Up Your Business is an exclusive GEARS Magazine feature in which I share stories, insights, and reflections about business and life challenges.
At this year’s Powertrain Expo, I’m presenting a workshop entitled Only One Thing Matters in the Marketing War – Don’t spend another dime on advertising without being armed with the ammo you’ll get in this session!
Why Most Advertising Is a Waste of Money
Have you ever seen an ad for an advertising agency? Do you wonder why not? Is there something they aren’t telling us? Advertising is like a drug addiction; ad agencies are the pushers, and we’re the addicts. Like drugs, we’re uncomfortable when we’re not doing it.
I’ve spent over 30 years studying advertising majoring in marketing in college and later by experimentation and observation in my own businesses. I confess that I was an advertising addict for over 25 of those years. Here are some of my conclusions about advertising.
- Most advertising is a waste of money. It’s not because advertising doesn’t work because all advertising produces results – even bad results are still results. Most advertising is a waste of money because it fails to deliver the results the advertiser wants it to have.
- Most advertisers don’t know the specific results they want. They express their desires in vagaries based on feelings rather than measurable targets. The advertising fails right out of the gate because there’s no clear plan. How can you hit a target you don’t even have?
- Most advertisers don’t understand the purpose and role of advertising versus marketing. The terms “advertising” and “marketing” are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same.
- Marketing includes advertising, but it also includes strategy development, branding, defining your image, pricing, designing sales procedures, sales projections, your company’s service culture, and many more things.
- Whether you have too many customers, not enough customers, or the perfect mix of customers, never stop marketing.
- Advertising is just one facet of marketing, and contrary to common belief, it doesn’t directly increase sales – it increases sales opportunities.
- Advertising has one purpose – to generate leads by occupying a space in the customers’ minds. “Top Of Mind Awareness” (TOMA) is the goal of advertising because TOMA reliably produces leads. When people need or want your product or service, TOMA brings your company to the top of their minds. So, you’ll likely get their call.
- Advertising includes paid placement on radio, TV, print, online, or other media. But most advertising goes unnoticed by your target customer. Here’s a sad fact, your company’s ad is only important to three people: the person buying it (you), the person selling it (the ad rep), and your competitors. You must make it important to your customers too.
- Unless a person needs, wants, and can afford what you’re selling, all the advertising in the world won’t work. No amount of advertising will create the need for an auto repair or cause a sane person to want to buy an auto repair they don’t need or can’t afford.
- So, you hope they’ll remember you when they need you or that you’re lucky enough to have your ad land on them exactly when they need you. But hope and luck are what drive gamblers. Don’t gamble with your advertising dollars. For instance, let’s assume your net operating profit is 15%. If you waste $500 on an ill-conceived advertising idea, you’ll need to sell over $3,300 just to recover your wasted money!
When You Advertise to Reach Everyone, You’ll Reach No One.
Because automotive businesses offer similar products and services, it’s difficult for potential customers to differentiate between repair shops on anything other than price. So, rather than talking about your products, services, and prices, talk about the customers’ problems and how you can solve them. Successful marketers distinguish themselves by offering solutions to problems.
There are four steps for establishing TOMA with your target customers.
- Say something important.
- Say it to the people it’s important to.
- Say it well with a compelling message.
- Say it often – once is not enough.
Saying something important and saying it to the right people are integrated. To do this successfully, you must know your ideal target customers and what’s important to them. It’s a waste of money reaching and attracting customers that aren’t a good fit for your business model.
Start by deciding who your best customers are. Next, determine several of the most common frustrations they’ve expressed about auto repairs in the past. What are their primary frustrations when buying auto service and repairs? Consider calling them to ask for their help. It’s also an excellent way to reestablish your relationship with them and build more TOMA. They’ll appreciate that you’re interested in what they think.
Carefully craft your ad messages to describe one of the frustrations and how you’ll solve it. Be specific and limit your message to just one problem or frustration. But offer multiple solutions to their concern. Don’t worry that the ad doesn’t appeal to the broad market. It’s a new way of thinking because you’re not trying to reach everyone – just those who can relate to the problem and appreciate the solutions. Because the situation you describe is important to them, the solutions will be too. Here are some of the common frustrations expressed by auto repair consumers.
- Inconvenience – taking time away from other commitments, being without their car, or waiting while it’s being serviced.
- Feeling like a victim – not knowing what they’re getting and why.
- Fear – getting ripped off, paying too much, or paying for something they don’t need.
- Being up-sold – it’s always more than the estimate.
- Poor quality – having to come back again and again.
Can you think of solutions for these frustrations? Can you think of other areas of frustration that auto repair consumers might have and solutions for them? You might consider taking a random survey to discover what people in your area find frustrating.
Saying it well has to do with carefully structuring your advertising message to reach your target customer. Don’t water down your message, but tailor it to specifically address the primary frustration you’re 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. Again, don’t try to advertise to everyone because you’ll reach no one.
The ad must accomplish four things in the following order.
- You must interrupt them and break through all the clutter and distractions clamoring for their attention. If you don’t do this, nothing else about your ad matters. My Expo presentation covers many tips and techniques that will grab their attention!
- Once you have their attention, you need to pique their interest enough to compel them to want the details. At Expo, I’ll share several ways to pique their interest and draw them into your ad message using the problem-solution formula described above.
- Everyone wants to start with the details, but only interested people will hang in long enough to get them. These are the people we’re trying to reach. You’ll still reach others, but keep your message focused on your target customers. Offer enough details to get them to step 4. At Expo, we’ll talk about how to build enough curiosity to compel them to act.
- Tell them to act – what to do now. For example, call you, come in, write down your number, save your coupon, or whatever action you want them to take. At Expo, we’ll have time to discuss ways to incentivize them to act.
Say it often. This involves commitment. Studies have confirmed that it takes nine or more impressions before the message breaks through and makes a lasting impact. A person might have to see your ad nine or more times before achieving TOMA. This varies depending on your ad message and how well you targeted the message.
It’s better to reach 100 people ten times than to reach 10,000 people one time. However, the surest way to waste money is by making long-term commitments to strategies that are doomed from the start. At Expo, I’ll share some of the best ways to make ad buys that save money and get more bang for your bucks. These simple tricks of the trade will blow your mind, including:
- How to leverage the fact that people are creatures of habit
- There’s gold in them there hills – How to mine for new business in professional and community groups.
- Fancy websites are overrated – Simple, inexpensive ways to tap into the power of the internet even if you don’t have a big fancy website.
- Find website alliances that align your shop with other quality businesses. For instance, your ATRA membership gives you a presence on the ATRA website.
- Plus, one low-cost, highly-targeted idea that always works.
Marketing and advertising are addictive and fun. The space allocated for this article isn’t sufficient for me to go into everything as thoroughly as I’d like to. I wish all of you could come to Expo and learn more details about the ideas I’ve covered and others I haven’t even mentioned. I’m confident that the return on investment from my session alone will more than cover your cost of attending this year’s Expo.
For those of you who can’t make it, the key point to remember for all advertising is to stop talking about you and start talking about how your customers benefit when they choose to do business with you. Apply the principles discussed in this article before you waste another dime on advertising that doesn’t work.
This year’s Powertrain Expo is scheduled over the Labor Day weekend. Make it a tax-deductible family vacation. Come and learn from a whole slate of management and tech experts about how you can take your business to the next level. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the exciting, ever-changing activities in and around Las Vegas. Does it get any better than that?
I hope to see you there.