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Thursday, 20 June 2013 15:04

Deciding on a Marketing Course of Action Using Referents

Written by Tom Franklin

Many of the decisions we make at key decisive moments determine the course of our business thereafter. Buying expensive equipment, hiring a high-priced employee, investing in a management system—each of these decisive choices may be what I like to call “pivotal decisions.” The cost of making a wrong decision could set back the progress of your entire business.

But the value of making the right choice may launch your shop into a significantly higher profit position. The future of your business may balance on this pivotal moment. Unfortunately not many shop owners or managers regard a marketing decision as having this powerful, pivotal effect, but considering the cost of deciding badly I suggest that this choice is as important as any.


In business, it would be nearly impossible to get through the day without what I call “reliable referents.” The one we refer to the most these days is probably our cell phone, to keep us informed of the day and the time and messages. When travelling we rely on a map or G.P.S. or even a compass. In the body shop industry our referents are highly specific. These days it would be nearly impossible to write an accurate estimate without a crash estimating guide, either in book form or as a computerized estimating program. So what referents can we rely on when making a marketing decision?

A good referent or rule-of-thumb is how directly the marketing efforts reach real probable prospects. Marketing decisions made in the past may no longer apply. Mailing pieces used to be effective, but ‘junk mail’ is immediately tossed out today. At one time newspaper and magazine advertising were effective, but today, these are no longer the primary media to attract new business. In today’s electronic world the Internet, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and other peer-to-peer social sites are more effective. But it’s still not the time to completely eliminate the print and publication world. Press releases can have a powerful positive effect when implemented properly.

The real key to reaching specific job prospects is how we decide to target our marketing efforts and spend our marketing dollars. These days marketing efforts go in several different directions. Fortunately for many shop owners, there may be someone in the family who is comfortable with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and more. The reliable referent here is familiarity. Putting someone to work on this on a regular basis is a must today and could be inexpensive.

On the opposite side, the most expensive dimension will be having a highly professional person call on dealerships and commercial fleets. The reliable referent here is the rule that this activity requires real sales and negotiating skills. If the owner really wants to target this dimension, it would be foolish to do less than put a real professional on the job. An additional use for this individual can be reaching into the community by having him or her participate in the local Chamber of Commerce and other local professional groups.

If a shop owner decides to just target damaged vehicles in the area, an inexpensive solution could be putting one or more retired ex-bodyshop workers on the street. The reliable referent here is that quantity pays.

By using a business-card-size rough estimate to put on damaged vehicles, the key here would be quantity of vehicles looked at. Also perhaps the quantity of people on the street or in parking lots doing the rough estimates. This activity could be commission only for vehicles that come in for the complete estimate.

Now we come to what people often think of when we talk about marketing: the use of literature, fliers, ads and press releases. Ads are costly and rarely targeted at specific job prospects. Bus ads, bus bench ads, billboards, banners and print ads all call for professional design. The reliable referent here is unprofessional ads will do more harm than good. There is great potential in using press releases instead of ads for print publications. The target here is public interest and just developing respect for the shop. A reliable referent is that people respond to concerns for children. Selecting a charity for children or a school or even little league opens the door for many press releases about the shop’s contributions to events. Every time the school or charity puts on an event, the shop should sponsor it in some way and be certain a highly professional press release goes out to all local newspapers, local radio and TV stations, and school, church and college publications if appropriate. These also go to DRP business partners and on the shop’s website and social media connections.

Marketing decisions become simple when reliable referents are consulted for each marketing target, and the marketing activity is viewed as a team effort rather than an impossible task for one marketing person.

Read 1879 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 18:04