Focus on Your Customer - September 2002

Advertise, or Not
Is It Even a Question?

By Joseph Rosales

Should you advertise? Where should you advertise and what should the message be? How often should you advertise? There are many choices for promoting your business, and basically letting a marketplace full of customers know that you want them to come to you for their automotive services. Sure, there are many ways to promote a business and we will touch on a few of them here, but advertising is a basic component of any marketing program. We should start our discussion with a couple of basic premises.

First, people do not get all that excited about coming to get their car serviced. It's sort of like going to the dentist - you only go if you have a toothache, need some repair work, or simply need a cleaning to maintain your teeth. Like the trip to the dentist, it can get easier if each visit is pleasant. However, if the visits are not particularly pleasant, customers will either avoid the service or find another provider. So, the more pleasant you can make each visit, the more receptive a customer will be to the notion of returning. It still won't be an elective visit like going to a movie theatre or a nice restaurant, but a visit to your business has to be more attractive and appealing than going to any of your competitors.

Second, customers know very little about their cars, yet most care about the quality of service. If you understand these dynamics, then you will understand more about why some customers avoid having their car serviced. Most of us do not like the idea of purposely placing ourselves in a position of being at a disadvantage. Often, however, we have little choice. That is precisely why making customers feel comfortable also includes providing them with information that will translate over to customer
confidence. Certainly, having your car washed is more satisfying than having your oil changed, but both are maintenance issues and not really optional.

Third, there are many businesses chasing your customer's money. Not just your competitors, but virtually every service your customer purchases has an industry behind it, and competitors within that industry, trying to acquire that customer's business. Every appliance seller, clothing store, car
dealership, real estate company, fast food chain, and widget seller is asking for your customer to spend money with them. Oh yeah, and so are your competitors.

So with all this advertising noise going on in your customer's life, should you join in the fray? Well, the choice is really quite simple...yes! In the simplest analysis, the alternative is not to advertise nor promote - just be quiet, do a good job, and hope the drive-by traffic will give you all the customers you need.

Well, that alternative sounds like the overall theme of the movie Field of Dreams. Remember, "Build it and they will come"? In the movie, they did come, eventually. In business, we sometimes see the same idea applied - someone builds a facility and then either never puts a complete marketing program in place or stops promoting after the facility becomes busy.

Your customers need to be reminded that their vehicles require services and they also need to be reminded that you are ready, willing, and able to provide those services. Simply reminding customers of services that need to be done and that you can do them seems very elementary, but we often find that business operators fail to take the most basic actions in the furtherance of their ventures.

Make Your Advertising and Promotions Interesting
Many customers need a fun or at least an interesting reason to come to you. Yes, you are expected to do a technically correct service and it needs to be convenient and fast, but that is a base expectation. Let's talk interesting promotions: Instead of just a $3 discount, how about enhancing your coupon with the possibility of a greater discount when the customer redeems it. Perhaps you could do some type of coupon drawing with the potential of winning another discount for the customer. Try to make every customer a winner of something, even if it is just some free advice on a randomly drawn card. Other winners may win a discount on an air filter or other service when they need it.

Have a Plan
Most marketing professionals agree that you should have a comprehensive marketing plan in place that includes not just what you are going to do, but also when you are going to do it. Be clear about your intentions and who your audience is.

So to advertise or not? The question really is: Are you committed to marketing and promoting your business? Implementing even a modest marketing and advertising plan is better than
no plan at all. When it comes to promotion, here is one last bit of advice: Don't do too much for too many or too often. But that's an idea for a future article.

Joseph Rosales is the founder and president of Performance Resources Inc., a full-service consulting and training company specializing in the care car industry. To learn more about marketing planning and implementation and improving the success of your overall business, call (800) 268-9899, or visit www.performancepros.com.

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