How we convinced customers to trust our unusual online service
The founders of WhoCanFixMyCar.com went to great measures to get an old-fashioned industry to accept their tech-savvy solution. This is their story...
Name: Alistair Preston and Ian Griffiths
Company description: WhoCanFixMyCar.com is an online garage and car repair marketplace. Drivers use it to compare the prices and reputations of garages and mechanics in their local area, and garages and mechanics use it to acquire new business.
Started in: 2011
Describe your start-up barrier:
We knew that getting an industry that’s not known to be tech-savvy to trust technology to find them business was going to be a challenge. It was hard work getting the first early adopter garages to trust this new way of finding customers – but we achieved it.
What were the practical steps you took to convince customers to trust your solution?
Starting a business is all about how you deal with challenges. You can either give up at the first hurdle or persevere. We chose to work hard and persevere, and it certainly paid off.
What did we do?
We met garages face-to-face to explain the proposition and educate them on the necessity of having visibility online. The rise in comparison sites and online marketplaces for other industries was a key point when educating the garages on our proposition.
People used to ring around insurance companies to get car insurance quotes, now they compare online. Those same consumers would soon be looking to do the same with car servicing and repairs, and we made sure to explain that.
We then supported these early adopters and did all we could to make them successful on the platform.
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Where did we go?
My business partner Ian and I drove up and down the country, meeting garages big and small as well larger dealer groups. In six months we managed to sign up 800 garages between us.
How much did we spend?
We only had a small amount of money from some angel investors. We couldn’t afford to pay ourselves a salary. Our biggest expenditure was our time – long days and nights working tirelessly, building the business.
How did we know to do it this way?
We knew that our product hinged on us having a network of garages to fulfill drivers’ needs across the UK. So, we spent the majority of our time in the beginning building our garage network.
In truth, if we were to do it again, we would likely do it differently by focusing on certain areas of the UK first. We went after the entire UK from the beginning, which meant our network was spread thin and we risked upsetting drivers by not having garages in their area.
What was the outcome?
Luckily our hard work paid off, and we now have 10,500 garages covering the entire UK, ensuring drivers everywhere can find a great local garage.
Those early adopters have now earned hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of work on the platform. Those case studies now help show new garages the opportunity our platform presents, and give our drivers confidence in the quality of the workmanship.
What three key questions should other companies ask themselves before pitching an unfamiliar product to consumers?
- How can you explain the need for your product in an easy to understand way? If your potential customers don’t understand it quickly, they won’t adopt it and instead will stick to what they know.
- Can you quantify the benefit into monetary terms? Some products are complex and so can be hard to explain. However, everyone understands the benefit of being financially better off.
- How will you support early adopters to ensure their experience is positive and they become advocates for the product/service? Early adopters need to be supported, they took a chance on you, so you need to ensure they have a positive experience. If they are happy, they will spread the word and become advocates for your product and brand.
What one piece of advice do you think entrepreneurs should take on board?
Make sure you understand the market size and whether there is room for your product. If the market is crowded, it will be difficult to break in. However, it also needs to be big enough so that your business can continue to grow.
Is there anything you would do differently?
In hindsight we would have chosen a couple of cities to focus our efforts on first and then grown slowly across the UK.
We made it work, but I would advise not to start too big; start small to ensure you grow at a rate that enables you to sustain a fantastic level of service.