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My Advertising Isn’t Working…

A gold member recently posted the following question as a comment to a journal entry:

Virtually all forms of advertising media that I have used, and believe me I have tried just about all of them, have been very expensive and have returned little to no value. How do I know some other advertising meduim, or message is going to work. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the past two years with little to show for it.


I felt I should post the response here in the main forum to be sure everyone has a chance to read it:



Here's the truth about advertising:

Most advertising does not work. Even for the experts. You never know what advertising is going to work before you try it, and if you don't test it, you never will.

The difference between success and failure in advertising is methodically testing and measuring everything you do - almost to compulsion.

Asking people where they heard of you really doesn't count. That is virtually useless and most unreliable.

The first advertising "step" you should take is to cancel every piece of advertising that is not accurately tracked. More on this later.

The first advertising "rule" you should follow is: direct response only. Meaning, only pay or participate in those types of advertising which return a measurable return on investment - positive or negative. Don't spend a single cent "getting your name out there, building your brand, or improving your image." It doesn't matter. Building the brand of Cottman is Cottman's job. If they don't do it, it shouldn't get done. Your job is to get leads.

Your advertising should focus on getting people with transmission problems to identify themselves as people with transmission problems. Then focus your advertising effort on those people.

Or, you can select specific makes/models/years of vehicles that are likely to have transmission problems soon, buy a list of people in your area who own those vehicles, and market directly to them via mail – offer preventative service.

Traditionally, your ads would try to convince people with transmission problems to get a new transmission, or choose Cottman, or even to call in to get a quote. I wouldn't try to do any of those.

Consider creating a consumer hotline for people with transmission problems to call and get "the truth" about the business. Ideally this would be a 5-10 minute recorded message, read by you, which explains the ins and outs of the business, what to look out for, what to expect, different methods, what's best, etc and ultimately explains how your shop is the ideal.

At the end of that message you would give people a chance to leave a message to make an appointment. The goal is make your shop the "obvious choice" so that they wouldn't even consider going anywhere else. This is best accomplished through information.

As for measuring and testing. If you advertise a consumer hotline, for instance, you can advertise different numbers or extensions using a service that provides on the fly reporting (found in our shortcuts section). Then you can see day by day where those calls/leads are coming from. Using that information you can make educated decisions about which appeals work, which media work, which headlines work, which copy works, etc., etc.

Back to the first part of your question...I would personally talk to every customer. Just have a conversation. Search for the hot buttons that caused them to choose you. You're not the cheapest, so it's probably not price.

Ask what they felt when they found out they had a problem. How many people did they call. Who did they call. What did they feel when they called Cottman? Why did they choose Cottman? Just make friends. Give them a gift certificate for lunch after they talk to you so they feel happy and good about it (that encourages word of mouth...what a great guy that Jerry is, he really cared).

That's how I would handle it.

Finally, I would really focus on improving your phone book ad. I dare say the majority of your leads should come from the phone book. Even every ad dollar you have goes to the phone book, do it. But do it correctly.