In marketing, it’s well known that it’s always better to be first than better. Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic solo first, but Bert Hinkler did it faster, consuming less fuel. He was second and never heard of again. George Washington was the first president. Who was second? Neil Armstrong was first to walk on the moon. Who was second? Second place is generally no place. So, is it too late to be first in your area? It all depends on first…at what? And are there other alternatives?
One problem with being recognized in the collision repair industry is the infrequency that people even think about or look for a shop. Coca-Cola can stay first in people’s minds because they drink beverages every day, but few people need collision repair more often than once every three years. Nevertheless, now and then a shop succeeds in capturing mass public attention. 3-C Collision Center in Ohio captured a lot of publicity by attacking shops that catered to insurance companies. He also created a new category in which he could be first—a “no-insurance-connection-shop.”
This is one way a shop can become first: Create a new category to be first in. Sometimes new technology creates that opportunity for you. In most areas, one shop became the first to use waterborne paint. As high-end car manufacturers began the switch to aluminum structures, one shop had the opportunity to be first with the costly frame machine needed to work on aluminum structures. Of course these opportunities were short lived as other shops made the same move to the new technology, but if the first shop capitalized on being first and promoted that fact effectively, that position of “first” could remain in the minds of key referral source coordinators.
The question now is, what new category might a shop use to vault into a number one position, and if so what could be done to make that fact broadly known? I recently wrote about a shop that closed off its drive-through area and made it available for a meeting of 40 professional women belonging to a networking group called “Power Babes.” Another shop sponsored an even larger group called “The Women’s Resource Network.” These shops successfully positioned themselves as “firsts” to recognize the repair purchasing power in professional women’s groups in their area. Although these were not moves to grab a large mass audience, they were sufficient to capture an emerging, significant market.
This may be the most effective way a collision repair shop that’s not part of a large chain or franchise can create a marketing category. As baby boomers get older, another category that might work well is reaching out to AARP members or even handicapped people. On the other end of age-related categories, becoming a specialty shop for driving schools and new drivers could reach significant numbers of people. Another approach is becoming known for championing a highly respected charity. Some possibilities might be transportation for the blind or special events for autistic or handicapped children. It’s well known that children and pets capture people’s attention in ads and media. Helping almost any charity that focuses on these will draw attention to your shop and enable you to get free publicity.
One other marketing strategy that has worked well in getting a business positioned profitably is seeking the number two position with contrast. Perhaps best known is the slogan used by Avis in competing with Hertz Car Rental: “We try harder.” Another was the success of Pepsi-Cola competing with Coca-Cola’s number one position by creating “The Pepsi Generation.” If a competing shop in your community has somehow captured the number one position in people’s minds, you may be able to capture part of that glory with a clever contrasting campaign.
“We produce top quality faster.”
“No one produces a safer repaired vehicle than our shop.”
“Top quality doesn’t have to go for top dollar.”
The trick is to identify what you do that can be better than what is perceived as “the best.”
And then find a way to communicate to the right public to receive that message.
You have the power to create a profitable position in your market. You just have to recognize it and work at it.