Life is like that. Much of what we see is just the tip of the iceberg. When you drill down beneath the surface, you can begin to encounter some pretty nasty stuff. Or you can discover hidden gold. Marketing can be that way. I just read an article on marketing in one the industry’s leading publications. The suggestions were O.K., but they were too general and superficial to be of much help. In most cases, you have to drill much deeper to hit pay dirt!
The laser vs. the flashlight
The flashlight illuminates a wide area in the dark so you can proceed safely along a road or path. The laser, on the other hand, concentrates the light into such a narrow beam that it can cut through metal. Like a flashlight, putting effort into a broad range of marketing activities can spread your resources loosely over a wide area, but have very little power. A laser-like focus in one area has the potential to generate some real action!
A shop may simultaneously go after DRP business, agents, dealerships, fleets, local commercial accounts and more. But unless that shop has an incredible sales and marketing professional on staff, most of these marketing actions will be superficial at best. A far better approach would be targeting one area at a time and bombarding the selected area with the best marketing ammunition you have to employ.
Selecting your “drilling” tools
Using a military metaphor, first you want to soften up your target. Or if you prefer a mechanic’s metaphor, you need to apply some liquid wrench to lubricate and loosen up the target area. During World War II, phase one was often dropping propaganda leaflets on the target area before bombing or attacking it. One hope was this might frighten some local citizens into becoming informants or traitors who would help us with our attack. Another intent was to put some fear into the enemy and maybe inspire some to defect. How might you soften up your marketing target?
Take a dealership, for example. If you could get the parts manager, service manager, or even used car manager on your side, you might have a better chance of winning over the general manager. The first promotional pieces should go to all of these people and maybe even secretaries and receptionists. After promotional pieces, ideally you or your representative should call on these individuals to see if they received your literature and to determine what they would be most interested in for a collision repair provider. This “drilling down” action determines what you will emphasize during your promotional efforts.
A similar approach could work with insurance companies, commercial companies and agents too, but identifying internal contact people may be more difficult. The trick is always beginning to build a positive opinion of your shop for every target prospect.
Zooming in on the decision maker
A key focus of military espionage is identifying key people to target during an attack. In business, top executives fend off unwanted attention with what pro salespeople call “gatekeepers.” Getting by the secretaries and personal assistants is a perpetual game for sales reps. This is the most difficult part of “drilling down.” Promotional materials that get directed to the circular basket, and phone calls directed to an anonymous voice mail, are worse than useless because they wasted your time, energy and money.
Identifying the key insurance contact may be hardest of all. Only determined persistence in drilling may eventually reveal the real decision maker for a DRP or drive-in status. Fortunately, commercial accounts are much easier to work with. You already know the usual suspects: plumbers, electricians, pest control companies, couriers, heating and air conditioning repair people and more. A simple phone call may get you the name of the vehicle manager. A visit almost definitely will. Once you have a name, any mailings or calls will be directed to the right person. And you now have a target person to take to lunch or to go golfing, sailing or racing.
The final drill
Assuming you’ve had the good fortune to get on a first name basis with the dealership GM, the insurance company DRP coordinator, and a slew of fleet managers, you’re now in a position to make the final drill. It’s tempting to assume all you need to do now is talk about your shop’s superior equipment, facility, personnel, turn-around time and CSI praise. But you would be wrong.
It would be unusual to find yourself talking to a prospect who had never sent a vehicle to one of your competitors. If you are just now beginning to solicit his or her business, it would be safe to assume he or she has had vehicles with body damage needing repair in the past. The key “drilling question” for you to ask is, “Have you always been completely happy with the shop or shops you have used in the past?”
If you get a superficial “Yes” as an answer, drill a little further. It would be rare to encounter a prior business relationship that never had some “rocky” moments. If you succeed in nailing down some specific dissatisfactions, you have a toe in the door to emphasize your advantages in that specific area. And you have a reason for this prospect to at least try your shop for his or her next repair job.
Your determined drilling will have hit pay dirt!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.