“It’s a Shame” : The Value of Truth in Marketing

Have you ever seen Sebastian Maniscalco’s “Body Shop” bit? It’s a really funny, highly relatable piece of comedy. Here’s the premise:

A guy pulls into an automotive body shop with a tiny dent in his car. He hopes that they can “just buff it out” for a few bucks. But, of course, that’s not gonna happen. The body shop manager looks at the dent, winces, and says: “It’s a shame … it’s a shame. See, if you would have got hit an inch more this way, I could have buffed it out.” But, since that didn’t happen, it’s gonna cost you an arm and a leg.

I laughed when I saw this because, years ago, I had a very similar experience at a body shop. If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you probably have, too. That’s what makes the bit relatable. The “it’s a shame” thing isn’t random; it’s a gimmick that body shop guys teach one other.

And, as gimmicks go, it’s brilliant.

The body shop guy — who, like all of us, is in business to make money — immediately takes your side. He’s got your number. Someone hit your car, and you just want it back the way it was, as cheaply as possible. This is a “have to,” not a “want to.”

So, he wins you over with empathy. He implies that, just like you, he wishes the accident had happened just slightly differently. One inch to the left, and you’d both be smiling — cause then, no big deal, he could just buff it out for a few bucks. But as it stands — as fate would have it — you’re stuck with a major repair. He feels for you.

And hey, you know what? You know what he’s gonna do for you (since he feels so bad)? He’s gonna see if he can get that quarter panel, for your model and year, from a junk yard. If he can find one — rather than pay “those thieves at the dealership” for a new part — that’ll save you a ton.

(Of course, he’ll never find that exact part. He probably won’t even make the call. But he’s taking yet another step to show you that he’s on your side. That it was the accident, that it was fate, that put you, and him, together in this bind.)

Marketers at all levels, at all stripes, can take a lesson from this. When you make it about the customer, you earn their trust. And when you earn their trust, everything else is academic.

It’s not about how great your product or service is. (Your product or service needs to be great, yes, but that’s just the starting point.) It’s about feeling the specific rock in your customer’s shoe, assuring them that you get it, that you’re on their side, and that you’ll do everything in your power to alleviate that pain.

If you can do that for real — not create a fiction about caring (like the body shop guy), but actually care — you’ll have a customer for life.

As customers, and human beings, we’ve learned to walk through life with our guards up, incessantly vigilant. The rare person who allows us to put our guards down, who helps us when we need it, who lets us relax back into a state of trust, is among the most valuable in our lives.

And THAT is the absolute truth.

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