At the Town Hall meeting at Spring KnowledgeFest this weekend, five leading retailers gave away some of their secret sauce for staying at the head of the pack in the 12 volt market.
First and always is setting a high bar for quality in installation.
A second theme was that successful dealers have found a way to make the Internet work in their favor as specialists….through marketing.
Here’s an example. Musicar Northwest in Portland, OR noticed the shop was getting a lot of referrals from the local BMW dealer, which was odd since the shop doesn’t work with the dealer. But Musicar posts pictures of its BMW and other builds on the Internet. It turns out the 20 somethings working at the local BMW dealer had seen Musicar’s Facebook page, admired its work and was now sending customers its way for aftermarket work.
Matt Schaeffer of Safe & Sound Mobile Electronics, Manassas, VA posted a video of his “carbon fiber process” on YouTube, which now has 150,000 views and is bringing customers to the shop.
The dealers told the audience at KnowledgeFest that in today’s market, labor is your differentiator and if you are not showing it off on social media regularly, you are leaving money on the table.
Both Musicar and Safe & Sound stopped using smartphones to take pictures and bought good cameras. “If you are not documenting your work and taking perfect photos of the perfect work you did, it’s not going to translate well. A good picture is going to make everything look better. Learn how to use programs like Adobe Lightroom…so customers can view and understand what you do and your sales will go through the roof,” said Schaeffer.
For Safe & Sound the videos build trust in customers all over the east coast. “I even did an amplifier install for a guy in Ohio. An amp install… from Ohio. And I’m in Virginia,” said Schaeffer.
A third theme among the retailers on the town hall panel was teamwork.
At Cartronix, Valparaiso, IN almost everyone in the shop does both sales and installation. “So we cross train. I can pull an installer from the back bay and he can sell a $6,000 job in a half hour,” said Eric Carter. Employees as a team even vote on new vendors at the shop. Employees also see the daily sales numbers so they know what categories need improvement.
A fourth theme was tweaking the operations side of their businesses to put best practices into place. For example, SoundFX of Lewes, DE looked at the car dealership model and adopted it. About 18 months ago, Brain Layton took his top tech and best wage earning and made him shop foreman. So he is in charge of instituting training programs and the rules for other guys in the bay, and making sure the techs are making progress. “We also brought in a service manager and he is the point of contact for customers that might have a warranty problem,” said Layton. ” SoundFX has also moved to a system of contacting clients with cars in the bay via text rather than phone to improve communication.
Finally, the dealers stressed the importance of treating customers like gold.
At GNC Customs, Goshen, IN, every member of the family works in the store and the other employees are treated like family. And by extension, every customer is too. “If you read our reviews online they say they treat you like family,” said Josh Mojica.
He said the store is in RV country, and RV sales nosedived in the recession. GNC’s business fell to a quarter of what it was prior.
“We made changes and we’ve been growing ever since,” said Mojica. The showroom was cluttered and confusing so it cut down on lines it carries. “We were trying to be everything to everyone, which we can’t,” he said. “We don’t paint cars, we’re not mechanics.” Last year was the shop’s best year in its history, “and this year is going to be even better,” said Mojica.
Photo: (left to right) Panel moderator Chris Cook of Mobile Electronics, Ken Ward of Musicar, Eric Carter of Cartronix, Matt Schaeffer of Safe & Sound, Brian Layton of SoundFX, and Josh Mojica of GNC Customs.