When it comes to advertising your automotive business, the question that gets asked the most is “Which advertising medium is best?” There are many advertising choices and some are quite expensive especially for a small business. Furthermore, some advertising mediums work better than others depending on your business’s specific situation. The Neilsen Company recently released their 2013 Trust in Advertising Report and the results were surprising. While online advertising shows an increase in consumer trust, word of mouth is still number one as far as attracting new customers.
But before choosing an advertising medium to attract new customers it’s important to answer two questions:
- Who are my ideal customers? Who are they and where are they? You can narrow your ideal customer down more specifically as well, by age, occupation, income, zip code, buying preferences etc.
- How do they find out about the products and services they need? Once you identify who your ideal customers are you then need to understand how they find out about the products and services they need. Do they rely on recommendations from their business associates, friends and family first? Do they turn to Google? Are they avid watchers of TV or do they spend a lot of time on Facebook?
Once you have these two questions answered it will be easier to make a decision as to which of the “Top 10 Most Trusted Forms of Advertising" is best for you.
- Recommendations from people I know. Recommendations or reviews are the most trusted and probably the most powerful form of advertising. How does a business owner tap into it? An easy way is to request testimonials from current customers and make sure that they are posted online and used in all of your marketing materials. You could also implement a referral campaign. One auto shop owner I know gives all of his ideal customers half price oil change certificates to handout to his family and friends.
- Branded websites: A website is a must, however, far too many business owners will put up a website and then ignore it, leaving up outdated information. Your website is your 24/7 sales associate and thus an extension of you. It should be current, quality and credible. (And don't forget to have a mobile friendly version as well.)
- Opinions posted online: You must take caution when requesting online reviews. Most online review portals such as Google and Yelp do not allow you to compensate people for leaving reviews, so NEVER offer an incentive such as a free service for leaving a review. If it is discovered that you have done so the reviews will be flagged, and in Yelp’s case, filtered. Also, some review sites like Yelp frown upon solicited reviews.
- Editorial content: This can be a huge credibility builder and a consistent lead generator. Editorial content can be in the form of a guest blog post on your local newspaper's website or an article in their paper. Editorial content shows authority and expertise which helps your potential customers feel more at ease in making the decision to call you.
- Ads on TV: Television advertising can be expensive, but it can also be effective if you have a broad geographic customer base.
- Brand sponsorship: Brand sponsorship includes sponsoring an event (such as a golf tournament). Brand sponsorships in my opinion are expensive and for most small businesses not as effective as other forms of advertising.
- Ads in newspapers: One of the most effective forms of advertising for some of the automotive businesses that we work with have been ads in newspapers. It’s proven that the bigger the ad the bigger the results. We prefer to use inserts with coupons as a way to attract new customers for auto repair shops, however display ads work very well for dealerships.
- Ads in Magazines: Magazines have a long shelf-life meaning that people may see your advertisement more often and for a longer period of time than a traditional newspaper ad. Make sure that the magazine that you advertise in is one that your ideal customer reads. I recommend for all advertising (except for your website) that you use a separate tracking phone number to track the effectiveness of your ad.
- Billboards and other Outdoor Advertising: Billboards, business signs, sandwich boards and more can be effective attention getters and lead generators.
- Ads on Radio: Radio ads can work very effectively in the automotive industry. We prefer ads on talk radio as people who listen to talk radio are often more engaged in listening than those who listen to just music. We use real customers giving real testimonials in our radio ads and have seen tremendous results. In addition a celebrity endorsement can also be a huge lead generator.
None of these advertising media will work if you don’t understand who your ideal customers are and how they find out about new products and services. So do your homework.