by Mark Johnson
NACE Online Daily News Contributor
"Your best salesman is a customer." That was the message Hank Nunn sold during his Wednesday presentation "Marketing: Who Are You? Where Are You? Where Do You Want to Go?"
After explaining the need for shops to understand where they stand in their current marketing efforts and how to develop a plan on where you would like your shop to be in the market areas, Nunn, president of HW Nunn & Associates, explained how most collision repair shop marketing is either worthless or only one part of what should be a larger plan.
"Most shops I visit seem to take a scattergun approach their marketing efforts. The typical plan for a body shop is 'we run a Yellow Pages ad, we call some adjustors when things get slow, we've got a direct repair program that brings us some business, we send a thank you letter when we remember and sometimes we put an ad in the paper but that doesn't seem to work,'" says Nunn.
The "goldmine" is turning your customers into salespeople for your business and doing that requires "marketing to your existing customer base," which can be a difficult concept to understand in a business like collision repair, where your customer is not stopping by for a repair every few months.
"You need to train your customers to refer other people to the shop. That is the cheapest and most effective marketing for any body shop," says Nunn. "All it takes is a little discipline and it works."
Turning your customer base into a sales force requires "a consistent process of 'touching' those customers repeatedly with the message that their job is now to go out there and refer jobs to the shop," says Nunn. "What most shops do is they fix the car, they shake the customer's hand and say 'gee, didn't we do a good job?'"
Instead of letting the handshake be the end of contact with the customer, Nunn says, "Shops need to touch the customer nine or 10 times with the message that we made you happy, we don't want you to forget us and we want you to send us work."
Unlike the handshake those nine or 10 "touches" aren't physical contact, but are instead what Nunn calls "theatrics."
The theatrics start with the delivery of the car, which Nunn demonstrated with a skit showing how that starts of the process of turning a customer into a salesman-in fact the first two touches occurs during the delivery. After that initial contact, Nunn says that other touches include a letter sent the day of delivery, customer satisfaction calls, a 30-day inspection, and biannual newsletters.
"The way for a collision repair shop to be independent is to have several sources of business," says Nunn, who stresses that your customers should be one of those sources.
Mark Johnson is senior editor for ABRN.