Your Market Need Shaping Involves Services Customers Never Considered
This month we will start with a bit of imagination. Imagine that
there were 10 vehicles that were completely identical: same number
of miles, same paint scratches, same interior stains, identical
stale cigarette odors, and same wear and tear. Now, give these vehicles
to 10 detailers and tell them to completely detail these vehicles.
In addition, assume that appointments were made for 8:00 a.m. on
Tuesday and that the vehicles arrived at the shops at the appointed
time. The people making the appointments and dropping off the vehicles
would provide the same instructions - "make it look as good
With the detailing complete, the following questions are obvious:
Would the detailing jobs be the same? Would the charges be the same?
Could you tell the difference between jobs?
These are curious questions, and I believe that the answers you
give can tell you volumes about your business and your approach
One would hope that there would be a superficial similarity in
jobs. You would expect shiny paint, clean wheels and tires, and
a clean, fresh-smelling interior, right? But would there be other
differences? How about these:
Was the customer offered a "ride"?
Length of time required to detail the vehicle?
Were personal belongings bagged and returned to customer?
Thoroughness of engine and trunk detailing?
Appearance of fender liners?
Absence of swirls in paint?
Level of gloss?
As you can imagine, there could be many differences in both the
vehicles' appearance and the way the service is delivered. This
leads to another question and also calls for more imagination: How
would you have detailed this vehicle? What would you have done,
and what services would you have offered the customer?
Can you imagine how the owners of these vehicles would respond
to the 10 "different" detailing jobs? Would each vehicle
meet each owner's expectations if all 10 were parked next to each
other? Do you think owners would prefer the work of some shops over
the work of others?
These are powerful and hopefully thought-provoking questions. What
would you do to ensure that your shop would be favored with repeat
business from this customer?
Before I move on, I have some other questions and comments, which
I hope will make subsequent points clearer. Much - probably too
much - has been written about the definition of detailing and my
goal is not to provide either a technical or practical definition.
Detailing is what you and your customers expect from your work.
Your passion for detailing shapes what you do. As a result, define
detailing to suit both you and your customers' needs.
Another question, and this one really bugs me: How permanent is
a detail job? Over the years, I have pondered this question, and
I really haven't discovered an answer. Yet, I believe that this
is a crucial question that too few have asked. Perhaps it is similar
to asking, "Why is there air?" And while we all know the
answer to that one is "to inflate basketballs," I believe
that each detailer should find an answer to the question of how
long a detail should last. One more question: Is this why you never
see small stickers on a window, bumper, or doorjamb that looks like
the illustration below?
Can detailing last? How long should a vehicle "remain"
detailed? Sometimes I suspect that for many detailing is not much
more than a really thorough cleaning and a coat of wax. How many
detailers hide swirls with wax and mask odors with air freshener?
Does detailing end with the first rain or snowfall? What does the
customer get for his investment in your skills? Will he come back
YOU ARE THE BRAND!
This month's theme is marketing, and one of the critical elements
of marketing is branding. A brand is more than a name - it has meaning.
Companies spend billions of dollars annually building and reinforcing
their brands, because they realize that customers attach meaning
to those brands. For example, imagine two large black Doberman Pinchers,
one named Fang, and the other Muffin. Would you expect Fang to be
somewhat more ferocious than Muffin? Your expectations can often
be summarized in a name. The
products you use in your shop are all branded, and you associate
performance with a brand.
In his book, Kotler on Marketing: How to Create, Win, and Dominate
Markets, Phillip Kotler states (from Business Book Review, Vol.
16): "Successful brands have vitality and stature. Vitality
exists when a brand is differentiated in the consumer's mind from
other brands and when the differentiation is relevant to the consumer's
needs. A brand has stature when it commands high esteem and high
familiarity in its target market... Thus, it is important to manage
the quality of every contact (via employees, distributors, and dealers)
the customer might have with the brand."
How does this apply to you? The strength of your brand - that is,
your shop - is related to how well you meet your customers' expectations.
That means that everybody in your shop must contribute to building
your shop's reputation in the community.
How do you differentiate your business from competitors? I asked
you to imagine the results in our 10-identical-vehicle exercise
above. Would they be the same? Your own observations would indicate
that they would not be identical. The 10 jobs would differ in level
of service, quality, and appearance. That is how you start to differentiate
your business from others. You must give your customers superior
value. The best way to promote value is to provide customers more
GIVING MORE FOR LESS
Finding ways to deliver increased value is a continual challenge
and the solution may lie in how you approach marketing rather than
how you deliver services. There are three ways to respond to markets:
1. Reactive or Responsive Marketing
In this form of marketing you try to find and fulfill needs.
In short, you look for people who want their cars detailed.
2. Anticipative Marketing
This approach differs from responsive marketing because you are
looking for customer needs that are unmet by others. Odor removal
and paintless dent repair are good examples of added services that
customers want but don't necessarily know where to find.
3. Need-Shaping Marketing.
Unlike anticipative marketing, need shaping involves services
that the customer never considered possible or available. While
this is often the most risky form of marketing, it provides a way
for you to change the way people think about your business. If you
meet these new expectations, you will be able to establish new price
points and deliver amazing levels of service. One example of need-shaping
marketing is to offer windshield resurfacing. That is: if you can
remove scratches and dulling from clear coats, why not glass?
Need shaping is the most exciting form of marketing because you
are entering into uncharted territory. In the process of shaping
needs, you may reshape the format of your business as well.
SHAPING IN ACTION
Several days ago I received an e-mail from Gary Kouba of Perfect
Auto Finish in Illinois:
"I came up with an idea of hosting detail classes for the
general public. I approached libraries and park districts near me
with this concept and many were intrigued. I soon was able to set
up two classes. When the local newspaper heard about it, they printed
an article featuring it in the car section. My first class had over
50 people attend. The feedback was unreal. I broke a record for
a first-run class at this library. I have hosted over 10 classes
so far, with another 12 on the books. I believe the public has a
huge desire to learn how to properly take care of their car. With
the many products on the market, it is easy to be confused. I take
the complexity out of it, and people love it. Now here the nice
part, I also get business out of it. Some people understand they
can't get their [vehicle] to look great without a professional to
work on it first. After I do their car, they will understand how
to care for it. I'm booked three weeks in advance. I also have gone
to golf clubs to present my services, which has also been successful."
The above is a great example of questioning the way things are
done and then finding a new way to do it. Have you considered ways
of breaking new ground? Two new products fit this mold.
Glass Technology, a Durango, CO-based company, is offering a product
called Glass Hog 2. This is a system for removing scratches and
surface dulling from auto glass. In some European countries, glass
must be perfectly smooth because nighttime visibility decreases
(and glare increases) as oncoming light is reflected rather than
transmitted through the glass. As a result, when the surface becomes
sufficiently bad, the windshield must be replaced. Products like
the Glass Hog 2 eliminate the need
for replacement (except where safety becomes a concern). This sounds
exciting and could be an opportunity worth exploring. For information,
call (800) 441-4527 or (970) 247-9374; write to 434 Turner Dr.,
Durango, CO 81301, USA; or e-mail email@example.com.
Another opportunity is glued-on dent pulling technology. You are
all familiar with paintless dent repair, but a technique used in
body shops for years has now been modified for detailers (and, if
believe what you see on TV, for DIYers). This approach involves
gluing a disk to a dent and then pulling the disk up with a bridging
device. It is a great way to remove small dents caused by errant
doors in parking lots or even hail damage. You can learn more about
this device at Rightlook.com.
Opportunities exist. You must learn to recognize opportunity and
then find ways to realize its potential. In this way you will be
able to shape your market as you work with your customers to find
solutions to their problems.
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.