Professional Carwashing & Detailing

A detailed look at advertising

October 11, 2010

We all know that radio and television have come to dominate most marketing budgets, but print advertising remains an important and effective tool for many small companies.

Although it is sometimes overlooked, this form of advertising offers a unique approach for marketing your detail business.

Many of your customers are car enthusiasts and enjoy reading about cars. Advertising in the right publications can have a tremendous impact.

A combination of print ads and editorial advertisements provides credibility and buyer interest for your detailing service.

Print advertising offers:

  • Pass-along readership;
  • Extended shelf life; and
  • Easy accessibility for referencing.

Magazines can be passed around and kept for months. As a result, print advertising offers a longer return on your investment than radio or television advertising.

There are three types of customers

  1. Customers who are ready to purchase the detail service now;
  2. Customers who will purchase in the future; and
  3. Customers who can influence large numbers of others to purchase.

Since you are competing with many other ads, you’ll need something stunning to hook your reader.

Ad size and color are two basic ingredients. Add a headline, a message and an attractive layout to the mix, and you have a recipe for success.

Use similar layouts, type styles and colors to establish an identity that the ads can carry throughout the campaign.

After researching your competition and the services they offer, experts suggest you follow these four phases for your ad campaign:

1. Strategy: Your strategy identifies the problem your ad needs to solve and how you're going to do it.

Say you’re losing business because your competition has a reputation for better price. Your strategy might be to focus on the quality of your work and include testimonials from respected customers.

2. Positioning: Create a brief statement that describes your unique selling proposition. For example: “Luxury car detailing quality, at reasonable prices.”

his is your position statement.

3. Concept: The overall concept of your ad should work to communicate your selling proposition.

If you only show a clean and shiny car, you face the danger of getting lost with car advertisements. Your advertisement must have a distinctive approach to lure in your readers.

4. Design/copy/production: This final phase brings the advertisement together. In design/copy/production, pictures and layouts are arranged with your message.

The goal is to be different, stand out and give everything a purpose. The headline, the angle of the main photo, and the tone of the copy should all reflect the overall attitude and message of the ad.

Keep in mind that advertising programs must be keyed for the specific service you’re seeing and the customer you are trying to reach.

For example, detailing is a different process to an exotic car owner than it is to a person looking to protect their investment or sell their vehicle. Different markets, different messages.

Elements of a successful print ad
The physical structure of a print advertisement should include:

  • Headline;
  • Sub-head(s);
  • Body copy;
  • Image(s);
  • Logo;
  • Contact info; and
  • A hook, message or call to action.

But simply having certain physical elements in an ad does not guarantee success. An effective campaign requires a combination of skills.

Creating motivation to visit your Web site is the biggest hurdle. Use your ad to direct your customers to your Web site, where you can provide more detailed information.

Danger zones
There are a number of trouble spots to avoid in print advertising.

1. An imbalance between an ad that's visually attractive and one that works:

It is said that ads that win awards, don’t sell products and services. Be careful about devoting more effort to style rather than substance.

2. Poor quality:

The quality of your ad is a reflection of your detail service. A cheap photo taken with a disposable camera conveys an idea of cheap, shoddy service from your business.

3. Trying to say too much with your advertisement:

A busy ad will bury your message. Convey your detail service benefits in a succinct manner.

4. Using sex and humor to sell:

Be careful with humor in your advertisement, not everyone will get it.

Sexual overtones are also a no-no. Today women make 58 percent of auto service purchases.

5. Using long copy:

As a rule, keep ad copy as brief as possible and use bullets to make key points.

How to tell if your ad is working
One sure-fire way to determine an ad’s effectiveness is to code each ad with a specific offer or phone number.

Record how many calls were to that particular number and this can serve as a barometer for your ad’s successfulness.

The Internet can also play an important part in measuring an ad’s effectiveness. See if your ad elicits a response to your Web site.

Keep in mind that responses to ads may also come in the form of phone calls or e-mails. With print advertising, you've got to look at the whole picture.

R.L. “Bud" Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a 30-year member of the car-care industry. He can be contacted at