If I were to ask you who the most positively known businesses are in your community, I bet you could easily share several names with me. True? Think about it.
When you think about them – think about what they do, how they do it, who they’re connected to and why. I would be willing to bet money that they’re doing some of the things I’ll be talking to you about in this blog. They “get it” and have found the incredible value in doing all the right things that make a difference and a significant impact on both their business and the community.
I’m sharing this with you not from doing research and compiling a bunch of data. Nope. I’m sharing these with you because it is from personal experience. I’m teaching you what we actually did.
An interesting little side-note: I’m the outgoing person in our family and business. The one who gets out there meets, greets, and talks to anyone, anywhere, anytime, about anything. Ok, well, maybe not ANYthing, but you get the point. 🙂 When Brian asked me to leave my career in education and join him in the shop doing marketing, I literally asked him, “what’s marketing.” He answered encouragingly, telling me that I would figure it out. He said I was great with people and would excel at it.
It wasn’t long after my feet hitting the pavement and my hard work of being present and involved in our community that it began to pay off. I quickly became known for my networking skills and abilities. Furthermore, earning the name I still carry to this day: “Queen of Connections.” You see, I listened, spent time with people, and showed them I cared and was interested in them and their business. When I heard that someone needed something, I connected them with the right person or business. It got to the point where people would call me as if I were the yellow pages. I became a human Rolodex and proudly helped every time.
In this blog post, I will share some experiences I had and tips to help you become the most well-known business in your community. Within just a few short years of being involved, our shop earned awards nationally in the industry from our community in the local magazine, newspaper, and the Chamber of Commerce.
It can really be fun if you let it! Take a moment to read through these ideas and implement them one at a time – or go all in! No matter what you do, just get started.
Become the Thought Leader.
At some point in time, there will be a moment when the local news, radio, newspaper, or magazine will need an industry professional to answer questions relating to vehicles, maintenance, repair, vehicle safety, etc. Why can’t you be the one? You can! You should.
- Contact local media – Reach out to your local let them know you’re available for interviews on specific topics
- See if you can write an article monthly for the local paper or magazine.
- Start a radio show with your local radio station
Become a Member. Network.
Yep, I said it. Network. Don’t tell me “I don’t like people,” “I’m not good with that,” “I can’t do that,” blah blah blah. 🙂 I mean, I get it, I understand, but just like those who don’t want to do video – you just have to do it. Get out of your own way. Sometimes we have to do things outside of our comfort zone, and we end up reaping great rewards. Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “Be willing to go out on a limb; that’s where the fruit is.” That applies here.
You know the best rewards often come after doing things we don’t want to do. Taking the time to invest in groups in your organization can be beneficial in more ways than one. Not only will it be good for your business, but you may also find it is good for you – personally. I know that for Brian and me – we have made lifelong best friends with folks we’ve met through organizations in our community. I mean the “2 am there if you need them” kind of friends. Friends, we travel the world with.
That’s not what we got into these groups for, but it’s one of the positive outcomes we didn’t anticipate receiving.
There are most likely numerous organizations in your community that would positively impact your shop if you got involved in them. Here’s just a few to get started helping you brainstorm and learn more about. My recommendation is to pick one and visit, go to their website, get some history, and reach out and connect with them. Get a feel for the culture of that group, how often they meet, the time requirements, etc. Find a group that fits you, your life, and what you’re looking for.
- Chamber – nearly every community has a Chamber of Commerce. These groups exist to help support local businesses. They often have regular recurring monthly events you can attend and committees you can join, help, and be helped!
- BNI – one of my absolute favorites! BNI chapters can be found in communities around the world. You can visit their site to locate a chapter near you. BNI chapters exist with the sole purpose of helping one another’s small businesses grow. They are exclusive: only one company per profession can be in any one chapter. Having said that, BNI was so influential in receiving new, warm, good referrals for us that we were in two groups. Brian was in one, and I was in another. They’re incredibly valuable! Find a chapter and visit it. See how it feels, meet the other members and decide if you want to join. Just a few referrals can usually repay the cost of a BNI chapter!
- Rotary – maybe service is your thing. If so, the Rotary group may be a place for you. Rotary chapters can also be found in nearly every community. They pride themselves on “service above self” and working together to see positive change in the world – one community at a time. You will find hard-working, like-minded people who want to invest time, energy, and positivity in their community. Find a chapter by visiting their website.
- Kiwanis – very similar in nature to Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs are focused primarily on working together to serve children in the community. They do really wonderful things! Find a club by visiting here.
The word in itself tells you what I’m getting at here but wait, hold on, hear me out. Yes, volunteering is going to take up your time. It’s going to be a commitment. BUT the nice thing about it is that you can pick and choose when, where and what you do to volunteer. Find a cause that you care about. Decide how much time you can commit to volunteering. There are opportunities everywhere! Think about who you want to serve and help: children? Senior citizens? Single moms? Mentoring other business owners? Investing in high school students who may wish to apprentice or learn more about becoming a mechanic? Here are some other ideas:
- County/Parish events such as trash clean up days
- Coach Little League
- Committees with the chamber, BNI, rotary
- Create your own opportunities! Consider offering free oil changes to single moms on Mother’s Day weekend or define it however you choose.
Oh, I was in my element when it came to hosting events. I loved this, and we truly saw a significant benefit in being a non-traditional location for specific events. It created excitement, energy, and interest. Additionally, when you regularly host events, you’ll find that your shop stays clean and organized. 🙂 haha! No, it was an added benefit of regularly hosting. It was pretty surprising to see how positive our staff was when it came to us hosting events. It gave them great pride in being the place where community members came for special events. A few types of events to consider are:
- Chamber events (business after hours, business before hours). Your Chamber of Commerce is always looking for sponsors to host events. Call them and inquire!
- Car Care Events for women, children, teens. This is pretty self-explanatory. While I’m used to hearing this repeatedly, it’s still a reasonably new concept across the board, believe it or not!
- Anniversary Events – We held a blow-out fifth anniversary complete with food, games, inflatables, car checks, and more. I wasn’t sure how well this would go over, but we promoted it a lot, brought in community partners to be present, and surprisingly a significant number of people showed up. Some stopped in because they just drove by and wondered what was going on. Yes! We ended up meeting new customers because they could see our shop, experience our friendly staff, and get to know, like, and trust us from the beginning.
- Organize a block party – maybe you are new to the area – just moved your shop to a new location, or you’ve been there for years and years. Either way being the host of a block party can be an excellent experience for you, your shop, and your community. Find a fun reason to put this event on fall is a beautiful time, as well as holidays such as Easter time/Spring, a Christmas shopping market, or another possible time for a block party might be just to host a meet-the-mechanic party. The fun part about this is that you can do whatever you want!
Partner with Others.
Maybe I got the nickname “Queen of Connections” because I rarely did things alone. I loved finding others to partner with, so I invited them into practically anything I did. When you begin to think this way, you’ll be surprised at how receptive others are to join you in the opportunity you are providing them. Invite them to partner with you on any events you host, offerings to the community, and even special offers/promotions to your clients. For instance, the local Mary Kay lady may come set up in your lobby and offer some friendly pampering services one day to your customers. You might consider partnering with a friend of yours in business to feed the local firemen, or teachers on the first day of school, or healthcare workers during covid.
- Charities (Feb donate to a heart disease org – wear red day – associate it with Valentine’s Day)
- Other automotive-related companies (parts, inspection centers, detailers, etc.)
- Create a community-wide donation day for something like a diaper drive to support the local women’s shelter or a school supply drive where you partner with the neighborhood school
- Seize the moment: when something is happening in your community, find a partner and solve the problem. Example: feeding healthcare workers during covid, delivering coffee and pastries to local teachers, fire departments, etc
Be the Resource.
You’ll find that when you get involved in your community, your “Rolodex” will grow exponentially. As you will regularly add contacts into your phone, your LinkedIn connections and your Facebook friends will grow. When you see a Facebook post where someone is asking for a referral, take a moment to answer, tag the business and person you are referring, send a text or a private Facebook message to both, and introduce them. Be the connector. Use your resources to help others as often as you can. People feel special when you do this – you’re being thoughtful and helping others. They love this and will want to repay you – which is not the goal, but certainly, a bonus when they think of you and your shop in their time of need – or a friend’s time of need.
- Connect people to others. When customers express a need – help them – connect them.
- Get to know others in your community so that you become a resource. Be the person they call when they’re looking for a product/service/need. Be the human Rolodex!
- Join your town or county Leadership group. For instance, here we applied to, participated in, and graduated from our parish’s “Leadership Tangi” group. It was a year-long process of getting to know our parish’s workings, meeting leaders in the community, and becoming informed about all things relative to our community.
- Alert local media that you’re available for comment, tips, education, and helpful interviews relating to your industry.
Help the Community.
I’ve mentioned it a few times, and, yes, I will repeat this: help your community. Get involved and serve. To become well known in your community, the best way to do that is to be helpful. There is no shortage of needs, ways to help, or ways to get involved. When you start putting yourself out there, you’ll begin getting invitations to help, serve, and be a part of new programs and initiatives – maybe more than you want! The good news: you get to pick and choose what you want to do and how you can best serve.
Warning: this can be addictive! But it can also be exhausting. Don’t feel like you have to take on every single opportunity presented to you. Instead, be innovative and strategic. Don’t wear yourself out, or you’ll get tired and stop getting involved. Take your time. Serving the community should give you an incredible feeling of pride and satisfaction. You don’t want to lose that.
Check out a few ideas to help you start brainstorming:
- Field trips – Teachers LOVE finding new exciting ideas for field trips. You can offer up your shop as an excellent new idea for a field trip. Consider even feeding the class that visits. Have a small area dedicated to (maybe your lobby) a SHORT chat with the children about your shop, the types of jobs there, and how you help the community. Often, one of the goals/objectives in a lower grade, such as 1st grade, will be for the children to learn about community helpers – that’s you! Then give them a tour. Stop at the service advisor’s desk and have them take a few minutes to talk about what they do. Visit the parts area and teach them about the importance of things being where they belong/organization. Allow them to meet a mechanic and see the tools being used. You get the picture. Then end the trip with lunch or a snack. If possible, have a take-a-way for the kids. This could be a toy tool with your logo printed on it, something they’ll take home to show to mom and dad! You’ll likely have parent chaperones and teachers taking photos and sharing on social! It’s marketing! Because you are a busy shop, you obviously can’t take field trips every day, so pick a day of the week, maybe once a week or once a month, and that’s the time you dedicate to hosting a field trip. This allows you to promote it as a limited-slots and creates urgency. Consider making the field trip on paper, all lined out for the teacher, and send this to the local schools. You likely have teachers as customers – start with them! Once you get a few teachers dialed in and on-board, that’s all you’ll need – teachers talk, and the word will spread! You could also promote this as a new service on social media. Additionally, have a page on your website dedicated to this with a form for teachers to fill out and submit to you.
It’s kind of funny that we’re recommending this because, for a long time, we felt this was a waste of time and money. It’s not. Instead, you’re helping others do what they can’t do by themselves. A little league team needs the support of their local businesses and community to buy uniforms, equipment, and more. They genuinely value your sponsorship. Likewise, the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations cannot do what they do alone – they need sponsors. So when they have the chance for you to sponsor, they’ll also offer you advertising spots, opportunities to be included in social posts, and introductions at the events. Your dollars are hard earned – spend them wisely. Sponsoring something in your community gives your shop presence and reminds folks that you’re there but that you also care and are involved.
Another thing to think about is that sometimes sponsorship doesn’t actually mean cash out of pocket – it can be paid in time or services. You can offer to provide services or your time in lieu of sponsorship. We’ve done this numerous times and it has proven to be really good for everyone involved!
Idea: consider allowing your tech who has 3 small kids to be the coach of the little league team. You pay the sponsorship but he is the coach. Give him the chance to leave work an hour early on practice nights. Your shop name is on their uniforms – if you’re gonna do it – do it. Go all in. Nothing gets done halfway!
- Little League
- High School sports clubs
- Local events
Owning a business can be overwhelming. We know that you are doing multiple things, wearing multiple hats. You might be the service advisor, the parts guy, the marketer, and the finance person. So adding in something like getting involved in the community can be even more overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be.
Take some time to process and think about which of these ideas make the most sense for you – your shop – your community. Where is the greatest need that you can fill? How much time do you have? How much budget are you willing to invest? Maybe consider who the best person at your shop is for this. It might not be you – the shop owner. Maybe it’s your husband or wife, or the service advisor or a technician. Who is interested? Who enjoys doing this particular project? Maybe even consider splitting it up – share the responsibility!
If you need some advice, mentoring, or additional help or ideas with becoming well known in your community, contact me! I’d love to brainstorm and help you!