicle. It was the biggest response we have ever had and the owner of the vehicle couldn’t have been more pleased. Other good posts are community-related photos. Each week we post photos of adoptable dogs from a local animal shelter. Last week, more than 1,200 people saw the post!”

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One Stop Auto Care, Los Angeles, Calif.

www.onestopauto-care.com
One Stop Auto Care knows the formula to having a great website: a personalized video message that tells a great story; strong photography and graphics to create interesting pages; organized content that makes it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for; and a variety of little details that take it over the top. For instance, on its home page, it has a rotating slideshow (a popular feature of shop websites) that includes some pictures. But it also uses the space to promote specials that they are having, as well as tell the customer about unique things about their shop such as their recycling practices. Visitors to OneStopAuto-care.com are also greeted with a wonderful video about the shop and how it got started, with owners Debbie and Gerry Vicario telling their story. Gerry Vicario shares the intent behind the video:

“We take pride in treating our customers like friends. We want to above all else help them keep their car in great condition, fix any problem they might have and restore their piece of mind in the safety and health of their vehicle. We made the video to express our dedication to excellent customer service, and to introduce ourselves to customers who haven’t met us yet. We wanted to convey the message that if you walk through our doors, we will take care of you.”

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Rabbit Row Repair, Wilson, Wyo.

www.rabbitrowautorepair.com
If a website can be described as having “down home” personality, then Rabbit Row Repair owns it. The site is simple and clean yet it has great personality – whether it’s the personalized and chatty bios of the shop’s small staff or reading through the Top 10 Reasons why a customer should choose Rabbit Row Repair for their servicing needs. It also knows what customers are looking for. It has highlighted links for “Online Specials” and “Schedule an Appointment.” A picture of Phil Begley, owner of Rabbit Row Repair, greets you on the home page, along with a 30-second video packed with great information and a look inside his facility.

The site is built with easy access to its social media buttons on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Overall, Rabbit Row Repair’s strength lies with its great content, impressive video and an approachable personality that creates confidence and credibility about why you should bring your car in for servicing. Great job!

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Rad Air Complete Car Care, Strongsville, Ohio

www.radair.com
Where do we start with this great website? They really do everything right. From the informative slideshow on their home page advertising all kinds of specials and features (including a “Technician’s Code of Ethics”), to a blog that gets updated regularly. Let’s not forget to mention its comprehensive library of online tips to take care of your car. Other features include monthly installments of certain posts such as its “Rad Ride of the Month,” which is a story about a cool customer car or their “Meet-the-Mechanic” post, which interviews a different technician each month.

RadAir.com added the “Like,” “Tweet” and “+1” buttons to increase the number of visitors to their site. The shop reports that it has seen a 3 to 5 percent increase in the amount of visitors after adding those buttons. The shop’s goal in aiming for its online presence is simple, says Brittany Gumucio of Rad Air Complete Auto Care. “We first decided that our website should feel like our online waiting room – clean, professional and friendly.” Each month the shop’s website receives more than 4,000 visitors and approximately 100 online appointment requests so it strives to develop a strong, trusting relationship with its clients, similar to the relationships they develop with their doctors, preachers, hair stylists and others, says Gumucio. We feel they have succeeded strongly with their goals and look forward to seeing their growth and success.

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Valley Automotive Repair and Electric, Maple Valley, Wash.

www.valleyautoelectric.com
This is a good-looking site that gets the job done by creating professionalism, confidence and trust. Its clean design is enhanced by a better-than-average slideshow on the home page. Plus it’s easy to navigate and find information quickly. The scrolling certified reviews create credibility and distinguish it from other shops in the area.

The website is designed to generate new clients for the shop and it also allows valleyautoelectric.com to display its pre-owned vehicles and offers the convenience of making online appointments.

The “Community” section is simple but the shop’s participation in various projects are impressive. Owner Bryan Kelley says the shop cross-promotes its brand across multiple social media vehicles, including Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Special Thanks!

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A big “Thanks!” to Aaron Clements, former ASA chairman and owner of C&C Automotive, Augusta, Ga., and Cheryl Hart, owner of Hart Marketing LLC, a marketing professional in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area for their time and commitment in serving as judges. Clements and Hart, along with Leona Dalavai Scott, editor of AutoInc. magazine, evaluated close to 150 entries to find these Top 10 winners. Says Clements of his experience serving as a judge, “It was an eye-opener. I had no idea that the quality of websites in our industry had moved to such a high level. Having the opportunity to look at so many great sites made me very proud to be in this industry.”

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Hart was impressed with the creative strategies used by shops. “One aspect that made the top websites stand out for me was the personal element that was used to reach the client. Testimonials and interactive tools really made me feel that I could trust them. Facilities that used social media stood out as well. It told me that they were in touch with today’s world of advertising and marketing; therefore more in touch with client needs. In all, the winning sites certainly achieved the goal of clearly communicating their marketing message to the reader,” says Hart.

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