Archive | June, 2012

Marketing isn’t a dirty word

Marketing is not about selling yourself cheap, says Mike Owen.

In CAT recently I listed the important elements for review in a modern garage and first on the list was volume. Volume is the key ingredient.

However, as Joni Mitchell sang: “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone” and right now there must be several garages wishing that “a big yellow taxi” would come and take them away. Volume and marketing are synonymous yet their interests are opposed. When you have volume you don’t want the cost of marketing, yet when the volume dries up it’s too late to start marketing your business effectively.

The price drop myth

‘Absolute rubbish!’ I can hear it being shouted by many garage owners across the nation – followed by ‘I dropped the prices on MOT’s, tyres, service and anything else I do’. The trouble is this is not marketing, it’s distress selling – and that’s a completely different animal.

Marketing is not based on price; marketing is everything that justifies the price. Dinner at “Le Manoir” or “The Fat Duck” is not sold on being cheap, yet almost all of their clientele believe it is value for money.

What would you choose?

While I’m sure none of you would choose “Alf’s Café” as the venue for your daughter’s wedding reception, your customers might not be so discerning over their choice of service or repair provider.

There are times however – such as when a car has a new second owner or has just come out of warranty – when the law of the jungle pertains, and that means survival of the fittest.

If all garages, franchised and independent alike, are short of work then survival calls for you to steal from the competition’s table. Sitting in reception waiting for the phone to ring is akin to a vulture on a telephone line waiting for something to get run over; the meal is very rarely going to come to you. Sometimes you just have to get proactive.

The wrong kind of work

I was asked recently to take a look at a company in the North Midlands who were (then) booked ten days in advance yet, we agreed, they needed to market themselves a lot more effectively. It is entirely possible, as some business will know to their cost, to have a full diary of the wrong kind of work, leading to lower profits and inefficiency.

I’ve said before that customers gamble when they’ve got money in their pocket, when times are tough the security of the purchase becomes the order of the day and this is best communicated verbally. Discuss the options and then let the customer make the choice.

Build obligation

Nowadays customers are impatient, and this manifests itself as ‘no-show’ jobs, and the best method of preventing this is building obligation.

Here I must take issue with Motor Codes. I have taken this up with them directly, but I do feel that when in its charter clause 2.10 it states “We will not require deposits or prepayments for service and repair work” the message is counterproductive.

When asked, the response was that this is with regard to labour and not parts, but I’m sorry to say that this ambiguity still pertains to this day. When considering some of the vehicle manufacturers attitudes to non-stock items, their discount policy and in particular their returns and re-stocking charges, if I didn’t know the customer well, I’d damn sure take a deposit.

Another effective way of marketing is with text messaging. SMS messaging is now common practice and we must move with the times. Social media is not just easy but cheap, and using this to notify customers that the parts for their vehicles have been purchased builds obligation and reduces the likelihood of the customer not turning up.

Get their contact details and get the vehicle registration. If you are concerned, test the customer by re-contacting them to double-check their details perhaps, and this will psychologically lock the customer in.

Service or customer records are the key to maintaining efficiency. How many times do
I hear garage staff say “you know where we are when you need us”. Rule number one of selling is staying in control of the next action; if you hand the responsibility for the next move to the customer, you have lost control of the situation.

The sword of Damocles

In the same way, telling a customer that their brake pads will last another 3000 miles, or worse that they will be needed soon, is tantamount to hanging the sword of Damocles over their heads. Instead, take control of the situation; “We will need to re-inspect your front brake pads quite soon; how many miles do you do per month? 1500? then we will give you a call in six weeks.” You now have a new type of booking to put in the diary. Sounds too much like hard work? Most garages won’t see the value in this, but believe me it makes the difference between having proper customers or just a loyal client base.

If you find yourself looking at blank space on a diary page, revisit some of those old invoices. Look for items marked as advisory and contact those customers, even if the item has further life. While you’re at it check their oil, water, bulbs, washer fluid and offer
a complete support service. You, and they, will be amazed.

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Claim your free Automechanika ticket now

CAT still has two pairs of Automechanika tickets to give away!

Get in touch by emailing now to claim your free tickets. We’ll be sending ticket vouchers out to the lucky recipients in the next few weeks.

We’ll also be arranging to meet up with all of our lucky ticket holders to get their thoughts on what promises to be an incredible show.

See you there?

See you there?

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A1 motor factors to increase trade marketing

A1 motor factors to increase trade marketing

A1MFA1 motor factors members have agreed to increase the scope of its trade marketing program.

At a recent meeting of members of the group, it was agreed that independent factors need to fight harder to stay afloat in a turbulent market.

As part of the new initiative, the A1 group will be providing its factor members with a range of new marketing material. The group says this material can be personalised for each individual member. The marketing material is also designed to allow members to maintain existing industry partnerships and grow closer business relationships with customers.

The range includes sales and information brochures, regular customer special offer and incentive flyers, garage job diaries and year planners.

The group says it is interested in speaking with independent motor factors that might consider joining the A1 motor factors group.

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Rhino Products says it is pleased to have lent a hand to BBC programme, DIY SOS.

Rhino stockist VANRAX was able to help out the production crew of the hit BBC show by supplying new aluminum racks for the show’s vans.

The stockist had previously already supplied one rack to the show, so was pleased to supply another.

Rhino was pleased to supply parts for the show

Rhino was pleased to supply parts for the show

Sales and Marketing Director for Rhino Products Clive Boult couldn’t resist the opportunity to much in with the DIY SOS team, after the show put the word out to recruit local tradespeople.

Boult commented: “We occasionally catch a glimpse of our Modular Rack on the DIY SOS van, and now we may see our latest innovation on the second van!  The aluminum rack has a contemporary design which enhances the appearance of any commercial vehicle.  Furthermore it’s strong, reliable; designed and built for purpose!”

“It’s heart-warming to see how everyone comes together to help on DIY SOS, giving their time and materials to transform homes of families across Britain, and if another of our racks can bear some more of that load, then we’ll be exceptionally proud.”

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A record graduation for Thatcham

A record graduation for Thatcham

A record number of accident repair technicians graduated from Thatcham’s Apprentice Academy this month.

The annual graduation from Thatcham has become something of a calendar event in the trade, not only for the apprentice taking their first steps into the business, but also for the industry benefiting from a fresh influx of new talent.

To accommodate such a large number of apprentices, this year’s graduation ceremony was run over two separate events. 50 extra apprentices received their honours thanks to Thatchams ongoing partnership with the Nationwide Apprenticeship Academy scheme.

Nationwide re-launched its apprenticeship scheme in conjunction with Thatcham earlier this year. Its aim has been to increase support for apprenticeships, focus technical skills and improve retention during and after training.

Alongside the Nationwide scheme graduates, another 37 apprentices from the three accident repair disciplines of Panel, Paint and M.E.T – Mechanical, Electrical and Trim – celebrated this important career milestone.

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Autodata has become the victim of counterfeitting

Autodata has become the victim of counterfeitting

A rouge trader selling counterfeit and out-of-date Autodata CDs to garages in Slough has been arrested.

The arrest was the end result of an operation involving the Police, Slough Borough Council trading standards and Autodata.

The rogue trader was caught in the act of selling the counterfeit CDs to a workshop after Autodata was able to follow the trader and learn his routes.

According to Autodata the seller approached existing customers offering to download the company’s software at reduced prices. Unfortunately the information the seller had access to was obsolete, and therefore potentially dangerous for garages to use.

An Autodata spokesman commented: “Autodata is extremely pleased with the quick response of the police and Slough trading standards, after we reported this activity to them. Any cases of Intellectual Property crime are taken extremely seriously and often result in arrests.

The dual threats to the safety and peace of mind of vehicle owners that these sellers pose are very harmful. Their detection and apprehension are a top priority to Autodata, trading standards and the Police.”

Slough Trading standards said: “Trading standards views this type of criminal activity very seriously as there are safety implications. We are still investigating this case and will be for several months.”

Autodata says its garage customers are becoming ‘increasingly concerned’ about counterfeit goods and are contacting the company to call for action to be taken.

Rod Williams, Autodata’s Chief Executive, said: “The level of attempted IP crime against Autodata has remained relatively consistent but by working with the Police and trading standards we are able to stop these guys in their tracks in many cases. They usually receive severe penalties too, which should act as an effective deterrent.”

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Good Garage Scheme has a new face

Good Garage Scheme has a new face

Miles Better is the new face of the Good Garage Scheme

Miles Better is the new face of the Good Garage Scheme

The Good Garage scheme is introducing its new face and mascot, Miles Better, to UK motorists thanks to a new advertising campaign.

The animated character will be delivering helpful tips and advice to motorists and garages via a TV advertising spot on the Sky network, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Miles Better, chosen after a search among members to find the best name for the mascot, was finally ‘born’ from a suggestion from Peterborough motorist Heidi Twigg, whose husband is a Good Garage Scheme member.

The name was chosen over other suggestions including Gary Toogood, Carter Fix and Mike the Mechanic.

Good Garage Scheme Marketing Manager Anndi Sheppard commented: “We were delighted that so many took part in our competition and were happy with the new name for our television star.

“We had a number of really creative entries but in the end we settled for Miles Better, as it represents the ethos of our member garages – they all strive to offer miles better service every time you visit.”

If you’d like to follow Miles on Twitter, you can view his page here, and see his new TV ad here.

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Tetrosyl’s underground batcave

A rumour is a powerful tool, and rumours were already circulating that it was Tetrosyl who had stumped up for the MotorMania chain when I went to see the company last week.

We now know of course that those rumours were true, and not for the first time I find myself wondering if the aftermarket grapevine – given its success and accuracy scores in recent months – shouldn’t turn its attention to predicting Euro 2012 scores as well as business moves.

Tetrosyl’s Bury HQ doesn’t look out of place among the other industrial units alongside it. Until, that is, you see what the company has got stashed away underground.

Tetrosyl's underground batcave

Tetrosyl's underground batcave

Beyond the wood-paneled boardroom and movie memorabilia (who knew Tetrosyl had appeared in so many films? Everything from the Fast and the Furious Franchise to the latest Men in Black) lies an underground labyrinth of the company’s products.

T-Cut in every shade imaginable, exotic shampoos and metal polishes stock shelf after shelf of this car-care dream. Every brand the Tetrosyl group owns is found down here, and it’s quite a sight.

The company could quite easily install a cash register in the cave and set itself up as the UK’s first underground car accessory retailer.

Now there’s a thought…

A car-care fantatic's dream

A car-care fantatic's dream

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TecDoc to launch iPad app at Automechanika

TecDoc to launch iPad app at Automechanika

TecDoc's stand promises new innovations

TecDoc's stand promises new innovations

TecDoc will be launching its own application for the Apple iPad at Automechanika.

The app will be a full version of TecDoc’s online catalogue, optimised for the iPad device.

UK visitors to the Frankfurt show will be able to see the launch of the new app, as well as sample some of TecDoc’s other mini-web applications. The company will also be showcasing its screen size optimisation software for iPhone and Android devices.

Alongside the new developments TecDoc is also hoping to show existing customers a range of add-on services. Among these services are Web Shop and Web Service, which give customers alternative routes to accessing parts data held in the TecDoc catalogue.

TecDoc’s Commercial Director Shaun Greasley said: With the Web Shop option, TecDoc will design and build a web portal that can either integrate with an existing website or provide the complete front end for a bespoke site. By contrast the Web Service solution is ideal for those businesses who have already developed their own website, but purely wish to introduce a parts search facility for those browsing the site.

“With both options the level of information that users can access can be specific and reflect the relationship they have with the distributor. Existing customers could be able to access more information on the site than the public for example, but obviously these details can be tailored to suit each individual requirement.”

TecDoc will be exhibiting in hall 5 at stand 6.1 at the show. For your chance to win free tickets to Automechanika, see the CAT blog.

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MotorMania chain bought by Tetrosyl

MotorMania chain bought by Tetrosyl

11 Motormania stores bought by Tetrosyl

11 Motormania stores bought by Tetrosyl

Part of the MotorMania chain, which was recently put up for sale by owner Richard Hartley, has been bought by Tetrosyl.

11 stores from the original 17-strong chain have been purchased by the car care and oils manufacturer. The stores will now be added to the growing Motor-World chain which is also owned by Tetrosyl.

The company says the acquisition has secured 50 jobs in the MotorMania chain and will add an estimated £5 million to the group’s annual turnover.

The deal, concluded last night, takes the number of Tetrosyl-owned stores to almost 100 including four freehold properties. Tetrosyl wouldn’t comment on the sale price of the chain, only saying that it had been for an: “undisclosed sum.”

CAT reported in April that the MotorMania chain was seeking a buyer, with owner Richard Hartley citing massive group debt as his reason for placing the sale. At the time Hartley wrote to customers: “The company needs investment and as such I feel it needs to find a new home, better able to invest.”

Tetrosyl should certainly be able to provide such an investment. Last year the group had a turnover of around £170 million, and now employs 1200 staff, mostly based in the UK.

Commenting on the sale Chairman of the Tetrosyl Group Peter Schofield said: “We are very pleased to announce the acquisition of MotorMania which was established over 25 years ago and whose owner we have known for many years. The management and staff are very solid and loyal to the business and we welcome them into Motor-World.”

David Bennett of appointed administrators Grant Thornton added: “During the sale process we knew MotorMania had real value to the right buyer. In what remains a tough retail environment we are very pleased to have sold the business to Tetrosyl Group, which is ideally placed to drive it forward into the future.”

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