Educating Customers About Ceramic Coatings
By Chris Collier
Ceramic coatings comprise less than 10% of transactions at Tintology in Melbourne, Fla. Owner Billy Ellis rarely advertises the product, and customers do not stroll in asking for it. Still, it is pushing his paint protection film (PPF) portfolio further. With more than half of all PPF projects containing an additional ceramic coating application, it looks to be a perfect partnership.
A Ceramic Combo
“We tell customers they can put ceramic coatings on top of the PPF,” says Ellis, who founded his company in 2017. “They have the protection of the film, and the ease of cleaning is a lot easier. Just because you have PPF doesn’t mean you can neglect your vehicle; the coating makes it easier.”
Ceramic coatings have been offered at Red’s Detail Co. of Marietta, Ga., for more than seven years and account for 60% of all sales. The company’s coating-to-PPF job ratio isn’t equal, but co-owner Eron Knox says the products are better together.
“I feel like both are advantageous for a business and its growth,” Knox says. “If you only sold oranges, do you think you’d make more money if you sold oranges and apples? Some people don’t like oranges; some people want oranges and apples; some are making a fruit cocktail.”
Many suppliers have recognized the advantages of selling both products together. Some have introduced products blending various technologies. XPEL’s Fusion Plus Paint and PPF is a flexible, thin 9H ceramic coating developed to perform with PPF and painted surfaces.
Ceramic Pro offers Kavaca Ceramic Coated Paint Protection Film, which is “the film of choice if you would like the benefits of coating your film with Ceramic Pro without having to go through that extra cost and installation time,” per the company.
Buying the Blend?
Perhaps your company is debating a dawn that sees ceramic coatings applied in your bays. Gabe Fletcher, owner-operator of Ceramic Pro Pottstown in Pottstown, Pa., says the product is a flexible option for freshly-formed operations.
“You get to offer your customer a protective solution, and it doesn’t take anywhere near as long to do paint corrections and ceramic coatings [compared to] PPF,” Fletcher says. “It’s a much faster spool-up to being proficient at coatings and correction; it’s a lower learning curve.”
The product also presents customers with additional choices, and it’s a good thing, too. The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) climbed 7.5% from January 2021 to January 2022. It’s the most substantial 12-month increase since the 12-month period ending February 1982.
Ceramic coatings don’t generate extensive traffic for Tintology, but Ellis observes value. “I’ll always offer it because everyone has a budget,” he says. “They ease maintenance on a vehicle and protect against [UV] ultraviolet damage. Some properties make it useful, but it’s not going to stop any rock chips.”
Brian Brown, principal of Exclusive Detail in Charlotte, N.C., has worked with ceramic coatings for six years. He says it accounts for 35% of sales.
“It works,” Brown says. “It helps preserve the finish of the vehicle. Back in the day, waxes were not resilient enough. Ceramic coatings do work with proper application. The con is all the misinformation customers have to [get] through to get to the value of what a ceramic coating does.”
Fletcher seconds Brown on the need to myth-bust erroneous information.
“There’s misinformation surrounding the longevity of ceramic coatings. Make sure customers understand how to maintain that product properly,” Fletcher adds.
Knowledge is King
“[Many] installers oversell the value of ceramic coatings,” Brown says. “I have had people ask me if they should do one or the other. Some installers sell ceramic coatings as a competing product to PPF. One of them is microns thick, and one is 8 or 10 mils thick. It won’t protect against scratches, and it won’t protect against impact.”
Modern Elix in West Chester, Pa., has focused on ceramic coatings since its 2018 founding. Owner Jay Ka says consumers have misconceptions he’s trying to correct. “[It] goes back to selling the client on a coating where you never have to wash your car, nothing will ever stick to it, and you have no maintenance whatsoever,” he says. “I started telling clients, ‘If you’re not going to bring your car back and have us wash it now and then—or take the time to learn how to wash the car yourself—don’t even bother.’”
The product menu can be complex for long-time and novice automotive enthusiasts alike. However, Fletcher says it’s not the manufacturer’s job to direct your customers to the final destination.
“If the business can’t properly manage customer expectations and what those customers need to do to take care of it, they’re only setting themselves up for failure,” he adds. “… You should pick a coating that has more marketing depth and consumer awareness than the brand that doesn’t. You work with the product that’s in-demand, versus the one you need to educate top to bottom on.”
Closing the Deal
How do you mash misconceptions, relay expertise to your client, and determine which products fit your client’s needs?
“It’s always best to find out how much information the consumer already has— what research they have already done,” Brown says. “You can meet them at that point and enhance their knowledge. In broad strokes, PPF will protect against impact, and the ceramic coating will protect against harmful UV rays and make the vehicle more hydrophobic and easier to clean. That’s the distinction for us.”
Fletcher issues qualification questions in a solution-based sales process to gauge the service that suits his clientele most appropriately. “Based on those responses, I can provide them with a solution to their problem,” he says. “It comes down to what they view as a problem and what they want for their vehicle long term. If you can be brutally honest with a customer and say, ‘This isn’t a good fit, but this is based on what you’re telling me,’ … the customer is more than likely to trust you versus the competitor that tries to shove every option down their throat.”
Knox says the value of safety and protection should be emphasized in the sales process.
“I’m looking at an Audi RS Q8 in my parking lot right now,” Knox says. “That’s almost a six-figure car, so the headlights on that vehicle are going to cost two grand to replace. If you get one stone and it cracks that exterior lens and goes into where the [high-intensity discharge] HID housing is, it’s going to cook that headlight. There goes $2,000. If that stone was deflected from a 100 to $120 PPF kit on the headlights, would that be valuable to you?”
Chris Collier is the assistant editor for PPFMag. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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