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 eight 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 customer’s 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? Smart tow company owners use Google Ads because they work when done right.
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 ten 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 club 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.
Some 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. This 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.
Some Motor Clubs Are Not Your Friends
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, let us 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 four 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 1990s, 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, bookstores, and college campuses. In short, they know who purchases their products more often, so they ensure that their products are easy 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 nowhere, 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. She 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 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 smartphone and an easy way to find a “tow truck near me.” And, if they’re being towed a short distance, the cost will be considerably less than the $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 smartphone, 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, which 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 on 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 are 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.
This helped alot for my marketing project! Thank you so much!
This article is full of useful info that can definitely help me in my marketing efforts. Thanks a lot!
Claire, Thanks…I’m glad to hear it is helping you.
Reviews can really make or break a business these days. Thanks so much for highlighting this as part of having a strong online presence!
You are right. Online reviews are an important part of any business’s presence but reviews are especially important for towing businesses. If your business has only 10 reviews with a 4.8-Star aggregate and it’s listed next to two others who have 40 and 50 reviews, both with a 5-Star aggregates, most of the time a customer will choose the one with the most reviews and best aggregate.
Plus, Google loves reviews. But, one thing you must understand is that it’s not to your advantage to gather a bunch of reviews at one time and stop. You must be consistent. If you get 50 5-Star reviews in a couple of months and then stop actively requesting reviews, you risk harming the positive effects you gained.
Also, a good number of quality reviews are not the only thing that can positively impact your online presence. Is your website optimized? Are you doing ongoing Search Engine Optimization properly? Are your directory listings consistent and accurate across the board? Are you using social media properly? Do you have an optimized and effective pay-per-click campaign? And how do you measure all this to know if it’s actually working?
I’d love to link with insurance companies please guide me!
Ashlee, Here is a good resource if you’re looking to work for motor clubs.
Hey I’m trying to open only service company it’s that possible I wanna get some info on that
This was a great article, it is important to have good reviews for any business but especially towing. We have learned that by providing the most excellent service and then giving a client a feedback form to mail in has many advantages. We learn where improvements can be made and honest customer feedback – marketing is so essential as well, finding a good marketing company surely helps us!
More informative! It’s really interesting and I have been following your blog for quite a time I like the blog that you have shared with your readers. We also provide auto wrecker service in Perth, Australia and offers the best cash on the spot. So feel free to contact us now.
WA Auto Wreckers,
Good to hear from you mate. Hope all is well, have a good day.
Such an insightful article. It is so tru that you can go down the wrong path from day 1 if you are not consistently doing your homework or trying to find new strategies. Relying on one source to get business if definitely dangerous and I am glad I realized that early enough. There is definitely money to be made in towing, but you got to have strategy! Thanks for sharing man.
Thanks, you are right, sitting on the sidelines and taking the scraps that the motor clubs throw your way is not how you should approach the towing business. This will have you falling for the myth that towing services are commoditized. This is the quickest way to fail and will have you competing solely on price, which is the biggest mistake you can make. Customers make buying decisions based on a number of variables, only one of which is the cost of the service. Thanks again Anthony from Oaklawn Tow Truck.
Do you recommend investing as much as possible into organic site building, SEO, etc. OR do you think it is better to get an optimized site set up then just hammer away on Google Adwords?
Will, Thanks for the comment.
Running a successful towing business requires a strategy that includes a commitment to ongoing Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Unfortunately, to many, the term SEO is subjective. Blogging is not SEO. Buying backlinks is not SEO, and by the way, it’s quite harmful. Getting backlinks from sites that have zero relevance to your business category, is not SEO. And, if you are paying for SEO on a website that was not first created using proper On-page SEO you are wasting your money.
Anyone can throw up a website, but will it work? You can even get a Google website for free, but it’s not really free. What value does a website have if it languishes on the 15th page? This means these type of websites are costing you money in lost revenue from phone calls. Do it right and get someone who has a proven track record of getting the results you want.
As far as choosing one over the other, AdWords versus ongoing SEO, well, it depends upon your goal. If the goal is to get your phone ringing right now, then an optimized AdWords campaign administered by a company with a track record of getting results in the towing industry would be best. But, if you must choose to only run an AdWords campaign and do zero SEO you’re going to continue to rent space online as opposed to buying it. Once you quit paying for AdWords your presence there goes away, this is not the case with SEO (Done right).
I love this story. Very inspiring and I’m forever grateful for the outlook.
Very interesting post, logically presented.. I enjoyed reading your informative article and considering the points.
Thanks, Newcastle Towing
I’m useing a marketing company that’s dragging there feet in mean time I’m paying 400 a month I rarely hear from them an have notified them to stop deducting my account its like 1 person does 10 min with of work an a phone call an I see nomore calls than I had before
i read your article i realy love this very inspiring, its very helpful for me .
Zeeshan, thanks, again.
thanks for providing such wonderful information with us, I wish you will share more extra info
Thank you for your kind words. And, yes, we have more delectable content on the way.
If you get stranded in a heavy duty vehicle such as a semi-truck, you might worry that you will have a hard time finding a towing company that is up for the job. K3 Towing, Recovery and Transport, Inc is equipped to handle towing jobs of all sorts and sizes. We are available all day every day to make sure that your heavy duty vehicle is taken care of. One of the services that we offer for heavy duty towing is a 60 ton rotator truck. This truck allows us to handle even the toughest and biggest towing jobs with ease.
Hey K3, That’s a shameless sales pitch if I ever saw one:) But, that’s ok, I’ve got one too.
If you’re looking to decrease your dependency on the clubs, and get more cash-calls, then get in touch. We can help.
Thanks for the comment.
Your article is right on point. We recently did some similar examination of some of our marketing associations and found similar results to your motor club example. Couldn’t agree more. You’ve really got to look hard at all you costs and not just the initial income associated with a job.
Thanks for the information.
Bob, Thanks and you are right. Unfortunately, many business owners use bank balance accounting. If the bank account has more money at one point in time than it did before they suppose they’re doing ok. I suggest that you run weekly and monthly Profit and Loss Statements. And compare them to other periods. This will give you a good idea of how well your business is doing.
Your article was right on point. I wasted way too much money paying SEO’s who don’t accomplish anything except draining my bank account. Are there really that many who don’t really know what they are doing?
Bob, yes there are tons of folks who believe that they know what true SEO is. Many believe it’s a one-time, shot in the arm that can sustain them forever. Not the case. SEO done right does work, and it works especially well for the towing industry because, for the most part, tow companies are behind the times when it comes to online marketing. Thanks again for the comment, hope all is well and you’re servicing your customers well.
Thanks for the article on Tow Truck Marketing. It helped me clear the fundamentals.
John, thanks you’re quite welcome.
I really appreciate you taking the time to write out this article. You hit the nail on the head about getting on the first page of Google. That is going to be our number one priority moving forward. Cheers : )
This is a great article and i really enjoy learning ways to make more capital for not only my business but my family and if i have a successful business then all that comes into play i am interested in learning more i am a small business owner of gold star towing and recovery been in the repo industry for 10 yrs recently went out on my own 6 months ago and i have a few contracts and some loyal car lots but it is definitely not enough for the bills any help is definitely appreciated thanks and have a great day
K3 Towing, Recovery and Transport, Inc. is located in Amarillo, TX and services customers in the Panhandle area and Tri-State area as well as nationwide. We are a family owned and operated business, with years experience in the towing business and a family of truckers our self, you can depend on us to treat you with the same quality of service that we would offer the members of our own family. K3 Towing, Recovery and Transport, Inc. is specialized and licensed in heavy duty towing and recovery.
Today I was randomly searching about towing and then I found your article. And, believe me, this an amazing article that has helped me a lot, thank you.
Thank you for your nice comment.
I really appreciate you for this post. keep it up and make posts like these.
Wonderful points you mention in this article, I read all points completely. It’s a helpful article for us, and it must be appreciated.
Thank You Michael.
We have recently started a new tow company and came across this article.
I Really appreciate you taking the time to educate people on this.
Thanks for this informative article. As a company who has been in business for a while, I see we still have quite some work to do to get caught up in regards to our online presence. I appreciate your straight to the point info, much appreciated!