I think you are right on spot about really just stocking parts you need when something breaks. The non vital stuff most of us will research and most likely buy online.
That said, when you are trying to sale a part to someone, always give them two to three options (even if you don't stock them full time) ranging from the good budget product to the expensive serious off road part. Take the time to explain the pros and cons about each one and what they can do off road with each. inform the customer and then help guide them to the best decision for them. You could even have a computer setup so that they could go research some of the parts you mentioned (or you could show them if you are not actually stocking them). Most will feel they have control over what's happening and feel much better about getting both the part and the work done though you.
One big thing for me, if I bring my Jeep in to have X work done on it and you find it also has problem Y, just to come out and say hey you need to replace part Y and it is going to cost you this much more. Take me to my Jeep and show me what you are talking about and how you found out it was broke. If possible, show me how it's broke. Show me how I can check it in the future.
Someone also mentioned shops charging $100+ just to take a look at your Jeep to tell you whats wrong. In many cases it does take a decent amount of time to find the problem, but in a lot of cases it only takes several minutes. Base your diagnostic fees differently and separately from your actual work fees.
For prices, be competitive. When you start setting up your price structure, ask your self if you would be happy with that price if you went to someone that had a skill you did not to get something done. For example, if you needed some type of computer or network work done and knew it would take me 3 hours to do it, would you be happy if I said it was going to cost $350 in labor? Base your prices off of what you need to make a living and what you would be willing to pay for that same work.
Someone else mentioned that most of us build our Jeeps over time. I think a good service to offer would be planning a long term build project with your customers. Work out what they would like to do 5 years from now and build a road map for them on how to get there. Not only does this show them that you know what you are talking about, but it shows them that you are vested in them and their build for the long term. If they can see that spending a $100 more on this part will save them hundreds or even thousands 3-4 years from now, they most likely will. If you go down this route, make sure to keep notes on their road map and build. If they come by to talk to you about it, you should remember what was discussed or be able to grab a file quickly. This would further instill in them that you are committed to them and their Jeep.
Originally Posted by chrisfp88
Dan the other advantage you have is the ability to show people some jeeps that you have built and potentially take them with you on a test/trial run. I know most of the people you have built rigs for would be willing to do that to for a prospective client, which gives new offroad enthusiasts the ability to see what their money can buy them.
Actually, this has huge marketing marketing potential. We just got our first Jeep earlier this year and know nothing about off roading or modding them. I used to mod my car back in the day, but 4x4 stuff was totally different. Not only did I not know how to work on them, I also did not know what parts are mod I might need. I used this site to find other new (family) Jeepers to start hitting the trails with because 1) they would be just as worried about breaking something as me, and 2) they would not be intimidating by knowing a lot more than me... but still being just a guy off the street.
If a shop organized various runs throughout the summer geared towards new owners, they could easily build a repeat customer base. Have 2 or 3 "shop" Jeeps go on the runs, each with a different level of modifications. Take the time to show on the trail what each mod give each of those Jeeps. Show the new owners why one is better than the other. If you can demonstrate that kind of knowledge in a non sales environment, customers you will make.
I would go so far as to try and hookup with a dealership so they can "give" their new customers a "trail experience" with your shop.
Originally Posted by brendend
If money insurance and space permits have a open bay or two that people can rent by the hour and work on their own rigs after taking a basic skills test and signing a release.
I think most DIYers like this type of idea, but business wise, it's really hard to do. Instead, I would suggest that you have a Customer Appreciation Day. Anyone that has had work done by you or bought parts for you can come on that pre-planned day and use the lift or specialty tools with you guys there to guide and help them. Don't charge for this day, instead make it a thank you type of day where you provide pizza and soda. Make it a fun day to just hang out and be Jeep people. Your customers will learn stuff and have a good time. They will also learn that you care about your customers like no other shop. Sort of a an adaptation of the Dyno Day most performance shops do.
Sorry for the huge post, but this sort of thing is my sort of thing