(Article) Saying Goodbye to Yellow Page Advertising
Tow Company Advertising
(This tow company advertising article originally appeared in the April, 2011 issue of Towing & Recovery Footnotes. You can view the entire issue electronically at their site http://www.trfootnotes.com/.)
The internet has come a long way in the past few years in providing quality local business information. So much so that they have essentially put the yellow page directors out of business. And for good reason. From an advertiser’s perspective, the internet is much cheaper than the yellow pages was to create a powerful presence for even the smallest of companies. And from a user perspective, the internet offers a great deal more flexibility to search and more up to date content than a phone book. If you’d like to learn more about Tow Programs tow company advertising program, just call Dennis at 888-834-1123.
Saying Goodbye to Yellow Page Advertising
Dennis Wencel is the author of “The Black Book of Towing” which covers nearly everything a tow company operator needs to succeed in business. He is a towman as well as a business and marketing consultant and will write occasional business columns for Footnotes.
One of the most difficult decisions facing tow company owners in recent years has been when to pull the plug on Yellow Page Ads. It’s like saying goodbye to an old dog. Sure, times weren’t always great and often he didn’t want to listen, but he always seemed to be there when you needed him. And though he consistently made the phone ring in the past, he’s no longer able to compete with the calls generated by the Internet.
It’s time to send Old Yellow to the big phone book farm in the sky and to say hello to a shiny new dog called local Internet advertising.
According to a 2008 Nielsen Media survey 82% of people start their search for a local company online. If you do not have an online presence, there is a good chance they may never even know you exist. The benefits of moving to online advertising include cheaper rates and more flexible options to advertise your unique mix of products like including pages on tire sales or engine repair. The downside—it is a bit more complicated.
A new mix for successful tow company advertising includes a basic phone book directory listing, updated local profiles, a website and a keyword ad campaign. The following steps will help you ease through the mourning process of Old Yellow as you prepare for an increased call volume.
Give up your ad, keep your listing. As a utility, phone companies are still obligated to provide a directory of commercial and residential phone numbers. Even though you do not have an ad you will still be listed in the yellow page general directory listings under your primary category (towing). If you’re feeling charitable, offer the salesman a chance to go away with some cash in hand by negotiating an expanded basic listing for a nominal fee of not more than $200 annually. This is an easy way to take the first safe step away from phone book advertising.
Create local profiles. The primary resources used to find local businesses are search engines—Google, Yahoo! and Bing being the biggest. These companies and other popular directories like YP.com, SuperPages and Merchant Circle build and maintain their own directories. Your company profile highlights your unique message and directs customers to your phone number or website. Though it’s becoming increasingly difficult to navigate to the free listing options on sites, most online directories offer a free basic profile listing. Chances are your profile has already been started. Just go to the above sites, find your listing and follow the process to claim and update the information. Be sure to update your profiles when you have something new to say like adding a medium-duty truck or on-site axle repair.
Build a website. Your website should be an expansion of your local profiles, describing your unique service offering and products through words and pictures. Adding images and/or video of your shop, trucks and people make the user experience more interactive and can help you combat some of the negative perceptions customers have about towing. –presenting you as the professional, reliable and trustworthy choice.
Launch a keyword ad campaign. The keyword ad campaign is the final leg in our three-legged online stool. Where websites and profiles provide passive information you publish hoping search engines connect you with desirable searchers, keyword advertising allows you to actively target customers searching for “towing” or most any other keyword you think customers use to search for your service. These amazingly targetable ads can be stopped or started at any time, viewed only by geographically targeted areas (say 25miles from the shop) and can have a set daily, weekly or monthly budget. You can even pause the campaign without penalty. The most popular service providers are Google Adwords, Bing Search Advertising and Yahoo! Search.
Be Prepared to Pay Less. With few exceptions, a tow company should be paying much less per month than the cost of their phone book ads. Unlike phone book publishing, competition is heavy for online advertising. Plus the cost to print and deliver tons of phone books is eliminated. You should expect to pay no more than $400/mo for a complete online campaign.
Partner with a Towing-Experienced Provider. If you’d rather stay focused on running your company than to keep up with the ever-changing SEO (search engine optimization) rules, consider hiring an advertising professional to run your online campaign for you. Though there are thousands of companies providing local advertising services, try to select one with industry experience. Having a partner that understands the depth of services offered by tow providers like point of entry, roadside and recovery services can have a big impact on your online success. Customers are not just searching for towing. Be sure you are reaching all potential customers.
Don’t Sign a Contract. Annual contracts are a holdover from the days when directory companies printed books at a substantial up-front cost and billed you for your ad throughout the year. Annual contracts for online advertising are unnecessary and breed complacency among ad providers. The motivation of the ad provider should be to drive calls to your phone. If your phone is ringing you are going to stay with the provider. If it’s not, it’s time to move on.
The Internet is an ever-changing monster, so advertising on it will not be as easy as renewing your phone book ad each year. But the cost savings and potential reward of driving more cash calls into your company is worth the effort. And you can always keep a picture of Old Yellow on the shop wall to remember the simpler times.
Dennis Wencel developed “The Black Book of Towing” and accompanying DVD set to help independent towers be more profitable. The book and DVD set detail simple and proven ways on how to run a towing company from the business end. You can order them on his website at www.towprogram.com or by calling 888-834-1123. TowProgram.com also provides affordable online advertising solutions for the towing industry. Wencel has divided his time over the past 20 years running his own tow company and working in marketing.