Let's continue now with our series on retail sales basics. In the future we will go into greater detail on most of the points covered in these basic articles, but as always we need a firm foundation to build on.
# 10 When you are at high visibility locations such as office parks, put on a show. Invite people to watch, and ask questions. Have plenty of general sales brochures handy. On a hot day, have some cold drinks in a cooler ready to pass out. Many times a good trip to a location like this will get you enough future work for a few days. With persistence, you should eventually become that locations dent guy. Schedule your day light when you have an office park. Let the customer know that since you will be in the area you can give better pricing to him and others if he can let his co-workers know you will be there and they decide to get any work done. If you plan it right, you will get a few other jobs from the one you have scheduled. If you get too many to handle for that day get them scheduled right then for you first opening in that area.
In these types of locations, try and show up around Noon when the lunch traffic is heavy. This will bring the maximum amount of potential customers to you. Early mornings don't work at all for traffic, and neither does quitting time. Try and park your work vehicle to so you get maximum visibility from the building. Do everything you can to attract attention to yourself. Large umbrellas or a canopy with the company name works well in addition to your lettered truck.
Also try and make connections as soon as possible with people like building supervisors or heads of departments that deal with people inside the building like benefit coordinators, or anyone that contributes to an office park internal newsletter. Since soliciting is prohibited in most office parks, these types of internal contacts can do a lot to get your name out among the people there. A mention in the internal newsletter, cards or flyers on the building bulletin board, etc, can also help. Have a post card sized advertisement ready in case a full size flyer is too big for their bulletin board but they will allow something bigger than a business card. You will find many times when this will be the case so investing in this size brochure will pay off.
#11 Work vehicle. Your work vehicle says a lot about your business. It should be fairly new, always clean, and have more than enough room for all your tools and related equipment. It should also be a dedicated work vehicle and not one you use for regular family transportation. Working out of a family vehicle is usually a turn off to a professional customer. Colors are a matter of personal choice, but should be chosen based on the market you are going after. A gaudy color for instance might attract a younger market, but would not be right for most customers over 40 with high end cars. Keep in mind that white has several advantages. It makes a great background for lettering. It is a low maintenance color, and goes with just about any other color or lettering theme.
Vehicles should be lettered or wrapped based on the market you are going after. A wild vehicle wrap might look great to you but may turn off a more conservative market base with expensive vehicles. Resist the temptation to put too much information on your vehicle. Sticking to the basics with a professional lettering or wrap job will attract a good cross-section of the market. Personally I prefer a good lettering job over a wrap, because it is much cheaper and more durable. It’s also much easier to fix when you get the inevitable scratch. Never use magnetic signs for your business. It tells customers that you are not stable and are a part time business. Many marketing studies all agree on this point.
#12 Get mobile business insurance from a reputable insurance company. If you can't afford business insurance, you can't afford to be in business. It's just that simple. There are so many ways to get sued today that it’s foolish to take a chance and risk everything you own. You can take every precaution in the world. But all it takes is something unexpected to happen and you can loose it all.
#13 Treat female customers as well or better than males. Most women stay away from anyone associated with car repairs because they have all had the experience of feeling, or being treated as if they were stupid. It has always amazed me how little effort PDR techs put into this market. The 30 to 55 year old professional female market is HUGE and will almost certainly keep growing. In many areas they are now over 50% of the professional consumer market. You must tap into this market correctly. Your personal appearance is much more important to them than it would be to a male customer. Ask lots of women what they think about the way you dress for business and don’t get offended when they give you honest opinions. Your business name is also important. Names like Dent Terminator, Dent Man, Dent Sniper, Dent Stud etc, won't register as well with most women, so pick a gender neutral name whenever possible. Now this next point should be common sense but in my experience it isn’t. Never treat a female customer as a sex object. Guys I’m telling you straight out, almost all women have a built in radar and they KNOW when they are being treated like eye candy, even when you think you are hiding it! Look all women straight in the eye and treat them as courteously as you would treat a man.
#14 When possible always invite the customer to watch you work and ask questions. This is particularly important with female customers. A customer that feels they understand the process will be a much better sales person for you than one who just pays the bill. Remember the job is never done until the customer becomes a sales person for you. Sometimes this isn't possible, but always aim for it. When the customer wants to tell their friends about you, you did everything right. There is no advertising like word of mouth! Also, talk with the customer and show some interest in them as you work. I've met hundreds of very interesting people and made great friends doing this.
#15 If you find yourself attracting certain types of customers that you would rather do without, ask yourself if you are doing anything to attract these kinds of customers. You will attract the kinds of people you market to. A good example of this is marketing with coupons. Customers attracted by coupons tend to be on the cheap side, and picky at the same time, a bad combination for PDR. Market in ways that will attract the kinds of customers you want. Always ask question like:
Where do the customers I want to attract gather or socialize?
Where do they do business?
What kinds of occupations do they have?
Where other services do people use that care about either their own, or other peoples appearance?
What are their hobbies?
What do they do with their free time?
Start thinking the way the market you want to attract thinks and you will go a long way in understanding how to specifically market to them.
Next time we will finish the basic techniques part of our marketing series and then start concentrating on specific marketing strategies for each of the sections we have talked about.