New Don't Let Winter's
Gloom Cloud Opportunity
The last month of the year is so dull. Nobody wants to start anything
new. In many parts of the country, the prospect of snow grows more
real with each passing day, and unless you are a body shop, the
snow seems more like a threat than a promise. All the things you
tried during the year succeeded, failed, or really did not get started.
January's optimism yielded to Deceptember's skepticism.
Deceptember? What's that? No, my spell checker didn't choke or
die. After writing about winter's doldrums, I realized that December
gets a bad wrap. It's not really a bad month; it's our attitude.
Last month I mentioned the "Give the bad dog a good name"
hazard, and I believe that we should consider the deceptive ways
our attitudes affect our behavior and outlook on the future. So,
perhaps we should call the last quarter of the year Deceptember
because our pessimism deceives us and keeps us from looking forward
to the opportunities offered by the New Year.
Curiosity got the better of me this month and the title and Deceptember
theme arose from last month's article. Several days after I e-mailed
the article, I began to wonder about what manufacturers were doing
for their customers. Automechanika, Industry Week, and NACE will
be long gone by the time you read this and I wondered "what's
happening?" As hard as I looked, I could not find anything
new or exciting in detailing. The detailing forums seemed to be
stuck on the same old subjects (removing ink from leather, etc.)
and nothing seemed to be moving the art and craft of detailing forward.
The only hot news in detailing that I could find was the opening
of a state-accredited detailing school in Cleveland. Well, what
do you expect in Deceptember?
The best way to beat Deceptember's doldrums is with positive attitude.
Think about all the good things that are coming (even if little
is happening now) and then make sure that the New Year's opportunities
will strengthen your business. Work at making things good! The rest
of this month's article will deal with how schemes intended to appeal
to the darker side of our natures can actually bring light to your
businesses. I guess this is the silver lining in Deceptember's black
NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK
"Never give a sucker an even break." W.C. Fields said
that, and we know that it is true. One of the disadvantages of living
in the e-age is the preponderance of junk e-mails or spam. In addition
to those dealing with low, low-interest-rate second mortgages, weight-loss
products, male-enhancement drugs, and porn, my favorites are the
multi-level marketing schemes. Each scheme sounds like a sure-fire
way to earn over $10,000 per week working in your pajamas (or not)
These at-home businesses are seductive. After all, why should you
work when you can reap the benefits of the Internet with next to
no effort? Why not, indeed? Of course, you do have to have a sophisticated
name for these schemes, and the current name is MLM or multi-level
marketing. You have seen variants of the approaches many times over
the years. When you were in school, you received the promises of
riches by chain letters: You send five dollars each to five people
for a total investment of $25 and you will receive $100,000 in thirty
days. Where does this money originate?
Well, they find suckers who want to earn $100,000
without working for it. Another name for this scheme is a pyramid
scheme. Here's how it works: One person recruits 10 people (11 people
in first two levels); The 10 people each recruit 10 more (level
3); there are now 111. The 100 people in level 3 each recruit 10
for level 4. There are 1000 people in level 4; they each recruit
10 for level 5. There are 10,000 in level 5, and they each recruit
10 for level 6. There are 100,000 in level 6, and they each recruit
10. There are 1,000,000 in level 7.
In reality, multi-level marketing is not 100 percent efficient.
People come and go. The result is gaps in the pyramid, and its potential
is unfulfilled. Before the Internet, creating and maintaining a
pyramid was extremely difficult through the mail. With the Internet,
one person can communicate with millions of potential accounts everyday
through e-mails. Thus, building and maintaining a pyramid should
be much simpler.
What makes MLM so popular? Greed. The only problem with MLM is
that to succeed you must take advantage of the suckers, or gullible
people, beneath you in the pyramid. Get them to send money up while
you send products down. The problem is that soon the pyramid becomes
more than seven layers deep and the product line becomes over-distributed.
The people at the bottom have no way to obtain the riches as those
at the top. They become deceived by the dream of fast wealth. As
a result, it is not hard to imagine why legal authorities frown
on MLM and pyramid schemes.
At this point, you could suspect that I am skeptical about the
merits of MLM and you are doubtlessly curious about how I am going
to tie this into car care and the month's Deceptember theme. Please
bear with me.
When you really think about MLM, your conscience - or at least
my conscience - tells me it's wrong because it exploits the people
on the bottom of the pyramid. I imagine that there are some "good"
schemes that limit the size of the pyramid and place its recruiting
efforts to filling open slots in the pyramid by promoting people
from the lower levels to higher positions. I also imagine that compensation
structures could be arranged so that the people on the bottom can
make a decent income selling the products. Moreover, there is a
whole school of business consultants and advisors who work to help
MLM people find good pyramids and develop the potential of their
Wait a second! Something interesting just happened. I said that
there are experts who advise on how to select pyramids and staff.
That doesn't sound like "easy money." That sounds like
business. Is there more to MLM than the shallow interpretations
of those decrying the exploits of unscrupulous promoters? Could
there be more to MLM than get rich quick hustlers? And what about
detailers? Is there something here for you as well?
DETAILERS, LEARN GEOMETRY!
While I believe that there are some good MLM programs (definitely
not schemes), there are many bad programs. However, I believe that
there are some valuable lessons that can be learned from the better
MLM programs. Here are the points that we should consider:
Know your customer (downstream)
Know your supplier (upstream)
Training propels the business
Service is the glue that holds the organization together
Quality is assumed (It's the least of your problems!)
You're all wet if you don't know your customer. One thing that MLMs
know is that you make money when you tend to the welfare of your
downstream members. Your downstream is your individual customers.
Even if you were extremely predatory, you do have to take care of
your suckers to ensure that they pay you. Don't you have to take
care of your customers? The key to MLM success is selling consumable
items rather than long-lasting hard goods. Detailing is consumable;
the customer comes back. As a result, taking care of the customer
ensures future business. Similarly, your customer is a source of
referrals, and a referral is like adding more customers downstream
in MLM. Thus, you must strive to meet the needs of your customers.
Before you drink from the stream, know what's upstream. Your suppliers
are critical to your success. Knowing the products and services
that are available to you can make providing your customers with
the appropriate service much easier. MLM people have learned this.
You must keep your downstream people happy to maintain the pyramid
(remember, the payoff is larger if all the layers are intact). As
a result, MLM marketers look to their upstream partners for advice
and assistance in addition to products. Certainly, you can see the
parallel? You should be able to go to your suppliers for support
whenever you need it. There should be no Deceptember blues when
you deal with your suppliers.
Education and expectations are linked. In the previous paragraph,
I mentioned that you should be able to look to your suppliers for
support. You should expect stellar service. For many products that
you use in your shop, the differentiating factor is the distributor
and the service provided. Value and service are almost synonymous.
MLM pros realize that frustrated salespeople downstream can sink
an organization. Participants will have a greater level of confidence
if they have access to the tools that will help them succeed. Training
is one of the most important tools. As you think of all the things
that your distributor should be doing for you, I have a question.
Do your customers (your downstream) have questions?
I started this month's article by introducing the concept of Deceptember,
but one of the largest causes of dissatisfaction is customers with
unsatisfied expectations. One of your key responsibilities is to
teach your customers what to expect. By doing so, you can recommend
products and services that will satisfy their needs. There are many
ways to accomplish this objective. Seminars and demonstrations are
common ways a detailer can teach the community - including potential
customers - about the benefits of detailing a vehicle and what the
customer should expect from a detailer.
Of course, you can always educate your customer during the initial
inspection when both you and your customer inspect the vehicle and
discuss what can and cannot be done for the vehicle. Don't forget
to explain why you are performing tasks. Many times, customers become
dissatisfied because they do not understand why services are being
performed on a vehicle. Not understanding why a task is done can
lead to inappropriate expectations. Consequently, you should always
invest time to help customers understand both the what's and the
why's of a job.
Deliver What You Promised.
Remember that our goal in this section is to consider the things
that promote satisfaction. One of the easiest ways to anger a customer
is to fail to deliver what you promised. In addition to ensuring
the quality of the "what," be sure that you deliver on
the "when" as well. This is often a difficult point to
learn and live by. Good intentions and outstanding performance will
not help you much if a customer doesn't feel comfortable with your
ability to deliver what you promised, when you promised. Your success
depends on referrals, and you cannot afford bad referrals. Don't
promise what you can't deliver.
Customers assume quality; they'll recognize it when they see
it. This is a weird point, but experience has taught me that while
you can be skeptical - perhaps you must always be skeptical - there
is a baseline expectation that products and services should perform
as indicated. Car wash soaps will clean cars; whitewall cleaners
will make whitewalls clean, white, and bright. This is delivering
on the promise, but I believe that when you have built a business
and relationship with suppliers, you have also built a level of
trust that assures that you will not be deceived by the vendor.
Similarly, your customers expect a level of competence from you.
One of the truths about detailing is that the business is about
improving - or at least restoring - appearance. As a result, if
the vehicle doesn't look better, as you promised, then you may have
a challenge. Your customers judge your work by how the vehicle looks
and the expectation you placed in their mind. If the two do not
match, then there is dissonance between expectations and reality.
Make sure that customers can see the benefit of your work.
Earlier in this article I did mention that I would spend more
time with the "Deceptember" name, and I will keep my word.
I proposed the name for the fourth quarter because events and the
outcomes of our attitudes often deceive us. The deception is accepting
the apparent gloominess of winter rather than the excitement of
New Year's opportunity. December is more like the original intent
of January. Janus was the two-headed god of mythology who had the
distinct honor of being able to look forward and backward simultaneously.
December is that way. It is the last month of a year that we may
wish was over, but it is also the gateway to the New Year. So we
must decide in December which direction to face: forwards or backwards.
I favor looking forward to the possibilities and promise of the
New Year. Make the best of every opportunity that comes your way!
John Lamade has extensive experience in the marketing of detailing
products and is a contributing editor to Auto Laundry News. Contact
John via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.