The week of Jan 13, 2014, Ford Motor Co. announced the completely re-engineered Ford F-150 pickup truck featuring aluminum from the hood to the tailgate, 700 pounds lighter than the previous model. Mercedes Benz introduced the next C-Class sports sedan with a body built mostly of aluminum, and Audi’s A8 luxury sedan had an aluminum chassis almost 20 years ago. At the time an Audi executive said, “there are only a handful of shops capable of repairing it. It has to be shipped to one of those centers to be fixed.” For them the next step is the doors and the body. And aluminum isn’t the only challenge for collision repair centers. The BMW Electric 13 is mostly made from plastic-like carbon fiber.
When you’re running a busy shop, it’s necessary to have many systems and procedures more or less on automatic. There’s no time to address every situation newly every time. Lean processes and procedures have been carefully thought out so if everyone adheres to the system, the shop runs smoothly.
A while back I was sitting in a body shop waiting area, waiting to present a new product. I watched a potential customer pull up in a relatively new BMW. He came in and took a seat. Front desk people were handling paper work and one customer. Estimators were busy in another room. The guy waited for about 20 minutes and got up and drove off.
I knew this one shop owner who was obsessed with the new. He wanted to be out in front of other shops in every way possible: superior equipment, better trained personnel, and of course, innovative marketing. He was always trying new things with his marketing but this got him into some serious trouble. While he was concentrating on the new, another shop grabbed one of his DRPs, and another one replaced his position as authorized repair shop for a major dealership. With his intense focus on the new, he forgot about what I would call, “maintenance marketing.”
A few years back I attended a management-training seminar put on by Kepner-Tregoe, Inc., a prestigious management consulting company based in Princeton, New Jersey. The principal speaker noted that the company had completed a follow-up survey to find out how many companies had implemented the costly plan and procedures they had developed for those clients. Sadly, they found that only about 20 percent of their clients had put more than a few of their recommendations to work, and many had simply put the entire package on a shelf and forgotten about it. This tendency to put new projects on the shelf is common to many kinds of business, and the collision repair industry isn’t immune to it.
A while back several new shops opened in my area. When I asked what they were doing about marketing, almost everyone said Yellow Pages and 800 number first. Some had bought into advertising mailer packages and others local magazine ads. Naturally some were focused on putting together a presentation package to send to DRP coordinators in the hope of getting insurance work. Some were also going around taking business cards to agents. Almost no one was doing any direct solicitation to get immediate jobs in the door.
Many of the decisions we make at key decisive moments determine the course of our business thereafter. Buying expensive equipment, hiring a high-priced employee, investing in a management system—each of these decisive choices may be what I like to call “pivotal decisions.” The cost of making a wrong decision could set back the progress of your entire business.
One rule you’ll find in many sales and marketing books is that the average sale is made after the sixth visit or call, but the average sales person gives up after the third visit or call. This information provides a reliable way to increase sales power.
Are signs still relevant in this digital age of websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more? The U.S. Census Bureau says 18% of households relocate every year. It’s well known that many people choose a place of business by the attractiveness of its appearance and signs. People who move into the vicinity of a collision repair facility are likely to only know of the shop if they see a sign and like it. The Small Business Agency reports that businesses that add, improve or enlarge signage enjoy an average revenue increase of about 5%.
The collision repair world is changing rapidly these days. I recently attended an autobody association meeting where a representative from Toyota introduced their new Parts Bridge product. The estimating system with which they decide to integrate this product will have exact manufacturer’s billing prices and technical service bulletin information to ensure parts are installed properly. It was suggested that this product would eliminate most supplements. Suddenly a large part of the estimator’s job would be reduced greatly.
The dictionary says ‘pilfer’ means to steal articles of little value, but you might say value is in the eye of the beholder. By now your competition probably has a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and more.
As insurance companies set up 800 number claims lines or move away from agents altogether with direct sales and service on-line, agents have become less of a marketing target for many shops. Nevertheless, there are still numerous agents almost everywhere, and many of their customers still call them when they have an accident.