One shop, for example, has been sending and delivering a newsletter for more than five years. Every month, about 200 newsletters are hand-delivered to agents, a dozen are sent with cover letters to DRP coordinators, and others go out to dealership and commercial prospects. I learned that some agents didn’t begin sending work until they had received the newsletter for more than a year. Others took even longer. Apparently they finally noticed that this shop was going to be persistent. And perhaps they also guessed that any shop that could be that consistent and persistent with a monthly newsletter should also be persistent in seeing that every vehicle they work on is repaired right.
I also learned that many real estate agents in the area were leaving the business because of the dramatic downturn in the sales of homes. What surprised me was that one insurance agent said locally active insurance companies were getting many prior real estate agents to become insurance agents. He noted that this was heating up competition for him. But from the body shop’s point of view this could be an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with these new agents. The shop did a monthly Internet search for new local agents and immediately promoted to them to get referrals with positive results.
Going Local and More
A shop in Pasadena, California, recently hired a local lady to handle marketing. Because she had lived in the area for years, she was aware of auto body repair opportunities that someone with less local familiarity might have missed. For example, she had worked for years helping to build floats for the annual Tournament of Roses parade and knew that they had a fleet of support vehicles. She had also worked with the Sheriff’s department. She said they posted a notice when they didn’t have damage on a vehicle for more than two weeks. And she had been attending classes at a local college that she said also had a fleet of vehicles that were frequently damaged. She immediately set about on a persistent effort to get these fleet repair jobs for the shop.
That shop had tried unsuccessfully for several years to get some additional DRP relationships. Many of the insurance companies had no local contact and the local contacts for other companies were not responding. The new marketing lady decided to ignore the local contact issue and focused on persistently contacting home offices wherever they were located in the country. The last I heard, this strategy had allowed her to send applications and photos to many more DRP coordinators with some promising results.
Another shop had found a local source of business I don’t think many shop owners would have even considered a possibility. I noticed a number of U.S. Army vehicles being repaired in the shop. I asked the manager how this could possibly have happened. He said they were vehicles assigned to local U.S. Army recruiting offices. Since there is no military base close enough to the city to use a base motor pool for maintenance and repairs, the local recruiting personnel are authorized to use local civilian sources. His persistent efforts to capture local business paid off in an unexpected way.
Prior Customer Persistence
Another shop that keeps busy focuses exclusively on prior customers and referral sources. The owner sends out a holiday-focused postcard every month: A New Years greeting in January, Valentine’s Day in February, St. Patrick’s Day in March, and so on through the year. He says he has persisted with this marketing for a couple of years now and it brings in nearly eighty percent of his business.
Like many other shops, he also asks for birthday and anniversary dates on his customer information form and sends out greetings regularly. Another shop carries this a step further and subscribes to a service that provides birthday greeting letters with interesting historical information about major events that occurred on this same day over the years. Naturally a birthday or anniversary letter includes a gift of a discount coupon.
The key to success in all of these promotional actions is persistence. While advertising and promotion is often the first expense many businesses eliminate in tough times, these shops continued to persist and stayed relatively busy while competitor shops in the area were empty. Apparently persistence does pay!