By Naseem Mauddi
Developing and executing a well-planned marketing strategy for your fabrication and upholstery shop can help increase profits and propel it to new levels of success. With so many proven methods available, including fliers, commercials, sponsorships and special promotions, the possibilities are endless. However, none of these marketing tools will make a difference if your business doesn’t first adhere to the concept of total quality management.
Total quality management (TQM) is the practice of ensuring that customers’ needs are met or exceeded the first time, every time. Meticulous quality control, combined with superior customer service and a cunning marketing strategy, will keep your business thriving for years to come. However, practicing one without the other can prove devastating to your bottom line.
Quality and service
TQM is, by far, the greatest asset to your shop’s future. While marketing may sell your service once, it’s the quality of those services that generates repeat sales. Your shop can invest all of its resources into a clever marketing campaign, but if the quality of your services is inferior, your business will ultimately fail. Not only will you have wasted valuable time and money, but your aggressive marketing strategy may even accelerate your business’ demise.
In service-based industries, like marine fabrication and auto upholstery, reputation is everything and word-of-mouth marketing can make or break your business. While not all satisfied customers will spread word of your quality services, unsatisfied customers will certainly warn friends and family not to give your shop their business. Business analysts estimate that nearly 50 percent of consumers will avoid a store because of someone else’s negative experience. Neglecting the quality of your services is a sure-fire way to develop a bad reputation and experience a drastic drop in sales.
Analyze your work
To avoid the negative effects of word-of-mouth marketing, quality control must be prioritized above all else. Before you consider growing your business, you’ll need to take a hard look at the quality of your work. While it may be difficult to take a step back and criticize your performance, it’s necessary to understanding what you are or aren’t good at. Maybe there’s a service you feel you must provide as an upholstery shop, but aren’t as experienced with it as you’d like to be. For instance, maybe your shop is the area’s best restoration facility for classic and antique cars, but you’re not very familiar with the newer technologies found in many late-model vehicles. Should you stop offering this service completely and keep practicing until you master it; or hire a qualified technician to handle those kinds of jobs? The choice is yours, but no matter what you choose, you must not market your upholstery business as a provider of a service that you haven’t yet mastered.
Because upholstery shops are a part of the service industry, their measure for quality is held at a higher standard than companies that simply sell products. Quality control is not limited to function and appearance, but much more. When a bimini top is installed on a customer’s boat, it must function without flaw, have a wrinkle-free appearance, be completed on time, cost as much as the original estimate, and stand the test of time. Once you feel confident that every service your shop provides is of the utmost quality, you can begin to formulate whatever marketing plans you deem best.
Most shops understand the importance of quality craftsmanship, but often underestimate its power as a marketing tool. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your customers automatically expect to receive the highest quality of work from you. At some point all consumers have been disappointed on a previous purchase. Marketing your business through the quality of your work will not only establish a solid reputation, but also justify your prices. Most importantly, it will generate consumer confidence—easily the most influential factor in sales.