Many autobody industry publications have had articles on body shop marketing for years, often describing spectacular business gains made by specific shops using one marketing strategy or another. And yet I seldom see these strategies put into action by shop owners that I know read the publications. I can only conclude that there are too many things on a shop owner’s “to-do-list” to allow him or her to focus on a new marketing strategy. There are only 24 hours in a day, and even less than that in a typical workday. Finding the time to introduce what might be a complicated new marketing strategy can seem nearly impossible.
Back around the year 2000, I heard another speaker named Al Secunda who had an interesting new approach to getting a difficult project under way. He had written a book entitled The Fifteen Second Principle (Berkley Books, 1999). Simply put, he suggested committing to spending at least 15 seconds on the project every day. When he spoke I thought that 15 seconds seems like a ridiculously small amount of time. What can you do in 15 seconds? At the very least, he said, you will find out if you care enough about getting it done to spend a few seconds, or you will find out that you don’t even care that much. And if you do care, even a few seconds are enough to focus on at least one step you can take to further the project.
Once into a marketing project, you will often discover that there are previously unrecognized reasons why you didn’t want to take on the project. For one shop, the idea to put up some new signs ran squarely into a city’s legal prohibition for certain kinds of signs. This meant working around the prohibited ones to find those that would be acceptable. Another shop owner decided to begin a prior customer-calling program to dig up some return business or referrals. This project flew in the face of employee resistance to phone soliciting and required some re-training and even recruiting new personnel. With a new project there is always the possibility of running into what can seem to be insurmountable obstacles, but without taking a few moments to consider it, nothing will ever be done.
Probably the most frequent barrier to getting a new project under way will be the resistance of people needed to do the work. A manager at United Health Plan once said, “Unless the pain of not doing something is greater than the pain of doing it, most people will choose not to do it.” Of course that suggests punishing people for not taking action, an unwise approach to getting those projects under way. But in the real world of many body shops competing for limited repair jobs, failing to implement better marketing strategies can subject one to the real pain of a lost job. Probably a better motivational strategy is to give the people expected to do the work the current repair volume numbers versus the potential jobs that can come from the marketing initiative, but this can’t be done in 15 seconds. So what can?
Many body shops in the U.S. are enamored with Toyota’s lean production philosophy, based on kaisen, the concept of continuous improvements. When focusing on continuous marketing improvements, small incremental steps may be best.
Marketing genius Jay Abraham, in his invaluable book Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got writes, “It’s amazing how few companies ever test any aspect of their marketing and compare it to something else.” Abraham suggests experimenting and always testing a small sample before committing to a major marketing expenditure. Just devoting those few seconds every day to evaluating a marketing initiative could save a shop owner a lot of wasted money and perhaps zero in on one that really brings in the business!
A good example is calling prior customers to see if there might be more need for repairs now, or perhaps a referral to a friend or family member. So what’s to test? A wrongly worded phone call could annoy the prior customer and do more harm than good. But some carefully planned test calls could reveal what approach works best. And an astute shop owner might put this test together in just a few seconds. It’s worth a try.