A smaller area adjacent to them consists of very wealthy estates housing a very elite potential clientele. In the opposite direction, the population consists of lower income Hispanics and blacks. And immediately surrounding the shop is a business and commercial district with a wide mix of ordinary American and ethnic business owners.
It became obvious that marketing literature, ads and messages aimed specifically at any one of these geographical areas would not communicate well to the other groups. To reach each of these distinct zones effectively, it would be necessary to tailor-make promotional messages that would reach each specific group.
Wide and narrow messages
The problem with creating a marketing message that will appeal to nearly anyone is that it has to be very general. A specific message is always more powerful, but by being very specific, it automatically excludes many viewers or listeners. If we craft an advertising message for lower-income prospects, it could turn off elite, high-end vehicle owners and suggest that this is a cheap shop that wouldn't do quality work. Of course we could aim all promotions at the elite prospects, but the shop does need a certain amount of mid-range volume business and that would call for a different message.
Fortunately in this shop's area, there are many local publications serving each of the zones, so tailoring very targeted ads has not been a problem. But this is only a small start, since publication advertising is rarely effective for body shops. The ads are inexpensive, create a neighborhood presence, and can open the door for press releases and special articles at times. A much more specific zone strategy was needed to really reach these very different communities.
Youth - a good common denominator
It's well known that a large percentage of accidents are caused or experienced by young drivers. This affects parents whether they are in a rich, Asian, Hispanic, black or any other ethnic or cultural group. This area's public schools dropped driver training a while back, so beginning drivers must now seek out commercial driving schools.
We decided to work on some alliances with the best of the driver training schools in each of the zones. We only selected those that had a good Better Business Bureau rating, and were recommended by the Auto Club and a local public school's administrators.
We found several local schools hosted a "Safe Driving Day" from time to time, and arranged to participate in these. We also arranged to set up a safe driving class at the shop every month, and set out to get an agreement with each of the driver training schools to send their students to one of our classes.
Videos showing accidents and the results of unsafe driving are obtainable from most Departments of Motor Vehicles or the Auto Club. Plus having a heavy hit in the shop to show and talk about serves to make holding a safe driving class fairly simple.
Naturally the class will include some propaganda on why selecting this specific shop will result in the safest, highest quality collision repair. Young drivers who receive this message at the beginning point in their driving life are more likely to remember it and to come back to a shop where they feel familiar and comfortable.
Another factor in several of the zones was a local emphasis on customizing vehicles. One local dealership shop manager I spoke to said they always did at least $25,000 a month in accessory sales and installation. We could see in the Asian community, many young drivers were into customizing their cars to the max. In the rich, elite zone, customization ran more to pin-striping, special automated running board lifts for senior citizen car owners, special lighting, customized interiors and pet restraints.
The shop owner we were assisting didn't want to get heavily into selling and installing accessories (although we recommended it), but he was willing to consider working with good quality accessory shops in each of the zones. We set about checking out accessory shops in the surrounding areas. Once again, we were looking for endorsements from the Better Business Bureau and the Auto Club.
From our first good contact we could see that an excellent mutual referral system could be worked out. The accessory shop had opportunities to refer collision repair business to the shop, and the shop estimators could pre-sell some of the products available at the accessory shop.
Multiplying reaches into each zone
These marketing efforts were only a beginning, but already we could see that a personalized message worked well in each of the zones. All we had to do was take the time to go there, ask lots of questions, and find out what vehicle drivers and owners in each area really valued.
By helping the shop zero in and specifically target prospective customers in each zone, we saved the owner a lot of potentially wasted money, and got him a far better bang for every marketing buck.
Tom Franklin has been a sales and marketing representative and consultant for forty years and is the author of the books, "Business Battlefield Marketing for Body Shops," "Tom Franklin's Top 40 Marketing Tactics for Body Shops," and "Strategies for Greater Body Shop Growth." His marketing company now provides marketing solutions and services for body shops and other businesses. He can be reached for questions or comments at (323) 871-6862, by fax at (323) 465-2228, or by E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.