He tried to fight back. An old military maxim says, “the best defense is a good offense,” but this shop owner felt he lacked the personnel and resources to really mount a good offense against this larger, multi-shop competitor.
By the time this shop owner realized he was under attack, it was almost too late to do anything about it. He should have been maintaining a competition conscious posture in his area. A business can’t afford to operate as though they exist in a vacuum. It can be fatal to ignore the activities of one’s competitors. An on-going marketing strategy should be in place to evaluate competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and to capitalize on any perceived “hole” in their approach to getting new business.
Keeping a simple file on each major competitor, enumerating which of the ten major business sources each one focuses on, is a start. For example, the shop owner should have known that his aggressive competitor had lost one authorized dealership position when that dealer went out of business. This should have raised an “alert flag” to strengthen and sweeten his own dealership position, knowing his competitor’s predatory nature.
Another competitor nearby picked up a major DRP relationship lost by a shop that changed hands. Not keeping track of other shop’s marketing efforts probably cost him any opportunity to compete for that DRP status. In his defense, tracking one’s competitor’s activities can be time-consuming for one competitor, let alone dozens of competitors. The best sources of shop gossip and private information are the vendors, adjusters, jobbers, delivery guys, and various sublet service people. Taking a little time to ask key questions of a few of these people who jump from shop to shop could alert a shop owner to possible opportunities (or consequences).
While it’s extremely valuable to get a heads up on a pending business threat, it may be even more valuable to spot the hole in one’s competitor’s marketing arsenal. I’ve spoken to many shop owners who avoid commercial vehicle accounts. They say they always have to discount prices and going after that kind of business is too time-consuming. They’d rather have jobs sent to them by dealerships or DRPs. If this is a hole in most of a shop’s competitor’s business mix, it could be an excellent opportunity to fill the need.
This tendency to sit and have jobs sent to a shop may allow one to get the jump on the competition and seize the direct marketing business falling through those competitor’s holes. Many shops are not willing to expend the time and effort to distribute direct literature or write business-card size estimates on vehicles in parking lots and local streets. This is an easy hole to fill.
When one’s competitors are enjoying sufficient DRP or dealership business to avoid harder marketing targets, this may also open up an opportunity to go after fleet work. Getting local government fleets, a GSA account, or national fleet services like C.E.I. and Fleet Response can take a lot of time and effort. Governments require endless paperwork and getting the attention of many fleet services can also be very time-consuming, but ultimately very profitable.
While these more difficult targets are often “holes” in a shop’s competitor’s marketing mix, the juicier finds like DRPs and dealerships may show up as available targets. Creating a list of the DRP relationships at one’s dozen or so main competitors shouldn’t be that difficult. Most shops list their DRP relationships in their literature. Going over those lists should show at a glance that those DRPs are unlikely to add another shop locally. But these days there are dozens of insurance companies with one form of direct repair or another. If there are companies not represented in your area, this may be a hole you should find it relatively easy to fill. Who would have thought your competitors could be so valuable in helping you expand your marketing efforts?