Detail Management - October 2010

Marketing — The Right Mix Assures Results
By Sharie Sipowicz

Marketing, simply defined, is bringing your product or service to the right market at the right price.

Marketing involves advertising, public relations, direct marketing, sales promotion, brochures, selling, and customer service. To be effective, they all have to work together. There has to be the right mix or the results will not be effective.

Marketing studies reveal that the consumer is bombarded with anywhere from 1,200 to 3,500 advertising messages every day. That is why your marketing communication has to be done in terms of how consumers make their purchasing decisions.

To sell, you need to understand how the customer purchases. The process can be broken down into five stages:

  • Problem Recognition
  • Information Search
  • Alternative Evaluation
  • Purchase Decision
  • Post Purchase Evaluation

Your ability to sell is absolutely necessary in the Alternative Evaluation and Purchase Decision stages.

Because the need for the detail service is not constant, like a gasoline purchase for example, you need to constantly remind prospects that you are around, so when that sudden “problem recognition” occurs, they choose you. That is why sending a “car care newsletter” is an important marketing device.

As you review some of the ideas here, keep in mind that your message needs to have a simple theme. The dollars spent on advertising will have the greatest impact if you recognize you cannot be all things to all people, nor can you say all things in all communications.

ADVERTISING

Advertising usually takes the form of “mass media” — television, newspapers, radio, billboards, and Yellow Page ads. The benefit of this form of communication is control of the message.

Control over what you will say (content), when you will say it (timing) and, to some extent, to whom you will say it (audience). This means flexibility to respond to changing weather conditions — when Problem Recognition is most likely to occur. With radio, for example, you have the ability to write, produce, and air a special commercial the day after — or even the day of — a bad snowstorm or rainstorm.

The objectives you can expect to achieve with advertising include building awareness for your business, creating interest in what you sell, inviting an evaluation of your service, as well as reinforcing the bond with past customers. Advertising can be memorable and have a great impact; it can also create a unique personality that differentiates your detail business from others.

PUBLIC RELATIONS

Often overlooked by small businesses and especially detail business owners, public relations can provide some real benefits to your marketing. A good PR program can help lay the groundwork for other messages to be favorably received. PR can enhance your credibility and create a positive attitude toward your detail business.

As with advertising, public relations can boost your image in the community as an outstanding company. Unlike advertising, with PR you have little control over the what, when, and whom of your message — that is up to the media.

Charitable or civic support can generate goodwill, but you must be publicizing these to maximize their value. Another way to get in the news is by establishing a relationship with the automotive or business editor/reporter of the local newspaper. Call them and let them know what your business does and something unique about it. Send them a press release when you detail an exotic car or add a new product or service — even when you receive new certification, win an award, or expand your business.

Sponsorships will also produce good results. Sponsoring a local league team, for example, will get your name in front of customers.

DIRECT MARKETING

This is one-on-one communication, usually through the mail, over the phone, or on the Internet. Direct mailing allows you to communicate more details about your detail business than can be done in a 30-second radio commercial. It can also be targeted, usually geographically, demographically, and by type of car driver. A list of the businesses and/or residences in your zip code area, for example, can be purchased from businesses that specialize in databases.

One of the most important applications of direct marketing is staying in touch with past customers. Referrals are an important part of the detail business — remind past customers of the positive experience they had with your business and remind them they need your detail service again. A simple newsletter offering seasonal tips on finish protection, new automotive care products, and new services are all great ideas that can keep you in the customer’s mind.

Direct marketing can help ensure that a detail business is not a one-night stand, but rather the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

SALES PROMOTION

Sales promotions will add a great deal of color to your communication. The goal of a sales promotion is to drive business through the doors in a short time frame. However, it can also have longer-lasting publicity value as well.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

How you treat your customers is the ultimate promotion, the final finish, so to speak. Courtesy and delivering on time, as promised, is not enough. In fact, those only get you in the game. You need to deliver what motorists do not necessarily expect because of their past experiences or preconceived notions. Offer extra services or guarantees that are unanticipated and go well beyond customers’ expectations and desires.

The kind of customer you want to create is a loyal one. “Preferrers” will come back when their vehicle needs detailing. “Enthusiasts” will promote your shop through word of mouth. Of all the forms of promotion in any industry, none is more persuasive than the recommendation of a friend.

Producing enthusiasts requires that you first bring people to the front door, and that requires a mix of promotional methods. What mix is right for you depends on your market niche and budget. In any case, keeping it coordinated and consistent with what you deliver is one way to keep you from seeing red.

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at sharie@detailplus.com.

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