Tom Franklin

Tom Franklin (122)

Tom Franklin has been a sales and marketing consultant for forty years, specializing in automotive and auto body. He has written numerous books and provides marketing solutions and services for many businesses. He can be reached at (323) 871-6862 or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Thursday, 20 October 2011 17:34

Choosing a More Profitable Market

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These days going to the movie theater can be very expensive. Theater owners have come to realize that former patrons now get their films online from services like Netflix. To compensate for the loss of these customers, they have begun to add luxury amenities like select seating and personalized service in the auditorium. And of course the price of a ticket has skyrocketed, in my area to around $14.00 for a ticket.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

Sadly, in this economy, lower-income car owners have also migrated to cheaper paint and body providers. Shops like “One Day Paint and Body” are getting much of the business that quality shops used to get to keep their technicians busy and keep paint purchase volume up.

It may be time for shop owners to take a hint from theater owners and more thoroughly focus on higher income prospective customers. Many shops already do aim their marketing at higher end European vehicles like BMWs and Mercedes, but the range of vehicle choices has also increased greatly. The Korean automakers have begun to claim a larger share of the market. Like theater owners, a shop owner has to ask, “What special amenities will get all better quality car-buyers to choose my shop over any other?”

Many shops have already focused on pampering their customers. They go beyond proving a rental car to taking the rental car to the customer and having a lock box for keys so the customer can drop off the rental car at the shop after hours. A shop may also choose to cover the difference in cost for a luxury rental vehicle. A luxury lounge with big TV, WIFI, computer games for kids and up-scale refreshments are already commonplace. Many shops offer a car wash and interior clean. For higher end customers, shops may even include exterior and interior detail. But who pays for all of these amenities when insurance companies are working to reduce what they will pay for?

Thursday, 22 September 2011 16:50

The Ethnic Factor in Marketing

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It’s no secret that large numbers of recent immigrants now live in many areas in the United States. Most gather themselves into close-knit communities where their native language predominates. Fortunately, for quality collision shop owners, few of these immigrant communities have a quality body shop in their own ethnic area. If there is a shop, chances are it’s rather primitive and not up to insurance claim quality. This opens the door for an astute shop owner nearby who will put someone on the payroll who speaks their language and can help market the shop to that community.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

I’m familiar with a shop that opened in a community that had large numbers of Chinese families in the surrounding area. The shop owner hired an attractive Chinese lady who spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese for the front desk and he also hired a Chinese-speaking estimator and parts manager. For several years this combination served him well. His Chinese personnel changed a few times, but he always kept some at his shop and enjoyed a significant number of jobs from the Chinese community.

With an economic downturn, when one Chinese employee left, he didn’t replace her immediately. Gradually, as the economy continued to decline, he lost all of his Chinese employees. He intended to replace one or two but it didn’t happen and little by little his Chinese community business fell away. Employees are a shop’s biggest expense. It’s understandable that adding any new employee is costly, but I’m certain that a careful analysis of the situation would reveal that the benefits of reaching the Chinese community would have more than paid for a Chinese speaking employee for this shop owner.

Thursday, 25 August 2011 15:51

Long or Short Ad—Which is Best?

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If you’ve ever received a long sales letter, you may have wondered why it was four or more pages long—and who would expect you to read it all? In the days before the Internet, e-mail and Twitter, snail-mail marketing often included these long sales letters. At that time, statistics proved that recipients who read these long letters were often the ones who bought the product. My wife’s ex-husband was an ad copywriter who made a nice living from writing long ad copy, but no more. Today we’ve entered the era of the short message. Twitter is a prime example. Ad copy must be 140 characters or less. Most advertisers no longer believe people will read long copy. The assumption is most people have a very short attention span and a message must be fast, brief and dramatic to capture viewer interest and attention.

To view a PDF of this article please click HERE.

Institutional advertising might lead a shop owner to think all an ad has to do is have an attention grabbing image displaying the company name and product. Nothing could be farther from the truth. National corporate products have large advertising budgets and often simply try to keep the product name in front of the public eye. A gigantic billboard may have a huge photo of an attractive person drinking that company’s beverage and the company name might be so small you could miss it if you didn’t look closely. The thinking behind this is that repetitive viewings will encourage sales of the product. Unless you have very deep pockets, don’t even think about advertising like this. But one aspect of this kind of ad is very accurate: Repetitive viewing can result in a prospect trying or buying the product. The question is: what is the best media to use to convey that brief, repetitive message?

Last modified on Thursday, 25 August 2011 17:54
Thursday, 23 June 2011 16:12

How to Survive a Summer Slump

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In my neighborhood, several shops are saying they’re having a “summer slump.” Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe people have gone on vacation ignoring needed repairs. With gas prices sky high people are driving less and having less accidents. Whatever the case, it can come down to less business for the moment. What can a shop owner do to survive this down time?

To view the text of this article with photos please click HERE.

Perhaps one bright spot is all of this is the fact that with less jobs to do, you may have more time to improve marketing and sales and maybe squeeze more profits out of the jobs you do get. This could be an ideal time to take a closer look at previous estimates (and estimators) to see if revenue and profits were slipping through the cracks. Today we have computer software to go through an estimate to find missed opportunities for revenue, but not every shop uses it, or takes the time to use it even if it’s available. Periodically a wise manager will review a few estimates to see how his or her estimators are doing. A summer slump can be a perfect time to get this done.

Last modified on Thursday, 23 June 2011 21:08
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Many years ago I went through a training program offered by a company called Expansion Consultants, Inc. One of my instructors offered the hypothesis that “any unwanted situation can be resolved with sufficient communication.” He used the expression “universal solvent” to describe how communication can dissolve problems.

To view the full text of this article please click HERE.

I’ve often tested this idea, especially in marketing. At one point I came up with the idea that “any failure to thrive is a combination of not reaching out widely enough, frequently enough or cleverly enough.”

Then one day I spoke to a body shop owner who disproved at least one part of my idea. He had reached out as widely as anyone could in his area. He sent out a piece of promotional literature to 10,000 homes in his area. But he said he had not gotten even one job from that mailing.

Today marketing professionals are focusing on a narrow demographic rather than a wide one. By tracking customer purchases, website searches, and publications read, advertisers target very specific types of prospects.

A collision repair center following this approach would avoid a vast general mailing to all prior customers, and instead focus on specific types like senior citizens, young drivers, parents with children who drive, women who drive specific makes of vehicles, and more.

Last modified on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 22:38
Thursday, 21 April 2011 20:04

Summertime Should Mean Event Time For Body Shops

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Summer time is nearly here and shop owners who are interested in attracting insurance or other referral business may be considering putting on an event.

These can vary widely in terms of size and cost. I assisted one dealership owner in creating quite a large event to build business for his body shop. In addition to insurance DRP coordinators. Since he did a lot of work for commercial contractors and also local law enforcement, he invited many company owners and managers and also sheriff’s department personnel.

To view a PDF of this article please CLICK HERE.

He put up large umbrellas over picnic tables all along the driveway in front of his body shop work bays. Naturally food and drink vendors were located along there.

Each work bay was converted into a presentation space. By the prep and spray booths, his paint jobber set up demos of spray guns, a color-matching photospectrometer, and various paint supply items.

His 3-M distributor used a bay to demonstrate special materials for everything from windshield repair to simple repairs on plastic and fiberglass auto parts. Another bay housed a paintless dent removal specialist, and some attendees were provided with small dent removals from their vehicles. An ongoing demonstration of the estimating and management systems was provided in the body shop office. Tours of the entire dealership were given every fifteen minutes.

The cost of the event was in excess of $10,000. Was it worth it? One small insurance company representative agreed to add the shop to their DRP list. The dealership got a few orders for new pick-up trucks, but very few new commercial company people came to the event and I didn’t hear of any new commercial contracts. Was the event a wise investment?

Monday, 11 April 2011 16:34

Summer Time Means Event Time

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Summer time is nearly here and shop owners who are interested in attracting insurance or other referral business may be considering putting on an event. These can vary widely in terms of size and cost. I assisted one dealership owner in creating quite a large event to build business for his body shop. In addition to insurance DRP coordinators, since he did a lot of work for commercial contractors and also local law enforcement, he invited many company owners and managers and also sheriff's department personnel. He put up large umbrellas over picnic tables all along the driveway in front of his body shop work bays. Naturally food and drink vendors were located along there.

Each work bay was converted into a presentation space. By the prep and spray booths, the paint jobber he used set up demos of spray guns, a color-matching photospectrometer, and various paint supply items. The 3-M distributor used a bay to demonstrate special materials for everything from windshield repair to simple repairs on plastic and fiberglass auto parts. Another bay housed a paintless dent removal specialist, and some attendees were provided with small dent removals from their vehicles. An ongoing demonstration of the estimating and management systems was provided in the body shop office. Tours of the entire dealership were given every fifteen minutes.

Thursday, 24 March 2011 17:37

Get on the Cosmetic Car Upgrade Bandwagon

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This year many collision shop owners and managers may be heading to Las Vegas for the SEMA Show rather than to Florida for NACE. But only a few have grasped what it means to jump on the SEMA bandwagon.

To view a PDF of this article please CLICK HERE.

In 1993, marketing authors Al Ries and Jack Trout came out with a book entitled, “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.” Number one in their book is “The Law of Leadership —It’s better to be first than it is to be better.” They note that Bert Hinkler was the second person to fly the Atlantic solo. He did it faster than Charles Lindbergh, consumed less fuel and did it more efficiently, but only Lindbergh did it first and got the fame.

In collision repair, there have been many firsts. Those shops that offered waterborne paint first got the jump on the later “me too” crowd. Now there is a new opportunity to be first. In my area, there are only a couple of shops offering “Cosmetic Car Upgrades,” but I predict after more shop owners take a close look at SEMA, they will all jump on this highly profitable bandwagon.

Learn From the Dealerships

As the profit per car sold has gradually decreased, new car dealers have had to get very creative in the ways they can make a profit.

Thursday, 24 February 2011 17:30

‘Consistency’ May be Boring—But It’s Also Profitable Featured

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As we get rolling in this New Year, we see a multitude of new ways to market the shop: A website, e-mail, Facebook and other social media sites, like Twitter. Should we ignore these new ways to reach potential customers? Certainly not, but there can be a tendency to discard tried and true ways when we jump on the bandwagon for the new ones. And that can be a serious mistake.

To view a PDF of this article please CLICK HERE.

Customers who have been coming to your shop for years may now be getting a bit older. And they may not all share the younger generation’s enthusiasm for these new approaches to communication and media. If they have kept coming back, they must have liked whatever it was you were doing to stay in touch with them. You may not know immediately what that was that pleased them, but of course you can always ask. You can also be fairly certain that they are like consumers of other services. There are some standards that never change.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 19:12

Client vs. Customer, The Marketing Difference Featured

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I was recently surprised when a local handyman referred to the people he does property repairs for as “clients.” It sounded kind of grandiose. Would that same designation be out of place in a collision repair shop where repair prospects are generally referred to as “customers?”

To view a PDF of this article please CLICK HERE.

In this slow economy, few shops can afford to let a single repair prospect slip away without agreeing to have his or her vehicle repaired at the shop. In general, sales to customers are different from sales to “clients.” Retail merchants and equipment sales companies generally think of people who buy their products as “customers.”

The term “clients” is generally reserved for attorneys, CPAs, financial consultants and others who offer professional services. The dictionary defines “client” as “A person who is under the protection of another.” Professionals like lawyers and CPAs theoretically protect their “clients” from legal or governmental abuse.

Thursday, 23 December 2010 20:17

A Clear Marketing Focus Needs to be Tested and Justified Featured

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It’s likely you have tried to tune into a radio station in your area, only to find a lot of interference from other stations not staying within the parameters of their frequency. Electronic reception is often subject to “noise” from other broadcasting devices. Even a cell phone being used in your area may make noise on your radio or create interference on your TV set.  These are just some of the nuisances we have to endure in our ever-growing electronic world.

But what does this have to do with your marketing?

To view a PDF of this article please CLICK HERE.

The essence of interference is that it hampers having a clear signal, and so interference in one’s business activities can hamper a clear focus. This is especially true in marketing.

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