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May/June 2000

NWRA Update
association viewpoint


The Windshield Repair “500”

by Dave Taylor


Every windshield repairer is involved in a very important race, a race with competitors, insurers, networks, glass shops and other repairers to see who can get the consumer’s attention first. When a potential customer recognizes the need for windshield repair, usually the first company that the customer thinks of will be the one to win the job.

When windshield damage is recognized, the green flag drops. The marketing race has begun. Companies with successful marketing programs find they win many races, while those with little or no marketing plans sit by the wayside and settle for whatever comes along.

Who are the companies that win these races? The insurer? The network? The glass shop? The windshield repair shop? Somebody is going to win each race, so repairers must determine what it takes to become the victor.

If they want to win, repairers must stop and take the time to develop a marketing plan which should answer the following questions: why would customers want to use me and how will they know it? We must develop an effective answer to this question. To determine if the plan works, compare your current sales with last year’s. Plans that work, increase sales, and plans that don’t work, don’t. Excuses are not permitted, so forget about the weather or blaming the competitor for decreasing or stagnant sales. When sales are down, thinking and planning are off the mark. We have lost touch with the customer and we had better rethink our approach.

When it comes to such planning, small companies have huge advantages over large companies because they don’t have to gather people from around the country. Instead, they can sit down, think it through and implement immediately. Unfortunately, they sometimes don’t find the time to do this type of planning and that’s when they are beaten by larger rivals. The competition finds the time and makes the plans.

In the past, repairers have used many marketing strategies. They have used note pads, direct selling to insurance agents, radio, TV, advertising on vehicles, public relations and more to drive their point home. The race to insurance agents, insurance companies and networks has, in large part, been won by the networks and nationally organized glass companies. Most repairers would be well-advised to concentrate their marketing efforts on the insureds and retail customers, not the insurers or networks. In the final analysis the public is our customer.

For many years, small companies won the retail customer race by marketing to local insurance agents and claims offices. But now that nationally-organized glass shops and networks are winning many of these races by removing the local agents from the decision-making process, repairers have to rethink their marketing strategies. Although it is virtually impossible to compete with a network or a major glass company on the home office level, it is very possible to compete for the heart and mind of the local customer on a local basis.

To ensure a successful marketing campaign, creativity and planning are key elements. Some people seem to know innately how to creatively market, while others struggle. In recent years, however, an expansion of information in our industry has made marketing help available, such as consultants who specialize in windshield repair. Other useful tactics include trade shows and conferences. Not too long ago, the spring National Glass Association (NGA) show was the only annual industry gathering. Now, in addition to their spring show, there are also NGA’s fall auto glass conference, NWRA’s annual windshield repair conference and trade show, IGA’s annual conference and trade show and numerous regional industry events. You can also find a wide selection of helpful know-how in the glass trade magazines.

Though the problems that many large, publicly reporting auto glass companies experienced in the last year will likely result in significant changes among the repairers’ auto glass competition, you can be sure that the marketing plans of the major players will be reviewed, updated and improved. Eventually, the majors will be joining in the race for the final customer just as they did for insurance agents. As for now, repairers are able to develop and implement effective marketing plans to protect their market share and win the race for the customer. Be sure that you are running in this race and not left sitting by the wayside.

 wpe14.jpg (2104 bytes)Dave Taylor is president of the NWRA and secretary/treasurer of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass in Harrisburg, PA.


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