Marketing a Consumer Service
Your Question: I opened my business April 1, 2008, for classic and custom car restoration. I have over 25 years of experience and had small, but somewhat steady, jobs on a weekly basis. However, the economic conditions have impacted my business considerably and workflow simply stopped this month.
I do not want to have to be forced to close my door because I used the “WRONG” marketing approach and gambled my marketing dollars “just to see” if a target marketing campaign would work or, most importantly, fall for gimmicks of poor- response marketing companies..
I am a working man and do not have enough marketing savvy to spin my wheels or money on something that will propel me straight to the unemployment line. I cannot afford to hire employees until I have a stable flow of work; therefore, I could not handle a huge marketing response and would like to target to customers in my local area.
Any suggestions and opinions on what would be my best option for target marketing on a shoe-string budget for classic and custom car restoration would be truly appreciated. If I must do auto repairs for now to survive, I just need to know a successful marketing campaign for my industry.
Thank you very much.
Our Answer: You’re facing the age-old conundrum: “How do I get new customers when I can’t really afford to market right now? Yet, I know that if I don’t market, then I won’t be able to stay in business.” A Catch 22, it seems.
Luckily, with just a small investment, and some hard work, I think you have the ability to take advantage of direct marketing tactics to get the word out about your business. I’ll start with ideas that require only hard work and your time (read: no money!).
- Start participating in online forums dedicated to classic car collectors (start with Facebook and perhaps Yuku.com to find these communities). If you find the large forums, I’ll bet you that there are enough participants that you’ll be able to meet classic car enthusiasts in your own home town. The key here is to never come off as ‘sales-ey’. Give openly of your expertise and comment on topics where you KNOW your particular knowledge of restoration can benefit the other members of the forum. With that said, make sure that you are transparent about what you do–make it clear that you are in the business of restoring classic cars. Also, typically, these type of websites have a commercial area where you can post information about your services–another great way to get the word out about your services. (I’m assuming that you have a website–a necessity if you’re going to be participating online. If you don’t have one, you can easily and cheaply build one yourself using a service such as GoDaddy.com.)
- You’re probably are already doing this, but definitely, positively, participate in car shows in your town and neighboring towns. There’s no better advertisement of your work than to show your beautiful restored car (or a favorite clients’ auto) at a car show. Bring plenty of business cards and perhaps flyers about your service and hand them out to attendees and other car owners. You couldn’t ask for a more targeted event, can you?
- Make friends with local, complementary businesses. Car washes, auto repair shops, service stations and antique stores come to mind–places where people who like cars or appreciate antiques visit. Ask those businesses if they wouldn’t mind referring your services or posting a flyer/business cards. Consider offering them a finder’s fee or some sort of commission if any business results from their referral. Of course, offer reciprocity–try to send referrals their way, too.
The following ideas require a minimal investment:
- Consider a direct mail program targeting local owners of classic cars. Lists of classic auto collectors and high-spending car enthusiasts are available and can be targeted so that you’re mailing only to people in your town. Do your list research at Nextmark.com; I’ll bet you’ll be amazed at how you’ll be able to hone right in on your perfect prospect. When you do plan your mailing, the most important tip I can share is this: Make sure that your offer is compelling enough to elicit a response. Put on your customer hat for a moment and think about the hot buttons that might cause an owner of a classic car in need of some tender, loving restoration to call you. If the offer is good enough and your list is targeted to the right person, you should be able to generate some leads.
- Call your prospects. Yes, I know–telemarketing has a bad reputation… Yet, it remains an effective channel. At a minimum, if you’ve made the investment to send out a direct mail campaign, by all means, follow this effort up with a phone call. Your list vendor will only sell you phone leads of people who are not on the National Do Not Call registry, so you should feel free to do your best to get the word out about your new business. Again, remember that you’re calling people who really should be interested in classic car restoration; you will get rejected by many, but should get some new leads out of the effort.
- Yellow pages–both hard copy and on-line. You can’t ignore the classics. Consumers still use the Yellow Pages to find local services. It’s that straightforward. You probably need to advertise here.
I really hope that these ideas help. Because your market is so niche–so highly targeted, you can take advantage of going direct.
Good luck to you!
Entry filed under: Direct Marketing for Business Owners.