Auto Detailing Network
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Bob Keppel


Article by Bob Keppel

Bob Keppel started Ace Car Reconditioning  in Portland, OR in 2004 and used Google, Yelp, Craigslist, and Angies List to grow Ace into the largest reconditioning shop in Oregon.

He now runs 3 companies servicing the reconditioning industry:

1.  Applied Colors.  Manufacturers of paint touch up systems for car detailers and PDR techs.
2.  SEO 4 Detailers .  Website design and marketing for reconditioners.
3.  The Car Detailing Blueprint. Operations and marketing guide for auto detailers.

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More Ideas For More Referral Work

Source 1:  Car dealers.  Focus on independent, luxury dealers.

Smaller luxury dealers pay well and are more loyal.

I see a lot of techs make this marketing mistake:  they run in groups to the largest dealers in town, eventually undercutting until there’s virtually no profit to be had.  They’re attracted by the volume that a large dealer that can offer, but later find little loyalty when the GM changes his mind or is even replaced.  And there’s hardly any referrals to be had.  The service department wants the customer to pay them for your work.

Another mistake:  pitching the “value” lots.  These are $2k – $10k cars with lots of miles and lots of dents, scratches, odors, stains, etc.  Unless you’re new and need the practice, skip these dealers.  They pay less per car despite the extra hours you put into them.

The sweet spot is this:  independent, luxury dealers that carry late model cars in the $15k – $40k range.

Why independent luxury dealers?

  • Easier work. Late model, high value cars usually have less severe dents, scratches, stains, etc.
  • Better pay.  Independents usually make up for their lack of volume with up to 20% more pay per job.
  • Get paid on the spot.  Almost all big dealers make you wait 30, 60, 90 days.
  • More referrals.  Because they have no service department, they refer out dents, touch up, detailing–and lots of it–to their 100s of customers.  And their buddies–who own dealerships, auctions, transport companies–too!

How to find them? 

Craigslist!  Search for cars for sale by dealer in the $20k – $50k range and you’ll discover them all.  Call or stop by.  Emphasize that you’re reliable, not that you’re cheap, and do a demo.  Check in once a month.  The day will come when their “main guy” doesn’t come through and you’ll get his call!  Prove that you’re reliable and you’ll have his business…and his referrals.

Source 2:  Service shops.  Independently owned. Servicing luxury brands.

Reconditioners overlook service shops because they don’t serve up the “do-it-now” business that car dealers can offer.  But if you make it worthwhile to their business, a service shop can be worth $1000s in high paying business…with no competition.

Like the dealers we discussed above, you want to seek out independently owned shops servicing high value cars (Audi, BMW, Porsche, Mercedes).

Why independent luxury shops?

Audi, BMW, and MB customers want your services.

  • No “corporate” red tape..  Midas, Firestone, etc. usually don’t encourage formal referral arangements, and certainly won’t allow you to advertise at the cashier’s counter.
  • Customers who spend.  Their customers bought their cars partly as status symbols so they’re more likely to pay for optional services like detailing, PDR, or leather repair.
  • “Fresher” cars.  Usually, high end cars live easier lives:  fewer dents, fewer stains, and fresher paint…which all means less work for you!

How to get the business.

Send them work, and let them know it’s coming.  Have your customers mention your name for a discount or a small bonus service.  Do a few demo jobs for them…especially the owner’s car.

Once you earn their trust,  you can profit in two ways.  Set up a deal where you work on their customers’ cars at their shop while they’re being repaired.  They get a 25% cut of retail prices.  Or they simply hand over your card and personally recommend you to the customer.

One tip:  post a stack of small flyers with photos of your work.  Business cards get ignored.  But something visually attention grabbing will start a conversation with the cashier, and many times lead to an appointment!

Marketing 101:  Think of yourself as a farmer.

You’ve got 5 crops:

  • Reconditioners
  • Body shops
  • Suppliers
  • Dealers
  • Repair shops

Give them the adequate amount of water, each month, and they’ll yield profits.  It helps to write them all down, write what they’re worth to you in sales, and water them appropriately.

From our latest blog article on automotive referral work.

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