Start in your own back yard
I've always been amazed at how few shop owners bother to contact the people in their own neighborhood - in fact, I've met some who don't know the guy next door! In big cities, people seem to prefer anonymity. We wave or nod politely to our next door neighbor, but unless we have something significant in common, we seem to seek our ties elsewhere.
Simply canvassing the street where your business is located might very well drum up a few jobs. Spreading your visits out to cover a few more blocks may multiply those few jobs, and by the time you reach the city limits, you may have to add another body man or more!
Effective marketing is often corny
If you live in a house, like I do, you probably find endless flyers stuck in your front door, soliciting everything from plumbing to painting, to chimney sweeping to decorating your dog house. Most body shop guys I've talked to tell me that flyers are a waste of time. They don't work.
That certainly may be true of the usual amateurish colored typing paper with primitive typeset copy. But a slick multi-colored flyer with a really interesting, emotion-grabbing message could be a horse of a different color!
As we enter the "age of terror," people are becoming far more sensitive to the possibility of attack in their business, their home and even their car . Does your shop install or service theft alarms? Are there other defensive (or even offensive) devices you could offer to add on to vehicles? Could you make that a side business? Right now could be a good time to capitalize on the climate of fear that pervades much of society.
If you had a product with that kind of appeal, flyers with a message based on the "fear-response" could very well flood your shop with new prospects. And once they've been in your shop for one product or service, the possibility of having them come back can be very great if they're treated well the first time. And you could always print an American flag on it just for good measure!
One shop I know has initiated an estimate follow-up card that says: "We invite you to bring your vehicle soon to prevent further paint and body deterioration or unsafe operating conditions." Sometimes you have to put a little fear into people to really motivate them!
In numbers you often find money
Many shops are located in large metropolitan areas or crowded suburbs with millions of people all around. It's almost laughable that a shop should be slow when literally surrounded by people and thousands of cars in need of repair! The only question is how to reach them and entice them into your shop .
If you have a highly visible location and people aren't coming in, it's time to take a look at your signs. They're not doing their job. Good signs, with a powerful, pulling message should bring in a steady flow of curious prospects. Of course you still have to sell them at that point, but that's an entirely different issue.
A well-placed billboard, bus bench, bus shelter or other outdoor sign or advertisement can be a powerful way to pull prospective customers into your shop. Many shops are located on back streets or away from the normal flow of traffic. A strategically placed outdoor ad can be the key to directing prospects to your shop. Even the customer who has called or been referred to your shop will have an easier time finding it if there are signs or a billboard to point the way.
A billboard ad placed on a busy thoroughfare that backs up during rush hour, is nearly guaranteed more readership as the bored driver glances around for something to look at while he or she waits. And a billboard on a freeway that directs the driver to find you at "the next exit" may eventually motivate him or her to do just that.
As my early marketing guru said, if you can reach a large enough volume of prospective buyers, you should be able to guarantee a steady flow of business.
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," and "Tom Franklin's Top 40 Marketing Tactics for Body Shops." 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.