Getting to Know You
do people know your business exists? If consumers in your city want
their vehicle detailed, will they come to you?
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:
Situation 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?
By 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
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
Some of the strategic issues are as follows:
How 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 target customers?
What tools - newspaper, PR, Yellow Pages, etc. - are available?
How can you evaluate the success of your communications efforts?
Knowing the 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:
See 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.
Why? 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
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 additional sales.
TO KNOW YOU
are two issues I want to discuss this month in greater detail:
* Let someone else sing your praise
Each of these two topics can be useful in
helping you build your business.
the World About You
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.
Someone Else Sing Your Praises
This section has two parts: Using PR effectively
and Generating positive word of mouth recommendations.
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.
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:
Meet 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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
Lamade has extensive experience in the marketing of detailing products
and is a contributing editor to Auto Laundry News. Contact John via
e-mail at email@example.com.