Locksmith entrepreneur and marketing evangelista Stephen Sharpe brought to our industry two power-packed marketing manuals specifically designed for the locksmith. They were titled “Sometimes Your the Shark, Sometimes Your the Fish!” and “Shark Bites”. These two marketing manuals provided a step by step methodology and business guide to catapult any business into profits. Although designed for the locksmith, its methods could be deployed for any business.
Everything the locksmith needs is provided in the form of advertising layouts, flyers, brochures, cards, proposals, catalog formats, stickers and much more. It was so comprehensive that anyone could do it, but the problem is that not every locksmith would do it! For many locksmiths the idea of being “competitive” must be accomplished byrules rather than hard work.
But what rules? There are sales and marketing concepts which are referred to as rules or laws and many of them make sense and work, but there are some locksmiths who believe the idea of rules is more about making them on how everyone must play in the marketplace so that everyone is equal.
In other words, “Everyone Wins a Fish” rule!
Years ago locksmiths would spend their time complaining about the jack legs, butchers, tinkers, tow truck drivers, hardware stores, big box stores and newbies. Today many of them complain about scammers. It almost appears that if these locksmiths didn’t have someone to complain about then they would not be happy.
So the call for rules of what should be done, and how terrible it is to have competition becomes the flavor of the day. The subjects of the complaints today are the scammers. By definition the scammers are considered to be undocumented foreign nationals "posing" as locksmiths so they can gouge the consumer. But that is also changing as more home grown Americans are being hired to be sub-contractors and call center managers/dispatchers.
Many of these scammers are not skilled so it feeds the fuel of the complaints similar to the old jack legs and butchers. So how hard would it be to compete against such sub standard work? Not very! But it isn't so much the lack of skills that is the disturbing the locksmith community as it is their aggressive and successful marketing.
Jim Mullins, a locksmith from Silver Springs Maryland drives this point home in a recent Washington Post news article where he states - "We don't have a fair chance to fight these guys who are marketing gurus and have big international money."
The irony of this, is that the locksmiths have had every possible opportunity to educate themselves in marketing tactics and the last I checked, the American dollar had more spending power then many others international currency. Jim’s assessment of the situation is not incorrect, but the idea that the locksmiths feel things must be fair based on someone being a guru and others not being is disappointing.
Most locksmiths spend a large amount of time honing technical skills but are terrible at marketing these skills. The scammers on the other hand are investing their time and money into marketing and are terrible in the skill sets need as a professional. This could be because they are not interested in a job well done and more interested in getting as much money as they can.
Most locksmiths would love to walk away with money these scammers are receiving. After all it has been the very same locksmith complaining today, which have for years felt they should be paid like doctors and lawyers based on all the technical skills and information they have. So, is the problem more about the idea that others are getting it and they are not? Not so much! When you consider that the level of service by these scammers is substandard, but what if the service was reasonable? Would they still be disturbed?
Based on the history of the need to find a scapegoat for the locksmiths own failures to recognize the importance of their marketing as strongly as their technical skills, the answer would probably be, yes!
How it Works
Scammers are essentially sub-contractors. They are dispatched from central phone banks or call centers which receive service requests from consumers. The calls are generated from an over abundance of ads and the exploitation of today’s cyber technology. Years ago the Yellow pages was the place where large ads would be found trying to dominate the fingers that walked through them. Today the Internet search engines are now the consumers shopping guide and it is powerful, but not impossible to harness.
The sub-contractors respond to the jobs passed off to them by the dispatch centers and their goal is to obtain as much money for a job as possible because they are working on a percentage commission. Typically, there is a 40/60 split with 40% going to the sub-contractor. In some cases a 35 - 50% payout depending upon the relationship and the performance of the contractor. The more you produce and the more calls you cover, the more work you will receive. Nothing wrong with that and not much different them most locksmiths who seek to "farm out" work to others.
Since these sub-contractors are legally independent of the actual company or those posing as a company, they tend to operate under and falsely create a host of names and this gives the appearance of thousands of companies in the search engines. There are some sub-contractors and sub-contract companies who are not ripping off the consumers. There have been for years many good locksmiths who worked for similar companies and successfully earned an honorable living. The difference is whether or not they were real locksmiths taking on work to build their business or just those posing as one for the purpose of gouging an unsuspecting consumer. Locksmiths have nothing to fear by working for companies that are not taking advantage of anyone, but they need to understand just who is who!
So what's the point of mentioning this in an article about marketing?
The point is that there needs to be a clear understanding of the issues and those involved so the complaining can stop and action takes over! There are numerous ways for the locksmiths to benefit from a marketing campaign if they would just stop complaining and actually make the efforts.
Good Actors – Bad Actors
There are Good Actors (the locksmiths) and there are Bad Actors (those posing as locksmiths) and then there is the marketing arm of the bad actors. When we sit back and analyze the marketing driving these scammers, we are left with little response then to say - "These guys are really good!"
I am sure after saying that these guys are really good, some locksmiths will throw a fit and the complaining will start, but in reality they know it is true. The Internet search engines have become saturated with ads and fictitious companies as well as hijacked company information from legitimate locksmiths. Although not entirely ethical, it is still pretty slick how they do what they do.
All this designed to mislead the consumer. But at the end of the day, their ads are causing the phones to ring and the call centers to dispatch out to the waiting (bad actor) sub-contractor posing as the locksmith.