Articles

Advertising on 4 Wheels

by Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM

As jobs are scarce and the New Economy tightens its noose around the necks of small business owners, it is fiscally prudent to cut costs and trim overhead.  The natural inclination may be to cut the advertising budget as it is one of the largest overhead line items and may seem to have little impact on the business model.  This is exactly the wrong approach!  Now is the time to advertise to capture market share and gain top-of-mind awareness.  The best value for the advertising dollar, especially for the electrical contractor, is on company vehicles.

Make a Statement:
The days of a rectangular magnet affixed to the truck door are long gone.  So, too, are vinyl letters neatly displaying the company name and phone number.  To get noticed today, contractors must think bold and loud.  Marketing is about getting noticed.  Marketing drives business.  Marketing makes the phone ring and the cash register ching.  Take full advantage of the advertising space you have already purchased.

Modern technology has evolved such that almost anything you or your graphic designer can conceive can cover your vehicles.  Think of your vehicles as a moving billboard.  Of the six basic sides of the vehicle, potential clients will see all but the undercarriage as your electricians travel from job to job; thus, make a dramatic impact on all five visible sides with lots of color to paint a mental image of the quality work your company does.

Unless you are professionally trained and have the experience to back it up, do not try this at home!  Even an average graphic designer can take your best ideas and make them pop.  The human mind tends to think linearly and symmetrical; yet is drawn to that which is not.  Just as you have spent years honing your craft; so, too, has the graphic designer.  They have learned how to place images ‘out of kilter’ and to use both dimensions (sometime with the appearance of using the third dimension) to capture the scattered attention of passers-by.

The true sign of success is when the kids in the car next to yours are yelling “mommy, mommy” and pointing your way.

The Value Equation:
Vehicle advertising is much more affordable that it was just five years ago.  Though the computer technology and design software has been available for many years, the printing presses did not catch up until recently.  Most vehicles can now be completely wrapped for an all-in price of under $4,000 (including design, printing, and application), compared to $7,000 just a decade ago when they would need to be hand-painted.  In many cases, once your design file is saved electronically, the cost for additional vehicles drops significantly as designs only need to be tweaked to accommodate various vehicle makes and models.  (NOTE: ensure you receive a copy of the electronic design file before paying for the work to ease any necessary transitions if your current provider does not survive the economic fallout.)

Oddly enough, the price is not determined as much by square foot as it is by labor to trim out curves, latches, windows, etc., a concept easily understood by the contractor.  Thus, a large box truck with 8’ x 12’ sides and an 8’ x 8’ rear door can usually be wrapped for less than an SUV or even a typical cargo van.  Comparative shopping vehicle advertising to other marketing mediums makes it crystal clear that this is surely the best bang for your hard-earned buck to spread the word about your firm.  When you consider that most construction vehicles will be used in the company for at least six years, there is really no other type of marketing that comes even close when comparing options side-by-side and adjusting for the longevity of the medium.

Lead Generation vs. Awareness:
Advertising is divided into two general categories.  “Lead Generation” are those types of advertising mediums that entice potential buyers to inquire about your firm’s services.  Classic examples of Lead Generation are: direct mail, telemarketing, phone book, and trade show booths.  These lead-producing mediums are best served with call-to-action oriented messages such as “call now” or “available only for the next 3 days.”  “Awareness” mediums are sources that aid in helping the public remember your name.  These are image-enhancing, reputation building, and top-of-mind oriented sources.  Traditional Awareness mediums are: billboards, web sites, and wall calendars.  Of course, with any black and white there is a gray; so, some mediums have qualities of each which can be enhanced based on the specific message.  Radio and TV can be either Lead Generation or Awareness, depending on the particular ad content.

As you might expect, vehicle advertising does not make the phone ring.  It builds awareness of your brand.  This is problematic for some owners since the only true way to know if the awareness campaign is working is with detailed before and after marketing studies, which most will not do.  Thus, it comes down to marketing faith.  It is easy to prove that awareness campaigns work in general – name the first fast food chain and first soda pop that come to mind.  If you said McDonald’s and Coca-Cola you join over seventy percent of Americans who have been wooed by those firms’ awareness campaigns (actually, no matter what your answer to the above question, some firm has wooed you).

When a potential buyer has been influenced by a strong awareness campaign, they might not remember your firm’s name when they are trying to decide which electrician to call.  As they open the phone book or go on the web, however, they will say to themselves “these folks are good, I will call them.”  In doing so, the consumer will probably not openly realize they have thought so because of your awareness campaign, but they will call.

Awareness advertising fuels future business and growth.  As contractors, we are in a prime position to fill the roads with our logos and what we do.  Don’t be afraid to scream from the highest mountaintop via your vehicle fleet.  You have an untapped array of moving billboards at your beck and call – use them.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM provides insight on nonprofit management, executive decision-making, business operations, personal finance, marketing, construction issues, and occasionally, on political philosophy / history. To see more by Christian, visit www.Malesic.us or to receive notice of the newest articles written by Christian, follow him Parler @CDMalesic or on Twitter @CDMalesic.

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