House Shopping: Reflect, Research, Rejoice

Deciding what really matters to you and figuring out how to get it is critical to accomplishing your key life goals: Finding the perfect partner, planning your dream vacation, taping three shows while watching a fourth. So it only stands to reason that house shopping will benefit from the same approach.

In seeking your ideal home, where you buy is equally important as what you buy. And as it happens, choosing a location has a lot in common with selecting a spouse. To truly meet your match, you must be clear on who you are and what you value.

Get Real (Estate)

When you first met Mr. or Ms. Right, you may have thought they could do no wrong. But after a few years of morning breath and ill-advised karaoke performances, you realize that the perfect mate is rarer than the drama-free Christmas dinner. Fortunately, all that matters is whether they’re perfect for you, and the same applies to house shopping. So start by taking stock of who you are.

Swinging single?

If connecting with others is a priority, look for an area that gives you ample opportunity. Maybe it’s near a university or college, a health club or some notable nightlife. Sure, there’s something to be said for getting away from it all. But like skinny-dipping and scrabble, it’s more fun when you have someone to share it with.

Couple with kids?

When house shopping, it’s just common sense to make sure there are schools nearby if you won’t have time to drive your kids and don’t want them taking the bus. Beyond that though, you’ll want to approach it like you did the dating game (hopefully): Quality over quantity.

Do the local schools have a good reputation? What are the class sizes and teacher turnover rates? You wouldn’t let a son or daughter skip their homework, so make sure you do yours before closing the deal.

On the other hand, if you’re retired or close to it, proximity to schools won’t be top of your list when house shopping. In fact, if hundreds of squealing kids at recess isn’t your idea of R & R, you may wish to give them a wide berth. Instead, look for restaurants, theaters, public libraries and community centers. If they’re all within walking distance, you’ll be more likely to leave the car at home and combine fitness with fun.

Be Mindful of what Matters

Just as your spouse is considerate of your preferences and passions, the neighborhood in which you settle should support your priorities. Like many others, you may put a premium on peace and quiet, so scope out the area for highways, railway tracks, bars and shopping centers. They may add convenience, but if they subtract from your sanity, it may be time to re-do the math.

Also think about how you spend your spare time. If you love to golf, being hours away from the nearest course may really tee you off. Should religion be part of your life, having a place of worship in the area could be a godsend. Ultimately, house shopping is all about honoring your values and finding a neighborhood that does the same.

So before you leap into the first great home you see, look around and make sure it’s somewhere that supports who you are and what you value. In other words, don’t rush the home hunting process. Like meeting your match, the search is half the fun. And in both cases, if you don’t get it right the first time, it could be costly.

Making Love a Priority in Your Marriage

If you are like millions of people struggling to keep your marriage afloat and are trying to beat the odds and remain married, you need to take relationship advice which tells you how to keep love a priority in your relationship. Many people insist they do not need relationship advice and can handle this area of their life just fine, and yet find the love in their marriage growing dimmer by the day.

Don’t wait another day to take some healthy and wise relationship advice which can help to stimulate your marriage, increase intimacy between you and your spouse, and to reestablish trust and love between the two of you. This is a journey which will be on-going and one you will refine over the years. Learning to take your marriage seriously means putting it at the top of your priority list. It must come first even before work, household duties, monetary issues, extended family, and other things that seem to gain priority over many marriages.

Extended family, careers, and money issues seem to take priority in most marriages. None of these things will help to stimulate love and trust and intimacy in your marriage. Though all of these areas are important areas of life, you must first develop and strengthen the bond of love between you and your spouse so you can take care of the other issues together as a couple and not as a single individuals. This relationship advice will provide you with a solid footing on which to gain a good foundation for the rest of your marriage.

To make love a priority in your marriage, go back to the basics of your habits when you were first dating and review the romance demonstrated there. Remember the way you use to listen to your partner when he or she spoke, recall the times when you went shopping together and held hands, and when you made plans to go on dates together. The relationship advice which centers on regaining your focus of spending more intimate time together should be heeded if you are desperately trying to restore the love in your marriage.

Revisiting old places which will inspire romantic memories is something that each married couple can do to encourage the growth of love and fondness and romance in their relationship. Many times, it simply takes taking a deep breath, slowing down and assessing what has become important in your life and what takes up the most time in your life. It is natural that careers will take up the majority of your time, but each morning, or each evening should be spent together as a couple.

If work and children make this impossible to occur every day, then do your best to see to it that you set time aside for one another at least a few times a week and then a full day on the weekend. Following relationship advice which promotes you spending more time with your spouse will help you to reconnect and to increase the love between you.

Foundational Marketing Practices For an Auto Body Shop

When owning a small business, the owner has to keep in mind that a successful marketing strategy hinges on individual customer experience. As advanced as our technology has become, and as advanced as our business practices have become, nothing has exceeded the primacy of the old phrase, “The customer is always right.” Even if the customer is wrong, they’re still right. In fact, with Internet technology, customers have the ability to spread the word about a bad experience much easier these days, with tools like blogs, community forums, social networking sites, and a whole bunch of others. For example, popular Internet blogger, Randy Cassingham, wrote a blog entry titled “Dell Hell” and it destroyed Dell’s credibility and profits for the remainder of the year. On the other hand, a customer that walks away having loved the service received is your absolute best marketing tool, especially for local small businesses like auto body shops. Every customer that walks through your door represents 5 or even 10 more potential jobs for your business. When it comes to marketing, making the customers you have happy is one of the best ways you can generate more leads.

The idea that the customer is always right suggests a mentality about the business: customers are top priority. The mentality that every customer you have is the top priority in everything you do can pay huge dividends as you go about marketing your business. I say this because marketing is about getting customers to believe you’re the best person for the job they need done. That requires getting the word out and using different tools at your disposal to make that happen. But all the tools in the world won’t help a business succeed if they don’t care about their customers. You just can’t have a good marketing strategy for your business if you don’t have a satisfied customer. Or to say it in another way…you simply can’t market a brand successfully that sucks to the customers you’ve had. Its that simple. This is true even more so for a business that relies on local residents. There isn’t a single gadget in the Internet world that will replace your services as the foundational tool for bringing you more business. Keeping these things in mind as the “Auto Body Marketing” blog moves forward to provide new ways to maximize your shop’s exposure, here are some things to take note of. A business that builds around the “Customers First” strategy requires at least two practices: providing quality customer service and quality work.

Providing Quality Customer Service

Providing quality customer service is important because of how it can impact the impression your customer has as they’re leaving your business. We’re not suggesting you whistle around your shop so gleefully that you seem like all is perfect in your world (that’s just annoying and unrealistic). We’re suggesting that you focus on creating an environment for your customer that leaves a lasting positive impression on them. You know whats best for your business, so we’re not going to tell you to reformat everything you do at your shop. We’re simply recommending that you do you what it takes to make your customers believe that the work they just gave you is important to you and you want them to come back. Keep that principle in mind and tailor your shop practices around it. Build a waiting room if you can and keep it clean, provide transportation for customers if they need it, have coffee available to all walk-ins, or any other small thing that you think a customer would find valuable. Focus on creating the impression that they’re experience with your business is your top priority. John Webb of CSi Complete says in his Body Shop Business article that auto shops should shift away from viewing customers just as transactions and focus on building relationships with customers for the sake of long-term loyalty. This is big for marketing your business because if you can manage to develop an impression in their mind as they walk away that says, “They did great work and I’m never again going to another body shop other than the one I just went to,” then you just earned their business the next time they need repairs. Even better is that you just established a marketing partner. Every time someone close to them needs repairs, then recommendations to your business will come easy to them.

Providing Quality Work

Providing quality work is very important in generating that positive impression in your customer’s mind. You want them to walk away with the mindset that your the best on the block at what you do. Creating an environment that’s focused on the customer helps generate that mindset, but ultimately, they’re coming to you for services on their vehicle. Provide good work by implementing good practices in the shop. Again, you know what’s best for your business, and we don’t think we know more about your business than you do. But build everyday practices around the strategy of “Customers First.” David William’s article in Body Shop Business shared a story regarding Fred Haas Collision Center in a suburb of Houston. He says that when they were struggling and shops around them were closing, rather then cutting guys to stay afloat financially, he started adding guys to the payroll. Doing that allowed his employees to pay closer attention to customers and their repairs, thus making customers the top priority. Now, I understand that Fred Haas was a dealership that had a ton more resources, but take note of the mindset. They had a business strategy that was focused on the customer and tailored shop practices around that to make their work more quality for their customer. Ultimately that translated into more success as more customers kept coming in.

Make the Customer First

We say all these things to help initiate some thought about your shop. Are you having a hard time getting jobs through the door? If so, take a magnifying glass to your shop’s practices and see how you can improve. Ask yourself questions for the sake of improvement. Ask questions such as: what are some internal alterations we can make to gain an edge over our competition? How can we make our potential customers think we’re the best there is? What can I do to my shop to make customers feel more comfortable coming to me for their business rather than someone else? How can the work I do for them give them the impression that our work is the best there is? Ask yourself these questions and work to make your business “Customer First” oriented. We’re not promising business will start pouring in after all this, but this is a good foundation to build your marketing strategy around, and that’s what “Auto Body Marketing” is set up to talk about. We’ll show you some tools in this blog on how to maximize your shop’s exposure. But again, you can’t successfully market a business that customers don’t want to return to.