The California Autobody Association Glendale Foothill Chapter meeting, on April 28th, featured speakers from three major providers of Refinish Materials Calculators. Wayne Krause and Brian Bragg from Mitchell presented Mitchell RMC. Bob Klem, president of PaintEx, presented PaintEx. Richard Palmer, President and CEO of Computer Logic, presented PMCLogic. Mr. Palmer traveled the farthest, coming from their headquarters in Macon, Georgia.

Many science fiction films speculate on what it would be like for outer space aliens to make first contact with humans. Some jokingly suggest a humorous encounter with an animal assumed to be our most intelligent species, but the message is clear: That first encounter can set expectations for all that will follow.

I recently checked out the websites of a few current and past body shop clients. In all but a few, there were virtually no changes from the last time I looked nearly a year ago.

Driving around and noticing which shops are still somewhat busy during this economic downturn is very revealing. One common denominator that I’ve noticed is the way these busy shops persist with their marketing programs even when they’ve had to lay off some technicians and make other cuts in expenses.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009 18:04

Franklin---The Hard-Sell May Be Needed Now!

I recently spotted a local mechanic going on-site to do some customer repairs. He had his ASE emblem in his truck window and a magnetic sign on the door advertising “Auto repairs at your home or office.” With the recent downturn in the economy, many technicians have been laid off. Most of those who can’t find another job go on unemployment until business improves. But there are a few enterprising guys like the mechanic I saw. He went out and hustled his own business.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008 13:10

Franklin --- Twelve Commandments of Marketing

1.    When Business Is So Slow You Have Time On Your Hands, You Must Go Out And Do More Marketing And Selling To Bring In More Business!

With a tight economy at hand, shops are looking for ways to bring in more business and to increase profits. Many shop owners I’ve spoken to recently told me they still have people coming in for estimates. It’s just that they’re not capturing enough jobs.
Every waiter and waitress in the country is  instructed to ask every diner if they would like pie or a dessert menu at the end of the meal. Although nearly 80% say “no,” the 80/20 rule is working fine. The 20% who say “yes,” add nicely to the restaurant’s bottom line, and the waiters and waitresses enjoy enhanced tips.
King Gillette was so frustrated with continually sharpening his straight razor, he invented the safety razor with a disposable blade and made a fortune in the process. Frederick W. Smith became so frustrated with the slowness of regular mail, that he developed the concept of overnight delivery which eventually became Federal Express.
Saturday, 02 August 2008 10:17

Obtaining and Retaining a Dealership Relationship

Written by Tom Franklin
A while back I was contacted by a local body shop to create a proposal for them to attempt to obtain a contractual relationship with a very desirable dealership nearby. They were pleased with the proposal write-up, but I never heard whether or not they got the deal. Nevertheless, I added this proposal write-up to the collection of files I include with my book, Top 40 Marketing Tactics for Body Shops.
Monday, 07 July 2008 12:05

When a Solution Becomes a Larger Problem

Written by Tom Franklin

Dis-solve: (verb) 1. To pass or cause to pass into solution; 2. To melt; 3. To cause to disappear or dispel; 4. To separate into component parts; disintegrate.

Monday, 02 June 2008 10:29

Cranking Out Estimates to Employ as a Marketing Tool

Written by Tom Franklin

The past few years have been fairly good for most of my body shop clients. In fact, business has been so good it’s been difficult to get some shop owners and managers to get serious about marketing initiatives. They may get interested in an idea for a short time, but as soon as business picks up, that interest disappears. 

Wednesday, 02 April 2008 10:18

Drilling Down for Marketing Results

Written by Tom Franklin

We’ve all had a customer come into the shop with bumper damage. You write the estimate and he stares at the total cost, stunned! “How could a little bumper damage possibly cost this much?” he exclaims. After you show him the cost of the reinforcement bar, impact strip, (etc, etc.) and then explain how the impact also pushed the fender into the quarter panel requiring additional repairs and refinishing, he may look a little less stunned. And you hope he may begin to understand how what seems to be superficial damage may have traveled far deeper than he could have imagined.

Friday, 29 February 2008 17:00

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?

Thursday, 31 January 2008 17:00

The Challenge of Enticing Customers to Return to Your Shop Three Times

Written by Tom Franklin

I recently wrote an article berating shop owners who wasted marketing money on ineffective advertising (which is most of it). I pointed out that few people who have recently been in an accident will look to an ad to find a shop for repairs.

 

Monday, 31 December 2007 17:00

Getting Real Help with Marketing

Written by Tom Franklin

Recently one of my readers called to ask how he could find a professional salesperson to go out and sell prospects on sending business to his shop. He had run ads for sales people and interviewed quite a few. He advertised on Monster.com and other online job sites. He may have even tried out a few applicants. But basically he couldn't find any that could effectively go out and represent his shop. I told him he would probably never find anyone who could. Why is that?

 

Friday, 30 November 2007 17:00

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.

 

Wednesday, 31 October 2007 17:00

Clever Strategies for Drawing in New Customers

Written by Tom Franklin
After more than forty years in marketing and sales, I’ve concluded that most ineffective marketing comes down to a failure to do three things:
Sunday, 30 September 2007 17:00

Closest Sources of New Business

Written by Tom Franklin

Quality shop owners would generally prefer to replace a damaged part with an OEM part rather than a used part or an aftermarket part. They know that the part from the original manufacturer will be most likely to fit well and thus save them time and trouble. If they can find a used OEM part in reasonably good condition, this would probably be their second choice. The last choice would be the aftermarket part, possibly manufactured in Taiwan, and often lacking in correct dimensions and useablility.

Friday, 31 August 2007 17:00

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
 

Quite a few shop owners oppose DRPs and don’t wish to participate. But I have observed that all of the most prosperous shops I have visited (and those are many) have several DRPs. I’ve also noted that most requests for marketing assistance start with a request to obtain DRP status for the shop.
Tuesday, 31 July 2007 17:00

Riding the winds of change: making new technology work for your shop

Written by Tom Franklin

“Fly upon the wings of the wind.” Psalms 18:10

In the early 1990s I went to work selling software for CCC Information Systems. I had been in marketing and sales most of my life, but I had never seen a product sell like CCC’s computerized estimating software. Shop owners practically lined up to buy CCC’s “Ezest” product. Mitchell and ADP also got in the game and enjoyed bountiful sales. What was the secret to their success?

Monday, 02 July 2007 14:22

Patience plays the biggest role in marketing and advertising returns

Written by Tom Franklin
Definition: impatience -- (1) The inability to wait patiently; (2) Annoyed because of a delay; uneasy, restless.
    John decided to spend some money on advertising and marketing for his shop. He ran ads in local publications and hired a marketing representative to distribute flyers and to offer donuts, flowers, pens and pads to agents, dealership principals, and other collision repair prospects. After three months he dropped the ads. He was annoyed. “They aren’t working,” he said. “We haven’t had a single call.” Six months later he fired the marketing representative. He hadn’t seen a single job from his investments.
    Recently a shop owner in my area was promoting his shop to several different types of prospects. They included some dealership principals, some insurance executives, and some local business owners. He knew he would have to invite each of these prospects to visit his shop at some point — not an easy task in the course of a busy week. Nearly complete vehicles had not been delivered yet and many new jobs were just being disassembled for repairs and refinishing. Ideally, he would like to have the shop in pristine shape to take even one of these prospects through.
Wednesday, 02 May 2007 10:56

Tapping into the referral source inherent in each new customer

Written by Tom Franklin
    Suppose every customer that brought a vehicle to your shop for repair brought along 10 more customers for you. As one customer became 10 and 10 customers became 100 and 100 became 1,000, you would soon be maxed out. Yes, this is a fantasy because every customer will not bring in 10 referrals. But even so, every customer is capable of many more potential referrals than 10 and it’s up to you to draw out those referrals.
Thursday, 05 April 2007 14:03

Inattention is the root cause of lost customers and profits

Written by Tom Franklin

Recently a local shop hired a very experienced estimator. Not only had she worked in many shops, but she had also worked as an independent appraiser and an appraiser for a major insurance company. One of her tasks was to check on the shop’s relationship with DRP directors and a local dealership, She was startled to discover relationships with a couple of the DRPs had soured a bit and the relationship with the dealership was all but lost.

 
"Begin with the end in mind."
        -- Stephen R. Covey

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. 

Saturday, 01 December 2001 17:00

Marketing strategies for an economic downturn

Economic indicators were already falling and a recession was looming when the catastrophe with the planes hitting New York's World Trade Center added to our economic pain. I'm already seeing a major slow-down in many shops in my area. "Business-as-usual" can be deadly at a time like this. What should a shop owner be doing to counteract the impact of these world events on his or her business profits?  

Monday, 31 December 2001 17:00

Two rules for successful marketing

Early in my marketing training I met a marketing genius who said there were only two rules for successful marketing: (1) Reach a large enough volume of prospective buyers to guarantee a steady flow of business; and (2) Crank out the work so fast that you impress the hell out of everyone including the critics!
Monday, 31 December 2001 17:00

Marketing is a full time job

There's an old saying: "When everyone is responsible for it, no one is." If everyone is responsible for seeing the door is locked at the end of the day and no one person is designated to do it, there's a fair chance it won't be done at all. The same thing is true of marketing. There must be a specific person designated to do the job and to follow each initiative all the way through to a satisfactory conclusion. 

Thursday, 31 January 2002 17:00

The power of repetition in marketing

It's been said that one of the most effective tortures of all time was the Chinese Water Torture. Supposedly interrogation using this technique was always effective. The person being interrogated was placed under dripping water that slowly drove the man mad while it gradually dripped a hole in his head.

Thursday, 28 February 2002 17:00

Everyone is slow is no excuse

Written by Tom Franklin

Around the holidays, I hear a common refrain in many body shops, and it's not a Christmas carol. You ask "How's business?" and the shop owner says, "It' s slow, but I hear everyone's slow." It's been said that "misery loves company." I could just hear this shop owner calling his buddy who owns a shop across town: "Yeah, it's slow over here, but I hear everyone's slow." 

Sunday, 31 March 2002 17:00

Build a powerful database

Effective marketing is controlling a profitable piece of market share in your community. In just about every aspect of life, having essential information is the key to maintaining control. Having information about interest rates is the key to getting a low-interest loan. Having information about where to post notices or make calls is the key to finding effective employees. Knowing your parts, labor and overhead costs is essential to making a profit in your business. Having information about decision makers in dealerships, fleet management companies and insurance companies is the key to taking control of business coming from the ones you're after for referrals.

How's this for a wild claim -- a consultant with whom I'm acquainted would guarantee to solve any company's problems if they would allow him unlimited access to question every employee without revealing or reporting to management who said what during his interviews. Well, maybe it isn't such a wild claim. 

Tuesday, 30 April 2002 17:00

Exercise your creativity muscle

"Failure to flex our imaginative muscles is as deplorable as breaking down our physical strength through lack of proper exercise." -- Walt E. Disney 

Monday, 05 March 2007 15:46

Is a realistic marketing budget possible?

Written by Tom Franklin

    If you’ve been in business a while, it’s likely you have been hit up for contributions by every organization and charity in your vicinity. When you first started out, you probably just sent a few bucks to those that struck you as desirable enough to support. But once you contribute to one, you get on the list and soon you’re swamped by requests for donations.

I have recently finished re-reading Stephen Covey's excellent book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (Simon & Schuster Fireside Book, 1990). As I read through Covey's basic principles of personal vision, leadership, management, communication, cooperation, renewal and interdependence, it occurred to me that for every positive trait, there is an equal and opposite negative trait. 

Sunday, 30 June 2002 17:00

Delay: the road to ruin

It's been said "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." I would add, "The road to ruin is paved with good intentions." 

Wednesday, 31 July 2002 17:00

Leadership: A larger vision

Shop owners are generally strong-willed men and women who have had to fight their way to ownership of their businesses, then fight even harder to make their businesses work. As an owner they are in a position of leadership. But are they really leaders, and does it matter? 

Saturday, 31 August 2002 17:00

Inattention -- the root cause of failure

Quite a few years ago, one of my clients was a fast food establishment. They were having a continual turn-over of managers and couldn't seem to keep one for more than a few weeks. We did an analysis and found that the job called for simultaneously watching the cooks, the clean-up people, the take-out window, the lines where employees were taking the eat-in orders, and the cash registers. When we asked a couple of ex-managers what the problem was, they said while they were watching one employee, one of the others was certain to make a major mistake. They felt it was impossible to keep track of everything they were expected to. 

Monday, 30 September 2002 17:00

The great American body shop

The autobody business has changed dramatically the last few years. Consolidators are now even moving into smaller communities that few would have ever expected just a few years ago when they started in major metropolitan areas. Insurance companies are getting more and more aggressive in their efforts to control claims costs and repair facilities -- even to the point of getting into the autobody business themselves! 

Monday, 30 September 2002 17:00

To make it big you have to be discovered

Written by Tom Franklin

I live in Los Angeles, California, often called LA-LA-LAND, the city of fantasies and dreams. Each year hundreds of beautiful young ladies and handsome men descend on this city, hoping to become stars. Many of them wind up waiting tables while they're waiting to be "discovered." After all, Fabian was "discovered" sitting on a door stoop. Elvis Presley was "discovered" by the Colonel. Many such stars are "discovered" by some enterprising promoter who sees a potential money-making machine for himself if they succeed. But even to be "discovered," the hopeful "stars" have to put themselves in some situation where they'll be seen, even if it's only waiting tables in some classy restaurant. 

Friday, 31 January 2003 17:00

Limited growth? What to do about it!

Almost every shop owner I speak to tells me he or she wants more business. But when we start talking about business growth, I begin to hear reluctances. Too much growth means hiring more people, which means more paper work, more reports to the government, more insurance, and on and on. It also means more capital investment to cover additional equipment and to cover accounts receivable during the interval between the time parts are purchased and checks arrive for completed jobs. Everyone wants to grow in profitability, but very few want to face the costs and pains of growth. 

Saturday, 31 May 2003 17:00

Getting power to persist and grow

"Power" is a peculiar word, having both negative and positive implications. The first definition in the dictionary is simply "the ability or capacity to act or perform effectively." Hopefully your estimator possesses selling power. The most common definition that comes to mind when hearing the word is "strength or force exerted or capable of being exerted" -- military power, political power, or financial power. Similarly we may think of the meaning: "a person, group or nation having great influence or control over others." 

I recently did a seminar for the Nebraska Autobody Association during their "Collision Day" event in Lincoln, Nebraska. Located, as I am, in one of the most populous cities in the world - with arguably the most cars (since we have just now begun a rapid transit system) - I wasn't prepared to address so many shop owners in such lightly populated areas, with so few vehicles to repair. Strategies which work well in a densely populated area like Los Angeles seem not to have much value for shop owners in these small, rural communities. 

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article on "Funding Risk." Most shop owners want to grow their business, but in today's economy, it seems a bigger concern is simply not going backwards -- growing smaller. Taking risks to grow seem doubly dangerous when just surviving is difficult. Nevertheless, it is vital to keep growing, and finding the resources to grow may be easier than you imagined. 

Thursday, 31 July 2003 17:00

Profit centers — confusing or vital?

While doing a marketing analysis for Phil Horn at Village Auto Body Works in Westbury, New York, I was surprised to learn that mechanical work was preferred to body work in Horn's area. After all, in California very few body shops have a full-fledged mechanical shop because that service is considered to be relatively unprofitable. 

Sunday, 31 August 2003 17:00

Address your burn out by setting new goals

Written by Tom Franklin
"If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up somewhere else."

                                                                        - Yogi Berra

Friday, 31 October 2003 17:00

Why thank you works so well

Written by Tom Franklin
"The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated."

         -William James

Sunday, 30 November 2003 17:00

Failing to get a response can cost you

Written by Tom Franklin

I recently stopped by a shop that was caught in an awkward dilemma. A customer's car had been completely repaired and repainted - at least so it seemed.

Wednesday, 31 December 2003 17:00

Re-structuring for renewal

Nature provides us with many wondrous examples of renewal. The snake sheds his skin and appears with a new one. The caterpillar morphs into a colorful butterfly. In fact most of the cells of the human body are gradually replaced over a period of about seven years. As we once again move into a new year, perhaps it's time to renew and re-create a powerful forward thrust to gain new or better or more profitable business.
Saturday, 31 January 2004 17:00

Dare to double your business in 2004!

"In the long run, men hit only what they aim at."

                 -Henry David Thoreau, 1854                                   
 

We recently had an unpleasant experience with a service provider. It wasn't that his work was bad. He was a good craftsman, with state-of-the-art tools and equipment. The quality of his work was good, but he lacked the most important quality we all look for when we choose someone to serve us: trust. 

Reactive (adj.): Tending to be responsive or to react to a stimulus; characterized by reaction. 

Wednesday, 30 June 2004 17:00

Start marketing early and follow through

From time to time, a client calls me to say business is way down. He needs to do some powerful marketing and sales right away! This is already a silly request because, in general, marketing efforts take time to develop and to realize a result. The best time to market is when you don't really need the business. By the time you're desperate for more business, it's usually too late.