Wednesday, 21 December 2011 22:06

An Effective Marketing Focus

Written by Tom Franklin

I recently noticed a shop that had several excellent repeat business sources lose one of them—a major dealership —to a competitor. When I inquired about how this could happen, I learned that the shop’s owner and manager were busy focusing their full attention on saving one of their insurance DRPs. During this time, they somewhat neglected that major dealership source. This gave the competitor an opening to jump in and grab that business. I’m sure that in retrospect, this shop owner realized he should have assigned someone—or hired someone —to maintain giving that dealership all of the attention they were accustomed to receiving.

Is it possible to have too many irons in the fire? Is a shop better off just concentrating on a limited number of sources so each can be given abundant attention?

Let me illustrate with a metaphor. One of the exciting technologies of “the space age” is the development of lasers (L-ight A-mplified by S-timulated E-mission of R-adiation). A beam of light is concentrated to such a fine point it can cut through metal. Think about for the intensity of concentrated attention needed to hold onto a major referral source.

On the opposite end of the light concentration spectrum is the flashlight. It casts a broad beam that encompasses a wide area ahead of the light, but the intensity of the light is fairly weak. It’s just strong enough for the human eye to get a general view of the area ahead. Marketing concentration can fall across a similar spectrum: intense concentration vs. a wide, less effective, general approach.

There may be no “right answer” to the question: “How much or how little should I concentrate marketing attention?” But I believe the shop that lost the dealership needed to accurately assess how many balls they could juggle at once. I’ve seen novice shops that worked hard to get a DRP or a dealership relationship and then lose it because they didn’t realize that getting that relationship was just the beginning.

After that, keeping the relationship depends on giving it adequate attention. Attention is one of the most prized commodities in existence.  Many students fail classes in school because they can’t keep their attention on the teacher or the subject matter. Marital relationships often fail because one of the spouses is so involved in business or other aspects of life, he or she fails to give adequate attention to the spouse or the children. All business—and human—relationships call for an enormous amount of attention.

Many aspects of life fall apart because of inadequate attention. Plants die without water or fertilizer. A stock in a retirement portfolio drops because the owner failed to keep track of the value and didn’t sell in time to gain a profit or prevent a loss. A physical condition that might have been treated and cured early on becomes life threatening because no attention was paid to the early warning signs. The list can go on and on.

The opposite of receiving attention is being ignored. Everyone likes attention. We seek out the restaurant where the waiters or waitresses know us by name and give us that special attention. We prefer the dry cleaner and the barber and other service people who favor us with their attention. In marketing, attention is the most valuable thing there is. Ignoring a shop’s repeat business source is a guaranteed way to lose it.

So how can a shop owner or manager be certain a referral relationship is getting enough attention? It can often come down to: “How many man-hours can be devoted to the source?” I found out that in the early stages of losing that shop’s dealership relationship, an estimator was assigned to be on the dealership’s service drive every morning to write brief estimates on any damage observed on vehicles coming in for service. But when that estimator’s time at the dealership was reduced or eliminated altogether some days, the relationship began falling apart.

Fortunately for the shop owner, the attention he took away from the dealership was turned to hosting manager meetings for a major insurance company, plus promoting a drive-in relationship with another. So he didn’t lose much business. But he also could have saved the dealership by somehow keeping a laser-like attention focus there as well.

The biggest, most affluent shops never limit the number of referral sources they can obtain. They have the resources to assign one dedicated person (or more) to each source to be certain that source receives meticulous attention to repair requirements, estimate details, reports and more. But I believe a smaller shop without that kind of resources would be wiser to try for fewer sources and be certain each source they did have receives the ultimate in constant attention.

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