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By Joe Marconi in Joe's BlogThere are many things to consider when creating a marketing plan. Among them are establishing a budget, what forms of media should be used, and whether traditional advertising, such as TV, radio, and print, is still relevant. And of course, how much should be allocated to social media and digital advertising?
All the above are essentials to any marketing plan. However, the first step is ensuring that you have a healthy workplace and that your employees understand your company’s culture and the overall mission and vision.
We all know that happy employees create happy customers. No form of advertising can overcome a toxic workplace with unhappy employees. If your employees are not creating an amazing customer experience, your marketing plan will not work.
Advertising and marketing may bring in customers, but the people in your company creating an amazing customer experience will be the most important component of your marketing plan. It’s the customer experience that sells work and gives the customer a reason to return.
Creating an amazing employee experience, which creates an amazing customer experience, is also the most cost-effective part of your marketing plan. In fact, it cost next to nothing.
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By Joe Marconi
As a business coach with Elite Worldwide, I speak to many shop owners around the country about their struggles and concerns. At the top of that list is driving more profit to the bottom line. Some of the questions I hear are: Should I increase my marketing budget? Should I raise prices and my labor rate? Is it a car count issue or an ARO issue? Or should I improve my procedures and policies? All of these are great questions and the right questions.
However, the first step in improving your business is to ask yourself: Do I have the right people employed at my auto repair shop?
Whether you are struggling in business or having a banner year, your future depends on the quality of people you assemble around you. Do all you can to take care of your employees. Listen to them, and include them in on ways and ideas to build your company. Make them feel important.
When you assemble a great team of employees and take care of that team, trust me, profit will follow.
While at the Ratchet and Wrench Management Conference, I was able to review most of the management software packages available. I have a few observations to share that might be helpful. Each software package has its own pluses and minuses, but, I see some high-level commonalities amongst them.
At a high level, you can separate software packages into two groups based on age. The longer a software package has been available, the more likely that many of its features are highly refined and give you the most controls. The disadvantage of an older software package is that they are too busy keeping their customer base happy with fixes and minor features that they don't have time to take the leap of innovation (e.g. DVI). If the platform is really old and/or they are not charging enough money monthly to have the revenue to hire a good team, they may not be able to completely rewrite their software to utilize newer technology features. For these software packages, you are forced to change vendors to adopt new the new features. On the other hand, if the software package is new, they go straight for the snazzy features and also, try to fix the perceived problems of the legacy software packages. They excel in the basics, but lack the depth of feature functionality that only time brings. Mind you, both types of companies are trying to reach feature parity. New companies need to flush out features, adding complexity and older companies are working to build the snazzy features. Both of these take time.
For the record, I'm using Protractor. I can tell you all of the good and bad of this package. I used my in-depth knowledge of this program to compare it to the newer packages. In other forums, the two main contenders for new appear to be:
TekMetric ShopWare Other New: Shop Monkey AutoLeap Older More Mature Systems: Protractor Mitchell (I didn't look at this one) NapaTracs (I didn't look at this one) Many others not at this show I liked the snazzy new features that I saw in each new package, but quickly recognized that in my daily use, I'm using certain mature features that are not present in the new packages.
Another observation is that each software package somewhat enforces a workflow methodology. You can choose to fight their internal structures (and lose), or go with their model. I noticed a few idiosyncrasies, but, they are all trending towards a seemingly similar workflow. This requires scrutiny when selecting a software package. The new guys are often pushing their "better way" as a solution to the problems of old. For instance, ShopWare had a unique approach to canned jobs that deserves investigation that I didn't notice in other packages.
So, when shopping, make note of the real features that you must have. Don't be fooled by the shiny new outer skin. Balance it with your real needs.
I do see that some of these new contenders are investing much money into development of new features, so over time, they will likely build the feature that you need today. As well, some mature packages are investing in the future.
I will say this loudly. Your software vendor must be charging you healthy monthly fees to have the money necessary to continue to innovate. If you gravitate to the lowest price, features could take longer or never come. Just like us, we must first survive before we can do good work and be able to pay the bills.
I attended my first ever industry management conference. What a great experience. If you've never gone, I would encourage you to add it to your do-now bucket list. There was a lot of open and detailed sharing. For example, in a work session talking about bay efficiency analysis, they used real numbers from the audience. Monthly Overhead, Gross Profit Percentage, desired bottom line profit. It showed multiple paths to success that were immediately relatable.
None of the presentations were about perfection. As a matter of fact, most presenters shared information about how they did things stating that this may or may not apply to your situation. No one told you what to do, but rather offer tools for analyzing your own situation. None of the presenters were making sales pitches.
In other sessions, real shop owners share tips and techniques on a number of topics that we see here. Being a live event, these were more dynamic conversations.
I've returned from the conference with a renewed sense of urgency analyzing my numbers to see where we had success and where we need to improve. I do expect to make real changes, but don't yet know exactly what changes I'm going to make. Got to crunch some numbers first.
I signed up for the conference when it was first published, but sat on the CC screen for a while debating the value of this conference. Should I go, or should I stay? I reluctantly pushed the GO button. However, looking back, I should have enthusiastically smashed that GO button!
The next one is in Denver. I recommend that you consider attending.
A side benefit is that I got to meet Joe Marconi and in a session that we jointly attended, I overheard Joe say that he was mentored by Jerry Holcom. Later in the conference, I had the pleasure of talking with Jerry as well. In the many networking sessions, we met many different shop owners and had great conversations.
By Joe Marconi
There seem to be mixed opinions on what Business System is the best. And also, not all business systems fit a particular repair shop model.
There are a lot of new players in the past few years: Auto Leap, Protractor, Teckmetrics, Shop Boss, Shop Monkey, and more.
Are you happy with your system? What features are important to you?