July 4, 2013
It’s the fourth of July and it’s raining like crazy. I’m here at the kitchen table waiting for it to stop so we can shoot off fireworks so I decided to write to you about how I market my towing business. Happy Independence Day… Anyway…
I always hated rain when I was a kid because we weren’t allowed to go outside. Going outside in the rain would be risking catching a cold due to the moisture that would settle in our lungs causing us to catch our “death-of-pneumonia” (that was the line anyway).
On rainy days my mom would always think of ways to entertain us (obviously to alleviate the guilt brought about by the lie). She’d pull out scrabble or have us do the memory game with a deck of cards, sometimes it was a puzzle, anything to keep us occupied otherwise we’d be driving her crazy. She had a knack for puzzles and crosswords.
Most days mom had a puzzle going in the front room and my little brother and I would always mess them up. While running in and out (which was frowned-upon), we’d stop our play to try our hand at shoving oddly shaped pieces, that looked like they’d fit, into spaces that really didn’t work. But she didn’t care, she’d patiently wait until we left the room and fix what we’d done, prying the paper peeled cardboard pieces from each spot and carefully replacing them so that the magnificent waterfall or stately horse farm would start to take form.
But I’ve gotten off track. Let’s see… Ok. Of course piecing together a successful marketing plan is much more difficult than putting together a puzzle made up of 10,000 parts. And now I’m all grown up and the stakes are much higher but still my ADHD has me running in and out sending me in 5 different directions at the same time.
Every day my mind gets cluttered with too many distractions, from customers and employees to truck repairs and politics, there’s barely any time to take care of the most important part of business, growing it.
And when there is time to investigate the options you’re hit with a glut of misinformation everywhere you turn. From every angle you hear ad men, all-but, promising huge returns with their ideas of advertising your business.
There’s the Yellow Pages guy who tells you it costs more if you decide to decrease your monthly budget (what?)- He says instead “What you need is a bigger ad full of color, that’ll stretch your advertising dollars”.
The radio sales guy says “what it takes is repetition, when people hear your name over and over they’ll call”- How much is enough, you ask?-No one really knows “Just stay top-of-mind” He advises.
The TV lady says you’ll need to wait in line for a premium place to open up and when it does you’ll pay dearly for a static placard that most viewers have become blind to.
The problem is they all believe in their medium way… too much.
They think that it’s their channel or book or newspaper that builds your business by the mere fact that you’re in it (With All Your Competitors)
What about the message? What about educating your customer?
- They say “you need to get your name out there”
- They say “constant exposure on television and radio is the trick”
- The say “if your ad’s not working let’s make it bigger”
- Run it more often, louder, more impressions
- BUILD YOUR BRAND!!!
The ugly truth is if you used their advertising media with your educational message you might be forced to pull your ads from their book, radio, or television station because you’d be busier than you expected and couldn’t keep up.
Or maybe you don’t worry about marketing your business, maybe you’re one of those guys who believe in: “Most Toys Wins”.
These folks believe that, to win, all they have to do is buy the biggest and best toys to do the job…
I used to believe that, hell I spent over a million dollars in one year because I believed that, and I’m here to tell you it didn’t work. You can have the latest equipment with a 75 ton rotator as your flagship, you can be TRAA Level III certified and Wreckmaster 6/7 trained but none of that stuff matters if you don’t have customers.
Maybe instead of advertising you depend upon your relationships with friends in high places, you’re a political “BIG DEAL”.
Yeah, that’s it; You’re in real-tight with the Mayor or you’ve got friends at the State Highway Patrol… Hell, you might even play golf with the Governor.
That’s great if it’s working for you but if that’s what you’re depending upon for retirement you’re going to be disappointed. Winds of influence inevitably change and those who were your trusted friends because you did them a favor awhile back will just as easily become someone else’s friend.
It’s great to know people and I’m not suggesting otherwise but to balance your entire business on one or two relationships is foolish.
Now I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know but maybe what you don’t know is what pieces of the puzzle you need to get and keep a whole lot of good customers instead. (A huge bolt of lightning just shook the house, if this keeps up we may be celebrating on the 5th)
Ok back to it again…Simply put- you need: The Market, The Message, and The Media to be successful selling your services. You gotta have all three right and you gotta have ‘em in the right order or you’ll just flounder along with your big beautiful toys paying the bills and not reaping the benefits of a properly executed marketing plan.
You see you’ve gotta know what market you’re shooting for first (that’s the people you want to buy your services). When you know who they are you can begin to develop a message (obviously, that’s what you say to them). The message should be aimed at educating your market as to what they should be looking for and what to avoid when looking for your type of services. Next you deliver your message through some sort of media (this can be yellow pages, video, audio and others). But it doesn’t just end there.
You can have the greatest message placed perfectly so that your exact target market sees it but if they don’t take some sort of action then your efforts will have been wasted.
That’s not to say that if they don’t buy what you’re selling immediately within the 30 minutes after seeing your material your efforts were fruitless. Not at all, the type of marketing I’m talking about is intended to educate your customer so that they become an informed purchaser. If done right your marketing should transform price-shoppers into informed consumers and do-it-your-selfers into convenience driven lifetime customers.
The type of action this marketing aims to achieve is to simply get them to like you on Facebook page or maybe give you an email address.
But what good is that going to do me? I’m glad you’re still participating in the conversation.
Ok here we go…towing customers either need you or they don’t. And although sometimes a properly placed box of spilled nails strewn-about downtown traffic may be the temporary shot in the arm you need- it’s not a long-term marketing strategy (especially if someone sees you doing it) 🙂
When they do need a tow truck they- need it RIGHT NOW – and they’ll call the first towing company that comes to mind. If none comes to mind they’ll search on Google or in the Yellow pages.
But lets look at what happens if you’ve got their email address? Let’s say you do and you’ve sent them a non-intrusive weekly or monthly newsletter for a while.
Now, even if, they completely ignore it and delete it every time without reading it, odds are, they’ll still remember your name when they need you. And instead of Googling “Tow Truck” they’ll Google you’re name. Sounds a lot like “get your name out there” doesn’t it? (Costs a lot less.)
What’s even better is if they like your Facebook page and you regularly update it with photos and other interesting stuff, they might like to look at, you’ll be easier to find and they’ve already committed to liking you. You’re a shoe-in.
So now that you’ve got a few ideas you want to start building your business, good. First you need to narrow your focus. I know that sounds opposite of everything you’ve heard about advertising. But to be successful with your marketing messages they must be directed to a particular group of folks, one group at a time. Not to worry, just because your message is directed to a small group doesn’t mean you’ll have less customers, in fact because you can focus in on a small group your message will be more personal and much more effective.
Ok just a bit more- the weather has broke and I’m heading out to blow s***t up with my daughter and brother-in-law.
What market will you start with?
The market is your customer, the person who uses your services. This can be the lady who just locked her keys in her car, the trucking company fleet manager with a downed unit, or the auto repair shop owner who needs one towed in. Your market is anyone who’s in the position to decide who to call when towing services are needed. And yes motorclubs are one of your markets. Remember the car you’re towing may not be owned by the same party who’s paying your fee.
More often than not, if a customer has a good relationship with their regular repair shop they’ll ask them to refer a tower. So even though the repair shop isn’t directly paying for your services on every occasion, they’re still considered a good portion of your market because they can give you the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. They’re deeply involved in the decision making.
Ok…in the broadest sense everyone in your area is considered your market. That is unless you live on a secluded island that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles… If so then why are you reading this? Go pick some coconuts or something.
If that’s not the case, at some point in their lives, everyone in your area is gonna need your services or at least they’ll know someone who could use a referral.
That doesn’t mean you can use a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing your business. Although some messages will overlap and have impact on multiple markets, to be effective you need to define and focus in on individual markets.
For example, you wouldn’t develop a message directed to the concerns a repair shop owner has for use in attracting, say, a cash-paying customer whose locked their keys in their car. And you wouldn’t share a message designed to educate cash customers as to their choices- when deciding what towing company to call, with your auto shop customers. These would be a waste of time and money.
So get to it, define a single target market, someone you want to be your customer or someone who’s already your customer. Think about what questions you would ask if you were in their shoes. What questions have you heard? Then answer those questions as if you didn’t own a towing business but still knew the answers.
Ok… thanks for the sparkling conversation, I’ve got to get out the door, my daughter’s hollering at me because I’ve got the most important piece of the fireworks puzzle, the punk.