What’s Up With QR Codes?

The current gotta have craze is Quick Response Codes (QR). The hype suggests that millions of people are just dying to scan every QR image they come across and will marvel at wherever their magic phone takes them. It doesn’t work that way!

Like the now ubiquitous barcode, a QR code image is another way to embed information in an image. But the information is only actionable by a device that can interpret the image. If you don’t have a QR code scanner, you’ll need a phone with a camera and a QR code reader application (app). You use the phone to take a picture of the code and the app software interprets and performs an action based on the data embedded in the image.

Here are some suggestions on how you can use QR codes:

  • For some people, saving your contact information is easier if you place a QR code on the back of your business card. They scan the code and have all your contact information in their phone.
  • Put a QR code at the bottom of a promotional piece to direct the reader to a landing page that contains a sign up for a free report.
  • The code can be used to test direct response promotions. Test different offers by monitoring the landing page, or providing special offers and tracking the response.
  • Place a QR code on the bottom of the customer’s invoice when they pick up their car. It can direct them to special future offers, sign up for your Preferred Clients Program, link to a satisfaction survey, link to a video, or any other after-sale, repeat-business generator you can think of.
  • Perhaps you can have a series of teaching videos on your site that explain various repair/service procedures. Place a code on their estimate that directs them to an index of the available videos. You can suggest they view the video for more information about whatever procedure you will be doing on their vehicle.
  • There aren’t many products sold by auto repairs but if you do, a code on the product package could direct the user to a landing page, blog post, video, or any medium that improves their results.

If you like, we can place an article in your Auto-Insights explaining QR codes, how they’re used, and how your client can add the application to their smart phone.


From the “What the Heck Were They Thinking?” Department

I never cease to be amazed by stupidity, especially from people who should know better. The employees who wear expensive suits at Aaron Brothers Art Mart planned a promotional campaign  they called Artrageous. The stupid part is what they will be giving away and demonstrating at their free art events. Graffiti vandals will be instructing attendees how to use their free  ”Graffiti Starter Kits!”

This is from an event poster:

Aaron Brothers graffiti event in San Diego is
happening on August 13th, 2011 from 1-5pm to help benefit the Boys & Girls Club of America. The event will have live painting by the graffiti writers: Revok, Risk, Sever, Wane, and Ces. For more information check out

According to the office of Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine, Aaron Brothers is advertising and distributing the kit, which includes paints and markers, as part of its “Artrageous” promotion. Zine wants the store to stop passing out the kits or to post a message for consumers about the “ramifications and penalties of graffiti vandalism.” Councilman Zine threatened to file a cease and desist order against the company.

I cannot imagine anyone I know promoting their business to their community by doing something as moronic as having graffiti vandals — Aaron Brothers calls them “graffiti artists,” which is like putting lipstick on a pig– give instructions on how to tag.

Many small business owners don’t realize the marketing advantage they have. At our level, we engage with our customers one on one and we make the personal connections that build loyalty. Trying to emulate big business branding practices is not necessarily the way for a neighborhood independent shop to promote itself.

I suspect the committee who came up with that promotion, and the employees who had to approve it, are reasonably intelligent. But when you place individuals in that environment, their IQ number becomes the same as their age.

But perhaps Aaron Brothers president isn’t as big a lame brain as the idiots in his marketing department. This week the company cancelled all their “Urban Art Events” in the greater Los Angeles area. Or maybe he is, as they continue trying to unsuccessfully
imitate small business.

Santa Barbara is also unhappy.

Artrageous? No, it’s outrageous.

The Real Value in Your Business

Ask any shop owner what is your most valuable asset? These are typical answers: employees, equipment, knowledge, real estate, integrity, processes, and more. If I wanted to be difficult, I’d stop now and place a link to a page that has the answer. But I’m not, so I’ll break the suspense…

The most valuable asset a business has… drum roll… are your customers.

You can survive the loss of any business asset except your customers. Every asset you have but one can be replaced. You would be inconvenienced and possibly lose a lot of money. But, with your customer list intact, overnight you could start over again.

When I sold my shop the real estate was valuable, but the other tangible assets were pretty much worth next to nothing. The low value of used equipment is depressing. The inventory was sold for a song.

And the employees, although they’re still friends, I couldn’t sell them to anyone!

However, my customer list continued to provide income for several years after I closed the shop.

The distinguishing difference between the customer list, when viewed as an asset, and all the balance sheet assets is the customers provide income. Equipment and inventory cost money and depreciate, but are cheap to replace.

So if the customer is the most valuable asset, why do most shop owners fixate on how well they can fix a car? They should be figuring out how to build a business that’s focused on the customer and provide services the consumer wants to buy.


What Business Are You In?

I’ll bet you thought you were in the car fixing business. Well in a way you are. That’s what you sell, but that’s not the business. Fixing the car is a given; that’s what’s expected — that you can fix the car. This is the commodity you sell. The activity that you do.

But business is about people. We interface with people. People do their business with other people. The car doesn’t decide to bring itself to you.

So saying a business is about people actually translates into this: business is about relationships and experiences. That’s how people are affected by other people. And how you affect others will determine your success. I can’t overstate that. Whoever provides the experience someone wants and feels good about, will become the shop they call theirs.

Be in the business your customers want you to be in. That is, they obviously want you to fix their car, but what else is important to them? How about: trust, concern, professionalism, etc. The needs and desires of your customers is what really determines — or should determine — what your business should be about. Always remember, your client isn’t only buying your ability to fix their car. They are also buying everything that goes along with that service.

Here’s a strategic question to think about:  If all you’re selling is auto repair and fixing the car is your primary focus, you limit yourself to being just another auto repair shop. When that happens you run the risk of being commoditized. And a commoditized business will be forced to compete on price. That’s a hard way to spend the day!

The way your customer feels about your service, the people they deal with, the environment, and everything they experience controls everything.