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Towing: The Underrated Shop Advertiser

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For shop owners considering adding towing to their full suite of shop services, one underrated perk may not have made it to the pro and con list. 

While there are plenty of challenges facing towing programs today—heavy industry regulation, insurance and liability responsibilities, gas mileage, costly equipment and maintenance investments, a shortage of skilled drivers, and a large pendulum swing in miles driven over the last year are all key concerns—shop owners who have built profitable towing programs are finding each truck’s value as an advertising opportunity is often overlooked. 

Much like wrapped loaner cars, Both Sheldon Barthlama, owner of Stan’s Auto Service in Loveland, Colo. and Bill Rate, co-owner of Bob’s Main Street Auto & Towing in West Bend, Wisc., find that the ability to market their businesses and build brand awareness while their branded trucks are out helping customers has been a boost to business—although the impact is often hard to measure. 

“People are seeing your logo as they’re stuck in traffic after a crash, when they’re out running errands, when they’re in trouble and they need a tow themselves,” says Barthlama.

“Like a lot of aspects of marketing, it’s hard to quantify that exact ROI. It’s not black and white, but we do see a correlation when we’re down a truck,” he says, noting that his trucks’ marketing potential has been a deciding factor in the past when considering paring down his fleet. 

Barthlama is intentional in putting his trucks to work as moving billboards when not out on a tow call as well. His team will volunteer their assistance at local community events (a service that’s helped his shop build a solid relationship with the local Chamber of Commerce) and he’s sure to give the trucks center stage in the shop’s Google My Business account and social media accounts. “Even if a glance at the logo on our truck isn’t sending them directly to our shop that day, that brand association and familiarity is something we’re building on and will make our next piece of marketing that much more impactful,” he says. 

Rate agrees and takes the branding one step further with themed trucks. A pink truck was branded and themed for breast cancer awareness while a baby blue truck has been designed to promote autism awareness. Rate says he has a green truck ordered and on the way.

“We call them ‘Fruit of the Loom’ trucks and eventually we’re working to have a full slate in different colors, each dedicated to a specific cause,” he says. 

“The goal is that while these trucks are out on the road, your message is traveling and it’s communicating your priorities and values as a business,” he says. “From that first sighting, maybe they’ll look you up, see you have great ratings, see you work on the kind of car they have and your trucks are building a relationship just by heading to that next call.”

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