What is your digital footprint?

Sept. 22, 2010

Is the tire and service aftermarket becoming more complicated? Well, of course it is. There are more vehicle manufacturers, more models, more tire sizes, more parts, more problems; more, more, more of everything except profits. 

Last month we explored the idea that the speed of change is changing.  Not only is the speed of change changing, but the breadth of change is accelerating. The speed and breadth of change can be overwhelming. It’s nearly impossible to keep up on all fronts, so you must pick your battles. In this month’s article I’m going to suggest some changes that should be at the top of your list.

 Digital vs. Yellow Pages

Several months ago I was in a strategic planning meeting with a group of successful tire dealers. A topic of great importance to them was the continuing change in advertising and marketing. In the good old days, it was an ad in the sports section of the local and/or metro newspaper, the standard Yellow Pages ad, and of course the routine, monthly flyer insert in the local shopper; maybe a little cable or radio if budgets permitted.

It was unanimous among all the participants that print media now is less effective than ever. Several dealers struggled to select the correct Yellow Pages book from all the options. All dealers were less confident in the results and unhappy with the money they were spending. All knew that the Internet was a key ingredient in their future, but few were satisfied with their current approach.

Tire companies’ and independent research studies I have read have shown that 65% of all tire shoppers research the Internet before making the determination of who they will call or visit.

The question, then, is this: What is your digital footprint?

You have heard about “carbon footprints”; the measure of the impact our activities have on the environment pertaining to the usage of fossil fuels, electricity, transportation, etc.

Well, what is your digital footprint? What is the measure of the impact of your digital activities; advertising, marketing, digital Yellow Pages, etc.?

As the saying goes, “This isn’t rocket science:” if 65% of tire shoppers are now checking online to research before deciding who they will call or visit, it only stands to reason that your business must have an adequate presence, a digital footprint! Think about the advantages of an online presence vs. certain print media.

Let’s take the standard print Yellow Pages ad, for instance. In the past, your local Yellow Pages rep assisted you in the layout, development and message of your ad. (In my opinion, most Yellow Pages ads look like ransom notes).

Each year your Yellow Pages rep visits you with the new, higher rates and encourages you to place a larger ad. Of course, the promise is for a better position vs. your competition.

You, on the other hand, are trying to save money, so you keep trying to put more content into a smaller ad that costs you more. All the while your gut is telling you that this is money down the drain, these ads are not working well, but you don’t know what to do.



Here are some advantages to shifting your budget away from print Yellow Pages ads: First, the print ad is set in stone. Once a print ad is printed, that’s it; no changes. In a digital Yellow Pages ad you usually have the option of linking the ad to your Web site, assuming you have one.

The Web site can be updated throughout the year, with changes made and new information posted. This gives you control and flexibility throughout the year.

A standard print Yellow Pages ad looks like most of your competitors’ ads (a ransom note). As an example: “We handle these brands,” “We are open these hours,” “We accept these credit cards,” “We do these services.”  It’s all the same, blah, blah, blah!

A Web site and/or digital ad helps you differentiate your business from others’. This can be done with pictures, videos, colors, logos, professional presentation, and in a variety of ways you could never put into a print ad.

The big advantage is that your ad, your message, is ready when your customer is ready and in the market to buy! Can you imagine the amount of advertising dollars that have been wasted over the years running ads and mailing flyers to millions and millions of people who were not in the market for tires? I know you can imagine; some of these dollars were yours. Ouch!

The bottom line is: The world is going digital. The game is changing, the media is changing, and you must get onboard.

Not only is the media to market changing, digital versus print, narrow cast (cable or in-store digital) vs. broadcast (TV or wide area cable), but the message is changing also. The old message of “sell me” is changing to “tell me.”

Consumers are looking for information. They are looking for value. They are looking for someone they can trust. They are saying, “Tell me how you’re going to help me, service me, and make it easy and convenient for me. Tell me and assure me that you know what you’re doing and will help me down the road.”

The consumers are online and researching information. Tell them what you’re going to do and what you can do. Be convincing, and live up to your messages!    ■

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at [email protected].