Is Advertising Right for Your Shop?
Most advertising doesn't work because it fails to accomplish some basics.
Editor's Note: In marketing your shop, there are multiple ways that you may reach out to your customers. One of the most popular methods is through advertising. This special "Reaching Out to Customers" issue of AutoInc. includes two articles on advertising. The first - "Is Advertising Right for Your Shop?" - explores the basics of advertising and may be an informative read for shops getting their feet wet in the advertising arena. The second article - "Why Isn't My Advertising Working?" - may be for shops that have given advertising a try but didn't see the kind of results they liked or they may have some questions about the "hows" and "whys." Both articles provide great ideas and strategies on how you can make advertising work for your shop.
After more than 35 years of studying advertising through education, experimentation and observation, and after having been an advertising addict for the 30-plus years I owned my shops, here are a few of my conclusions about advertising:
1. Most advertising is a waste of money because it fails to produce the results we want it to produce. It's not because advertising doesn't produce results because all advertising produces some result. Even if the results are bad, they are still results.
2. Most advertisers don't know what results they want in the first place. Without a clearly defined objective, how will you know if your advertising campaign succeeded or not?
3. Most advertisers don't understand the purpose and role of advertising. Advertising has but one purpose; and that is to generate leads. The terms "advertising" and "marketing" are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Advertising is only one facet of marketing. Marketing includes advertising, but it also includes strategy development, building a company culture, defining an image, creating your message and establishing your sales procedures - all working together to increase sales.
4. Consider this: most ads are important to - and noticed by - only three people: the person selling the ad, your competition and you. Therefore, you need to make it important for the only person who really matters: your target customer!
5. No amount of advertising will ever create the need for car repairs or cause any sane person to want to buy car repairs. At best you can hope they will remember you when they need you, or that you are lucky enough for your ad to reach them exactly when they need you.
6. Auto repair businesses often offer products or services that are so similar that it's difficult to differentiate between them. In these cases, successful advertisers choose to promote based on their solutions to "people problems" and their frustrations rather than just talking about fixing mechanical problems.
Let's start with the planning process. First, you need to determine how much you need to sell to justify your advertising investment. Some campaigns are primarily designed to acquire new customers, break even on gross profit for the campaign, and count on future sales to the newly acquired customers as your return on investment. Using this concept, if your gross profit is 50 percent and the campaign cost is $5,000, you would need to achieve $10,000 in sales to new customers just to break even.
OK, you know what you want to achieve; so let's plan your strategy to reach your target customer. The four-part formula is:
1. Say something important.
2. Say it to the right people.
3. Say it well.
4. Say it often.
Saying something that is important and saying it to the right people actually go together. To do this successfully, you need to know who your ideal target customers are and what's important to them. Start by solving "people problems;" determine their primary frustrations with respect to car repairs. Telling them how you will solve their primary frustrations is important to them. In no particular order, here are some of the common frustrations expressed by auto repair consumers:
• Inconvenience of taking time away from my other commitments, being without my car, or having to wait while it's being worked on.
• Not knowing what I'm getting and why it is needed.
• Fear of paying too much or paying for something I really don't need.
• The estimate always goes up before the job is done.
• Having to come back for the same problem after it's supposedly fixed.
Saying it well has to do with carefully structuring your ad's message to reach your target customer. Don't water down your message, but tailor it specifically to address the primary frustration or "people problem" you are solving. It must be important to your target customer. It doesn't matter if it doesn't apply to everyone; it matters that it fits your ideal target customer.
The ad must accomplish four things and they must be accomplished in the following order. A simple way to remember them is the acronym - AIDA.
1. A = Attention. You must first get their attention. You have to "get above the noise." Literally interrupt them from their complacency and break through what is called their "Reticular Activator System" or RAS for short. The RAS is a type of filter in your brain that begins to develop at an early age to filter out things that aren't important. An example of how it works is when you drive all the way to work and don't remember the trip ... the routines are filtered out by your RAS. On the other hand, now that you and your spouse have a baby on the way, you suddenly notice all the pregnant women, baby stores, etc. because it has a new level of importance to you.
2. I = Interest. Once you've interrupted them and have their attention, you now need to pique their interest and draw them into your ad. This is where you give them enough information to decide if they are interested or not, but you do it in a compelling way. Pose one of the primary frustrations, and if it is one of theirs, they will likely want to learn more about what you have to say.
3. D = Details. Only those who are interested will hang in for the details. The good news is that we don't care about the rest; if they're interested, we have reached our target customer. Now don't tell them any more than you need to in order to get them to Step 4.
4. A = Action. Tell them what to do now. Pick up the phone and call, stop by, write down this number, or whatever action you want them to take.
Finally, you have to commit to saying it often. There are many studies confirming that it takes nine or more impressions before the message breaks through to cause a lasting impact on a person. Depending on the advertising medium being used, it could require months of advertising to reach significant numbers of people nine or more times. For example, a person might have to hear your radio ad nine or more times before it sticks. This can go up or down depending on the quality of your ad message, how well you targeted the message, and whether the listener is currently in need of your offer.
It's been said that it is better to reach 10 people 10 times than to reach 10,000 people one time. Because people tend to be creatures of habit, a good strategy is to advertise in the same place on a regular basis for at least 90 days. If on TV or radio, advertise at exactly the same times on the same days of the week. In the newspaper or magazine, be in the same position, on the same page, with the same sized ad, on the same days every week. For direct mail, don't expect results to roll in until you've mailed several times to the same recipients.
The Internet has opened the door to effectively reaching people when they need you. This is a topic worthy of an article unto itself. So I'll simply say that using the Internet is no longer optional. Statistics demonstrate that most shoppers who don't already have a relationship with a repair shop will begin their search on the Internet.
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