Using Propaganda in The Towing Business.

If you’re a tow company owner, at one point or another, you’ve probably been guilty of looking at your competition, shaking your head, and asking how on Earth they stay so busy. This being the likely case, you may be a victim of a not so commonly used strategy known as competitor propaganda.

But how does this happen? How can an otherwise skeptical, critical thinker like you be enticed to believe a load of bull***, especially from people who are in competition with you?

Be it due to jealousy, covetousness, or simply a desire to improve the bottom line, many times tow company owners are lulled into thinking that what the other guy is doing must be better than what they’re doing. And regardless of who’s selling the line or if it is being sold at all, they become victims of propaganda.

Consider, for example, a tow company owner I’ll call Jason. Jason’s business operates completely independently of motor club calls. He brings in a steady stream of cash calls from a combination of paid ads, search engine optimization, law enforcement, and building relationships with current and prospective clients.  But occasionally, demand for his services falls off for a day or two (as happens in all towing businesses).

And rather than taking advantage of this normal lull in business to get caught up on other pressing matters, Jason, being the go-getter he is, thinks that something must be wrong.

As paranoia begins to creep into Jason’s brain, he starts to question why the phone isn’t ringing. Is there something wrong with the phone system? Am I being skipped on rotation? Has Google forsaken me?

Freaked out, with nothing better to do, Jason decides to drive around town for a little Recon. He wants to see if the competition is sitting idle as well. If other towing companies are dead too, then we’re ok, he assures himself.

But, not five minutes into his mission, his hopes are dashed.

At the traffic light, Jason pulls next to a competing company’s car carrier, loaded with a Jeep. Over at the Lowe’s is a wrecker from the same company doing a jump start on a Mazda. Then, passing in the intersection in front of him is another wrecker from an entirely different company, towing a van.

Jason grips the steering wheel and screams, “What the hell is going on? Why are we dead and everyone else so busy?”

Now, Jason’s mind is racing.

He starts thinking that every other towing company in town is busy. And he’s the only schmuck not working.

Frustrated, Jason decides to stop over and talk with Jim, the wrecker driver finishing up the jump start at Lowe’s.

Jason rolls up nonchalantly next to Jim’s truck and says, “Hey, how’s it going, Jim? You doing all right?”

Jim replies as he hops in his truck, “Oh, hey Jason…I’d like to talk, but we’re busy as all get out. I gotta go do a lockout over at the Walmart…You staying busy?”

“Yeah, pretty busy.” Jason lies, waiving after Jim, as he rolls out of the parking lot.

Now Jason’s blood is boiling. He has all the confirmation he needs to conclude that his marketing is totally worthless.  So, he begins to drive back to the office to make some needed changes. But that’s when he sees Jim’s boss, Dale, sitting in his truck, finishing up an invoice.

So Jason pulls up to Dale’s truck, gets out, and leans into the passenger window. The two engage in a little small talk, and then the discussion quickly turns to business.

Jason darts the question, “Staying busy?”

“Well, you know…” Dale responds, “…can’t complain. Got hooked up with this company that gets me on the Google deal, and we can hardly keep up now.”

At this point, Jason has had it. As his blood pressure rises, he takes a step back, grits his teeth, and under his breath, lets out a barely audible, “Son-Of-A-Bitch.”

“What’s that?” Dale turns his head to ask but gets distracted as his phone rings again.

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Is Using Propaganda in The Towing Business Good Strategy?

Before we consider if the use of propaganda is a good strategy for towing company owners, let’s deconstruct the above scenario.

Do you believe that what transpired between Jason, Jim, and Dale was a coordinated attack or a grand scheme intended to damage Jason’s psyche? Is it logical to conclude that all the other towing company owners and employees in town were conspiring against Jason with the sole intent of demoralizing him? Probably not. I would hope not, anyway.

But is it possible that the first wrecker driver Jason encountered, Jim, was responding to two low paying motor club calls, one after the other? And that those were the only two calls he’d done all day? And could Jim’s boss, Dale, be making up a story about the volume of calls he’s getting from the Google deal? Yes…Of course.

But why? Why would tow truck operators, or towing company owners…or anyone for that matter, exaggerate and say that they’re busier than they really are?

Well, for one, because society deems busy people as more important.

Consider the scene at a construction site. We see a man in a hard hat and reflective vest hurriedly walking from one group of men to another. The men in each group are dressed exactly the same as the first man, but they’re leaning on their shovels, waiting for instructions. Who do we perceive to be more important to the operation?

The busy guy giving instructions…Right?

Of course, the guys with shovels are doing the digging, but if they’re not digging in the right place, the whole project could fail.

The truth is busy people automatically command more respect. That’s why most people want to LOOK busy, regardless of if they’re doing anything productive.

Now, in the towing business, we understand that just because you’re busy, it doesn’t necessarily translate into large sums of cash. You and I understand that– ‘busy running motor club calls’ is only a few rungs up the ladder from ‘busy washing your trucks.’

So, with the understanding that looking busy is a commonly used device to appear important, we can now accept the possibility that Jim & Dale may have been embellishing.  However, the question remains as to whether some business owners purposely use the busy ploy as propaganda to confuse and disorient their competition. To get to the answer, let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

Ok…So we’ve laid the groundwork as to why tow truck operators, owners, and people, in general, embellish at times. And how this seemingly innocuous behavior can drive good men with dialed-in marketing systems to the brink of insanity. But is there such a thing as premeditated competitor propaganda in the towing industry?  And if so, what does it look like, and what are the desired results of engaging in it?

Propaganda is loosely defined as spreading less-than-truthful information with the purpose of influencing others. Governments around the world use propaganda to maintain power. Just look at the 2020 plandemic. Unscrupulous family members employ propaganda to wield power and influence over their relatives.  And even Wall Street uses propaganda to manipulate the minds of investors and pocket large sums of money.  So, of course, business owners know that, when properly implemented, propaganda allows them to get an advantage over the competition.

In Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, he writes, to gain the advantage, “Appear weak when you are strong…”. Now, if you are a boxer, this might be a good strategy. Make the other guy think you are tired and weak so that he goes on the offensive and exhausts himself, and you come out on top. But how would that strategy pan out in the towing business?

Let’s say you own a well-established towing company in a medium-sized market.  You’ve got a dozen or so trucks…all paid for. You have a decent-sized lot, your company has a good reputation, and your drivers are all well-paid.

Suddenly, a new towing company pops up in your town. The owner is young and brash and has designs on taking some or all of your business.  He starts by going after the smaller accounts. And, to his benefit, he gains a few. Then, he begins advertising, throwing parties, and showing up at the dealerships with donuts and freebies.

But as the established business owner in town, this doesn’t shake you. You’ve been in business for quite a while. Your stuff’s all paid for, and people like you. You figure the new guy’s shenanigans are simply a flash in the pan. He’s a firebrand right now, but soon, he’s gonna burn out.

However, to your dismay, as the weeks and months go by, the new guy’s flame remains hot. Yeah, it dims at times, but it’s still smoldering, and…it has now become quite annoying.

So, you decide to make a move.

You’ve seen his type before. Drives a brand-new, top-of-the-line “show-truck,” LED lights everywhere, and even a siren.

Who has a siren on a tow truck?

This guy…his ego wouldn’t allow for less.

So, that’s where you decide to hit him.

Taking a page out of Sun Tzu’s playbook, you sell a few trucks and sit back and watch as everyone in town who has anything to do with towing notices and has questions.  And the rumors begin to fly. Of course, many assume you’ve sold the trucks because the new guy is cutting into your business. But it’s only speculation.

So, you plant a few more seeds over the following weeks and let it slip to your barber that business has slowed a bit. You visit long-term customers more regularly than before and even take out a second mortgage on your home.

You then sit back and watch. And, in a short time, more and more people in town start believing that what was speculation a few short weeks ago is now true…your business is in trouble.

With the smell of blood in the water, here comes “Young and Brash.” He thinks you’re on the outs. So, sensing opportunity, he buys three more trucks and a large piece of real estate on the outskirts of town.  He continues to spread more money around for parties, freebies, and who-knows-what-else. In near victory lap mode now, he thinks that all he has to do is wait you out.

The problem, of course, is that while he may have youth and some pretty “show-trucks,” he also has a mountain of debt with very little income with which to repay said debt.

And, as it turns out, you, the established business owner, weren’t actually feeling the pain you’d lead everyone to believe. You didn’t need to sell your trucks; you were gonna trade-up soon anyway.  Of course, your barber left out the part that business is always slow in October. And the second mortgage was for a down payment on a vacation home in Florida.

When used by governments and those in positions of power and authority, propaganda is never a good thing. However, when it comes to business when implemented ethically, propaganda has been known to be a powerful tool.  Be warned, though, if you use propaganda to advance your business and your customers learn of your wise and wily ways, regardless of the ethics exercised, they may choose to steer clear of your business in the future.