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Marketing Basics for Tire Dealers: Tools to Succeed in the Digital Age

Regardless of your budget, there are a several important marketing channels you need to invest in regularly. Take these recommendations to get the brand recognition you deserve.

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The options for getting your advertising message in front of consumers has exponentially grown since the advent of the Internet. In the 1980s, marketing channels were limited to print resources such as Yellow pages, newspaper, magazines, billboards, TV and radio for the most part. Those were certainly simpler times! 

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In contrast, today’s marketing landscape consists not only of the foregoing options but also of websites, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), email, web banners, coupons, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, over-the-top TV and the list goes on. 

Once you’ve wrapped your head around all these channels, next comes the daunting task of identifying the best technology for these channels. 

You may be surprised to learn that as of 2018, there were 6,829 marketing technology platforms available to a business to help execute just the internet portion of its strategy, the marketing technology blog ChiefMartec.com reported.

The uncertainty of success and the pressure of selecting the right options causes many owners to develop FOMO (fear of missing out). FOMO was developed by Harvard MBA grad Patrick J. McGinnis, who is the author of The 10% Entrepreneur: Live Your Startup Dream Without Quitting Your Day Job. In his book, he discusses entrepreneurs who embark on too many paths because they are worried about missing a popular trend or opportunity.

So, how does FOMO impact you, the business owner? 

First, you start hearing buzzwords in the marketplace that cause FOMO and lead you to invest a small sum money on a multitude of marketing channels — often an economically inefficient approach. 

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If you don’t have a trusted marketing confidant at your disposal or you are seeking a second opinion, I hope this article can help limit the amount of FOMO you feel as you operate your business on a day-to-day basis.

Regardless of your budget, there are a couple of very important marketing channels that you need to invest in regularly. 

The recommendations below will help you set up a strong base for your marketing and help you achieve success with most marketing channels.

An Effective Website 

In today’s environment, more than 70% of research on a product or service provider is done on the web before a consumer ever calls the business. Now, how the consumer reaches that website may vary. Maybe they were brought to the site from a print ad or commercial they saw on TV, or they searched for a tire store near them and they were shown a link to the website, or maybe they were referred to the business by a friend or colleague. It’s important to understand that all marketing leads to the website. 

Regardless of how they arrived, one thing is for certain – consumers today consider a business website to be a representation of the business itself. Having a dated site that looks like a brochure and answers only a few questions, or a site that isn’t engaging or visually appealing, is unlikely to impress someone and could likely be a reason why they don’t do business with your shop. 

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If you don’t think your website is working, it might be time to freshen up its look and content.

A business owner may feel that their website is not working because you don’t get many sales or leads from the site. As a marketer, I feel obligated to remind everyone that poor performance of a website can be a function of many elements on the website, including quality of content, visual appeal, appropriate call to actions, colors, layout, SEO tags on the pages, etc. 

Additionally, it’s important to remember that when it comes to services, such as auto repair, new customers put a premium on trust and usually prefer to call and speak to someone before they let someone work on their vehicle; whereas, repeat customers who are already familiar with the business and trust the work are more likely to make an appointment on the internet. So, it’s very likely that the quality of your website is responsible for making the phone ring or preventing new customers from picking up the phone. 

You may have heard this before, but I believe it warrants repeating: a website can be your best salesperson. It works 24/7/365, doesn’t ask for a vacation and can handle multiple users at the same time while working hard to convert them. So, it only makes sense that a website is user-friendly, easy to use, answers most of the questions that a user may have of the business and does a great job of asking for the sale. 

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If your website is actually going to be your best salesperson, then you have to invest in it appropriately from the onset, and on an ongoing basis. Good salespeople can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 per year; so if you invested a couple of thousand dollars in your website in 2015 and haven’t made (m)any meaningful improvements or updates since then, you shouldn’t wonder why it’s not paying off. The adage “you get what you pay for” normally holds true in this instance. If you find yourself in this position, it is very likely time to give your site a facelift.

Reputation Management

By now, most business owners are well aware of the impact online customer reviews can have on their business. Even though there are hundreds of independent review sites on the web, there are two sites that likely impact a shop more than others: Google and Yelp. These names should not come as surprise to anyone.

Google & Yelp

Although the data related to Google’s search market share on the net varies by provider (68% to 92%), the fact that Google is the worldwide leader in online searches is not up for debate, so putting your shop’s best foot forward on Google is very important. Ensuring that you have a large number of reviews and that you are engaging with the reviewers is key to building trust with your current and prospective customers. Additionally, review volume and their star rating can play a role in whether your business shows up at the top of local searches. I’m sure you already know that your shop is unlikely to get many new customers if your business ranks low in search results on Google.

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So, how do you improve your review count and rating on Google? One of the best and easiest solutions today is to request a review from every customer by using text messaging and including a link to your Google My Business profile in that message. Products like BirdEye and Podium are popular solutions for auto repair businesses. Each of them has their pros and cons, which you can weigh for your business taking into account the types of customers you have. 

It’s no surprise that many businesses have a love/hate relationship with Yelp. The fact is that millions of consumers each year turn to Yelp for reviews about auto repair shops. If you love growing your business or revenue more than you like to hate Yelp, get in the game. I’d even suggest reaching out to a Yelp Ad Certified Partner agency, which has a direct line to Yelp (when needed). They are well versed in the platform, have access to specialized targeting and pricing that’s not available to most business operators and provide analysis and advice about your business profile and ad campaigns at no cost (in some cases) to the business.

Once you have taken the time to invest in your website and reputation management, it may be time to begin considering other marketing channels. At this point, budgets and goals are likely to play an important role. If you are a business that wants to grow at a rapid pace and have funds available, then you would want to be involved in all marketing categories, including web, print, TV/radio, etc. 

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Print Marketing

If you are like most small to medium-sized auto repair operators, you will likely have to make choices. As a digital-first marketer, I am regularly surprised to be advocating for the print channel as I discuss marketing with our auto repair clients. The short answer: it works and can be a great way to bring in a large volume of leads. 

Of course, where you advertise also matters. Local newspapers and magazines, Yellow Pages, Valpak, USPS, etc. all offer ways to invest in print marketing. Certain marketing agencies can offer expertise on which of these options work best for auto shops. But honestly, the best channel most likely varies by geography. 

Measure Success

In order to determine the success of your campaigns, the best thing to do is to measure the results of all of your marketing efforts. Unique coupon codes, phone numbers and URLs are all methods of tracking conversions (how many customers move from viewing the marketing to buying your product) by channel. This is in addition to measuring traffic to the website, time on site and conversion by leveraging a free software such as Google Analytics. 

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Ultimately, taking a calculated and well-thought-out approach to marketing will help you limit FOMO and ensure that you are investing in channels that offer the best ROI.  TR

Taran Sodhi is the founder and CEO of automotive marketing consulting group Conceptual Minds. He can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 877-524-7696.

Check out the rest of the April digital edition of Tire Review here.

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