Friday, 29 February 2008 09:00

Lack of Time is Poor Excuse For Neglecting Marketing Programs

Written by Tom Franklin

Every professional has a pet peeve. In fact I’m sure that you, as a collision repair professional, have many things that really annoy you. But as a marketing consultant, there is one specific thing that bothers me most of all. People pay me good money for marketing tactics and strategies. Some will put them into practice for a short time, but soon will stop. Others won’t even begin to take the marketing measures I recommend. Why is this? Have I suggested actions that are too complicated? Too expensive? Too difficult to carry out?

No, what I generally hear is they just don’t have time to implement them. They started and then stopped. Perhaps that little marketing brought in some new business. Now they’ve gotten busy and marketing is forgotten. “So,” you might say, “they got what they wanted. What’s the problem?” It’s easy to forget that the best time to get a loan is when you don’t really need it. The best time to market is when you don’t really need it. Most often you don’t see results from marketing for several weeks or even months. It’s vital to keep planting the marketing seeds so you can see that harvest a couple of months down the line.

Taking time to market
The body shop business is very demanding. Most shop owners I talk with are “hands on” managers. They’re involved in making decisions all day long. Most that I see have very little leisure time in a day. Making marketing calls, mailings, or live visits can be time consuming and difficult to fit into a busy day. I’ve even seen shops that hire a person to help with marketing but then begin to use that person for other tasks: collection calls, supplements and more. Is there a way to fit in at least the basic marketing steps that will keep business growing? Definitely!
For example, one simple move is to keep in contact with other businesses near by. Take a few extra minutes during a lunch break (or have your marketing person do it) and put some brochures in the neighborhood car wash, pet store, hardware store, laundromat -- just about anywhere. Most local businesses will be happy to arrange a brochure or business card exchange on their front counter if you’ll put their promo on your counter.
When you’re driving around, especially in parking lots, watch for damaged recent model vehicles that are likely prospects for repair. Write a brief estimate on the back of your business card and leave it by the driver side door handle. What can it hurt? How long will it take? If a simple move like this works, it could result in an entire family bringing their cars to your shop.

Keep promotional materials flowing
When many shop owners think of marketing, they imagine a large, costly campaign. I’ve seen the best results from some of the simplest marketing moves. One shop I assist in Sunnyvale, California, hadn’t done much in the way of marketing for years. I started him on a simple postcard program. I had him take at least one good before and after photo of a relatively heavy hit to use on the postcard. The photo had to be from the same angle and show a dramatic improvement. I also asked him to collect comments from satisfied customers so we could use a couple on the postcard.

Initially we started with mailing the postcards to businesses in the area that would be likely to have company vehicles. We also mailed to some independent agents. After mailing the postcards for a couple of months, new business began to come in. He then began to also mail postcards to prior customers, especially on holidays like the fourth of July, Hallowe’en and even Valentine’s day. He continued to see results.
How long did this take? A few minutes to take some photos. A few extra minutes to request customer satisfaction statements. Initially my client had my service develop mailing lists for him, but eventually hired someone to handle them. He continued to have us create the cards for him. This simple postcard system has worked well for quite a few shops I consult with. The trick is getting them to take that small amount of time to do it and to stick with it.

Use everyone you can
Shops vary a lot in who they have available to help with marketing. It’s always best to designate someone specific, or if you have to do it yourself, designate specific time. You know you have to set a specific time to compile tax information or to write checks. These actions get done because you can’t avoid them. Make marketing equally important, because it really is.
If you have to delegate marketing, think about using a wider range of people to help. If you offer a little extra compensation to technicians, you may find some that have a talent for marketing. Many actions are so simple, you might even be able to use your children or perhaps a spouse or significant other. When you are determined enough to make the time and get the job done, you can find a way to fit it in or get the help you need.

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