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Marketing on a budget

October 11, 2010
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Since the early 90s and into the 21st century the detail industry has undergone a major change: It has gone from a service done for or by the auto dealer to an in-demand retail auto service. There are more and more entrepreneurs entering the business, as well as carwash operations jumping into the game with both express detailing services and in some cases full-service restoration services. Auto dealers are selling detailing to the public, body shops are getting into the retail picture and even quick lube centers offer some forms of auto detailing.

If today’s detail business owner is going to make a good living in the detail business — and many are — they are going to have to set up their business as a business. They need to have the skills or pay for the skills needed to operate a business that offers detailing services.

The need for a marketing plan
For all of these reasons, it is critical for a detailer to understand and master the art of marketing. To keep it simple, I have developed a series of four questions to become a roadmap to your marketing plan.

1. What are you selling?

You might answer that you are selling auto detailing, but are you? To some markets you might be selling protection of investment; to others, protection of leisure time; still others might be searching for an ego boost. Finally, you might be selling a service to people selling their cars to get more money.

2. Who will buy what you have to sell?

Now you are getting specific. You are focusing on those markets or that market which will get you the most business with the least amount of time, money and effort expended on your part. That is not being lazy, that is smart business.

In the area of your shop do you have people that want to protect their investment or those who want to protect their leisure time or those who want to show off their clean, fancy car? You can choose more than one market and some may even overlap. Those wanting to protect their investment may also want to gratify their ego.

3. Where are they?

The answer to this question identifies where your customers are located. Identify the radius of your market; this is especially important for mobile operators. Mobile detailers should note where their customers are likely to live or work and how far they will go to reach them because this will have an impact the final marketing message.

4. How do you reach them?

This tells you what form of advertising you will need to use to reach your target customer. This is a critical step because you might have the right target market, but use the wrong media. A misstep like this could mean you don’t reach the intended market and end up wasting advertising dollars – something detail business owners can’t afford to loose.

For example, if your shop is located in an area where these target customers live, you might want to do a direct mailing to all of the residences within a two-mile radius of your shop. On the other hand, if your shop is located in the downtown business district it will be hard to send a direct mail to your market demographic. Instead, you might want to advertise in a business magazine or a newspaper distributed to a downtown circulation.

5. What do you say?

This step is as critical as which media you choose and it means you need to be sure that you have the right message for this target market. If this market is geared to protection of investment and your advertisement stresses ego gratification you have delivered the wrong message to the right market. Or if you are targeting people who are selling their cars you would not want to run an advertisement that focused on protection of investment. You have got to have the right message for the right market to get results.