Your daily commute takes you past a local farm. On the first drive, you notice a group of cows. But after a few trips, you rarely give them more than a glance.
Then one day, something catches your eye. A purple cow emerges from the group. You stop your car to marvel at the sight, posting a video of the cow on social media.
The reaction is swift. Your clip goes viral! Local journalists even notice the buzz and plan a trip to report from the farm.
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Wonder where we are going with this? Vic Tarasik, Founder and Managing Partner at Shop Owner Coach LLC, shared the analogy in a recent AutoLeap webinar: your auto repair shop needs to find its own purple cow.
Let’s define the purple cow concept further with examples from the past.
Purple cows you’ve seen before
This quote is by Seth Godin, renowned author of “Purple Cow” and creator of the concept. It speaks to the dilemma that many auto repair shops face. How do you stand out in a sea of local shops that all do similar things?
To find your purple cow, it’s important to first look at some examples from history. What about these products captivated people so much?
Tarasik shared three examples:
1) Original iPhone & iPod: The first Apple launch created such a craze that one man waited five days outside a store in New York for the release.
So why all the hype? It’s simple. The products – a touchscreen smartphone and music player that can store 5K+ songs – were the first of their kind.
2) Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse: The buzz behind this supercar’s release isn’t hard to understand. Its stunning appearance, futuristic features and 254 miles per hour top speed captivated auto enthusiasts.
3) Tesla: The first mass-produced EV debut caused a marketplace frenzy. Elon Musk, Tesla’s entertaining leader, only added to the allure.
Each purple cow delivered a “wow factor” unlike anything experienced before. So how will your auto repair shop deliver its own purple cow experience?
Remember: customers, employees, and recruits all have a choice
Seems obvious, right? But according to Tarasik, this concept is crucial to understand as your shop determines its purple cow.
What reasons should customers consider your shop over other shops? What do people currently say about you and your shop?
Remarkable, striking and worthy of attention. Your auto repair shop needs to become known for these qualities.
Does your shop already have a purple cow?
You now understand purple cows and appreciate their upside. But before adding that new game-changing service, Vic recommends assessing whether your shop already has a purple cow.
To do this, analyze every potential differentiator. Ask your employees their thoughts as well.
Maybe customers rave about the amenities in your waiting area. Or perhaps you earned a reputation for top technicians in the area.
Keep in mind that purple cows extend beyond customers and revenue. For your employees, what is their purple cow?
Tarasik mentioned how money is rarely the answer to this question. Many techs instead care more about their mental well-being. Even something that seems obvious – restricting weekend work so employees can enjoy their Saturdays with family – can qualify as a purple cow.
But some details, like how nice your shop looks, may not be enough in the eyes of a visitor.
Beautiful shops everywhere
The customer has a decision to make. They can pull into either shop. Both have nice-looking buildings. They feature accessible bays and employ certified technicians. They even boast top-of-the-line lifts and equipment.
These details are great! But according to Tarasik, they don’t move the needle for customers. Why is this?
An unfortunate truth is that in almost all cases, all shops are alike in the eyes of a customer. “In the customer’s mind, every shop does the same thing. If you all have a really nice building, what sets you apart from everybody else?”
What will you do to change this perception? Here are some suggestions:
- Go above and beyond with shop introductions. Give your customers access to technicians and build rapport with them.
- Elevate your customer service experience. Open a door for customers when they enter the shop. Take them on a tour. Vacuum their car. Provide an umbrella when it rains.
- Focus on even the smallest details. “It’s something so simple. Purple cows don’t have to be expensive.”
Tarasik shared one example of a successful purple cow experience. Lonnie, a technician at his shop and immigrant from the Philippines, became a US citizen the year before. When Vic introduced Lonnie to a customer, he mentioned the great news.
This detail struck up a nice conversation and formed a relationship. “It created a connection, not just a customer to the technician but the technician saw that the vehicle was attached to a person. That created a very personal experience.”
As you develop your purple cow, spend time on the basics. “Don’t ignore the fundamentals. Focus on them and build upon that.”
The unique selling proposition (USP) trap
Your shop may:
- Fix vehicles right the first time
- Offer complimentary shuttle service
- Feature ASE-certified technicians
- Honor 2 years/24k mile warranties
But don’t many other shops offer these same things? To truly set your business apart, Tarasik recommends focusing more on your interactions with customers.
Go the extra mile to take care of families when they stop by for a service appointment. Make sure female customers feel comfortable at your shop.
These details matter. Addressing them will help you locate your purple cow.
In search of your purple cow
The quest to determine your shop’s purple cow starts with leadership. As an owner, what drives you to show up every day? Do you have a “why”? Or is fixing cars just about making money?
Tarasik says this self-evaluation process will require some humility and self-reflection. It should also extend your focus beyond the shop.
Get involved in the local community. Make a genuine difference and that impact will translate to success for your shop.
Some local community programs your shop can support include:
- Boys & Girl Scouts
- Food banks
- Community outreach programs
- High school sports teams
- Apprenticeship opportunities
- Tech school visits
“Don’t just write a check! Get involved. By being involved, you connect with people,” says Tarasik.
Get creative with this process. Vic shares examples of his shop attending local high school basketball games and sponsoring the team. They also held free working sessions with the local women’s shelter to provide tips on vehicle care.
The impact was immediate. “Other people began to talk about us. That became one of our shop’s purple cows.”
How to find your recruiting purple cow
Why should I work for you?
This is the question shop owners need to constantly evaluate and then re-evaluate. For the most part, new hires want simple things. They prefer a clean, safe and drama-free workplace. Techs also enjoy a busy, productive shop.
From recent survey findings, here are eight reasons a technician will work for your shop:
- They believe they are a part of something special: culture, team, environment.
- They believe in what they’re doing. It has purpose and meaning.
- Their work is recognized and appreciated.
- They appreciate and respect their co-workers.
- They have a mentor who encourages them.
- They have trust in the business leaders.
- They feel emotionally invested and genuinely care about the company.
- They receive fair treatment.
You may notice a big factor missing. “Go down this list. You don’t see money,” says Tarasik.
Some final action steps
We covered many strategies to discover your shop’s purple cow.
Here are some additional recommendations:
“It’s OK to make mistakes, just don’t make them permanent.”
And remember to keep your purple cow fresh! Originally a trailblazer, the iPhone is just another smartphone now. Your shop only has a purple cow when it’s worthy of attention.
Every auto repair shop needs a purple cow. Use the strategies outlined in this blog post to discover (and embrace) what makes your shop different.