Friday, 30 November 2007 09:00

Avoid Taking Easy Way Out When Targeting Probable Customers

Written by Tom Franklin

As soon as you open your doors for business, sales pitches and junk mail for every imaginable kind of ad begin to arrive. Yellow Pages, Yellow Book, and Yellow Pages in Spanish, Chinese, or whatever other languages are spoken in your area may arrive first.


Then there are the neighborhood publication classifieds and display ads in the Chamber of Commerce and other organization’s publications. The sales pitches for promotion and advertising expenditures go on and on.

Amazingly, many shop owners buy into some of the most far-out promotional pitches. They imagine someone will actually see or read one of these remote ads and come in for collision repairs. Occasionally someone may come in from an ad like that, but that’s not a good thing. It may only encourage the shop owner to waste more money on ads of this type.The fact is there are many, many more places to put that money to use to promote real business for the shop. But it can take some time and effort to find out what will really work.

It’s easier to just buy into those pitches and think the marketing and advertising job is done.

Real marketing is hard work
A good starting place is a careful analysis of the kind of customers who have already come to the shop for repairs. Were most customers women or men? Young, middle-aged or old? Was there any pattern to the kind of cars and other vehicles the shop has tended to repair? What kind of jobs have been most profitable? It can be time-consuming at first to go through prior jobs to identify customer patterns. But if a specific demographic is found, money spent soliciting more business in that area can generate much better real results!

Targeting probable customers
If a shop owner is looking for an easy way to promote more business, the best business to go after is the kind that has already found its way to the shop. I recently helped a shop build significantly more commercial business. The shop’s location in an industrial area had already attracted that kind of business. It just made sense to go after more of it.

But the manager of this shop wasn’t satisfied with the easy way out. Once he realized there was potential business in his surrounding neighborhood, he decided to call on a few of those businesses to see if he could generate even more jobs himself.

This was definitely not the easy way out. Managing a busy shop can be more than a full time job. Making time to go out and call on prospective customers can seem nearly impossible. But somehow he did it, and the results were worth it. Soon the shop was filled with commercial vehicles from the immediate area and from areas farther out that had been mailed to.

Spend time, not money
A collision repair shop isn’t an easy business to promote. Unlike a mechanical shop, customers don’t come in for periodic oil changes, tune-ups or timing belt replacements. Repeat business may occur every three to five years instead of a couple of times a year. If a mechanical shop needs a database of a thousand prior customers, a collision shop needs ten thousand (or more). Ordinary methods of advertising that may work for a mechanical shop rarely do anything at all for a body shop.

Building a reputation for honesty and quality work may be the best promotional message of all for a collision shop, but that can take a long time to develop. How can a shop owner or manager speed up the process? Some shop owners that I have seen do this well have spent far more time than money.

One very successful shop owner had a wall filled with plaques from organizations that he belonged to. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus, the Police Protective Society, Chambers of Commerce, support groups for schools, hospitals, charities and more. Wherever he went, he built a reputation for caring, for commitment, for trust and follow-through. You can’t buy that kind of positive recognition.

Leverage resources through others

Many ad proposals I’ve seen carry steep price tags – often $500 to $1,000. That same money offered as an incentive to anyone who could bring in real business would be far better spent.


Desk personnel and others often have slow times during the day or in the week. That time could be used to make phone calls (or even live calls) to agents or fleet managers or other prospective sources of business. Offering financial rewards for new business that came in as a result of those calls could motivate many people to try harder.

Avoid taking the easy way
A busy shop owner or manager may not have time to get out and call on prospective customers or even to join local organizations to promote his or her business. But everyone who is responsible for spending a shop’s marketing money wisely can take the time to evaluate those ad and promotion proposals. They can ask the hard questions: How much business is this ad likely to generate? Will readers of this publication really see the ad? Are they likely to come to


It may take a bit more work to get the answers to these questions, but doing a job completely right is rarely easy.

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.