Toward the end of 1980, I picked up a book entitled "The Luck Factor" by Max Gunther. In his book, Gunther tells the stories of some of the world's luckiest people, along with the stories of some of the unluckiest people. What I found most interesting was his observation that the luckiest people he wrote about all shared five very specific traits and patterns of behavior that contributed to their "luck." These traits were conspicuously missing in the lives of the unlucky people.
Charlie arrives at the shop an hour before opening time as usual. It seems impossible to get a day's work done between the 8:00 a.m. opening time and the 6:00 p.m. closing time. He rarely gets out of the shop before 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. And this is during a relatively slow period. What is it that is killing his time (and his family life)?
During the many years I have consulted with body shops, I've noticed one major difference between the most successful and those that are just getting by. The best shops always have at least one outstanding estimator that I would rate as an "Olympic-class" salesperson.
What do automotive service buyers think of their local collision repair shop - compared to other automotive services? They probably see their mechanic as the expert who fixes their engine, maintains brakes, suspension, oil, lubrication, and more. And they may have an expert who repairs and maintains their transmission. So what expertise do they attribute to collision repair shop people? Are we fixed in their minds as only being capable of pounding out dents, replacing body panels and straightening frames or unibodies? If so, we may be losing a large piece of the market.
Most business people know it is necessary to promote their business to make themselves known widely and to bring in a steady flow of new customers. What no one seems to know is how much to promote. I've found most business owners are shocked to find out what kind of volume of promotion may be needed to generate a result. How much is it necessary to promote? Enough to get the job done!
For the past three years I've watched one shop employ a "goodwill ambassador" who makes the rounds once a month, calling on agents, some DRP directors, dealership managers, fleet managers and more. This "ambassador" delivers to each target person, a newsletter, a pen and/or pad, and sometimes candy, pastry, a plant or other special item. The newsletter delivers the "sales pitch" so the messenger doesn't have to.
People generally hate surprises - probably because many surprises are unpleasant. People hate to be surprised to find out they won't get their car back on time, or that they will have to put out additional cash to get their job done. We all hate to be surprised by a bigger tax bill than we expected, or by an assessment that's going to cost us dearly.
More and more these days, I hear shop owners and managers say that they feel they're losing control over their business. Reports on insurance company manipulation, worker's comp costs, parts price increases, mandatory equipment and facility costs and more, communicate the fact that making a decent profit in the body shop business gets harder every day. What can a shop owner or manager do to gain more control over his or her own business in order to increase profits?
"The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer."
-- World War II U.S. Army slogan
This is the third in a series of articles focusing on what I call the "DRIP" marketing system - "Delivering Repetitive Information Persistently." If you missed either of the first two articles, "Be a Big "DRIP"er to Get More Business," or "The Goodwill Ambassador - Key to Inexpensive Marketing," contact me for reprints.
Most shop owners try to get on referral programs that will bring in a steady flow of business. These might be insurance direct repair programs, drive-in programs, fleet management company programs, or contracts with government, institutional or commercial vehicle departments. In just about every case, the problem is the same: how to get the decision-maker to look at your shop or to send someone to look at your shop.
Recently I spoke with a shop owner who gave me the same line I've heard dozens of times: "To do well in the body shop business, you need insurance DRP (Direct Repair) status with several companies. Otherwise you'll never make it!"