Wednesday, 31 May 2006 17:00

Dedicated marketing assistant can be key to on-going results

Written by Tom Franklin

Over the years, I've provided numerous shop owners and managers with marketing strategies and procedures that they agreed would increase their business significantly. The only problem was they somehow couldn?t find time to put the strategies and procedures into practice. Running a body shop is a demanding activity. 

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Only the largest shops can afford a full-time marketing person. And only the owner with a reliable staff covering all bases will have the time to go out and market the shop himself or herself. Unless someone is specifically designated to maintain a consistent stream of marketing actions, they simply don?t get done.

Today?s employer is faced with seemingly endless requirements – workers? comp insurance, unemployment insurance, Social Security, disability insurance and more – which can make hiring an additional person an expensive proposition. And yet an effective administrative assistant to handle marketing can be very profitable for the shop. Existing office personnel could handle these tasks, but the volume of repair job paperwork to be handled usually puts the marketing tasks at the bottom of the pile. They seldom get attended to if at all.

Making marketing a priority

Many shops do have some of the basic marketing actions in place. Customer information forms ask for birthdays and anniversaries, e-mail addresses, and sometimes even customer?s company or employer to prompt for company vehicles. Customer satisfaction surveys when the completed vehicle is delivered may come with a future discount coupon or referral incentive. And often ?Thank You? letters are sent out after a job is completed. Front desk people are trained to do carry out these basic activities with some consistency. But many shops don?t even have these simple marketing necessities in place. Having one person assigned to be sure these tasks are uniformly performed can make a significant difference in the long run.

But these are the easy tasks. Real growth marketing doesn?t begin until someone is responsible for prospecting for insurance and agent referrals, new commercial business, national fleet business, local dealership referrals, local mechanic referrals and other neighborhood business referrals. These efforts could include phone calls, letters, business card exchanges, brochure display exchanges, estimate follow-up calls, prior customer referral prompting and more. But someone would need to be dedicated to these tasks or they simply won?t get done. Who should do them?

Outside help may be the best answer

Obviously the top priority in any shop is getting the jobs out so the customers are 100% satisfied. The best marketing of all is the customer?s personal referral because he or she was so pleased with the work. It?s always right to interrupt paperwork that can be done later to deal with a customer?s immediate concerns, or to handle a delay in getting a job out promptly. But inevitably this means marketing tasks will be put aside.

The best solution is often to bring in an additional part-time person who knows so little about the normal functions of the shop, he or she will only be useful carrying out the marketing tasks. I know of several shops that draw on students from a local college who can work a couple of mornings or afternoons each week. They can handle simple survey-type phone calls to see if a company has service vehicles on which the shop might do repairs. 

Or they can surf the internet for the names and addresses of local agents to contact via mail. They can easily label, stamp and mail letters and postcards to prospects. And some might even be put to work being a ?goodwill ambassador? carrying promotional materials around to agents and dealerships a couple of times a week.


Most marketing is simple and repetitive

One final reason for bringing in outside help is the tedious nature of most marketing activities. Shop personnel in a busy shop are used to a certain amount of pressure and challenge in their jobs. Estimators whose main activity is writing the estimate, selling the job, finding necessary parts, keeping the customer informed, and pushing through numerous delays to get a job out on time, may find it dull work to go digging through the phone book or on-line Yellow Pages for promotional contact names and addresses. But this is the kind of repetitive activity that is needed to keep a constant outflow of marketing information.

When the right person is found who can focus 100% on keeping the marketing going, it becomes possible to put in place a well-designed assembly line kind of system (if you need help, please contact me). When that system is in place and worked on a regular basis, it will not only keep the promotional information going out, but will also keep a steady flow of work coming in to the shop.

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.


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