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Sunday, 31 March 2002 17:00

Build a powerful database

Written by Tom Franklin
Effective marketing is controlling a profitable piece of market share in your community. In just about every aspect of life, having essential information is the key to maintaining control. Having information about interest rates is the key to getting a low-interest loan. Having information about where to post notices or make calls is the key to finding effective employees. Knowing your parts, labor and overhead costs is essential to making a profit in your business. Having information about decision makers in dealerships, fleet management companies and insurance companies is the key to taking control of business coming from the ones you're after for referrals.
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 Franklin
In some professions, the information in a Rolodex is the key to professional power. As they say, often it's not what you know; it's who you know. One shop in a rapidly developing area north of Los Angeles went from less than 50 jobs a month to over 250 jobs a month in less than 3 years by employing a marketing representative with personal contacts in more than a dozen major insurance companies. Today that shop has a half-dozen powerful DRPs, completely due to the contact information possessed by that marketing rep.
 

First get information on what's needed

Many shop owners have asked me if I know of a marketing representative with great insurance contacts. I'm always reluctant to give referrals. I've heard horror stories about marketing people who have been hired and paid large sums of money, but have failed to deliver a single DRP, dealership or fleet account. I know some of these people have been effective for one shop but failed miserably with another. Sometimes the shop simply doesn't measure up to the standards required by the companies being solicited for referrals. First they must know what's required.

Many insurance companies now require a shop to meet all of the "Minimum Requirements for a Class A Collision Center" issued by the Collision Industry Conference (C.I.C.). (If you'd like a copy of those requirements, send me your fax number and I'll fax it over to you).
 
One of the requirements on that list is belonging to " . . . an auto collision trade association and subscribes to a code of ethics." The consensus is that it's important to be in touch with other shop owners to keep informed about what they're doing and what it currently takes to be a "Class A" shop . The Society for Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) provides members with a constant flow of vital information.
 
Next build an information database
 

Another key step on the path to getting the information you need is having software that enables you to accumulate, manage, and print-out the information in many different ways. Contact management software, like ACT, Goldmine, Maximizer, and Microsoft Outlook, provides a framework for storing and accessing contact information immediately when you need it. A less expensive approach is using the Microsoft Works programs that probably came with the computer you use for estimating. Along with my latest book, "Top 40 Marketing Tactics for Body Shops," I provide sample Microsoft Excel files to build, store and print insurance agent, insurance company, fleet management company, and other referral source information.

Getting the names, addresses, phone numbers and vital information about key people to contact is not complicated, but it can be time-consuming. Some of the information is readily available. You'll find State Farm agents conveniently listed in your phone book Yellow Pages. The same is true of Allstate, Farmers, and many independent agents. That information can be entered directly into a database or contact management program so you can track calls, return calls, promises, commitments and other key data.

Many dealerships and insurance companies have websites. Sometimes it's a challenge finding out exactly how the website is stated. Farmers.com, gmacinsurance.com, kemperinsurance.com, and others are fairly straightforward. Others can be harder to find. The Auto Club in California is AAA-Calif.com; in Texas it's AAA-Texas.com.

If you're looking for insurance claims executives to call on, a good source is the Casualty Adjuster's Guides (CAG) published for many states. The CAG books have contacts for hundreds of insurance companies in each state they serve. To order in Southern California, call (858) 487-8400; No. California - (408) 782-5998. In Dallas, Texas (817) 784-2754; in Houston (281) 367-8668. Good hunting!

 Tom Franklin has been in sales and marketing for forty years and is the author of the books, "Business Battlefield Marketing for Body Shops, and "The Top 40 Marketing Tactics for Body Shops." His marketing company now provides on-line consulting and integrated marketing solutions 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: tbfranklin@aol.com.

 

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