When it comes to advertising, strategies are endless, mediums are constantly changing and advice is often conflicting.
Doing something is better than nothing – results are results, even if they are lackluster – but funneling a shop’s dollars into an ineffective ad campaign is a mistake no one wants to repeat.
To take some of the guesswork out of planning your media buy, we talked to several marketing experts and tire dealers to boil down the basics of four popular advertising mediums.
Some Print Still Works
Print advertising still holds an effective place in the majority of tire dealers’ markets – but the right channels and strategies must be used. For example, phone books like Yellow Pages are a thing of the past.
“Display ads in telephone books are so expensive; because they’re not targeted to your specific audience in your part of town, they can be very wasteful, too,” says Scott Greggory, chief creative officer of Madison Avenue Marketing Group. “We work with tire dealers who have good luck with ValPak direct mail coupons. We’ve also used sponsored maps, postcards and a few other direct mail pieces to target families with multiple vehicles.”
Because he says phone books are closed 99.9% of the time (or more), Bruce Bryan, president of B2C Enterprises, an agency in Roanoke, Va., advises that print ads in publications that have solid circulation, are priced right, and are timely are a much better choice.
“Gone are the days when dealers had to list every single tire size and price in the sports section,” Bryan says. “A display ad that interrupts and gets the attention of the reader will accomplish the same results or better. Then, provide the address to a responsive web-site where shoppers can find all the information they need on a smartphone.”
“To find out if newspaper or direct mail works for you, test it, measure the results, and then repeat, changing one aspect of the ad (the offer, the price, the image, etc.),” Greggory advises. “That will help you see which version of your ad performs best. Be prepared to commit to the channel, though. Running just an ad or two is not likely to produce great results.”
To gauge the effectiveness of a print campaign, always include a coupon with your ad to spur sales, then track the coupon’s redemption, according to Rod Frysinger, brand consultant for Madison Avenue Marketing Group.
Stand out from the print crowd by presenting readers with a simple, clear and compelling idea or offer that lets them know why they should do business with you, Greggory notes.
“That typically means using a lot of white space. Most of the time, newspapers and coupon circulars are so jammed with ad copy and images that nothing really stands out to readers,” he says.
Conserve your ad dollars by looking into co-op opportunities with the brands your shop sells, says Greggory, adding it may help to hire pros to design and write ads that are more effective.
“A lousy ad will waste your money, but a great ad campaign can generate revenue for months or years to come.”
Bryan says there is almost no need to buy a full-page ad in a newspaper. “A 3/4- or 1/2-page ad has a similar recognition value and will cost much, much less. Run ads early in the week; they’re often less expensive than those that run late in the week.”
Targeted Television Campaigns
A recent study found that the average American spends more than 4.5 hours a day in front of the TV and 99% of all U.S. households have at least one TV set, according to Ginger Griffin Marketing + Design, which works with North Carolina’s Griffin Brothers Tires, Wheels & Auto Repair.
Last year, Griffin Brothers, with 10 locations, dedicated roughly 49% of its ad budget for TV, a slight decrease from a few years ago. “With the emergence of social media and online advertising, we’ve found that you can target users more specifically online with a smaller investment,” according to the agency, which added, “Not all of our potential customers are online or read printed materials, so we feel it’s important to utilize a mix of media.”
Charleston, S.C.-based Hay Tire Pros has increased its TV ad budget during the past three years, from 46% in 2012 to 66% in 2014. “Whether because of habit or the number of people new to the area, our local morning and evening news shows are heavily watched,” says owner David Hay. “We usually are able to air our spots during those times for a reasonable cost.”
According to Ginger Griffin Marketing + Design, it’s also best to spread your shop’s message across a variety of stations.
Jim Ray Cobb, owner of AnchorLine Advertising – the agency Hay Tire uses for its TV campaigns – says the relevance of TV advertising depends largely on the market. “Charleston is still a very affordable market for a smaller advertiser like Hay Tire, and people here still rely on local news to see what’s going on in their neighborhood,” he says.
He adds it’s easy to closely target your audience with TV, since you have the option of buying specific programming that appeals to certain people.
Cobb offers several tips for a successful commercial: promote some type of offer, without making it “in your face” or “over the top,” include an element of creativity, have a call to action, and appear trustworthy. He also recommends weekend spots, which offer less costly rates.
Make Radio Relevant
Barry Steinberg, CEO of Direct Tire, based in Watertown, Mass., dedicated about 70% of his dealership’s advertising budget to radio last year.
“Since I focus mainly on morning drive time, I really have a captured audience,” he says. “Most people are not on their cell phones as much in the morning as during the afternoon drive time, so I have a better shot at getting their attention.”
Steinberg reviews Arbitron numbers himself and performs the media buying, focusing on a classic rock station, sports talk station, country music station, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s format, and National Public Radio – which he noted has delivered the best results.
Flynn’s Tire & Auto Service, based in Hermitage, Pa., has moved a portion of its ad budget out of print and into radio in recent years – last year, about 36% of its ad spend was dedicated to radio, according to Tania Flynn Warminski, vice president. “Radio’s placement delivers to drivers while they are in their vehicles and most aware of any vehicle needs they may have.”
In addition to radio spots, Flynn’s also participates in long format shows and interviews about vehicle repair topics, keeping the shop top of mind for those in search of expert vehicle service.
According to Larry Julius’ Radio Results Blog for the Portland Radio Group, there are a number of things to avoid when creating a radio ad, including using a phone number and turning the commercial into an audio coupon.
“Each time you include your phone number in a radio commercial you consume seven to 10 words,” Julius wrote. “According to a study published in the New York Times…nine out of 10 people forget a phone number within five seconds of hearing it.”
He suggests using a memorable Web address instead, since 32% of listeners report having visited an advertiser’s website after hearing their radio commercial.
Julius shared the following tips for a successful radio commercial:
• Limit your ad to only one call-to-action and make it very specific. All words of your commercial should be used to compel your target to take the action you intended.
• Use unexpected language and avoid clichés. The language you use in your commercials is a reflection of your business. If your commercial is burdened with tired, overused phrases, your business will be perceived as unoriginal and uninspired.
• State the unobvious. Too many commercials waste precious words on stating the obvious: “Conveniently located,” “Open every day until 8 p.m.,” etc. A more powerful use of words is to state the unobvious to engage listeners: “The sales associates at Mountain Tire don’t work on commission, they are paid in customer satisfaction.”
• Use the name swap test. Before you pay for a radio commercial, go through the script and replace your shop’s name with that of your biggest competitor. If the commercial works just as well for your competitor, then throw it out and start over.
Digital is King
In terms of targeting, customization and choosing exactly what you want – and what you want to pay for – digital advertising is the modern solution.
Margaret Klemmer, chief marketing officer for Autoshop Solutions, a website design and Internet marketing agency that works exclusively with the automotive aftermarket, adds there are four main areas of online marketing for a tire dealership: its own website, search engine optimization (SEO), paid search (like Google Adwords) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+).
“A website is the anchor to your entire online marketing strategy, so it’s important that your website has the information consumers need,” she explains, adding this includes easy-to-find contact information, a mobile-friendly and responsive design, and the right kind of calls to action to convert visitors into customers.
To drive traffic to your shop’s website, consider paid search, which is placing ads within search engine results pages (such as Google or Bing), according to Mike Pocci, director of connections planning for Hitchcock, Fleming & Associates, an Akron, Ohio-based agency that counts Goodyear among its clients.
“These ads can appear after searchers enter a specific keyword (such as ‘discount tires’) and should send them to your website when clicked,” he explains. “Paid search is an effective way to reach consumers who have shown a clear interest in your product or category.”
Online display advertising is more graphical in nature than paid search and usually includes images, animation or even video content.
“These ads can be placed on websites that your target audience is likely to visit and are ideal for reaching new consumers who are in the market for tires,” Pocci says. “Online business listings can be advantageous for delivering product information to users who are actively looking for it.”
SEO involves optimizing a website for search engines to read by selecting search terms that apply to that business, such that when a consumer uses those search terms to find information, the shop’s website will appear in the search results, Klemmer says.
Also tied to SEO and digital marketing efforts is a shop’s social media presence, which Klemmer stresses is no longer an option, but a requirement of successfully being found online.
“Managing your social media is far more than posting,” she explains. “First, your platforms need to be set up correctly for your business. Posts should be interesting and relevant to your business. True management also includes responding to comments on your feeds, properly addressing customer concerns and responding appropriately. It also includes liking and sharing from other pages in your local community and in the industry.”
For effective digital advertising, “It is imperative to focus on reaching the right consumers at the right time with the appropriate message,” Pocci says, adding that today’s consumers don’t have the time or the attention span to sit through lengthy marketing messages.
“Consumers are often skeptical of advertising in general, so make sure you are providing them with something of value, and communicating why they should care about your brand and purchase from your stores. Keep it engaging and relevant to your audience,” he explains.
It’s also helpful to consider the different types of consumers and where they are in the path to purchase, Pocci adds.
“For someone who isn’t necessarily thinking about tires but will undoubtedly need new tires at some point in the future, you might consider online display advertising on local websites, branded content or sponsorships on tire-related websites, or video ads on your audience’s favorite TV show streaming sites, to start building awareness and brand recognition,” he explains. “On the other end of the path – for someone who is in need of new tires right now – paid search and hyper-targeted advertising on mobile devices may be better options.”
If you’re new to digital advertising or trying to keep a tight rein on campaign costs, consider localizing your efforts, since consumers may only be willing to travel certain distances to visit a tire dealer.
“If you use online display advertising to target consumers only within a 15-mile radius of your store, you’ll increase the efficiency of your media buy by eliminating wasted budget on consumers who wouldn’t consider traveling any farther,” Pocci explains. “In general, paid search is a particularly efficient tactic, due to the ability to set your own bids for the keywords for which you want your ads to appear (and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad). This helps ensure your investment is focused only on the most qualified consumers.”
Klemmer cautions tire dealers to stay focused. “When you have a limited budget, it’s important to focus on just a few main components of your online advertising, such as what we discussed above. A good quality website, SEO, AdWords and active social media pages are the foundation to online marketing success, and you build upon that over time.”