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Volume 7    Issue 4           July/August  2005

You gotta market but the array of choices makes
it a potential minefield of possibilities and risk
by Les Shaver

Your margins are shrinking, you have to battle fly-by-night companies that can do the job with very low overhead, the price you get for labor is controlled by a third party and you don’t even know how much glass costs with the industry’s ever-changing pricing system. And yet, this yellow pages sales guy still wants you to fork over money for a page in his book. All in all, it’s enough to make you pull your hair out.
Well, marketing consultants Bob Dunn of 21st Century Media, Inc. in Manchester, Conn. and Kevin Bauer, principle of Bauer Advertising, LLC in Manchester, Conn., say they feel your pain. And they say you don’t have to be an expert to market yourself. In fact, marketing is something most people have done at one point of their life, whether they realize it or not. “If you’re married, you’ve advertised yourself,” Dunn quipped.
But instead of impressing a potential spouse, auto glass shops use advertising to court customers. Without it, Dunn said, it’s difficult to find customers. 
“Nothing happens if you don’t advertise,” according to Dunn. “You have to tell people what you’re selling. Advertising creates awareness and prompts people to come in.” 
And, as any glass shop knows, a sale can only take place when a customer contacts you. With a limited budget, the key is knowing how to use your advertising budget to target the customers you want. This process requires careful evaluation, not only of the myriad of advertising options available, but also of the customer you want to court.
Picking Your Target
When looking for customers, there are many variables to consider, according to Dunn. To focus yourself, ask the questions you first learned in high school English: who, what, when, how and why. “You will learn not only who they are and how to reach them, but what impacts their buying decisions regarding your products and services,” Dunn said. 
The “who” questions look at gender, age, income, education, and number of children. And since you’re in the automotive aftermarket business, the number and types of vehicles these people have 
are also important. Knowing these things can teach you a lot. For example, Dunn says if people earn $200,000 or more a year, the chances double that they will replace a windshield versus repairing it.
Once you know these customers, you then have to define your relationship with them and your contact points. These are the “what” questions you must ask. In the past, glass shops could rely on insurance agents and a yellow page ad as their primary contact points. But insurance companies funneling calls to third party administrators (and away from local agents) and the rise of new marketing avenues have opened things up. Other contact points range from radio ads to billboards to the person answering the telephone. 
The “where” questions revolve around where customers find you, where your product is in their lives and where they live and work in relation to your business, Dunn says. The “when” question is very simple: when does the customer need your product or service?
According to Dunn, the “why” question looks at why customers need your product or service and why they would chose you over another shop. The first of the “how” questions—how a customer uses your product or service—is fairly easy to answer. But the other two questions (how often a customer needs your products or services and how many potential customers are in your market area) can go a long way in determining your target market. For example, if there aren’t enough people who need your service frequently enough, you may have to expand your advertising market.
To help you answer these questions, you may need market research to further fine tune who you reach and how, according to Dunn. Market research guides your communication with current and potential customers, helps you identify opportunities in the marketplace, minimizes the risk of doing business, uncovers and identifies potential problems, creates benchmarks, and helps you track your progress. 
“Research is necessary for launching a campaign when there are many unanswered questions about the market, the product, service and target audience,” Dunn said.
Picking the Right Medium
When looking for the right media, Dunn warns that there is no silver bullet. The key: Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of various media. “There isn’t one [medium] that will solve all of your problems and double your sales in the next year,” Dunn points out.
Because no one form of media is a cure all, glass shop owners need to examine each form of advertising and determine the correct mix for their marketing dollars. Broadcast television, for example, is widespread, a way of life for people and has mass exposure and visual appeal. But its audience share is decreasing because of VCR/DVD use and channel surfing. There are other problems, such as decreased viewer level as income increases, high production costs and seasonality. 
“It’s a powerful media, but it has issues you want to be cognizant of,” Dunn said.
Then there’s cable television, which is inexpensive, in a growth spurt, targetable and appreciated by consumers. Of course, there are also disadvantages, like small audiences, limited commercial impact, ad clutter and seasonality, according to Dunn.
If Dunn had to choose one medium for glass shops, it would probably be radio. For one thing it’s mobile; most people listen in a car. It’s also has wide reach, is intrusive, offers a theater of the mind, is cost efficient and highly targetable. This is important because it allows you to focus on the groups that you identify as wanting to reach in market research. For example, research may show that people earning more than $100,000 a year are more likely to listen to talk radio. If you want to reach these people, then advertise on talk radio. 
“You can identify who you want to target by income,” Dunn said.
But there are issues with radio, too. Stations tend to run three or four commercials together, meaning yours can be sandwiched in with others. There are also an endless number of stations and formats. “Sifting through to the right one isn’t easy,” Dunn explains.
Beyond Broadcast
While radio and television certainly offer punch, they aren’t the only way a glass shop can get its name out to potential customers. There are still the old standbys in print advertising, offering variety, depth and ease of tracking. But there are drawbacks. Newspapers go out to everyone, so it’s difficult to target the slice of the population you want to reach. There is also ad clutter, passive advertisements and the fact that newspaper readers tend to be browsers. But most troubling about newspapers is that they are declining in both couponing and readership. 
“People just don’t feel like they have enough time to read the paper,” Dunn said.
Magazines offer readership, targetability, strong visuals, portability, advertorials and localized coverage, but they have issues with competition, time, clutter, reach, flexibility and expense, according to Dunn. For small businesses, like glass shops in large metro areas, alternative newsweeklies can offer advantages. They have strong distribution, high pass-along readership, a hip image, budget print ads and friendly ad policies. The downside includes a limited publication schedule, low production quality, a narrow appeal and ad clutter.
Go Direct
If you want to move past the news media altogether, you can try direct mail. It’s targetable, has reach and can be tracked. However, direct mail often doesn’t get read, relies on outdated mailing lists and has poor consumer perception. This leads to a low response rate, making it difficult to justify its expensive cost. 
“Direct mail can be effective when you use an updated list and have selected the right target customer and make the investment to mail first class and personalize the mailing,” Dunn said. “Delivery is important.”
Point of purchase (POP) displays also offer advantages. They can be targeted, effective, influential and provide incremental sales. But they also suffer from limited reach and low consumer perception. 
“People don’t usually know what the POP offer is and don’t take the time to process the refund or offer whether it be by mail or at the register,” Dunn said.
Outdoor advertisements (billboards) offer low cost, can build word of mouth, grab people’s attention, have a full-time audience, are directional and can be strategically placed. On the other hand, billboards have limited availability and low recall, are inflexible and cannot be a primary medium. 
“Billboards won’t bring someone to your store,” according to Dunn. “But they will be a great reinforcement.”
Then there is the old standby for glass shops: Yellow pages. It seems like most shops buy a yellow page ad as soon as they open the front door. There are good reasons for this. Yellow pages are widespread, have high usage, serve as a reference tool, can be an emergency reference, and are a way to target consumers. 
“If you tell people what you are and what you’re about in the yellow pages, they need you,” Dunn said. “Yellow pages are important, but they’re not the end all, be all.”
Disadvantages also exist with the yellow pages. They include limited exposure, expensive rates, minimal consumer awareness, inconvenience, inflexibility, increased competition from the Internet and ad clutter. 
“You will see dozens and dozens of competitors together,” Dunn said. 
One reason yellow pages aren’t as necessary as they used to be is the increased use of the Internet. It offers a direct response, interactivity, tracking, immediacy and flexibility. But issues here include consumer concerns, time, infrastructure problems and ad clutter. Still, it’s an increasingly important medium. 
“The Internet is replacing the frequency of yellow pages usage and therefore is important to glass shop owners,” Dunn said. “They need to be there.”
Budgeting Blues
With all of these advertising options, glass shop owners can often feel like the proverbial kid in the candy store: lots of things you want to buy, but little money to actually spend. Shops can set up their budget in one of two ways: as a flat rate per sale or as a percentage of the gross sale (usually three to five percent). Whatever your budget, it must be in line with actual goals. 
“The key to preparing an advertising budget is to have a solid sales plan and set a realistic sales goal,” Bauer said.
When planning the budget, there are three keys to remember, according to Bauer. First, you must plan annually. Second, you must factor seasonality and strong selling seasons, figuring your annual advertising budget is a monthly percentage of sales. Finally you must break it down into quarterly campaigns. 
“By scheduling reviews [quarterly, monthly, etc.] the advertiser has committed to review the current advertising/marketing and review any new opportunities that present themselves,” Bauer said. “Reviews can certainly take place more frequently, but not less than quarterly.”
Once you’ve done the budgeting, you must then focus on the message. Bauer explained that an emotional appeal sells your service, while a logical appeal justifies your product or company. In his opinion, this can point you in the direction of the proper media to use. 
“Radio is a great way to create emotion,” Bauer said. “Television is also a great way to create emotion. But how do you create emotion with a yellow pages ad?”
When writing copy, Bauer suggests you keep three words starting with the letter “C” close to you: clear, crisp and concise. There are also 12 key words to remember: you, money, love, new, discovery, proven, guarantee, easy, safety, results, save and health.
But throughout this process, Bauer strongly suggests planning your advertising annually and measuring it quarterly, investing in growing your brand, using an advertising agency to evaluate your message and getting help with your advertising and creating your message. If you choose wrong, bad things can happen. 
“Choosing the wrong agency/consultant can mean revenue, market share and business growth are negatively impacted,” Bauer said. “The key to hiring an agency/consultant is to make sure they understand the retailer’s business, market area, goals, successes, and challenges; they bring ideas/creativity to the table; they are accountable; and they are as interested (if not more so) in the retailer’s success as they are in their own.”
If this happens the resources you spend for advertising will be well spent. This is important because in this auto glass climate, there’s no room for any wasted resources.

Les Shaver is a contributing editor to AGRR magazine.

Does Safety Sell—Even to Brides?

What does auto glass have to do with a bridal shower? Probably about as much as it has to do with a seniors’ festival or a neighborhood health fair. But that doesn’t keep Donna Braden, co-owner of Jack’s Glass, an AGRSS-registered company in Allentown, Pa., from using these venues to promote her company and auto glass safety.

“You name it and I can probably make it pertain to glass,” she proudly said. “We have different themes and do different things to make us stand out, have people notice us and have them remember our name.”

How does a small auto glass shop owner find such innovative marketing techniques? A little bit of imagination and a little of circumstance. One of Braden’s ad reps once gave her a booth at a local bridal show, worth about $1,000. So, she set up a booth with a bridal bouquet, white lights, square and round mirrors (because many brides were looking for centerpieces for their tables), a secondhand bridal gown and all the bridal decorations. Once the happy couples came in, Braden introduced them to auto glass.

“Many times when people are getting married, it’s the first time they purchase car insurance themselves,” Braden said. “We discuss the difference between a comprehensive deductible and a collision deductible, the things they need to look for when they purchase car insurance, the coverages they have and how to go about getting glass replaced when they have a glass claim.”

The response thrilled Braden.

“At a minimum, 1,000 people come through,” she said. “That’s 1,000 people who saw our name and I had a lot of one-on-one time with. In our industry, it’s very difficult in 30 second commercials and in newspaper or radio ads to educate people.”

Braden has looked for other ways to get that one-on-one time with customers. She does senior health fairs because she figures either someone drove the seniors to the event or they drove themselves. She also does Chamber of Commerce, business-to-business trade shows and local health fairs. She’s used a number of innovative themes, including one that showed Jack’s Glass as “Guardian Angel,” one that was decorated in a “South of the Border” style and one that had country and western costumes.

“We brought in bales of hay, made it look like a camp fire setting,” she said. “One of my installers happens to be a musician. He plays the guitar and sings. He wrote ‘The Ballad of Jack’s Glass.’”

While humor can draw attendees to her booth, Braden relies on a safety message once they arrive.

Donna Braden also is certified as a child safety seat inspector, which means she can hold child safety seat inspection clinics. She also teaches attendees at these clinics about auto glass as well while they’re there.

At health fairs she teaches how important it is to wear seat belts and how everything works together to keep them safe. Finally, she shows seniors how air bags are deployed and then explains the value of properly installed glass.

“I try to go with the whole safety issue because I feel that’s where we are different and that’s what’s really important in cars and people don’t realize it,” she said. 

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