How do people know your business exists? If
consumers in your city want their vehicle detailed, will they come to
Making the connection between a customer's need
and your business is the heart of marketing. This month we will perform
some open-heart surgery.
pulse of your business is your marketing plan. You do have a written
marketing plan, right? A marketing plan has five elements:
Analysis. In this section you consider how well you are meeting
the needs of your customers and how you compare with your competitors.
In addition, you look at the challenges you face and how well you
are prepared to meet those challenges.
2. Target Audience. Who are your customers?
3. Goals. What do you want to accomplish both in the coming
year and the years ahead? Try to make the goals quantifiable; this
will help you know when you have reached the goal.
4. Strategies and Tactics. This is the core of the plan. Strategies
define what you are going to do. Tactics are how you are going to
do it. Advertising, PR, promotions, and other marketing programs are
some of the tools you use in strategies and tactics.
5. Budget. How much of your resources - usually money - do
you plan to allocate for each of your tactics?
taking your business's pulse you are able to determine whether you are
on track toward reaching your goals. Ask yourself how well your strategies
and tactics are working. Change your budget allocations or tactics if
you are not making progress.
One of the most important strategies in your
marketing plan is building consumer awareness of your business. If your
goal is to sustain or grow your business, you need to make others aware
of your business and then get them to visit your establishment and purchase
services. In short, you need to develop a communications strategy.
OF A COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
first thing you need to know is your target customer. To whom are you
offering your services? Are your customers retail or wholesale? What
mix of retail and wholesale customers do you want? You need to know
your customers because your message needs to be communicated in a way
that reaches your target. For example, a Yellow Pages advertisement
is usually directed toward retail customers rather than wholesale customers.
Writing the yellow page ad for wholesale customers probably will not
bring in much dealer business and justify the expense of the placement.
Some of the strategic issues are as follows:
often do you need to communicate with your target customers?
What do you want to accomplish?
If your company is your brand, how well do you want your target
audience to recognize the name and where you are located?
How much money are you willing to spend to communicate to your
What tools - newspaper, PR, Yellow Pages, etc. - are available?
How can you evaluate the success of your communications efforts?
answers to these questions is vital. If you do not know how to develop
an appropriate message, there are several things that you can do:
what your competition is doing. How and where do they advertise and
communicate? Emulate successful businesses. Notice I did not say copy.
What works for one person might not work for you.
Talk with other detailers. There are message boards and web
sites devoted to detailing. You can exchange information. Trade shows
are a good opportunity to meet and discuss issues. Associations, like
the ICA, can be useful.
Talk with other business people in related businesses. Find
out how body shops, service garages, and other businesses communicate
with their target markets.
Seek assistance. Visit the library or small business-oriented
web sites for assistance. One good web site to visit is www.entrepreneur.com.
common marketing-plan errors can make running your business more challenging,
if not impossible. By knowing what can go wrong, you can avoid these
errors and move forward toward your goals.
Do your target customers know why you offer your services? Many detailers
do not understand their target customers' needs and the customers
do not understand how you can satisfy those needs.
2. No Written Plan. If you don't have a written plan, you are
not organized to profit by your activities. Your efforts are largely
by whim and by what worked yesterday.
3. Fear of Change. The Situation Analysis portion of your marketing
plan provides you with an opportunity to investigate changes in your
marketing area. Avoiding change means missing opportunity. For example,
the increased percentage of leased vehicles changed peoples' attitudes
toward vehicle ownership, but turn-in fees created opportunities to
minimize vehicle wear and tear. The glut of leased vehicles returning
to the market also has dealers and automakers scrambling to make previously
leased vehicles more attractive to customers.
4. Communications Tactics Don't Work. Many programs are ineffective
because they fail to find a receptive audience.
5. Personal Preferences vs. Customer Preferences. Too often,
business owners follow their own preferences rather than those of
their customers, because they understand themselves better than they
understand their targeted customers.
6. Misspent Advertising Budget. This is closely related to
the above error, but the difference lies in spending an inappropriate
amount of money on a single channel - the "more-is-better"
7. Doing It All Yourself. Sometimes you need the expertise
of others. After all, detailing exists because consumers are either
unwilling or unable to preserve the appearance of their vehicle. Why
should you assume that you know how to produce your advertising, PR,
and communications programs?
8. Resisting New Technology. Are you taking advantage of new
means of communicating with your target audience and providing better
service? For example, investing in an extraction cleaning machine
and related products benefits both you and your customers.
9. Under-Budgeted. You are not alone in this area. While overspending
can be a problem, under-spending is more serious. If you do not invest
in your business, how can you expect a return?
10. Missed Opportunity. When you fail to understand your customers
and their needs you may fail to recognize other business opportunities.
For example, many of your target customers would like to know where
they could have small dents and scratches on their vehicles repaired
without the expense and inconvenience of going to a body shop. If
you don't provide the service, you are missing an opportunity for
TO KNOW YOU
are two issues I want to discuss this month in greater detail:
* Let someone else sing your praise
of these two topics can be useful in helping you build your business.
Tell the World
One of the most important and economical marketing
tools is your sign. Every day, potential customers pass your business.
Do they see you? Do they understand the activity? Very few businesses
seek anonymity. An attractive sign that helps identify what you do can
help pull in business. For example, if you invested $8,000 in a sign
and 1,500 potential customers passed your business per day, in five
years your sign would have been seen over 2.5 million times. The cost
per viewing would be $0.0032. That could be a bargain. Remember that
a good sign can cost as little as $1,000. There are many sign options,
rather than rush into an expensive sign, talk with several sign companies
and have them help you select the sign that will help build your business.
Else Sing Your Praises
This section has two parts: Using PR effectively
and Generating positive word of mouth recommendations.
PR Is Not Advertising
Many people confuse PR with advertising. In
advertising you are communicating directly with your customer, and in
PR somebody else is doing the communication. Many people tend to believe
PR more than advertising because they believe it to be less biased.
The challenge of PR is getting noticed and getting somebody else to
tell your customers about what you do. While it is possible to do PR
yourself, you probably should consider the benefits of hiring a PR agency.
Word of Mouth
Without a doubt the most powerful marketing
tool available to you is Word of Mouth (WOM) advertising. Remember that
WOM can build and destroy a business. Because WOM is based on other
people's references, you can only shape what is said.
WOM is not well understood. There are relatively
few hard rules about generating positive WOM. Here are some observations
about generating positive WOM:
and exceed customer expectations. Do whatever it takes to satisfy
your customer. This may mean re-doing jobs to make a customer happy,
but by ensuring that customers are elated with your work, they will
share their joy with others.
Find the source of positive referrals. Find out who is saying
the great things about your business. Ask new customers why they came
to you. The people who provide positive referrals are "opinion
leaders" and they can
be the champions that will help you succeed. Take care of your opinion
leaders. In addition, look for other influential people, either current
or potential customers, who can become opinion leaders. Nurture them.
WOM takes time. For some businesses it takes three years to
generate half of new business from referrals and all new business
in five years. Make sure that you are meeting customer needs and expectations
by conducting frequent surveys. Stay in touch with your customers
and ensure their satisfaction.
Advertising should be consistent with WOM messages. Make sure
that your advertising message supports the messages that you want
your customers to communicate.
Increase your exposure to the public. For example, give free
car care seminars or lessons, or support community activities. This
helps people form positive attitudes about your business. This can
be a basis for positive PR and WOM.
you can see, there are multiple issues to consider. Creating a powerful
marketing program that helps you reach your business and personal goals
takes effort and an approach. Over the coming months we will investigate
different elements of successful market planning and suggest things
that you can do to enhance your business. I would like to investigate
and discuss Yellow Page advertising. I would appreciate receiving e-mail
(email@example.com) or hard copy (care of ALN) regarding your experience
and level of investment in Yellow Pages advertising. I would like to
know what works and what doesn't work.
has extensive experience in the marketing of detailing products and
is a contributing editor to Auto Laundry News. Contact John via e-mail