The ability to implement tow company marketing that gets results is not something every tow company owner understands.
Why your tow company marketing isn’t working.
One of the biggest regrets I have as a father is not reading any books on child rearing before my kids were born. No, instead of going to the library and investing time in my children’s future, my wife and I did what most new parents do, we raised our children the way we were raised. Now that I’m 50 I can see the error of my ways, but back then I had no idea what I was doing.
For example, when we were teaching our sons to clean their rooms, if they weren’t constantly monitored and motivated to keep doing the job, they would stray off and do other things. After thinking we’d made clear what our expectations were, inevitably, one of us would be forced to hunt them down and re-focus their attention on the task at hand.
What I didn’t know back then was that engagement, structure, and rewards are the keys to motivation. And because I didn’t do all those things properly, I didn’t fully expect my boys to be able to clean their rooms without constant supervision.
There have been numerous psychological studies that confirm that expectations play an enormous role in interpersonal relationships. Most demonstrate that, generally, we get what we expect out of people, and people usually do what’s expected of them.
The Pygmalion effect
Take the Pygmalion effect, for example, Pygmalion was a mythical stone sculptor who sculpted a life-size statue of a woman that he eventually fell in love with. The story goes that, after he completed the sculpture, he found her so beautiful that he had no desire for real women…because he wanted to be true to the woman he’d carved out of stone. He prayed, night and day that she would come to life. And finally, one day his wish came true, his sculpture came to life and they were married. He got what he wanted because he fully expected it to happen.
Professor Robert Rosenthal explored the myth of this self-fulling prophecy when he conducted a study with students and teachers at “Oak School” elementary. At the beginning of the year, he gave IQ tests to the children and then released fabricated results to their teachers.
He gave the teachers an arbitrary list of students who had supposedly scored in the top 20% on the test. When he retested the students again at the end of the year, many of those who were on the initial fabricated top 20% list did much better than those who weren’t on the list.
The study concluded that; When you increase teachers’ expectations of students’ performance, you get higher performing students.
My conclusion: If I would have read-up on child rearing before my children were born, I might have known how to motivate them, and therefore I would have expected more out of them. Which means they might have done a better job at cleaning their rooms.
My ignorance of expectations in those early days of fatherhood isn’t the only regrets I suffer. I learned this the hard way in business as well.
Business Lessons Learned
It was a great time to be in the towing business. Fuel was reasonably priced, interest rates were low, and customers had more money in their pockets. But my drivers were having accidents, and causing damages…and it was driving me crazy. “Why can’t these guys pay more attention?” I’d complain. “If they were the ones paying for the damages…they’d be more careful.”
What I didn’t know then, but know now was, I needed a Policies and Procedural Manual in place…So my guys would know exactly what was expected of them. But for the longest time, I didn’t see the need to do all that work, creating a “handbook”.
I reasoned, “They all know what they’re supposed to do.” And, sure I knew that there was a relationship between policies, training, and damages. I knew that if you don’t train a driver properly you’ll have more damages. But what I didn’t understand was, that having a Policies and Procedural Manual in place is important because of the psychology of the expectation effect. If they know what’s expected of them, they’ll work to live up to it.
How This Applies To Tow Company Marketing
The same holds true with tow company marketing. If instead of doing it the right way, you use the shotgun approach to marketing, which means trying various and numerous marketing channels for a short time and not learning anything about them, you’ll waste your money and be disappointed in the end. For example, if you’ve tried pay-per-click but you don’t have a sure-fire approach to how to know if your Google ads are working then you’re most likely wasting money.
Here’s The Biggest Problem With that Approach
If you’ve tried the shotgun approach to marketing and learned that it doesn’t work, the problem that most tow company owners run into is, that experience will serve as confirmation that marketing, as a whole, doesn’t work. You’ll have validated what you expected to happen. You were skeptical from the beginning that tow company marketing doesn’t work. And it didn’t, so you give up.
On the other hand, if you start by implementing a plan that others have used, that’s worked at helping them grow their towing companies, you’ll start off, from the beginning, fully expecting your marketing to work. And in the end, you’ll get what you’re looking for.
So, what’s the right approach to tow company marketing?
To begin, you must be patient. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear but allow me to explain how not employing patience, when it comes to tow company marketing, can cost you a lot more money in the long run.
Story About Bob
There once was a tow company owner named Bob. Bob was in the towing business for 15 years when one day a smaller competitor asked him if he’d like to sell. Well, Bob thought about it for a couple of weeks, and the price was right, so he decided to sell. After taxes, he walked away with a tidy sum.
As per the terms of the sale, Bob had signed a non-compete agreement which stipulated that he couldn’t start another towing business within 30 miles of town. So, Bob relaxed for a couple of months and did nothing. But after a while, he became fidgety and needed something to do. He was still a young man so he decided to move to a new town and start another towing business.
Bob had built his old towing company during the 90’s which meant he’d relied on yellow page, phone book advertising, and face-to-face marketing. And good old word-of-mouth, that just doesn’t happen overnight. But now that he was starting a new business in 2017, during the digital era, where, in Bob’s mind, everything seemed to happen instantly, he thought it would take much less time.
Without fully understanding what was required to properly market a towing company in 2017, Bob employed the services of one of those national web companies and signed a 12-month contract for $795 per month. But after about 3 months with nothing to show for an outlay of almost $2400 dollars, Bob began to ask questions.
He knew where he wanted to be, Google’s first page, and top 3 on the map, but this national web company wasn’t providing results as quickly as Bob believed they should. So, he cut ties and sought the services of yet another national web company. But the same thing happened. He spent a lot of money, and in the end didn’t get the results he was looking for. Impatience caused Bob to waste money because he’d forgotten a key ingredient to his previous success.
With Bob’s first towing business he had no money to invest in marketing, but he had a goal. That goal was to be the biggest towing company in the county. From that foundational beginning, over time he identified opportunities, and developed strategies to exploit those opportunities. All the while, he was honing his craft. Bob was constantly working on getting better at the services he provided, and finding various ways to differentiate himself from the competition.
Do You Have A Goal?
Tow Company Marketing Starts Here
To have a tow company marketing strategy that works, you must first know why you want it to work.
What’s your goal for your business? Do you want to have the biggest towing company in the state or do you just want to support your family? Both are fine goals. But which route would you suppose is the best way to get you to either goal? Would you rather your trucks run 10 motor club calls per day at $40 a piece? Or 10 cash-calls per day at $85 a piece? Of course, the answer is cash-calls. So what strategy should you use to get them?
The diagram below is a depiction of your business.
On the bottom is the foundation, your GOAL. It will remain relatively constant throughout the life of your business. It’s the reason you started your business in the first place, and it is what propels you forward every day.
In the middle is STRATEGY. This level is where you identify possible opportunities and then develop strategies to attract and retain those customers.
Who are the customers you aim to serve? What are the strategies you employ to attract them?
Due to various reasons, like market conditions, competitive pressures, and customer expectations, your strategies must remain pliable. To continue to acquire a steady stream of new customers, you must pay close attention to how you are acquiring customers and make changes when necessary. The reason this level exists is to help you achieve your foundational goal.
Up top is SERVICE. This is made up of the services you provide. To continue working toward your goal, you must constantly improve the services your customers receive. Those improvements can come from procedural training, customer service training, upgrading trucks & equipment, or other non-tangible improvements, like your business’s reputation in the community. Again, this level exists for the sole purpose of achieving your foundational goal.
As I’ve discussed before, a tow company’s ideal customer is a stranded motorist. And there are basically 4 ways in which a stranded motorist finds the services of a towing company. They are: Motor Clubs, Referrals, Law Enforcement, Online Search.
Since most motorists only use the services of a towing company once every 3 to 5 years, to ensure that your business is the one who receives the call, you must have the ability to exploit all four opportunities.
This means that, yes you should take advantage of Motor Clubs. I’m not saying you should become overly dependent on motor club revenue, or that you should do the work for nothing. I’m saying that, at least in the beginnings of a new towing business, there are ways to leverage these relationships.
Referrals can come from anyone a stranded motorist may turn to in their time of need. Although you’ll want to explore the opportunities here further, we’ll just be discussing the person or persons who take care of the motorist’s car on a regular basis.
Vehicle owners visit auto repair shops for various reasons throughout the year. They may need an oil change, a new battery, or have other minor repair issues that do not require a tow to the shop. This means that most vehicle owners trust the shop they visit regularly, but may not have as close of a relationship with a tow company. So, one lifeline a stranded motorist may turn to is to seek out advice from the company that’s been handling all of their car repairs.
Creating and fostering relationships with local repair shops can put your company at the top of the list of trusted towing companies.
Although it’s becoming less frequent, some stranded motorists still seek out help from local law enforcement. Even if you’re towing company is not on rotation, you still want your business to be known. Say, for example, a motorist calls the police and asks for your company by name. If it isn’t known by the police, there’s little chance you’re going to get the call. The strategy for this, of course, should be to ensure that your business name and number are provided to law enforcement. Then continually reinforce your desire to be a helping hand to the community by fostering positive relationships with law enforcement officers.
Even though many tow company owners may not believe this, most motorists do not have roadside assistance plans. And, of those who do, only a small percentage of them even know about it. But what everyone, traveling on the roads today, has is a smart-phone and a convenient and easy way to search for the services they need.
It’s no wonder people are moving away from subscription-based roadside assistance plans, they’re learning that it costs more to have it. Let’s just do the math.
The annual cost for a Premiere AAA membership is $148.00. And since most motorists only use the services of a towing company once every 3 to 5 years, (I’ve seen extreme cases where AAA roadside assistance was only used one time in 20 or 30 years) that means a simple tow across town can cost a motorist as much as $740.00 ($148.00 X 5 years = $740.00.) Whereas if they would have called a towing company direct, it might cost as little as $75 or $85 dollars, depending on the circumstances and the distances traveled.
The reason that tow company marketing doesn’t work for most tow company owners is that they don’t invest in their online presence. Due to a misunderstanding of the facts, that motorists are moving away from subscription-based roadside assistance plans, and toward autonomy, due to the freedoms provided by the smart-phone, most tow company owners don’t appreciate what their online presence can do for their bottom line.
Here’s My Bottom Line
Google uses two basic criteria when determining what local businesses show up when a search is performed, they are: Location & Reputation. Which means, if the information you are providing is timely, abundant, accurate, and coming from a wide variety of reputable sources, then your business is the one that will be shown, and you’ll get the call.
A strong online presence doesn’t happen overnight. But with the proper implementation, it can be achieved.
Hi Don, thank you for this insightful article. I’m building websites for towing business and your website helps me to understand this field. So Motor clubs are not real competitors as they pay so low… Thanks again
Hey, do you have examples of website you have created? If so can you link up with me to view them?