Business Sense: This is the Time to Create a Little of Our Own Luck

Dec 3, 2009

“Do something!” I shouted over the phone to the owner of a local aftermarket truck accessory shop.

As we discussed the current business climate and I shared a few ideas of what might help, the tone in his voice told me that he was close to giving up on his business altogether. I felt very sympathetic as he explained the lack of customers coming into his location, but as he spoke I got no indication that he had any sort of plan. It seemed like he had been just waiting for things to get better over the past few months. And, waiting is not the answer.

There’s opportunity

There’s no doubt that the past year has challenged everyone in this business, but we need to remember that we’re in this together. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers all need to get busy and take some positive action.

It’s important to keep in mind that the outcome of such an economic downturn also offers outstanding opportunities. These opportunities are not going to just fall into your lap, and may not even come until the market begins to improve. The key, now, is to focus on the goals for each day and create innovative ways to weather the storm. This hard work is the way to prepare for the opportunities that will come.

Hopefully, over time your business has developed a database of customer addresses, e-mails, etc. Now is the time to take advantage of that information. It is much easier to get repeat business from existing customers than spending the money often necessary to attract new ones. What product or service do you offer that has a broad appeal and applies to many customers? What service can you offer with a “Stop-in for a FREE inspection” special, such as trailer hitches, tires, wiper blades, etc.?

Gather your team for a creative sales meeting to discuss these types of ideas. Come up with ways to get past customers back in to your location. One accessory shop I recently contacted is offering a “Spring Detail” for its customer base. The shop isn’t even an auto detailer, but found this a great way to keep the staff employed and often created sales just because the customer was browsing in the store location. Another idea is to address fuel economy concerns by promoting the various fuel-saving devices and new products that are available (tire pressure sensors, fuel and oil additives, air intakes, exhaust systems, etc.).

Use your ‘inside’ media savvy

Promote innovative items. This is not the time to push commodity products. Chances are, you’ll never be the lowest price, so why waste time promoting items that can be bought everywhere? Talk to your vendors and distributors about innovative, new and unique products that can be shared with your customers. Ask for their assistance in creating a PDF flier that can be easily e-mailed or printed. Many of your suppliers will be happy to help you promote their products, and have the photos and descriptive copy ready to create fliers, postcards and other sales tools quickly and inexpensively.

Work the phones! Create a marketing plan with your staff. Each week or month can be dedicated towards promoting a specific product or service. Decide who in your organization can make customer calls and send out e-mails. Determine approximately how many can be made each day, and create a contact sheet or report so results can be tracked.

Put those customized vehicles to work for you! An attention-getting vehicle project can be one of your best marketing tools. Look ahead at the calendar, and research upcoming automotive shows and get those vehicles on display. A simple flier and/or coupon is inexpensive to produce and can be distributed at these events. If you don’t have a vehicle ready for a show, chances are you’ve got a customer who has one. Make sure the vehicle has your business name or website displayed across the windshield or fender, and aggressively work the show.

Getting your business in front of the enthusiasts, the people who are still buying products, is what you have to do. Yes, there are fewer of them buying now, but many are buying. Now is the time for all of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work, not the time to wait around and hope things will improve. There’s an old saying that I absolutely love: “The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get.”

This is the time to create a little of our own luck.