We’re going to wrap up our basics of retail sales series with this article. The next series of articles will be on in depth marketing strategies for specific markets.
# 21 How about a website? If your serious about going after retail, this is not an option any more, this is a must. I have a hard time understanding why so many techs that want a retail PDR business still don’t see the necessity of a website. Several marketing studies have shown the majority of professionals, (both men and women) and almost every other market group find most of their appearance related services on the internet. Even the senior citizens group are abandoning the yellow pages in favor of the web.
When looking for a web designer use one that will get it done in Joomla or other CMS editor that allows you to make changes easily instead of having to get your webmaster to do it. I prefer Joomla because it’s so easy to use for the novice. Changing things like pricing, service areas, adding before and after pics, going on vacation dates etc, can be changed in minutes. This pays off big time especially in the first year when you are fine tuning your website. I don’t know a single tech that has ever got their website the way they wanted it without dozens of changes in the first few months alone. After the first year you should have it wired. Many techs shop the cheapest web site designers to get their work done. This is almost always a mistake. A good webmaster is worth their weight in gold and can do many things to optimize your site that a bargain web designer will not do. Also, you will have lots of trouble getting most bargain webmasters to change the dozens of things you never thought of once you see how your site performs for you in real life.
Another common mistake techs make is structuring their website to attract only a certain market group. For example having a website that would appeal to a young customer base with flashy graphics and music will make many professionals or high end vehicle owners go elsewhere immediately. The most important thing to these customers is not wasting their time. With this group the home page should be read in 30 seconds or less. Also try and stay as gender neutral as you can as far as web site design goes. A site that is too masculine will not get you the professional women age 30-55 that you should be going for. Ask several women who are in the market group you are after what they think of your website and take what they tell you seriously. In the next article, we will be discussing website structure for retail in more detail.
#22 Think out of the box Be where other PDR techs are not. I get into trouble with other techs for saying this sometimes but I firmly believe that there are lots of untapped markets for PDR out there. Of course the easy ones might be gone, but that’s also where the most competition is. If you market to customers that care about their personal appearance or social status they usually gather in similar social groups, and use other like services. Example of this would be Beauty and Hair Salons, Country Clubs, appearance oriented Hobby clubs, local sport clubs like Tennis, Golf, Theatre and Ballet groups. Remember, people that care about their personal appearance also care about their cars appearance. Marketing to places like this can generate a surprising amount of work.
Churches are another example of out of the box marketing, Larger Churches in particular can be a great source of work and many referrals afterwards. Kids are always opening up doors into vehicles next to them and it's hard to deny your kid did it at a church parking lot...too many witnesses LOL. When you sell PDR to churches, market to the larger mega churches first. Don't approach the senior pastor or minister at a large church. They are far too busy. Try the parking lot attendants first, then associate and youth pastors.
Still another of many examples are Valet services, fine restaurants, social clubs, sports clubs, weddings coordinators, etc, frequently use valet services to park their customer's vehicles. Getting these accounts can be very lucrative, but look for the accounts that care about quality work. Some valet services go with the best price. However many of these services are getting tired of sending the cars to the body shop after shoddy PDR has been done on them. Some Valet services have lost accounts because of customer complaints about bad PDR to the businesses that hires these services. Explain that your prices may be higher than the competition, but so is your quality, and you will satisfy the customer or you will not charge them. There is good money doing PDR for Valet services, and lots of referrals also.
#23 Diversify It definitely will take a lot more work initially to go after specialty retail markets. Even with the needed sales skills, personality, and drive, you can expect many dead ends your first year. But the upside is a much more bullet proof business because you are diversified. This is especially important in a bad economy. There is always a group of professionals that are doing well in any economy. If you are already marketing to them you’re set to sell. As an example, a few years ago real estate was booming and marketing PDR to agents was very profitable because they really care about their vehicles appearance. Of course this isn’t so today. But there are other groups like stock brokers and some financial service that are doing very well in this economy. So you don’t want to market to just one or two groups of professionals. Hit every professional market often, even if they are doing poorly at present and at least let them know you are there ready to serve them. One thing I always do is talk to the sales managers at different high end dealerships and ask them what groups of people they are still selling cars to. These dealerships do their marketing surveys well in advance in poor economies and are already adapting their sales strategies. They can give you very valuable information as to what areas to concentrate in.
#24 NEVER drop a potential market from consideration because another tech in your area couldn’t make it work. It’s amazing how many techs go after retail and specialty markets like they do wholesale. Experienced techs tend to be a bit impatient and forget the customer probably has no idea what the tech is doing. A simple one minute explanation along with inviting the customer to watch you goes a long way to having a customer for life along with their referrals. In retail, many times it’s just a simple matter of personality. Lets face it, there are a lot of abrasive and / or undependable PDR techs out there. With many people this is enough to prevent them from ever using a tech again. That same tech will complain that most retail customers are idiots not realizing it really is him. These days just showing up on time and doing what you said you would do will be impressive. Like we mentioned in a previous article, the job isn’t done until you are reasonably sure the customer will also be a sales person for you. So never drop a market until YOU have personally tried it and know it will not work out. I personally know of several techs, some with little experience that are doing very well in specialty PDR markets that most experienced techs would not consider.
#25 Retail marketing in rural locations is tough. PDR is best sold to customers in major cities with a good industrial, manufacturing, or technology base. If you will be doing PDR in a rural area, and there are no major cities within easy driving distance, you may have to do mostly large dent repairs. Most rural areas don't care about smaller dents, they can live with them. You may have to really think out of the box to make a living at retail PDR in rural areas. If you are thinking about getting into PDR and you live in a rural area you should definitely do your homework before committing to this trade.
#26 Get Started now! It generally takes between 3 to 5 years to build a solid retail base so that no advertising is needed. Many techs are starting to see retail fill up in some areas of the country as PDR wholesale gets crowded. The techs that are doing retail now will be in good shape. If you wait until wholesale and hail is too crowded to start, then you are competing with a larger tech base as these techs try to get into retail also. Keep in mind also that it doesn’t have to be all retail. Start small and knock off less profitable accounts as retail gets better. Remember, retail customers are very loyal; Once they find a good service provider they stay with them. I know it takes a lot more effort to get a retail business going, but that old story about not putting all your eggs into one basket is so true, especially in a bad economy.
Next time we will start discussing specific PDR markets and how to go after them!