We recently ended an election campaign season during which exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright lies were rampant. It made me think of John, a small shop owner who surprised me when I asked where his customers came from. He had been in business for nearly 30 years, but he told me he didn’t rely on any corporate referrals, dealership business or any of the other usual sources that many shop owners tell me are vital to keeping them in business. “So,” I said, “where does your business come from?” He replied, “My customers just keep coming back. After 30 years, you accumulate a lot of customers.”
In the early ‘90s, the term “Piggy-back marketing” meant that the trial of a new product on the market was linked to another product that already had wide acceptance in the marketplace. The intent was that this weaker new product would be “piggy-backed” on the strength of the “carrier” product. Soon the practice was expanded so that many products were “piggy-backed” on products already being used. You see this all the time when you receive a credit card bill or gasoline credit card bill and find offers inside to buy a wide range of products. You know this must be a successful strategy because it has continued on so long.
I've written about ways to use the customer information form to build business many times, but I still come across estimators who either expect front desk people to handle it and then ignore it, or just capture the minimum info about the vehicle and insurance company.
Remember when you last drove a brand new car? Think back and remember how wonderfully solid it felt. If you’ve ever driven an old car that rattled and squeaked and made all sorts of random noises, you could really appreciate that new car. It had not yet yielded to the relentless attack of the forces of entropy, one of the most powerful forces in the universe.
I was recently talking with an estimator at a relatively busy shop in my area. I asked what his biggest problem was these days. He said it was the people who came in for an estimate but wouldn’t leave the car. He said no matter how much he promised, he couldn’t close the deal on many of the tough customers. It occurred to me that he might be putting too much faith in the power of words. Some people simply have a distrust of sales pitches, phony promises and fancy words. Maybe they responded to one too many TV commercial promises or a phone solicitor or one of the many over-hyped ads for products that never live up to their promises.
During the past 15 years or so, I’ve noticed that many body shops spend a great deal of time and money promoting to referral sources that never send a single job. There is some logic to continually dripping on prospects in the hope that at least a few of them will send a job or two one day. And if the promotion going out isn’t too costly, it can’t hurt.
In the world of big corporation marketing, how a company or product is “positioned” is a big deal. For example, a shop that is known to be the biggest, or the fastest, or (not likely but possibly) the cheapest, or (as many would like to claim), the highest quality, would be likely to hold that position in people’s minds indefinitely, unless something radically changed their mind. In copiers, Xerox is still thought of as the standard, in computers IBM is still first in most people’s minds, and Hertz is still the top rental car name people think of.
Last year, as summer approached, I wrote an article about holding an event in the summer to bring in new business. I was pleased recently to learn of an event put on by a shop in my area. "POWER BABES," a professional womens' networking group in the vicinity of the shop, meets regularly to explore and discuss issues of interest and importance to the members. The location of the meeting is different each time, and often held at a place of business of interest to the members. The marketing lady at the host shop learned of this group of about forty women and invited them to hold their next meeting at the shop.
It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Yet, with today’s digital cameras in cell phones, even, pictures are worth less than a dime a dozen. Yesterday’s promotional pieces, flyers, brochures and even website pages, all may have nice photos, but people are less impressed with them these days. To really make an impact on a potential source of referral business, you need to get them to come to the shop and see the real thing. One live contact is easily worth more than a thousand pictures.
This has been a year of extreme weather. Recently, fierce winds blew down hundreds of trees in one area I’m familiar with. Many of those trees damaged vehicles parked on the street or in driveways and those damaged vehicles wound up in a local collision center to be repaired. Those local shop owners obviously were pleased to get the business, but only one that I know of took the time to get some photos and get the story to a local newspaper to get the name of their shop in print.
I recently received an advertising booklet in the mail. Most of the ads in the booklet were for local cleaners and various personal and home services. There was also one ad for a collision repair shop, but the shop was located many miles from my mail service where I received the booklet.
I recently noticed a shop that had several excellent repeat business sources lose one of them—a major dealership —to a competitor. When I inquired about how this could happen, I learned that the shop’s owner and manager were busy focusing their full attention on saving one of their insurance DRPs. During this time, they somewhat neglected that major dealership source. This gave the competitor an opening to jump in and grab that business. I’m sure that in retrospect, this shop owner realized he should have assigned someone—or hired someone —to maintain giving that dealership all of the attention they were accustomed to receiving.