To run a successful tire dealership, you have to consistently offer quality service to develop loyal customers. You also have to constantly think about business operations to remain profitable. This balance is critical to success.
But what about growth?
Finding new customers in a competitive market can be challenging. Somehow you have to stand out.
Traditional advertising spreads out to thousands of people who have no immediate need for tires or auto service. Instead of waiting for them to remember you when they have the need, why not advertise to only those who are ready to buy now?
Today it is possible.
Timing is Everything
Advertising makes your tire business visible, but choosing where, how and to whom to advertise is the difference between a solid return on your investment and wasting money.
Online advertising may seem intimidating, but with a little time and effort, the medium can pay off. Online advertising can help you spend less to reach customers who are actually looking for your service.
“Annoying” or “irrelevant” may come to mind when you think of traditional advertising. Ads on radio interrupt whatever you are listening to; direct mail clogs your mailbox and often hits the recycling bin soon after it arrives.
Of course, someone listening to music or getting their mail may need auto services at some point, but what are the odds that they need your services at the moment they are exposed to your ad? Traditional mass advertising is pumped out wherever people are regardless of context; it rarely is timed and targeted for when they are at the point of purchase.
However, with inbound internet marketing models like pay-per-click, the ad appears only when someone is searching online for terms like “oil change near me” or “discount tires Springfield Missouri.” In this case, the ad appears exactly when people need the information. You only pay for the ad when people click on it, not just when it appears as with legacy advertising. The fact that the prospective customer is searching for tires or automotive services, it is likely they are already in the “buying stage,” meaning your investment may be more effective than the traditional “spray and pray” approach.
Google AdWords is among the most effective forms of online advertising, as Google is used for 92% of searches on mobile devices and 68% of searches on desktop computers. AdWords can easily be correlated to your actual sales numbers because keywords on which you spend money will typically be the ones with the highest purchase intent. You know that someone searching for “discount tires” is specifically looking for tires and is probably price sensitive. That is the person who will be glad to see an ad that addresses their needs as well as their interest in value.
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
Inbound marketing like pay-per-click advertising shows up in response to specific search terms. By targeting your ads to people who are looking for automotive service or tires in your geographic area, you can position your business as a solution to their immediate needs. Inbound marketing can also include banner ads on webpages and as sponsored social media posts across Facebook and Twitter.
You might be thinking, “I only service a small geographic area so online advertising really does not make sense to me.” Let’s look at the speed and agility of other traditional marketing options such as the weekly community paper.
Because the lead time on any individual needing auto service or tires can vary widely, you would not know if the newspaper ad influenced their decision unless they told you it had.
If you eventually determined that the newspaper ad was not as effective as you expected and wanted to place a different one, you would have to wait until the following week to change it. This is slow and inefficient.
Let’s also talk about advertising in the Yellow Pages. In bigger cities, the phone book provided the booster in the chair at Thanksgiving dinner for a grandchild. They are part of our culture, but, sadly, almost dead as an advertising vehicle. Today, only about 8% of people use Yellow Pages as their source of finding a business. And, most of that use segment are senior citizens. The ease of online and mobile search has rendered Yellow Pages virtually ineffective as an advertising strategy.
What about radio? About the only place that radio is effective is in the car. Over 90% of adult drivers still tune into the radio while driving. A commercial interrupts their listening anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds per spot and cannot possibly be guaranteed to hit at just the right time to reach a potential customer. Only a high frequency strategy will get a prospective customer to remember your business. This requires a lot of radio spots to see results and there is still an 83% likelihood they will look you up online before making a phone call or a visit.
Direct mail is another legacy alternative. To use direct mail effectively you need to have a clean list of addresses for your local area and a postage budget to match that list. The downside of direct mail is that you can’t know who or how many people will end up reading your piece, hang onto it and/or throw it into the trash. Your send needs to build those response rates into the equation of how many people you need to reach to get the lift in business you desire.
Due to their digital nature, targeted paid search ads function very differently from their offline counterparts. Traditional ads show up uninvited, while paid search ads only appear to people who are seeking information about what you provide.
If you do find value in those traditional approaches, such as phone book and weekly newspaper ads, do your best to coordinate those with targeted digital advertising campaigns. The combination of print, mail and digital with a consistent, coordinated message can be extremely effective to help your business stand out in the minds of consumers.
Digital Direct Measurement
How do you accurately measure a direct mail piece or radio spot? You would have to see how many new customers show up after running the ad campaign and rely on your counter staff to keep track of why the new customer came in. Not only does that take staff time, it is also subject to inaccurate or incomplete recording.
On the other hand, when someone clicks an online ad, it is tracked automatically, providing valuable information for analysis. With the right tags and analytics in place, you can even see how long the visitor stays on your site and what they do when they get there. There is simply more data as compared to traditional advertising.
Investing in Yellow Pages, newspaper ads and direct mail is like changing all four tires when only one is damaged. They might not all need changing, so you waste a lot of tires – but, at least, your bases are covered. In contrast, online advertising is focused on customers with a need. These only cost you when a customer takes a positive action and clicks.
Another great thing about digital advertising is its flexibility. You can make on-the-fly budget adjustments. You also can test one ad against another to decide which is more effective to make the most of your marketing spend. They have a flexible price tag, too. With traditional ads, you often need to commit to a certain number of direct mail pieces or daily radio spots to drive down the price, which locks you in. Online advertising allows you to adjust your budget daily based on search volume, and even cut off spending instantly. You are never trapped with an ineffective ad.
Using geo-targeted digital advertising, you can target local prospective customers by setting your ads to only appear in specific geographic locations. This helps to ensure you’re not paying to market to people who aren’t even close enough to do business with you.
Another type of geo-targeting is called geo-fencing. This allows you to set your ads to display only to people who are physically in a specific area based on the GPS coordinates of the computer or phone they are using. Therefore, if someone searches “tires near me,” Google knows to include your business in the list of results the prospective customer receives even though the only relevant keyword is the broad term “tires.”
Free vs. Paid
If you have read previous articles I have written in this space, you know I have long been a proponent of getting your business organic visibility by cleaning up your website, claiming your position in the dozens of free sites that consumers (and mostly Google) use to locate local businesses, and garnering as many positive reviews as possible. I believe in getting all of the free advertising you can.
That being said, online advertising allows you a greater level of control as to when and where your business message is seen. Using it in combination with other marketing tactics can also increase its effectiveness. Any trade-offs can be analyzed by testing and tracking effectiveness.