Friday, 31 August 2007 10:00

Betting on More Business

Written by Tom Franklin


“When I go into any business deal, my chief thoughts are on how I’m going to save myself if things go wrong.” – J. Paul Getty

        During the 1970s, an author named Max Gunther interviewed dozens of people, especially psychiatrists, gamblers, investors, astrologers and others who had an interest in “luck.” He was writing a book he called “The Luck Factor,” in which he presented the stories of the very lucky and the very unlucky. He found five traits and patterns of behavior that characterized the lucky and were conspicuously lacking in the unlucky.

        Perhaps the characteristic that you would think most unlikely to be included, he called “The Pessimism Paradox.” One professional Las Vegas gambler he interviewed put it succinctly: “Don’t think about winning until you’ve made yourself ready to lose.” After his many interviews, Gunther says: “Lucky people, as a rule… nurture a basic core of pessimism so dense and tough and prickly that it startles you when you first come upon it.” One famous investor said: “On the stock market, optimism can kill you!”

        The same may be said of shop owners who take big risks when the probability of winning is no greater than the possibility of losing. A study of bad risk bus drivers who had more than a normal share of accidents found that they were overly optimistic with too much faith in their own skills, believing that other drivers would be sensible, and an over-reliance on luck! Some of the accident-prone drivers were highly superstitious.

Most marketing is risky

Probably the least certain of all things one can predict is human behavior. Who would have thought so many people would buy a “pet rock?” Or that a tattoo parlor would be a good business today? I’ve observed many shop owners who spent significant sums on promotional schemes: billboards, radio and TV ads, mailings and more that cost thousands of dollars but brought in very little – if any – business.

        I’ve seen bills for Yellow Page ads well over a thousand dollars. Do you really get work from the Yellow Pages? I’ve also seen body shop ads in all kinds of obscure publications. Can’t you see it now. The guy just got rear-ended by a semi-truck. He says, “Now where did I put that copy of Women’s Wear Weekly that had that ad for a good body shop?” Give me a break. Who checks ads when they need collision repair? Maybe one in a thousand if that!

        Marketing is a lot like fishing. You put the worm on the hook and throw it in the water hoping some fish will notice it. In a world where people are bombarded with endless commercials and ads all day long, the odds are far worse than gambling in Las Vegas.

Rules to reduce the risk

        There are a few common sense guidelines that a smart shop owner should observe. The first is the simplest of all: promoting to someone who knows you will always be more effective than promoting to a stranger. This tells you that your most effective promotion will be to your past customers (provided you did good work for them the first time around).

        The second is nearly as obvious: promoting to someone you know actually needs your services will be more effective than a shotgun approach just promoting to everyone. This tells you that you have a better chance of getting a job if you put your promotional message right on damaged vehicles. Or that you somehow manage to get police, attorney or court notifications of vehicles that have just been in an accident so you can directly contact the vehicle owner.

        From there on down it gets more and more uncertain. Your next best chance is promoting to people who are contacted when someone has an accident. That’s why shop owners try to strike a deal with tow-truck drivers, insurance agents, fleet managers and even mechanics who people trust with their vehicle and who they might contact when they have an accident.


Shotgun approach with specifics

One final rule is you’re far more likely to get repair business from someone who owns a vehicle than one who doesn’t. At one time it was possible to get lists of car owners from the state department of motor vehicles. In most states that’s no longer possible. Nevertheless, there are some list companies that collect names of vehicle owners from dealerships, car clubs and subscribers to automotive publications.

Another Good Source

One good source is Beach List Direct, which offers customized list research and recommendations. Some of the publications and sources they draw names from include:

*ATV Rider Magazine (Primedia)

*Automobile Magazine (Primedia)

*AutoSport Catalog Buyers

*The Car Loan Center

*Car Quote Direct

*Car Warranty Provider

*Eastwood Automotive Tools

*Four Wheel Drive Hardware Catalog Buyers

*International Auto Parts Catalog Buyers

*Motor Trend Magazine (Primedia)

*NASCAR Racing Fans

*Opt2mail Automobile Responders

*Performance Products

*Primedia Automotive Masterfile

*Primedia NASCAR/Racing Enthusiasts Masterfile

*QUAD Off-Road

*Raceline Direct

*Sport Rider Magazine (Primedia)

*Sport Utility Vehicle Owners

*Stock Car Racing Enthusiasts

*Truck Trend Magazine (Primedia)

*Vintage Automobile Owners

      If you don’t mind gambling, you can do some very selective mailings (I always suggest postcards) to owners of a specific make, model or type of vehicle in your geographical area. For Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, you can get lists from TMA List Brokers and Management.

        This company lets you target individuals by the type of car or vehicle they own or lease. Choose from all makes, models, and years. They say whether it’s a Honda Accord or a Lexus LX, you can target the exact consumer you need by the vehicle they drive. They say the information is multi-sourced and double verified from public records, credit files, and mortgage files.

        Privacy laws in California and some other states make it more difficult for list brokers to obtain the kind of detailed information available from TMA, but it is still possible to get useful lists of subscribers to automotive publications. (See sidebar.)

A gamble that still beats Vegas

        Even within a broad base like mail lists, it is possible to get better odds by being very specific. If you ask for BMW owners or Mercedes Benz owners or some other specific make, you will get better information. But for even better odds, go to the car clubs and other organizations yourself (or send someone). Direct live contact always beats printed or broadcast communication. Even in Las Vegas, you’ll get better odds if you can “think out of the box.” Broadening and then specifying your marketing targets will do just that. Just keep in mind the words of the professional Las Vegas gambler who said: “Don’t even think about winning until you’ve made yourself ready to lose.”

                Tom Franklin has been a sales and marketing representative and consultant for forty years and is the author of the books, “Business Battlefield Marketing for Body Shops,” “Tom Franklin’s Top 40 Marketing Tactics for Body Shops,” and “Strategies for Greater Body Shop Growth.” His marketing company now provides marketing solutions and services for body shops and other businesses. He can be reached for questions or comments at (323) 871-6862, by fax at (323) 465-2228, or by E-Mail: tbfranklin@aol.com.