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Building a customer base

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    BigBin started this thread.
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    Building a customer base

    Hey, I have been scrapping on and off since I was a teenager. Last year I bought a truck and decided to try to start a business doing it. I had an add up on Facebook Marketplace and was getting about 10 hits a week, well other scrappers in my town caught onto it and started doing the same, long story short people started getting greedy and started flagging other peoples adds to eliminate competition. Facebook marketplace is not a viable option for getting hits anymore. I have printed up yard signs and fliers. Someone is going to to put vinyl signs on my truck for free. Just looking for other ways to market my business and get it off the ground, any suggestions would help. Thanks!


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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBin View Post
    Hey, I have been scrapping on and off since I was a teenager. Last year I bought a truck and decided to try to start a business doing it. I had an add up on Facebook Marketplace and was getting about 10 hits a week, well other scrappers in my town caught onto it and started doing the same, long story short people started getting greedy and started flagging other peoples adds to eliminate competition. Facebook marketplace is not a viable option for getting hits anymore. I have printed up yard signs and fliers. Someone is going to to put vinyl signs on my truck for free. Just looking for other ways to market my business and get it off the ground, any suggestions would help. Thanks!
    Unfortunately when unemployment is high and money is tight, compitition goes way up, and for this business, that anyone with a truck or trailer and a good work ethic can do, a lot of people fall back into this work when they need cash or are out of work. My guess is that until corona is over and jobs come back, compitition is going to be fierce.

    No real advice other than maybe paying for Facebook ads to get yours to the top of the list, or the usual Craigslist/letgo suggestions that you prob are already doing.

    Good luck!

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    First, pick the niche that you really want to serve. Then start banging on doors. The BEST time to build a customer base is when NO ONE ELSE wants those customers. In the scrap business, that means when NO ONE ELSE CAN MAKE A PROFIT SELLING SCRAP. When scrap prices recover MOST of those customers will continue to deal with you and NOBODY ELSE because YOU WERE THERE WHEN THOSE CUSTOMERS NEEDED YOU AND NO ONE ELSE WAS THERE. Yes, there will be times where you make NO MONEY for days, weeks, or possibly even months, but when things turn around you will make more money than you dreamed possible.

    For example, 50 years ago I bought a U-haul type truck for hauling scrap. After a few weeks I figured appliances were my niche. So, I began banging on appliance dealer doors looking for old appliances. Within 3 years I was scrapping 3 TONS of appliances EVERY day. By the end of the 70's I was able to buy a brand new 2-ton truck with a lift gate and a dump bed.

    In the mid-80's, EPA changed the rules, effectively cutting my income in HALF for the same amount of work, so I decided to change my niche to recycling auto scrap. So, I began banging on transmission shops, auto shops, wrecking yards, recycling centers, radiator shops, sheet metal shops, etc. buying radiators, aluminum scrap, transmissions, sheet metal scrap, etc. At the end of 1986 I hauled my last appliance. Going forward I specialized more and more, first cutting out radiators, then sheet metal scrap, and so on until I was only buying transmissions and transfer cases. For several years I was processing 200 transmissions per WEEK, one year even processing 200,000 pounds of aluminum scrap from transmissions.

    2008 was another watershed year. In that year the aluminum/iron price ratio went bonkers forcing me out of processing transmissions for scrap. Simply could not buy transmissions at a price where I could make a profit on scrap. Over the previous 20 years I had gradually accumulated knowledge, inventory, and customers relating to recycling used transmission parts. In 2008, I was forced to make transmission parts sales my primary business and effectively have been out of the scrap end of the business since then. Instead of selling 30 tons of iron and 4 tons of aluminum PER MONTH, I am now selling 12 tons of iron and 3 tons of aluminum scrap PER YEAR. Today, I SELECTIVELY buy 5 to 10 transmissions per month and flip them immediately for a profit, dismantle them for parts I can sell, or sit on the rare ones waiting for somebody to need a core to rebuild.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmerlinn View Post
    First, pick the niche that you really want to serve. Then start banging on doors. The BEST time to build a customer base is when NO ONE ELSE wants those customers. In the scrap business, that means when NO ONE ELSE CAN MAKE A PROFIT SELLING SCRAP. When scrap prices recover MOST of those customers will continue to deal with you and NOBODY ELSE because YOU WERE THERE WHEN THOSE CUSTOMERS NEEDED YOU AND NO ONE ELSE WAS THERE. Yes, there will be times where you make NO MONEY for days, weeks, or possibly even months, but when things turn around you will make more money than you dreamed possible.

    For example, 50 years ago I bought a U-haul type truck for hauling scrap. After a few weeks I figured appliances were my niche. So, I began banging on appliance dealer doors looking for old appliances. Within 3 years I was scrapping 3 TONS of appliances EVERY day. By the end of the 70's I was able to buy a brand new 2-ton truck with a lift gate and a dump bed.

    In the mid-80's, EPA changed the rules, effectively cutting my income in HALF for the same amount of work, so I decided to change my niche to recycling auto scrap. So, I began banging on transmission shops, auto shops, wrecking yards, recycling centers, radiator shops, sheet metal shops, etc. buying radiators, aluminum scrap, transmissions, sheet metal scrap, etc. At the end of 1986 I hauled my last appliance. Going forward I specialized more and more, first cutting out radiators, then sheet metal scrap, and so on until I was only buying transmissions and transfer cases. For several years I was processing 200 transmissions per WEEK, one year even processing 200,000 pounds of aluminum scrap from transmissions.

    2008 was another watershed year. In that year the aluminum/iron price ratio went bonkers forcing me out of processing transmissions for scrap. Simply could not buy transmissions at a price where I could make a profit on scrap. Over the previous 20 years I had gradually accumulated knowledge, inventory, and customers relating to recycling used transmission parts. In 2008, I was forced to make transmission parts sales my primary business and effectively have been out of the scrap end of the business since then. Instead of selling 30 tons of iron and 4 tons of aluminum PER MONTH, I am now selling 12 tons of iron and 3 tons of aluminum scrap PER YEAR. Today, I SELECTIVELY buy 5 to 10 transmissions per month and flip them immediately for a profit, dismantle them for parts I can sell, or sit on the rare ones waiting for somebody to need a core to rebuild.

    This is true, but prices are down now AND competition is up so its the perfect storm to wipe out quit a few scrappers.

    Unfortunately in my experiences, everyone around me either already has a scrap guy, or takes the scrap themselves, so while this is a great suggestion, a lot of times this alone isn't enough, and especially in this saturated market. BUT this is pretty much the only answer, hustle and make contacts, and keep asking around for stuff until it becomes a reliable stream of stuff.

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    what ive also found to be worth doing is check all the Craigslist ads in your area for ppl holding garage sales or those advertising old computer stuff or anything where its likely that they will also have scrap or they wont be able to sell the item.
    contact them & let them know you collect scrap metal & ewaste-so u will most likely be the first person they call.

    its worked out for me quite a few times.

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    Building a reliable customer base in this biz takes time, along time. Your not ganna go out and meet these people over night, it takes time. Im not talking about silly $10-$20 residential pick ups.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kss View Post
    This is true, but prices are down now AND competition is up so its the perfect storm to wipe out quit a few scrappers.

    Unfortunately in my experiences, everyone around me either already has a scrap guy, or takes the scrap themselves, so while this is a great suggestion, a lot of times this alone isn't enough, and especially in this saturated market. BUT this is pretty much the only answer, hustle and make contacts, and keep asking around for stuff until it becomes a reliable stream of stuff.
    At the beginning of a downturn, like now, competition is ALWAYS stiff. Six months from now many of those competitors will be gone. If one starts making contacts now, and keeps going back month after month, one would be johnny-on-the-spot when the competition fails to service the customer. Like I said, it may mean many weeks of minimal income, but picking up the pieces will pay off in the long run.

    Downturns in the scrap business typically last for around 5 years before things start to get better. Most of the competition now either cannot or will not last that long. Will it be the same this time? No clue, but I have seen the same exact cycle repeated without fail MULTIPLE times over the last 50 years, so I would be surprised if this downturn was any different.

    I once had a customer that I kept going after month after month after month for over 5 years. I finally got his business and kept it until he retired some 30 years later. Even though I was paying less than others, he never let anyone else in all the time he was my customer.
    Last edited by mmerlinn; 06-17-2020 at 04:31 PM.

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    Welcome to SMF. Personally I am reluctant to put advertising on my machinery, for fear of something happening to a load and the memory of bad things out weighing the good 10-1.

    As others have pointed out, time is a valuable commodity in any business. Referrals, just like compound interest, build upon themselves. My business plan is a little different than most. Work ethic is the best advertisement in this business. Under promise and over perform. Leave the area or property in better shape than it was when you started. Take time to get to know your customer. One strategy that is used with new customers is to take notes after visiting with them. When you run into them again, ask about their kids, dog, muscle car, whatever was important in the previous conversation.

    I have pointed out before the value of a good relationship with the yard. I have not been denied a tour of any yard and the employees love sharing their knowledge. Asking a lot of questions, even those you know the answer, will make a good impression. The reason this is important is my secret to success. Some people that do not have the resources will contact a scrap yard for help to remove appliances, cars, etc. You cannot imagine the number of leads you can get this way and a satisfied customer will share your name with others. To add to the compounding of referrals, pens with your name and phone number can be used for any paperwork and just leave them with the customer. The pens are not expensive, something everyone uses, and easier to find than a business card. A business card becomes instant trash, but for some reason people are reluctant to throw away a pen. Unorthodox strategies seem to work.
    Give back more to this world than we take.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Patriot76 View Post
    A business card becomes instant trash, but for some reason people are reluctant to throw away a pen. Unorthodox strategies seem to work.
    Depends on the "business card" that you have. I have made sales off my business cards decades after giving them out. But, then my cards are not the normal black on white junk cards.

    I basically have given out two types of business cards, one a normal size and one a giant size. The normal cards contained ONLY important information in large type, what I sell and my phone numbers. Further, I made them in two colors, light bright green and darker green. Further, they all had stickum on the back. I would hand out one of each to every customer. If the spot they wanted to stick them on was dark, they would use the light one and vice versa. A lot of the light ones got stuck on black phones, right next to the keypad. If they were stuck on a wall, they could not be missed as most of the rest were white or some shade of red. Green stuck out like a sore thumb. I cannot ever remember seeing a green card other than mine.

    The second type was designed specifically for wrecking yards. It was bright orange on cardstock about 3" by 8" in size. When I visited wrecking yards I would hand out both green cards and an orange one. The orange ones immediately got pinned to a wall. It has been decades since I had any orange ones to hand out, but there is one local wrecking yard that still has the card on the wall and typically refers several customers per month to me.

    Anything unorthodox tends to work simply because people are bombarded with so much blah crap that is impossible to remember. If one wants to get ahead, the easiest way is to build your own frog pond where you are the ONLY frog in it and let all of the other frogs fight in the big pond. Everything I have ever done followed that principle. Even today I am the ONLY frog in my pond and do not need to compete with anyone else for sales even though my prices tend to be much higher than any of my competitors (when they can compete at all).

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    The other advise in this thread sounds better i would offer a few suggestions to think about in regard to building a customer base.

    1: Is the power of yes.

    2: Is diversity ... a little something for everybody.

    3: Small jobs can lead to big jobs.

    4: Be an innovator not a copycat.

    5: Try to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

    6: Try to provide cheerful service if you can. Be the guy that's easy to talk to and get along with.

    7: Provide prompt service.

    8: Try to be a good listener.

    9: Look at her face ... not at her boobs.

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  21. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by hills View Post
    The other advise in this thread sounds better i would offer a few suggestions to think about in regard to building a customer base.

    4: Be an innovator not a copycat.

    5: Try to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

    6: Try to provide cheerful service if you can. Be the guy that's easy to talk to and get along with.

    8: Try to be a good listener.
    Innovation is the unorthodox way of doing things and it works.

    The other three points fit in with another of the ways I have always worked. My rule for scrap business has been to 1) spend one third of my time talking to my customers, 2) spend one third of my time driving, and 3) spend one third of my time actually getting the job done. Multiple times I have had customers tell me that I am the ONLY one they know, even though they dealt with many others.

    One particular customer, now dead, had two scrap dealers call on him every week, me and another one. I came on Thursdays, he came on Tuesdays. I ALWAYS talked to Ben for at least 10 minutes EVERY time, sometimes for an hour. The other scrapper was in and out in 5 minutes and seldom took the time to find Ben and say 'hi' to him.

    Since this was a refrigeration shop all that was ever available were old refrigerators. Sometimes I would only get one or two every week. Sometimes a full truck load (21 refrigerators). One Thursday I got 3 truckloads in ONE day. Another time Ben told me about a barn full of appliances 40 miles out of town. I hauled over a HUNDRED appliances from that barn. If I had never taken the time every week to talk to Ben, I would have lost out on a lot of scrap.

    When I started buying from wrecking yards, I heard a sob story from a scrapper that had just returned from a yard. Forrest was upset because Richard (stupid censor censored D**k's name) would not sell Forrest his scrap at a HIGH (for the time) ten cents per pound. Further, he said that NO ONE would ever be able buy scrap from Richard.

    Well, I did not know Richard and had never been to that yard. Half hour after listening to the sob story I was a Richard's yard. I went into the yard via the back gate, found Richard and started talking about anything and everything, mostly not related to scrap. Eventually, around an hour later, scrap became the topic. Next thing I knew we were talking about me buying his scrap which was basically a bunch of aluminum, steel, transmissions, etc. scattered in a large area near his back gate. I already knew Richard would not take ten cents per pound and there was no way I could piece it out, so I offered Richard $500 for everything in that area. He took it. I loaded it. Went back to my shop, sorted and cleaned it all, then sold it. End result? I actually paid Richard EIGHT cents per pound.

    Over the years, before he retired, I hauled many many many tons of scrap out of Richard's yard. Over the years he has bailed me out of several breakdowns basically for the price of fuel and refused to take any more. He is 80 now and every now and then I still see him, all because I ALWAYS MADE SURE TO SPEND TIME TALKING TO HIM, like I did all customers.

    And Forrest said that NO ONE would EVER be able to buy from Richard.

    Even today, when I can get out to bird dog transmissions I will spend hours talking, hours driving, and hours working even if I never find any transmissions to buy. As a result I have NEVER been denied entry into a wrecking yard to poke around, and I have been in HUNDREDS of yards ONLY ONE TIME.

    As you say, one MUST treat EVERYONE the same, MUST be amiable, MUST be cheerful, and MUST be able to LISTEN as well as COMMUNICATE to those one deals with.
    Last edited by mmerlinn; 06-17-2020 at 10:39 PM. Reason: Stupid censor censored Richards name.

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