Up Your Business - November - 2022

FIMS – What Is It?

My newest seminar is Only One Thing Matters in the Marketing War – Winning. It’s a war for TOMA – Top Of Mind Awareness. Think of TOMA as instant recall. When people need your service and think of you first, you’ve won the Marketing War.

You’ve seen war movies with military leaders gathered around a giant map or scale model of the warzone. The master plan is orchestrated from this “war room” and involves managing several battles on multiple fronts simultaneously. The strategic team plans and executes each action, continuously monitoring and communicating the status of the battles, making changes as needed.

A vehicle’s dashboard is a good metaphor for the war room leaders monitoring, discussing, reporting, and responding to prevailing conditions. And it’s an excellent metaphor for business.

No Check Engine Light – your business is on solid ground and running well.

  • You can take time off, and your team will keep things running fine.
  • Your bills are current, and you have a cash reserve.
  • You’re prepared to withstand an economic slowdown.
  • You have a marketing plan, providing steady, manageable growth.

The Check Engine Light is on – something’s not right. You’ll check into it when you have time. But right now, you’re too busy with a few fires and feeling a little pressure – that’s a new feeling for you.

  • You’re beginning to slow-pay some bills
  • You’re tapping into your reserves more than in the past due to cash flow shortages.
  • You’re occasionally using other people’s money; holding checks for a few days; not paying the entire credit card balance; delaying your own paychecks.
  • You’re lowballing jobs just to generate cash flow.
  • Are you feeling less comfortable about taking time away from the shop?
  • You worry about temporary slowdowns, and a lengthy one could be your demise.
  • You’re considering cutting back or abandoning your marketing to save money.

We have dashboards in the form of P&Ls, check registers, and reports on our shop management computer systems. However, I’ve discovered that many shop owners don’t pay any more attention to P&Ls and reports than our customers pay to check engine lights. We tell them it’s usually too late when the vehicle starts acting up. But this is true for our businesses too.

When you look at your P&L, do you investigate the financial elements that affect the bottom line? Or if it’s a positive number, do you merely file it? If that’s you, why? Stop doing that!

The primary reason shop owners avoid examining their financials is fear. They fear that if they find something “out of whack,” they’ll need to confront the issue(s). It might require making hard decisions, changes, or uncomfortable financial moves. Instead, they hope it will pass. And you wonder why customers drive with check engine lights on?

Many fear not knowing what to do about the problem(s). Whom do you trust if you need expert help? Will they take advantage of you or charge you too much for their services? Are you still wondering why customers drive with check engine lights on?

FEAR is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Let’s take the fear out of what to do. Today I’m going to tell you about FIMS, which stands for Fully Integrated Marketing System©. But how does a marketing system help with solving management problems? It’s because marketing is the nucleus of all your business systems. Let’s look at how FIMS works.

Marketing drives all business systems and touches or is touched by every aspect of your business. I’ve yet to find any area that isn’t impacted in some way by marketing – even clean toilets. Most people think Advertising & Promotions are marketing. However, they comprise only one facet of FIMS – no more or less important than the other five facets.

When FIMS is clicking on all six cylinders, your business thrives. As the name implies, each facet of FIMS is fully integrated into the full system like the cylinders in and engine. Let’s look at the things comprising each aspect of the FIMS cellular matrix.

Strategy Design and Execution is where it all begins. So often, shops struggle because they don’t know the answers to three primary questions. Your answers to these questions are vital for your strategic plan. An ice cream sundae is a good metaphor for this.

  1. What business are we in? To most, this seems obvious – we’re in the transmission or car repair business. If that’s what you think, your focus is on fixing cars. When that’s your focus, it’s easy to forget to take care of the customers’ needs. However, when you put people first, your approach will shift to doing nice things for people, solving their primary frustrations like getting to work or taking the kids to school, and fixing their car becomes almost coincidental. This is like choosing the ice cream flavors for the sundae.
  2. What makes our company unique? Often called the USP or Unique Sales Promise, how are we different from all the other shops that fix cars? How will the customer know if we’re different? What can we do that differentiates us from other shops? For example, “We offer same-day appointments.” Very few shops, if any, do that anymore. Saying it is one thing. But you must be able to do what you say you will. You’ll need a strategy for doing it. This is your special sauce for the sundae.
  3. What overt benefits do our customers get from us that they won’t get from our competition? The OBS or Overt Benefit Statement tells the customer how they benefit from your USP. WIIFM is not a radio station. It stands for What’s In It For Me. Your OBS describes how they’ll feel. People make buying decisions based on feelings. For example, if your USP is “We promise same-day appointments,” your OBS might be, “So you won’t worry about breaking down while waiting until your appointment.” The good feeling is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Once you’ve answered these three questions, you can confidently move forward with your model. First, set goals for monitoring, measuring, and managing results. Dennis Madden’s new book, Hi-Rev – A Faster Way to Profits, is a good resource to help you with this. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

You’ll want to attract customers who are a good match for your newly created model. Determine who your ideal target customers will be. Next, select the best ways to reach and attract them. Finally, design an affordable, sustainable marketing system that aligns with your model and ideal customer, with messaging that addresses their wants, needs, and fears.

By the way, if you’re too busy, now is the perfect time to redefine your ideal customer. It’s better to narrow your focus when customers are plentiful than when customers are scarce.

A Shop’s Street Appeal, Inside Appearance, and Operational Functionality marketing facets. Known as “Owned Media,” it’s your largest investment. You should capitalize on it. As I said, people buy on their feelings. Don’t underestimate the impact of your shop’s image and operational functionality. Does your facility integrate with the community and neighborhood? Is it eco-friendly and safe for your customers and employees? Clutter and confusion do not inspire feelings of confidence and safety.

Products, Services, and Pricing are all marketing matters. Your choices regarding these three things impact your company’s financial success and position you competitively in your marketplace more than anything else. You must know who you are and target your customers appropriately – “high quality and high-tier pricing” means to avoid low-end price shoppers with older vehicles.

Process and Sales Methods must align with your model, ideal target customers and vehicles, shop image, product/service menu, and pricing. If you’re going to charge top dollar, your onboarding, sales process, and customer interactions must be heavy on relationship building. People feel better and are willing to spend more when you engage with them in a personal, caring way – relationship selling versus transactional selling is your “bedside manner.”

Your People Are Your Company Culture means your team must understand, buy in, and act out all aspects of your strategy. Their performance and behavior are the evidence your customers use to gauge whether they’re getting the things you’ve promised in your USP and OBS. You’ve set the expectations, and it’s up to you and your team to live up to them. Company culture lives or dies with your team’s conformance with your marketing promises. Disney built their culture by making employees “cast members.” They realize that people go there for entertainment, and that’s what cast members do – even if it’s cleaning the toilets or picking up trash.

Advertising and Promotions comprise the last facet of FIMS. They must fully integrate with your strategic model. Your advertising messages should project your image and value promises. Don’t advertise where your target customers won’t see or expect to see you or where the integrity of your image is tarnished. For instance, if you’ve chosen to be a high-end shop, don’t advertise in throw-away flyers with discount coupons or on bulletin boards in laundromats.

Outside-In, “Paid Advertising” is costly if done incorrectly. A tested guideline for Outside-In advertising is to:

  • Say something important.
  • Say it to your ideal target customer.
  • Say it well in a relatable way.
  • Say it as often as possible.

Inside-Out, “Organic Marketing” is an economically effective way to reach your ideal target customers. Inside-Out marketing involves less money than time and energy. Organically, tap into your company’s natural, already-existing, internal market.

• Design incentivized referral programs.

• Network with other shops – outside sales and cross promotions.

• Engage and connect through your website and social networking platforms.

• Community Outreach – join and attend Service Clubs, Churches, Business Networking Clubs, and Chamber of Commerce.

• Encourage your employees to do the same with their natural networks.

Want some help? Don’t hesitate to call me for guidance or to bounce ideas around. I can also connect you with professionals you can trust. If you want me to coach you as a client, we can discuss that too. Of course, a company that’s already running well will get faster results, but FIMS also helps troubled shops.

The FIMS marketing system coordinates Inside-Out sales and marketing principles with Outside-In advertising methods, creating a Fully Integrated Marketing System©. If this interests you, text or call me at 480-773-3131 or send an email to coachthom@gmail.com.