One of the great joys of writing this column for so many years is talking with and getting to know our readers. Recently I got to know a technician named Mike Kozub. Mike has been reading Trade Secrets for many years and is a big fan of some of the stories about customers who do strange things, like the lady with the broken “PRNDL.”
In fact, Mike had one of his own stories that goes back to 1964 when he worked for a Ford dealership doing warranty work on new cars. The car was a Falcon that had a manual choke. Mike told me a woman in her 50s kept complaining that her Falcon started up okay, then would lose power. She used the car locally for short trips to the stores and church. After several attempts to duplicate the problem, the service manager assigned Mike to take a ride with the customer to see firsthand what was happening.
Mike asked the customer to drive so he could watch her as well as the car. The woman got behind the wheel, adjusted the seat then pulled out the choke and hung her pocketbook on the choke handle. Bingo! Mike found the problem. The customer was riding around with the choke pulled out. When Mike questioned her, she said she thought that was how that thingamajig was intended to be used. Mike had to work hard to hold back the laughter as he explained how the choke was supposed to be used—definitely not to hold the lady’s purse.
After working at the Ford dealership for a year, Mike and his brother opened a body shop in Kearny, NJ. Then Mike tried his hand at being an insurance adjuster. In 1971 Mike moved to Vernon, NJ, where he opened a service station and auto repair shop, which he ran for 18 years.
In 1998 Mike experienced some minor health issues and decided, with some strong urging from his wife Janet, to get into a different business where he could “stay warm and dry” all winter. An opportunity came up for Mike and his wife to buy a print shop whose owner had recently passed away. This was a whole new challenge for Mike and Janet, but they were up to it. In a very short time, the pair had a going business…and they were warm. Long johns and sometimes working outdoors through the snow, ice and cold of northern New Jersey winters were a thing of the past for Mike and Janet.
For a guy with Mike’s mechanical aptitude, the machines in his print shop were a snap. Learning to design graphics was a little more of a challenge, but one made much easier because Mike had done a lot of graphics work for a bass fishing club, of which he was the member in charge of doing flyers, press releases and a newsletter. Mike learned to do the routine kind of stuff like flyers, business cards, copies and brochures in a very short time. Then he brought to his new line of work the expertise and experience he had gained running his own repair shop.
That put Mike in a unique position to be able to help his print customers who were attempting to create their own advertising. Often a repair shop owner would come to him with what was basically a good idea but with little or no experience in advertising. Over time, Mike developed a keen sense for what kind of auto repair shop advertising works. He said some of his customers really didn’t want his help or advice. That was no problem. However, for those who were sharp enough to recognize that Mike had the automotive experience and advertising know-how to make their advertising campaign work, he was more than happy to provide very constructive direction.
“We usually suggest doing posters, flyers and a mailer program of some sort,” Mike said. “As you would expect, the entire package isn’t for everyone, so a shop can do any one of the pieces as they see affordable. Costs are reflected in the quantity of each product, with the per-piece cost being the lowest in higher quantities. I always recommend a shop price out quantities in excess of its immediate needs. That way, in the future, they have the product and don’t have to pay higher per-piece print costs when they’re ready to put it out again. I personally like a pump flyer and a direct mail program coinciding with each other.”
Mike is not the kind of guy who likes to blow his own horn, but I was able to get out of him a real-life story of how his knowledge and advice really helped his auto repair shop owner customers. I convinced him to talk about a shop for which he created a program of mailings, flyers and banners. Mike created a package and utilized the U.S. Postal Service’s EEDM program, where shop owners can reach new customers at a reasonable rate.
The customer was opening a gas station and wanted a new opening package with signage. Mike developed a program that included static signs for the windows, pump handouts, flyers, a mailing and all that, through his experience, Mike knew would work. The program was much more than the shop owner expected, and he was thrilled. That happened two years ago and the customer is a repeat for Mike.
Recently Mike did a small mailing to a gated community a customer wanted to target. Mike created the flyer and, using the Postal Service’s EEDM system, sent out the mailing. The customer reported that he had a better than 10% return on the mailing, which is a terrific return. Generally, advertising people consider a 1% to 2% return a great success.
The advantages for Mike are his automotive background and his ability to suggest to customers the things that work and those that don’t. Having been there running his own shop, Mike knows the reasonable limits in any budget for a shop depending on size, location, volume, etc. The added bonus is that he truly enjoys helping his shop-owner customers run a successful advertising campaign.
The Trade Secret is that you can have a successful advertising program for a reasonable cost if it’s properly handled by someone who has been in the trenches and knows what the budget limitations are for a shop owner. Mike Kozub knows the business and has the experience to recognize and improve on a basic concept or to create a whole new concept for a particular shop. To get a good idea of what Mike can do, visit his website.
Talking with Mike, I was reminded of advice I received years ago from the advertising legend David Ogilvy of the high-powered Madison Avenue advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather and author of the book, Confessions of an Advertising Man (still available on Amazon.com). He said that for the independent auto repair shop owner, direct mail advertising is the most effective way to reach new customers, provided the advertising is well done. Mike Kozub agrees.
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Copied from the Motor Magazine July 2016 Issue, if you like what you see please subscribe to the Motor Magazine by clicking here.