Tow Truck Marketing 101:
So, you want to be in the towing business? If that’s the case, the first thing you need to learn is how to get more customers.
Every year there are thousands of tow company startups. Young, bright-eyed individuals who have worked for a towing company as an employee and who are now ready to strike out on their own. They all have one thing in common, a dream. The desire to turn their new towing business into a success. But, far too often, this dream goes unrealized. As the money they’ve saved begins to thin, and things begin to spiral out of control, they begin complaining of, “too much competition” and “not enough customers.” But how can that be, demand for towing services is at an all-time high? The problem isn’t demand, the problem lies in who they seek to serve.
If you’re a regular visitor to my site you probably already know where I’m going with this. And you are right, way too many startups are like an eighth-grade girl when it comes to working for the motor clubs. They’re just so excited that someone is finally paying attention to their new business that they’ll do anything to keep getting that attention. The sad thing is, many are losing money from day one, but they just don’t know it.
Let’s do a little math
Let’s say you’re a brand-new, 1-truck towing business and you “land” a contract working for one of the motor clubs. You’re so excited to have business, any business, that you’ve agreed to contract with this club for $30 for a service call. You’ve also agreed to give them 10 miles free en-route. And…let’s be generous, you are now getting 8 calls per day from this club. And, to make the equation easy, each of those calls requires you to drive exactly 10 miles to the customers location.
Here comes the math: 8 Calls X $30 = $240.
Now $240 per day isn’t bad, especially if your old job was paying you $10 per hour for an 8 hour work-day. It’s three times as much money. But, hold on, you’ve got to consider your expenses. To begin with, diesel costs somewhere around $3.00 per gallon. If you are forced to drive 10 miles for each of your service calls you can already take that amount of money out of the money the motor club was paying you. And again, I’ll be generous and not assume that you’ll be required to drive an additional 10 miles back to home-base.
More math: 8 Calls X $3.00 = $24 ($240 – $24 = $216)
As an employee you didn’t have business expenses, but as a business owner all that changes. From that $216 you’ll be required to also pay for: insurance premiums, maintenance & repairs, damages, equipment expense, office supplies, and more. What about having the ability to set money aside for your next truck? What about taking a little money home to mama? And worst yet, what about investing money into tow truck marketing? What’s that you say? You don’t have any money left over for marketing your towing business?
No $’s for Tow Truck Marketing
The problem that many tow company owners run into, when depending too heavily on motor club revenue, is that they find themselves stuck. They’ve paid all their expenses, and after taking what’s left over back home, to feed the family, there’s nothing left over. There’s zero money to buy a new truck, there’s zero money for marketing their towing business, and they must continue this day-to-day slog working for motor clubs just to stay “afloat.” It becomes worse than working at a job. You’ve got 10 times the headache, and, in many cases, if you’re being truthful with yourself, you’re making less money.
Tow Truck Marketing 201:
The example above was not intended to discourage start-ups from wanting to start-up, rather it’s a cautionary tale of the wrong way to do it.
As I’ve discussed before in other articles, to have a successful towing business you must not rely on motor clubs revenue alone, rather you should do all that you can to properly market your towing business. But before I get into the details of HOW tow truck marketing should be done, I want to stress this point further.
Motor Clubs Are Not Your Friends
Motor clubs are in business to make money, they’ve spent considerable time and energy putting their “brand” of roadside assistance in front of potential customers. And they’re not alone, they have many competitors, all vying for the same customers. Which means that, to make a profit, they’ve learned that they need to find some way to squeeze more pennies from each transaction, while staying competitive. And the easiest, lowest-hanging fruit, from which they squeeze these pennies of profit, is from you, tow company owners.
The Good News
Don’t despair, there is some good news though. And that is, you have the same opportunities to go after the same customers the motor clubs are looking to service, but you have something better to offer. I’ll go into what that is in a minute, but first lets talk about how towing business marketing should work.
How Tow Truck Marketing Should Work
To properly market your towing company you must have the ability to derive revenue from a wide variety of sources. And there are basically 4 ways in which a stranded motorist finds the services of a tow truck business. They are:
- Law Enforcement
- Motor Clubs
- Online Search.
A well rounded business exploits each of these to varying degrees.
The equation is simple: If you rely, too heavily on those that pay the lowest rates you lose your ability to exploit those who pay the highest rates
If you rely, too heavily on those that pay the lowest rates you lose your ability to exploit those who pay the highest rates
Are you wondering why I used the term, “stranded motorist?“
Know Your Ideal CustomerYou all know about Starbucks, it’s a highly successful business that sells expensive coffee. One of the reasons they are so successful is because they know who their ideal customer is. In the 1990’s their ideal customer was “an established high-income business-woman with disposable income,” now their ideal customer is trending more toward “younger less well-educated people with lower incomes.” They know what demographics make more purchases and therefore, any decisions made are designed to cater to these people. Almost every Starbucks out there is located in places these people visit regularly. They are in high-traffic, high-visibility settings like retail shopping centers, office buildings, book stores, and college campuses. In short they know who purchases their products more often, so they ensure that they’re products are easily for these people to find.
Above, I used the term “stranded motorist” because a stranded motorist is a tow company owner’s ideal customer. They don’t just need or want towing service. Due to their situation, they have an emotional attachment to that need. And when you have an emotional attachment to something, most of the time you are willing to pay a higher price.
Be Where They Are Looking
So, if a stranded motorist is your ideal customer it’s your job to make it easy for them to find you. To illustrate why this is important, let’s examine a hypothetical situation that happens on the busy highways, city streets, and county roads of the United States, every single day.
Sarah is a 34 year old working mother of 2 young children. She’s on her way to pick them up after work from their after-school babysitter. She’s driving on the interstate about 20 minutes from her destination. It’s late afternoon and it’s winter, so the sun is already starting to set. All of a sudden, out of no where, her car begins to sputter. Then it dies and she’s forced to pull over to the shoulder.
Those of you still wearing your motor-club-goggles, might believe that Sarah’s first thought is to pull out her insurance card and call the 800 number on the back for roadside assistance. But Sarah had plans for the evening.
After picking up her children, she was going to stop by the grocery store and pick up some cookie dough, plastic cups, ice cream making supplies, and a whole list of things she’d kept on her phone. You see, she’d promised, weeks ago, to host a get-together at her house. Her and five of her friends, and their children are throwing a party to welcome a new family to the neighborhood.
But Sarah has procrastinated, she’s failed to do all this earlier and now she’s in a rush to get what she needs for the party, but now this pesky car problem is eating into her time. She must now be contend with multiple issues all at the same time.
- Arranging for her kids to be picked up, and taken home.
- Arranging for a way to get the things on her list.
- Learning what’s wrong with her car.
- Finding a tow truck to tow her car “somewhere.”
Do you think she has time to sit on the phone with her insurance company as they ask her questions she may or may not know the answers to? Do you think she’s going to like the wait on hold as the initial insurance call-receiver takes her information and attempts to transfer her to a motor club call-receiver? Do you think she’s going to enjoy regurgitating the same information over-and-over, as the clock keeps ticking? Of course not.
You Are Less Expensive Than Motor Clubs
The first thing tow company owners must understand when deciding where to place their tow company marketing efforts is that people are moving away from subscription based roadside assistance. You see, on average, customers use the services of a towing business, only once every 3 to 5 years. This means that, if a motorist is paying $10 or $12 dollars per month for their roadside assistance plan, then it could cost them as much as $720 for a tow ($12 per month X 60 months = $720)
Not Everyone Has Roadside Assistance
Another thing to be considered is, not everybody has roadside assistance, and even those who do may not even know about it, or be willing to wait for that brand of roadside assistance to arrive. But everyone has a smart phone and an easy way to find a “tow truck near me.” And, if they’re being towed a short distance, the cost is going to be considerably less than $720 cost of maintaining a roadside assistance subscription with a motor club.
Be On Google’s Front Page
So to be found where Sarah will be looking, on her smart phone, you must focus your tow truck marketing efforts on being found there, On Google’s first page.
And…please, for your own sake, please, stop advertising in those local phone books. Nobody’s lugging a heavy phone book around anymore, (heck they’re not even heavy anymore.) The best place to invest your tow company marketing money is into your own online presence.
Be Careful of Charlatans
Here’s where the waters can get a little muddy. For your business to be found on Google’s first page, you must be perceived, by Google, as the authority in your area. The good news is, you don’t need to have a giant fleet of trucks for Google to perceive you as the authority. You just need a STRONG online presence. The problem is that some of these national companies tell you that you’ll be found more often because you’ll be on their platform.
Do you know what that means?
Being found someplace else, other than directly listed on Google with a strong online presence, means Sarah will most likely NOT be calling you.
Because Sarah’s in a hurry. 92% of people will click on one of the first 3 or 4 listings on Google. And if she must click-through to a secondary directory like Yelp or Superpages, who are vying for the same keywords you’re attempting to rank for, she’ll be required to perform a second search, and then MAYBE you’ll show up amongst all the other tow companies listed there.
92% of people will click on one of the first 3 or 4 listings on Google.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a listing in those directories, I’m saying that you need your own platform, which is a strong online presence.
What constitutes a strong online presence?
- A Properly Structured, and Search Engine Optimized Website (that you own)
- Ongoing Search Engine Optimization For Your Keywords.
- An Optimized and Properly Utilized Google My Business Page.
- Tons of Online Reviews
- A Properly Optimized and Utilized Facebook Business Page.
- 100% Accurate and Consistent Directory listings on the 70 Directories Google Deems Important.
- A Properly Optimized Social Media Campaign.
- Clicks to Your Website.
Time is Crucial
That last one is the kicker, TIME.
You must have the emotional intelligence to understand that a commitment to the process is key to success in any business. Along with the right approach, time and patience is what it takes to get your towing company to the top and stay there. And, although I understand why, many of you are impatient, because you have an entrepreneurial spirit that won’t quit, the problem with impatience is it will cause you to believe-in the BS those national companies are selling you. Don’t take shortcuts, do the work, or hire a professional who knows what they’re doing.