I’ve often tested this idea, especially in marketing. At one point I came up with the idea that “any failure to thrive is a combination of not reaching out widely enough, frequently enough or cleverly enough.”
Then one day I spoke to a body shop owner who disproved at least one part of my idea. He had reached out as widely as anyone could in his area. He sent out a piece of promotional literature to 10,000 homes in his area. But he said he had not gotten even one job from that mailing.
Today marketing professionals are focusing on a narrow demographic rather than a wide one. By tracking customer purchases, website searches, and publications read, advertisers target very specific types of prospects.
A collision repair center following this approach would avoid a vast general mailing to all prior customers, and instead focus on specific types like senior citizens, young drivers, parents with children who drive, women who drive specific makes of vehicles, and more.
Another narrow approach used by marketing professionals is a season and time focus. Mothers Day promotion for adult women, Labor Day promotion for working men, and also start-of-school-year promotions for parents.
For collision shops, collecting information on customers’ teen-agers can be valuable. Young drivers cause a high percentage of accidents. For shops getting involved in the new cosmetic car upgrade market, a Valentines Day promotion could be effective. Self-caused minor damage may be overlooked until a time comes to travel. A pre-vacation Memorial Day promotion could bring in those vehicles.
The Internet has become so much a part of our lives these days, we may sometimes forget that most of that “free” information we get on-line is paid for by advertisers.
If you watch carefully, you’ll notice how the ads on websites change with the time of year. You may also notice how companies that track your on-line searches are able to send you e-mail ads that reflect your personal interests. How might you use this approach to creating more effective promotional reaches out to your customer and prospect base? It all comes back to your effectiveness at collecting and using customer information.
Collision repair shops are generally high velocity workplaces. Estimators are in a hurry to get the keys and get the car in the shop to begin work. The vehicle driver may be in a hurry to drop off the car and get to work or back with the kids.
A better time to collect information may be when the customer is picking up the repaired vehicle and pleased with the quality of the repair. If these don’t net information about the customer’s job, family, organizational ties and personal interests, an on-line or phone survey may get what is needed to do targeted promotions. Shop owners are justified in wanting to minimize the number of front office employees and related costs. But a careful analysis of how many additional vehicles a good data collection person could bring in should reveal that the benefits could greatly outweigh the costs.
The days of waiting for repair customers to drive in are long gone. These days the certainty of sufficient insurance referrals is diminishing. It’s time for shop owners to catch up with the times and begin using professional marketing tools to bring in new business.
Take a look at the variety of ads aimed at you. You may sometimes wonder why you are the target of a particular ad. Advertisers are just guessing what will interest you, but obviously they guess right often enough to justify the cost of the ads. It’s time for you to become more creative with your promotion. Who have you not reached out to? Who have you considered not worth reaching out to? Who have you given up on reaching out to? (If no response, try something else).
Don’t set limits. Everyone can be reached with some message. If you collect enough information up front, the odds are good that you’ll connect with your prospects a large percentage of the time and that will more than pay for your time and trouble.