Tom Franklin (120)
One shop, for example, has been sending and delivering a newsletter for more than five years. Every month, about 200 newsletters are hand-delivered to agents, a dozen are sent with cover letters to DRP coordinators, and others go out to dealership and commercial prospects. I learned that some agents didn’t begin sending work until they had received the newsletter for more than a year. Others took even longer. Apparently they finally noticed that this shop was going to be persistent. And perhaps they also guessed that any shop that could be that consistent and persistent with a monthly newsletter should also be persistent in seeing that every vehicle they work on is repaired right.
I also learned that many real estate agents in the area were leaving the business because of the dramatic downturn in the sales of homes. What surprised me was that one insurance agent said locally active insurance companies were getting many prior real estate agents to become insurance agents. He noted that this was heating up competition for him. But from the body shop’s point of view this could be an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with these new agents. The shop did a monthly Internet search for new local agents and immediately promoted to them to get referrals with positive results.
Going Local and MoreA shop in Pasadena, California, recently hired a local lady to handle marketing. Because she had lived in the area for years, she was aware of auto body repair opportunities that someone with less local familiarity might have missed. For example, she had worked for years helping to build floats for the annual Tournament of Roses parade and knew that they had a fleet of support vehicles. She had also worked with the Sheriff’s department. She said they posted a notice when they didn’t have damage on a vehicle for more than two weeks. And she had been attending classes at a local college that she said also had a fleet of vehicles that were frequently damaged. She immediately set about on a persistent effort to get these fleet repair jobs for the shop.
That shop had tried unsuccessfully for several years to get some additional DRP relationships. Many of the insurance companies had no local contact and the local contacts for other companies were not responding. The new marketing lady decided to ignore the local contact issue and focused on persistently contacting home offices wherever they were located in the country. The last I heard, this strategy had allowed her to send applications and photos to many more DRP coordinators with some promising results.
Another shop had found a local source of business I don’t think many shop owners would have even considered a possibility. I noticed a number of U.S. Army vehicles being repaired in the shop. I asked the manager how this could possibly have happened. He said they were vehicles assigned to local U.S. Army recruiting offices. Since there is no military base close enough to the city to use a base motor pool for maintenance and repairs, the local recruiting personnel are authorized to use local civilian sources. His persistent efforts to capture local business paid off in an unexpected way.
Prior Customer PersistenceAnother shop that keeps busy focuses exclusively on prior customers and referral sources. The owner sends out a holiday-focused postcard every month: A New Years greeting in January, Valentine’s Day in February, St. Patrick’s Day in March, and so on through the year. He says he has persisted with this marketing for a couple of years now and it brings in nearly eighty percent of his business.
Like many other shops, he also asks for birthday and anniversary dates on his customer information form and sends out greetings regularly. Another shop carries this a step further and subscribes to a service that provides birthday greeting letters with interesting historical information about major events that occurred on this same day over the years. Naturally a birthday or anniversary letter includes a gift of a discount coupon.
The key to success in all of these promotional actions is persistence. While advertising and promotion is often the first expense many businesses eliminate in tough times, these shops continued to persist and stayed relatively busy while competitor shops in the area were empty. Apparently persistence does pay!
When there are numerous professionals available in any field, the one factor that makes the difference whether one has work or not is often the willingness to go out and hustle for business. Is this also true of body shops? I believe it is.
The only thing stopping many shop owners and managers is reluctance to get out and sell. This isn’t surprising. Most people aren’t comfortable approaching strangers to solicit favors or business. They know many business people will virtually slam a door in the face of any salesperson. Shop estimators are comfortable “selling” a job when a prospect drives in for an estimate, but it’s a different matter to go out and directly solicit business.
One trick to avoiding the salesperson rejection reaction is to arrive in a different role. Arriving at the door bearing a gift usually works well. Naturally you could stop in to see local business people bringing a small holiday gift during the season (and then take a minute to inquire about the condition of their company’s cars or trucks). Other times of the year, you could stop in with a coupon or gift certificate for a free car wash or detail. This works fine as “the neighborly approach” in your own neighborhood, but it’s a bit of a stretch when you’re canvassing the outlying areas.
Another non-salesperson approach is the survey call. You announce that you’re planning to offer a new service in the area and you’re asking local business people for their opinion before investing in the new service. Your “new” service could be the installation of theft prevention devices like a welded barrier to prevent catalytic converter theft. Or it could be clear bra installation to prevent front-end sand and rock pitting. Or it could simply be rapid small dent repair with paintless dent removal. All you need for this approach is something new to talk about.
A more complex approach that I have used for years is the “reporter” approach. I write newsletters and articles for various businesses, so I can always say that I’d like to interview the business owner to publish the interview in my newsletter. If you write about someone, what can you say?
Psychologist Joyce Brothers says people respond to flattery, reward, guilt and fear, in that order. An article praising a customer or prospective customer is always welcome. And in fact these days, with e-newsletters, it’s not even necessary to go to print, but I still prefer the printed version of a newsletter. Many people like to take something to read while they have lunch or even go to the washroom. Real printed materials always beat out online publications in these instances. You may not have a newsletter in which to publish a newsletter, but if you have some clout with any local publication where you already advertise, you should be able to place an occasional article or interview.
One way to avoid on-the-spot rejection is to set appointments in advance. Unfortunately this can only be accomplished with extensive phone canvassing and can result in even more rejections. Often more can be accomplished with a cold call. When you’re standing right there in the shop or office, it’s harder to throw you out than it is to say, “Don’t come” over the phone. Nevertheless, just because they don’t throw you out, that doesn’t mean you’ll get to talk to anyone except the receptionist. You’ll want to have effective literature and a coupon or special offer to leave for the decision-maker you didn’t get to see.
Since you may actually get to talk to the decision-maker, you’ll want to have a well-practiced sales pitch. No salesperson calls on a prospective customer without a scripted presentation. What you say (or your representative says) should never be left to chance or spur of the moment, off-the-cuff statements. An easy approach to preparing a presentation is to turn on a tape recorder and do a practice presentation to a business associate, friend or professional consultant who could offer helpful suggestions. Ideally you should have a one-minute, five-minute and ten-minute presentation to be ready for unpredictable situations. When you play the tape back, you should hear points that need changing. Change them and record the presentation again. Listen again and change it again and again if necessary. In a real conversation, it’s unlikely you’ll use your presentation exactly as practiced, but having the prior preparation almost guarantees that you’ll present most of your key points effectively.
The reason most people resist making sales calls is lack of preparation. With a well-practiced sales presentation and well-designed literature to leave if necessary, you’ll have sufficient confidence that you’re ready to promote your business to any prospect. That confidence, along with your certainty that your shop provides excellent quality, will communicate to most prospects and you may be surprised at how many take you up on your offer to provide them with your superior collision repair services.
2. Much Marketing Money Is Wasted On The Wrong Target Audience. Define The Right Target Audience To Maximize And Leverage The Impact Of Your Marketing Dollars.
3. The Amount Of New Business Coming Into Your Shop Is Directly Proportional To The Amount Of Positive Communication Consistently Going Out About Your Business.
4. The Spider That Weaves The Biggest Web Catches The Most Flies. The Best Marketing Reaches The Widest Range Of Prospective Customers—As Frequently As Possible.
5. First Impressions Are Hard To Change. Use Appearance And Image To Create A Positive, Lasting Impression On Prospective New Customers Right From The Start.
6. Your Phone Image Can Create The First Impression Of Your Business. A Competent Communicator To Answer Calls, Plus A Convincing Sales Message On Hold, Creates A Positive Image And Brings In Business.
7. Knowledge Sells! Communicate Your Special Knowledge To Create Customer Confidence In Your Ability To Deliver A Quality Product.
8. Concern And Integrity Sell! Communicate Your Sincere Desire To Help Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty And Dollars.
9. A Cramped Or Cluttered Space Suggests Unprofessionalism And Scarcity. Create An Apparency Of Abundant, Orderly Space To Communicate Success And Superior Quality.
10. Speed Sells! Speed Of Response Reveals The Health Of An Organism Or An Organization. Today You Must Be Fast To Last And Prosper.
11. Creativity Sells! Color Sells! Repeatedly Communicate A Clever,
Colorful Image And Message To Attract Maximum Attention.
12. Success Sells! Keep Growing! Anything That Isn’t Growing Is Dying. The Purpose Of Marketing And Sales Is To Communicate Your Growth And Success And To Keep Your Business Growing!
I have often been surprised by the creative approaches used by some shop owners to increase business. While just about everyone says they want more insurance work, I still find shop after shop that relies strictly on previous customers, word-of-mouth, and a good sign out front to bring in a few additional drive-by customers. Nevertheless, many of these tell me their business is continually dwindling and ask, what should they be doing?
Are you stressed out? It could be said that stress is simply mis-directed energy. One shop owner struggles to shape-up a poorly performing body man instead of directing his full energy to getting a really competent worker and paying him well.
There's a new buzzword among marketing professionals these days: "integrated marketing." Like most "new" ideas, it's been around for a long time but the focus has often been elsewhere. McDonald's is probably the best known for completely "integrated marketing." Their "golden arches" identity, along with the Ronald McDonald character give them an instant focal point of identity. Advertisements, stationery, website and all of the rest of their P.R. efforts capitalize on these recognizable characteristics to arrive at an integrated marketing strategy.