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The Other Side of Marketing Complexity

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I recently got in touch with my first love in business: marketing.

I love marketing! I remember the rush of figuring certain things out related to marketing early on in the history of my shops that allowed me to grow rapidly. The first 10 years, we grew 10x and I spent very little on marketing. The trade-off was that I spent a lot of time on it. I remember reading the book SEO for Dummies and realizing that ranking well online was going to play a huge role in the success of local businesses. I also remember buying a course from John Jantsch called “Referral Flood” and learned about the importance of building deep, meaningful relationships with key people and organizations that could send us lots of work. I began courting dealers, insurance agents and other business owners and forming alliances of mutual referrals through organizations like BNI and networking events through the local chamber of commerce. Our growth went on autopilot as these simple, but time-consuming, tactics online and in person started to gain traction.

Then I purchased a second shop. And then a third. Along the way, I also joined CARSTAR, which has a whole department of people dedicated to marketing. So, we kept growing but now it was more through acquisition and working with a large marketing department with highly trained people and sophisticated tools and metrics.

Recently, it became painfully clear that we were no longer experience organic growth in each store. We had reached a plateau. We had hit what Dan Sullivan, one of the top business coaches of all time, calls “the ceiling of complexity.” What once felt fun and easy had become complex and difficult.

What is the best way to overcome complexity? Turning again to the wisdom of Dan Sullivan, he teaches that the only way through the ceiling of complexity is simplicity. We can't force our way through it with greater effort or complexity. We must find a simple solution.

One very simple approach to marketing was developed by Allen Dib in his book The One Page Marketing Plan. He discusses the basic phases of marketing as “before,” during” and “after.” Let’s run these through the body shop filter and see what that can look like.


This is the phase of crafting and announcing your USP or unique selling proposition. What sets you apart from your competitors? Are you a small, locally and family-owned shop that deeply cares for its customers and community? Perhaps you’re the biggest player in your area and you have the scale that allows you to have bigger, better equipment and technology. Maybe you’re the shop with most OE certifications in your zip code. Your shop has a unique story and personality that will resonate with a certain segment of people. Find that niche and don’t be afraid to share it at every possible turn.


This is the phase of capturing and nurturing leads.

For us, this is typically people who come looking for an estimate. Of course, that’s not ultimately what they need. What they need is to have their vehicle repaired and back on the road as soon as possible. But, how the conversation typically starts is with their perceived need “to get an estimate.” More and more, I find myself trying to help potential customers understand that they don’t really need an estimate—they need to choose a shop and get their car in so repairs can get started. Estimates are often more a matter of sorting out who is paying for the repairs.

I tend to think of the “during phase” as mostly educating customers on the repair process and making it as easy as possible for them to say “yes” to us just guiding them through the complexity of handling the insurance side, getting a rental set up, scheduling and all the little details that go into them having an effortless experience.

What about the ones that drive away, undecided? This is where we have to gently pursue them. A follow-up phone call within 24 hours. An email from the owner describing the shop’s USP. Sending a small gift. Some light touch that keeps your name in front of them as they are deciding what to do next.


How do you turn your customers into referral sources? Simple: Deliver a world-class, effortless experience for them. It’s not about wowing them with some slick marketing brochure. Those fancy brochures typically end up in the trash and people aren’t going to be impressed by our design savvy or technological expertise when they literally have Netflix in their pocket as an app on their phone.

No, what people really want is not to be impressed but to be taken care of. They want a simple, clearly defined process that makes this interruption to their life as effortless as possible.  

Once they have had a great experience with you, they will become not only a fan, but also a referral partner happy to tell their family and friends about how easy you made everything. Allen Dib encourages his readers to think about the last time they referred a friend to a restaurant. You likely didn’t refer that restaurant as a favor to the owner. No, you referred the restaurant because you cared for your friend and want them to have a great dinner experience.   

Marketing is simply about developing relationships with people who need your services and turning them into raving, referring fans by giving them an effortless experience. Yes, there are marketing metrics and strategies and tactics but, in the end, we’re all in the people business.

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