Tom Franklin

Collision repair shop owners are mainly in the people business. The days of one-man shops are long gone. Every shop has employees, and most have technicians specialized in body, paint, structural and more. The typical shop owner came up through these ranks and is sufficiently knowledgeable about the details to hire competent workers. But marketing is different. Few shop owners come from a background in sales or marketing, and only fairly affluent shops can afford to hire personnel solely for marketing and sales. But that doesn't mean the need isn't there. To survive today every shop needs to bring in new customers and that means reaching out with sales and marketing.  And it may mean that some employees have to do double duty. Generally that means estimators and front desk people, but it could include the parts guy and even some unusually communicative technicians.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 00:00

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 reluctance. 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.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:00

The Power of P.R. - Body Shop Edition

Most people think they know what "P.R." means when they see it. Movies, TV, recorded music and other forms of entertainment rely heavily on promotion and most people think that P.R. is just a synonym for "promotion." But the fact is P.R. stands for "public relations," a very distinct aspect of marketing. The dictionary tells us "public relations" consists of "methods and means by which a person or an organization seeks to promote a favorable relationship with the public." It is often confused with "publicity" which is the effort to get favorable mention is media and the press.

Friday, 20 February 2015 00:00

New Century Marketing Basics

Global changes are reshaping the nature of marketing today. In the earlier part of the 20th century, efforts to reach a prospective customer were referred to as "advertising." Promotion, product packaging and publicity were all considered parts of advertising. Gradually these became four separate specialties.

Thursday, 22 January 2015 00:00

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 metamorphasizes into a colorful butterfly. 

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, better, or more profitable business. I see the most successful shops in my area looking to a future of change. Technicians are being re-trained to repair new vehicles. 

The once a month, one-hour conference began again with an invitation for individuals to commit to being inventors of our industry's future. Members take an oath: "We are repairers, insurers and vehicle manufacturers who hereby declare the possibility of aligning our industry to a common vision, which puts the consumer first."

Although there are still many more independent shops than franchise and multiple operator shops, many of the best DRPs and dealership deals often go to the well-funded group shops. This trend may increase, as vehicle manufacturers require expensive equipment, tooling and certification to work on their vehicles. To carve out a successful niche for an independent shop, in the past I've suggested a variety of options. One that I think gets too little attention is the commercial vehicle market.

Recently I had the pleasure of being the only reporter at a local autobody association chapter meeting. This was an especially interesting meeting focusing on the new Ford F150 truck and its aluminum body. There was a great panel of industry experts whose comments could significantly impact the success of a shop trying to perform more competitively and profitably. So I was troubled when one member of the panel asked how many shop owners were present and only about six or seven raised their hands. This was a room containing an audience of more than one hundred people. One would think that at least a quarter of the attendees would be major shop decision-makers. But I shouldn't have been surprised. I've heard the same question at numerous meetings with the same low decision-maker count.

The marketing world has changed significantly during the past few years. So much has moved on-line that most other marketing expenditures may no longer make sense in your area.

A driver improvement course authorized by the DMV in California tells us there are five basic emotional categories: HAPPINESS, SADNESS, FEAR, LOVE and HATE.

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