BLACK Friday COACHWORX Business Tip: Get out of retail and into the service industry (by doing next to nothing at all!)


AVIDWORX can be preachy sometimes. We know it. We also tend to repeat ourselves a lot as well, drilling in key concepts that every successful 12-volt retailer should know inside and out.

One concept you’ve probably heard if you’ve attended any of our recent workshops or BUSINESSWORX webinars is the idea that it’s time to stop thinking of yourself as a retailer, and start thinking of yourself more as a service provider.

The beauty of this shift from retail to service is that you don’t really have to do all that much – you’re still stocking and selling products in the same way you always have, and still providing the same services the same. The key difference is the way that you think about your company and present yourself to the public. It’s a new approach you can start immediately.

Instead of defining yourself by the products you carry, it’s time to start defining yourself by your experience and expertise – the services you offer – your knowledge – the quality of your people and the work that you do –  your certifications – the kind of advice you provide – the relationships you make – your approach to customer service – your service professionalism.

Anyone can sell a product, and everyone does these days. The truth is that a lot of the products you sell are available online – often for lower cost and with free delivery – or are also available at other retailers in your community. A few brands are good at keeping their wares off of Amazon and eBay, and in limiting the number of retailers carrying their products in a given market, but it’s a losing battle a lot of the time – and it also assumes that customers have a specific brand preference in the first place, when a lot of them do not.

What you really offer the world is something that almost none of your customers have. You understand the products, features and benefits, and the comparative advantages between them. You also know how to take apart $300K vehicles, install products, and put them back together without voiding any manufacturer warranties. This is your true value to customers and the real product that you need to market and sell.

Remember, nobody gets positive reviews for products. It’s service that makes the difference.

So how do you make the shift?

There are a few things you can do immediately. For one thing, take some time to review your entire marketing, sales, installation, vehicle hand-off, and the post-sales process with an eye on improving your customer service – and pumping up your service message – at every level.

When it comes to marketing it’s probably a good idea to focus on end results rather than products – such stories and photos from actual installations. Show your work. And if you work with any fleets or organizations, like adding lights to local emergency vehicles, let people know that as well. If you have a partnership with any car dealerships in your area, it’s time to promote that relationship. Your customers are a competitive advantage.

If your store already takes this approach at all, you’re already thinking the right way.

And if you have a new product or a brand that’s exciting, or a concept you want customers to understand, consider doing a quick video. Talk about the product by all means, but be sure to mention your professional installation at every opportunity, and maybe show a bit of the process of well – getting film of your staff doing all the most complicated work, whether it’s threading a mess of wires through a tailgate or disassembling a door panel, will prove your expertise beyond a doubt.

Also be sure to mention the fact that your installers go to training events every few months to learn their trade, and point to all of the specialized tools you use that you can bet your customers don’t have lying around in the garage.

You can also start to market your services in a different way:

For example, instead of telling everyone that you have the “best selection of car audio products in the tri-city area,” promote “The most highly trained car audio installation team in the tri-cities.”

Instead of pointing to a new AV Receiver and all the features if offers, promote the fact that you have dashboard kits in stock for every type of vehicle, that you are certified Pioneer/Alpine/Sony installers, and that you provide a lifetime guarantee on all installation work.

Instead of selling speakers, sell a package that includes “professional speaker installation” so your customer will get the most out of every product.

Also pay attention to how you present yourself on the web and social media. If you offer a sale or special promotion, don’t just mention the products you offer. “Get 25% off all 2016 speakers, plus another 10% off our expert installation.”

Standalone service ads can also work. “Thinking of getting remote start in your vehicle? Get it done right with a certified, professional installation.” Never miss an opportunity to point to the services you offer, or your expertise when it comes to delivering those services.

It’s also better to show instead of tell. A lot of shops have started to put in windows to show their install bays, which is an effective way of telling customers that you want them to see the process as well. People feel they’re getting good value for their installation costs.

And if a customer isn’t sure whether they’re going to invest in sound deadening to go with their new speaker installation, take them into the bay to show them an installation in progress so they can see the process and the materials for themselves.

Get Active

Retail stores are also passive for the most part: They have things to sell.

Service providers are more active in that they do things. Never miss an opportunity to show customers what you actually do by getting out into the public. If you offer car wraps, drive a wrapped car with a sign letting people know that you offer this service. If you retail and install marine audio, take your team to the boat show or wakeboard competition to show off your work.

Put another way, you can’t sit back these days and hope that people will come in to buy things – you’re better off heading out and showing the world what you can do.

Make the Mental Shift

There is a lot you can do to make the shift from retail to service, but really the first step is to make the mental shift and to start thinking differently about what it is that really offer – the value you provide to customers in addition to the products on your shelves. Sit down with your staff to talk about it, and make sure everyone is on the same page and using the same kind of language when talking to customers and promoting your store.

The one advantage that 12-volt retailers have always had on other types of retail is the fact that 99% of people can’t, won’t or really shouldn’t do it themselves – even if they had the time. In an era when retailers across North America are closing because they can’t compete with online shopping, the number of aftermarket automotive stores is actually increasing – and the list of products and services that stores are offer is constantly increasing as well.

Retail is tough. Service is the place to be.

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