Avoiding Advertising Dilemmas

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How many conversations have you had with advertising sales people who tell you how great their product is and how much business it’s going to bring through your door? I know for me, the trials and tribulations of the past have been very costly in respect to my advertising budgets. Recently, it seemed not much of our advertising was working for us, but it’s probably more of an economy problem and the fact we are located in a desert military town. Now, I’m not complaining, because our business has grown 20 percent in the last year. But much of our advertising has been worthless. AAA, repeat customers and referrals have been the largest part of our business.

I once met with a register tape salesman, and, boy, did his deal sound good. If I placed an ad on this local grocery store sales receipt, it would be handed out to 4,000 customers a day. There was a local tire shop that had been advertising that way for over two years that I knew of, so it must have worked, right? Well, I signed a contract, designed an ad and ran it for 12 months. What a big goose egg that turned out to be: I brought in just two customers, one of which was already an existing customer. The other one spent nothing!

Another sales person called and was excited to tell me about the increased traffic he had noticed on a website we were associated with. He continued to enlighten me on how his company could drastically increase our car count if we would commit to a year in their advertising program to the tune of $4,000. Nearly all of the statistical data he gave me was not even close to the statistics of my area. He continued his pitch almost seeming to get a little desperate for a sale when I said that a deal might be possible if they could guarantee the increased car count in writing, basically a money-back guarantee. You probably can imagine how the rest of the conversation went.

Advertising can be very costly with little to no return, or it can be worth every penny—if you take the time to really check things out. You have to see what works in your respective area, as there is no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to advertising. You have to try different ideas and not invest everything in one strategy. There were times in the past when I would run full-page Yellow Page ads, newspaper ads, etc., and customers would flock to the door. In today’s market, things have changed and there are so many avenues to take that you really need to do your research before spending your hard-earned cash on advertising that gives no return.

A few things to keep in mind:

Know your market. Research, and get as much statistical data as possible. This data will give you the information you need to make the best decision.

Read contracts thoroughly before you sign them. Ask questions. Don’t get stuck in a lengthy contract when there is no return and you can’t get out. Get all of your questions answered first, before you sign. Make sure you understand what you are getting into.

Track your advertising investments. Tracking your return on investments (ROIs) is critical to knowing what works and what doesn’t work.

Talk to other shop owners and share ideas. Sharing ideas with other owners can help you in your decision making process. Not making the same mistake they made could save you from making a bad investment.

Advertising can be fun and help to get your creative juices flowing. If it’s not fun you might want to consider using some of the great advertising companies out there to do it for you. Ask your peers for recommendations on who they use to get a good return on their advertising investments.

B.J. Lee has worked in the automotive repair industry for more than 30 years. He is an industry consultant and trainer for Automofo.com and owner of Stellar Performance Inc. in 29 Palms, Calif. Contact him at blee@ratchetandwrench.com.

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