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Know thy customer

If you think marketing is complex, think again. It does not take much more than a little common sense.

June 05, 2012
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Many of you may be getting tired of my many articles on marketing, market research, and identifying customers. You probably would like to read more articles on chemicals and equipment, and the various methods of detailing.

But, we have to face the facts: You can have the best equipment, best facility, excellent chemicals, and provide a quality service, second to none. However, if you do not know who to sell it to, where they are, how to reach them, and what to say, then what good is it?

You may consider yourself a detailer, or detail shop operator. But you must also be a marketer or hire someone else to market your business, or it is unlikely you will have much success.

Marketing matrix

Do not be afraid of marketing. It is not that complex or confusing. All I am talking about is a good common sense approach on how you can present your service to the public. Keep in mind it is the same simple common sense approach that is used by both IBM and the owner of the corner dry cleaning store. And, of course, by you.

Who are your customers

When you first go into business, you must determine whom your customers are and how to reach them. By identifying who your customers are, you will know how to price the product, if price is a consideration. For example, if you are targeting the upscale car driver, you must market quality, ambience, service, and even pricing commensurate with this market to entice them to your facility.

A major mistake made by most detail shop operators is not asking their customers what services they want, or what they like about the current services. For example, if pickup and delivery is critical for the busy upscale executive and you do not offer it, that customer will go elsewhere.

You have to ask yourself, "What need does my service fill for the customer?" For example, detailing is not just washing and waxing a car or boat. Its major selling points are:

  • Enhancing an appearance;
  • Protecting a client's leisure time; and
  • Protecting an expensive investment.

You must identify the feature benefits of your service to each target market and present them accordingly.

Walk before you run

Keep in mind that very seldom does anyone come up with a service, market it, and become instantly successful.

However, the more time you spend identifying your potential target markets and determining why they would want your service, the greater chance you will have of success.

Who exactly are the detailer's customers?

Remember, you cannot be all things to all people, so what you first need to do is identify all the potential markets for your detail services and then list all the reasons you think they would want to buy your service.

Next, evaluate the potential business you think each market represents.

And finally, decide how much it will take in terms of time, money, and effort to reach these markets. You will find the potential of some markets will not justify the effort and with others, the cost will be too prohibitive.

The following is a list of potential markets for detail services we have developed over the years:

  • Professionals: Doctors, lawyers, dentists, and those who use their cars for their jobs (such as real estate agents)
  • Business executives
  • Luxury car owners
  • Auto dealers
  • Independent automobile brokers
  • Rental car agencies
  • Government agencies
  • Large corporations with fleets of cars and vans
  • Independent truck-tractor owners
  • Trucking companies
  • Senior citizens
  • Young, single working women
  • Individuals selling their cars
  • Body shops
  • RV owners
  • Boat owners
  • Marinas
  • Banks
  • Credit Unions

There may be more potential markets, but these are good places to start.

Now, to help you determine which might be the best for you, complete the Marketing Matrix as shown.

What about the competition?

A crucial part of market research involves knowing the competition. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses in relation to your own. To learn more about your competition and their customers you should talk to your competition; read trade magazines your competitors read; and attend seminars and trade shows. This will give you a sense of what your competitors are doing, what their customers purchase, and will help you to improve your own service.

Grow with the market

Market research will help you target growing market niches and avoid stagnant or declining ones. For example, a stagnant niche might be the auto dealer. Trying to build or expand a business serving a shrinking or extremely competitive market is a sure course for financial failure.

On the other hand, tying out your detail business with a rising star helps to insure built-in growth. A little study and some common sense will tell you what the best markets for your detail business are.

Once you know your markets, be sure to go after each one differently. Do not depend on just one. For example, do not be satisfied with just luxury car owners. There is a big market among drivers of the Honda, Toyota, and Oldsmobile types. Also Jeep Cherokees, mini-vans, and Suburbans. Then there are boats, RV's and trucks.

You do not have to be a heavy hitter company to do market research. There are plenty of resources. Talk to your suppliers, competitors, and operators in other parts of the country.

The basics are here. It is up to you to make them work. If you are only interested in detailing cars, or leaving the success of your detail department to your detail manager, it is unlikely you will be overwhelmed with business.

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