15 Apr 2011
(This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issues of Towing & Recovery Footnotes. You can view the entire issue electronically at their site http://www.trfootnotes.com/)
Each year I attend several tow shows offering seminars on the topics covered in this column. As I put my schedule together this year, I am reminded of just how difficult it can be for a small business owner to commit to attending a show. The expense of travel and the time away from the shop when who knows what is going on can all be powerful motivators to skip the show again this year.
But it is also important to remember going to a tow show can be a great break from the daily grind. It can give you a moment to consider longer-term business planning ideas and a chance to be exposed to new products and ideas that can improve that daily grind. Then kick in the fun of spending time with the only other folks in the world that truly understand what you go through each day, and maybe the idea of hitting the show this year isn’t so far out of reach.
Over the past couple of years many towers have made the difficult decision to forego the show in light of the struggling economy— and with good reason. It is difficult to commit to all of the costs associated with attending a show when you’re hearing the phone ringing less often, or you’ve been forced to send idle employees home early recently, or you haven’t taken a paycheck in a while.
Targeting just one of your biggest expense items, like advertising, employee pay, equipment mortgages, liability insurance, or fuel for savings can make your tow show trip pay off big time. With a little planning, and a commitment to having a few challenging conversations at the show, these ideas can you help you turn a tow show visit from an expense item to an expense saver.
Equipment Financing– A bank that attends a tow show is targeting towers—and not just the big guys. They have experience lending to the industry and understand the financial realities of a small, local tow company. So if you are planning to add a piece of equipment this year, bring a copy of your latest corporate tax return and sit down for a few minutes with each bank at the show. Chances are they could secure more favorable financing terms for you than even your local bank can. It may seem a little odd, but banking is no longer a local business, so take advantage of a lender who understands towing and is looking to work with the towing industry.
Liability Insurance– Insurance underwriters are once again interested in providing coverage to the towing industry. With the downturn in the construction trades, insurance providers are hungry for new customers, and the towing industry is one of the biggest benefactors. If you have relatively clean loss runs over the past five years, bring a copy with you along with your current policy. This will demonstrate you are serious about obtaining a competitive quote even if your renewal isn’t for a few months. Then follow up with each company 60 days before your renewal to get their final quotes. Insurance companies attending local or regional shows will have the ability to write coverage in the states from which attendees come.
Safety Apparel and Equipment – Safety apparel and equipment have made huge advances in recent years, and as more competition enters the market, prices are coming down. We all know the best investment we can make is in ensuring the safety of the team, so come to the show with a list of employee sizes and needs. Make a large purchase of reflective gloves, hats, vests, jackets and pants—even if employees are responsible for providing their own apparel. You can offer the items to your guys for a discount or to reward good behavior throughout the year. Reflective gear can loose effectiveness over time and show prices are some of the best around, so extend the savings to your guys who could not make it to the show.
Make Your Voice Heard – Another way to make sure you get the most of your tow show trip is to communicate with the promoter. Let the show organizers know what issues and challenges are most important to you. If you want to see more seminars on advertising or employee management or accounting software solutions, let then know. Organizers are eager to provide valuable seminars and demonstrations to attendees and they always value feedback from those on the front lines of the industry.
A successful tow trip should be able to help you address a business challenge or two and provide you with some much needed rest and relaxation. So start planning now, because tow show season is right around the corner.
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 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.
TowProgram is delighted to once again be hosting seminars at the Western States Tow Show. this year. This year’s event will be held once again at Reno’s Silver Legacy Resort & Casino. The fine team from the California Tow Truck Association and the staff from Silver Legacy always take goof care of us and we look forward to another great time in Reno.
This year we will be hosting two seminars:
Local Online Advertising for Your Tow Company– This seminar will build on the 2010 seminar and include all of the latest ideas for getting your company desirable search engine indexing.
The Dos and Don’ts of Online Advertising– As more towers venture into the online advertising world some are taking steps that get them delisted or poorly listed within major search engines. This seminar will explain the steps to avoid being viewed as a spammer by search engine companies.
The exact times and dates for the seminars are TBD so please stay tuned for further details. TowProgram will also have a booth on the floor selling the Black Book of Towing & dvd Set as well as our monthly “Cash Call Builder”online advertising plan. As always we are interested in learning from you what has worked and not worked with your online efforts.
Take Care and see you in Reno!
28 Mar 2011
TowProgram has been busy lately working with towing company owners to set up an online local advertising plan that are custom built for towing companies.
In the conversations I have with prospective customers I often hear similar questions from why they need to be spending money to advertise their towing company online to why should the be partnering with me and my team. I hear these questions so often in fact that I figured I would write a post about them in hopes of helping to better explain what TowProgram does to help your towing company succeed online and why its important to find the right partner.
Am I better off managing my online advertising process myself?
Hundreds of tow companies have already taken steps to improve their online presence. Many have websites, completed profiles and even completed their Local Places Page on Google Maps. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The trick to getting and maintaining an impactful web presence for your tow company is to secure active listings and company information on multiple channels and then updating that content on a routine basis. If you already have a website for your towing company that is great but when is the last time it was updated? It’s probably been a while and what Google and other search engines value most is relevant and updated content. So it is of vital importance to make sure your website is built with an eye toward Search Engine Optimized. Search Engine Optimization is a strategy that starts before your site is even built to make sure the content, design and framework of your site is ideal for people searching for a towing company online. And the process must be ongoing to ensure you secure the most desirable search positions possible.
Additionally, changes are constantly being made to the algorithms that define what results are shown for each search. These complex and frequent changes can be time consuming to understand and months to revise your site to maintain your position.
Should I just partner with the Yellow Page salesman that visits the shop each year?
The TowProgram Online Ad Plan is built specifically for tow companies. We work exclusively with towers and the tow industry and this is why that is important. Every day we are perfecting the online tools that work best for matching people searching for towing with our towing company clients. We are not working with a lawyer’s office one day and a pet store the next and then a pizza place the next. Towing is a unique beast and the reasons why and how people search for towing companies is quite different than why someone may search for a dry cleaner. And is important you are taking advantage of those differences for two reasons:
#1) IT SAVES YOU MONEY. So much tow company online advertising that happens is wasted. The message is seen either by someone not currently needing a towing company or someone that needs a towing service outside your targeted service area. The only customers that matter for a towing company are those in need of immediate towing services within their targeted service area. Efficient targeting of ads takes time but the result is better bang for your buck. TowProgram’s Online Ad Plan for Towing Companies is built to be cost efficient and effective.
#2) IT SAVES YOU TIME- It’s important that your online advertising partner understand your business. You have most likely received a call from salesmen saying he can get your ads on smart phones and other mobile devices and how perfect that is for a tow company since stranded people use their phones to find a tow company. But what they don’t tell you is that your ad is likely to appear at the top of a game that someone is playing on their phone. And that is unlikely to help you get cash calls no matter how cheap it is. We stay on top of the latest advancements in technology including all mobile advancements and commit to our customers that when a new technology comes out that meets our reach and targeting requirements it will be rolled out to our customer network immediately. I separate the wheat from the chaff for you so you can stay focused on other issues.
The value that TowProgram’s Local Online Ad Plan for Towers offers is second to none. We charge $179.95/mo. of which $50 goes directly to Google and Bing ads to drive traffic to your website through a custom keyword ad program. And the best part of all is it is completely risk free with our No Contract Policy.
Having been a tower for years I know just how much time is spent meeting with salesmen, and reading contracts and trying to determine what the right plan is for your company. I have removed all of that hassle from the process. If it looks like we might be a good fit give me a try. If after a few months you don’t think it’s working out just let me know and we will go our separate ways. I look at it this way. $180 bucks a month is the equivalent to getting between 2-3 more light cash calls each month. And if that doesn’t happen you should get rid of me. But that is not going to happen because I have had so many customers tell me they that the plan has paid for itself for the entire year in the first month we have worked together.
Last year I was spending my time convincing tow company owners to stop spending their money on Yellow Page advertising and move it over to online marketing. Last week I recieved my latest Yellow Page book at my house and I was happy to see that most of the towing companies had stopped advertising. Now the task it to convince towers to develop a meaningful online presence for their companies.
So what do you have to loose? Give me a call and lets talk about it. We can have you up and running in no time and you can finally resolve your online situation for good. I look forward to speaking with you soon. 888-834-1123
24 Feb 2011
This month an article I wrote about tow company advertising appeared in February issue of Towing & Recovery Footnotes. In the tow company advertising article (a copy is included below) I talked about how important it is for towing companies to get their online presence in order.
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 directories 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 TowProgram’s 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 ways to run a towing company from the business end. Order them at www.towprogram.com or by calling 888-834-1123. TowProgram also provides online advertising solutions for the industry. Wencel has divided his time over the past 20 years running his own tow company and working in marketing.
15 Feb 2011
Exciting News!!!! In this issue, Footnotes proudly presents the first of what will be a regular monthly four-page feature. towPartners has joined with Footnotes to begin publishing in each issue the now-monthly towPartners ADVISOR! The Advisor will feature advice in all areas of towing, from technical details to business operations, while offering towers everywhere the opportunity for great discounts from the many, many equipment and service vendors who have teamed with towPartners to provide these savings to the industry. Page 13
Bucks For Trucks is the beginning of a four-part series of articles for towing company owners on getting financing for their businesses in an era of tight money that is perhaps loosening up some. This first article gives the reader an overview of the current fiscal situation and discusses possibilities for getting the money to buy or lease that truck you need. Keep your eye on this series for the kind of advice that can help you thrive during trying times. Page 1
Return of the Lizard Lickers. Love ’em or not, these wild and colorful Carolina repossessors, featured in our June 1010 issue, have earned an audience on a cable reality TV show and have gotten such a following from that that they now have another show! With an entertaining website and even a book coming out, the Lizard Lickers are again on the move! Page 22
The Black Book. The author of “The Black Book On Towing” and owner of the website www.towprogram.com begins his first column of what will become an occasional series on how to be better at the business you’re in. Dennis Wencel is both a towman and a business writer and so he knows of what he speaks. Avoid the costly mistakes that can hurt your business and rob you of profits. Watch for The Black Book. Page 7
February 2011 Issue: http://www.flashedition.com/publication?i=59144
(Reposted from Footnotes TowBlog)
03 Feb 2011
Motorists were stranded when the storm hit in the early evening of February 1. After hours with no assistance motorists abandoned their cars for safety leaving behind between 600-900 cars depending upon which report you believe.
The end result was a whole lot of work for the city’s tow contractor E&R Towing. E&R towed the cars to nearby lots at Soldier Field and local museums. All reports are that motorists will not incur towing fees leaving me to believe the city will be picking up the tab.
Wouldn’t it be nice to mail out that invoice?
Hot off the Presses
After some brief but prosperous discussions with Bill Candler, editor of the fine towing publication Towing & Recovery Footnotes we are ready to announce that Dennis Wencel will be a regular business column contributor to Towing & Recovery Footnotes monthly publication.
Bill and I met at the Baltimore show and after an enjoyable but brief conversation at the show it was clear to both of us we had more to discuss. So after the dust of the show settled we were able to get back in touch with each other to figure out how our two organizations could work together. Bill was impressed with the concept of the Black Book of Towing & DVD Set and the other services offered by TowProgram. He particularly like the fact that there is someone with a towing background providing business and advertising assistance to the industry.
I have always been impressed with the content that Towing & Recovery Footnotes produces month after month. The newspaper format allows for timely and actionable industry information to reach towers quickly so they have a chance to use the information on the pages immediately.
The team at Towing & Recovery Footnotes has always put the needs of the tower first and I have valued their contribution to the industry for years. In fact, throughout my years owning a towing company the latest issue of Towing & Recovery Footnotes was always on the main counter only to be replaced by a newer issue.
I could not be happier with our new relationship and look forward to years of towprogram.com helping them provide quality information to towers.
Verizon and other land line phone companies are appealing to state regulators to approve their request to cease production of white pages residential directories. Sighting a severe decline in use, fewer than 10% of directories are ever used according to a Verizon spokesman; the company would stop production immediately. Interestingly enough however they are committed to continue producing the yellow pages. And according to the Yellow Pages Association more than 50% of Americans use the yellow page printed directory each month. So which is it? Do we use these books at a rate of 50% or 10%? A Chicago Tribune article on the topic stated phone companies argued that consumers now check out the internet rather than flipping through the guide to find a residential phone number. But you would think this behavior shift would also transfer to looking up local companies too, no? Of course it does.
First we need to understand white page directories fall on the expense side of Verizon’s business while the yp’s are on the fatty revenue side. Then the picture becomes clearer. If you also consider it is unlikely phone company employees are going to lie to state and federal regulators then it stands to reason the usage number that is probably more correct is the 10%.
So if offline directory usage is at 10% and you are, say a towing company serving a 30 mile radius how many of those customers are finding you? It is time to get serious about your local advertising plan for your tow company. You cannot afford to give your competition a 90% head start and then expect to compete.
I often hear cash calls are down but I really think cash calls are about the same and the tow companies that get the calls are not the same ones getting these calls 10 years ago.
Its time, their dead, lets move forward. Get a plan for your tow company to advertise online. Online marketing is much more versatile and impactful than its aging offline grandfather and should cost less than what you are paying in yellow page ads now.
08 Nov 2010
It is fair to say many tow companies just do not have the resources to promote themselves with non traditional message channels. Be it through press releases, interview inquiries or even social media channels like Facebook or LinkedIn. It often requires skills not inherent to our industry or a substantial time commitment from an employee to figure it all out.
I found a great example of a tow company sending our a press release about their 30th anniversary of business with a message wrapped around employee loyalty. It is a fantastic way to promote an important company milestone without looking self-promoting. North Shore Towing in Chicago’s Northern suburbs issued a press release through prweb.com (a completely free service which allows you to submit info that they will them disseminate via their proprietary network of news and search contacts) messaging the fact that their very first hire is still with the company. The release goes on to highlight a few employees and their overall family atmosphere and commitment to providing quality services.
A TowProgram tip of the cap to the folks at North Shore Towing. Any time we can get a positive message into the public discussion about members of of the towing community towing as a whole benefits. Selecting a towing provider should not be fear based. Consumers should have access to information helping them choose a provider who is professional, reliable and an active within the community.
Its repeats like a broken record – The Yellow Pages Are Dead. And through I have made this statement several times speaking to tow professionals it nevertheless remains true. Its just a slow, painful and for some in the tow industry, an expensive death.
I was speaking to an old friend not too long ago who works for an online local business directory and asked him why the yellow pages are still printed and he said it because small businesses are still buying ads. Usage has all but dried up according to the recent 15miles Fourth Annual comScore Local Search Usage Study. This ongoing study tracks many usage measurements but the most important to the tow industry is the fact that fully 70% of households solely use the internet for local business searches. And, interestingly enough, 45% say they do not have a specific company in mind when the start the search. Talk about an opportunity to build your business!
There were may more statistics to come out of the survey that talked about the increase in mobile web access (searching for companies on your smartphone) which really plays an important role when someone is broken down on the side of the road. Where the once would call home and have someone look up the local tow company now they just search their location and tow and call the first company to come up. Or, they call 411 and the operator performs the same search. Either way, its important for tow companies to have a meaningful presence online. One final interesting tidbit was that 81% believe it’s important for local businesses to respond to questions and complaints on social sites. So they are saying if you get a poor review on a site they want to hear your side of the story too. So don’t shy away from responding to comments but maybe you should wait until after lunch when the shop is calm and all is well.
One final interesting tidbit was that 81% believe it’s important for local businesses to respond to questions and complaints on social sites. So they are saying if you get a poor review on a site they want to hear your side of the story too. So don’t shy away from responding to comments but maybe you should wait until after lunch when the shop is calm and all is well.