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Auto Repair Advertising – Direct Mail – The 5 Step Survivalists Guide
On the surface, direct mail would appear to be a prime advertising strategy for auto repair that has long since seen its heyday. Twenty or thirty years ago, a store owner could send out a few letters and actually expect a response. Today, among thousands of other advertisers, ROI has many people wondering if their message got lost in the mail.
During our normal screening process, we ask each of our customers, “What response do you typically see from your posts?” The responses have become very predictable, as almost 94% say they send posts occasionally, or not at all, as they see almost no response.
This is not very surprising. Ask any group of business owners in any industry and you’ll probably get roughly the same reaction.
What’s surprising is that the remaining 6% report seeing anywhere from 9% to 22% return on their direct mail. What makes these repair facilities so special?
The answer is simple: They didn’t stop at one post.
Repair facilities that see the highest return rates almost always use back-to-back posts with a clear message and a time-sensitive call to action.
Before I continue, I want to clarify something: the direct mail I’m referring to is for new business development. These are the letters that shop owners send to increase the number of cars. Shipping to existing customers is a whole different animal, and we’ll cover that category a bit later.
Auto Repair Advertising – 5 Steps to Breathe Life into Your Direct Mail
1: Use postcards. Postcards do not require opening. A letter takes time to actually open, unfold and read. Consequently, a letter will, almost 10 times out of 10, end up in the recycling bin. Unopened.
An even better advantage is that postcards cost less to make and post. In some cases you can save over 75%!
2: Have a clear message. Use an attention-grabbing title. With every post, the message you communicate should be clear.
Remember KISS? Keep It Simple, Stupid. Less is more when you get your point across.
Also, your headline should address some sort of concern that your potential customer has. Don’t be afraid to be a little extreme. People respond to the idea of life or death situations.
Example: “What happens if your brakes fail? Is your family safe?”
3: Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Offer Value. Most people are hungry for value. So many companies offer so little in return that when one does, consumers are almost programmed to ask, “What’s the catch?”
Don’t have a catch. Be honest, open and full of values.
A good idea would be to give them something for free with no strings attached. But beware! Never offer something that will eat up your time and cost you more than it’s worth. The trick here is to find that hidden value, that mystery gem that your new customers will roll over. It should also be easy and inexpensive to manufacture.
Example: I’ll never forget Les Schwab, the tire boy from my childhood in Oregon. This man was crazy enough to offer “Free Beef With Every New Set Of Tires!” Who in their right mind would do that? To this day, I can’t tell you how the calf adjusts to the new tires. But even though I haven’t been back to Oregon in 15%2B years, I remember Les Schwab and always think of him when I see a set of tires.
4: Have a call to action. Make it Time Sensitive By creating a sense of urgency, you create a sense of scarcity in the recipient’s mind. And by having a call to action, you give them a clear message about what they need to do to take advantage of what you have to offer. Example: “Limited time only: Free brake inspections on every car before (DATE)” Just remember to give your prospective customers enough time to pick up the phone!
5: Don’t pull the trigger once… You have to keep shooting! Like the scene in “COPS” where a guy is stripped and has to be shot 50 times before he goes down, the same can be said for the American consumer. In almost every advertising case, frequency, clear communication and repetition are the only 3 elements that will work. But they should be used together. Having a clear message and sending it only once does not break it. (This is like a flesh wound on the cracked head. He won’t even feel it.) You need to have a clear message and send it to the same people many times.
Try this schedule:
First post – Have a special time-sensitive offer and a call to action (AKA Call To Action)
Second post – 15 days later. Have a “sorry we missed you” feel and maybe offer an extra incentive to entice backsliders to hide.
Third post – 15 days later. Be brave. Tell “Last Chance!” “Offer Expires Soon!” Don’t be afraid to be a little extreme.
4th post – 3 to 5 days after the due date. This last post will have more of a “Congratulations! You won second prize!” feel it.
Note: After each post you MUST remove the responders from the list. Sending them ads for the same offer after they’ve already arrived is not only annoying, it gets expensive. Why does this work? Multiple posts tend to make people feel that your offer is more valuable. A single post is easily dismissed as a possible overnight scam and is more likely to end up in the trash.
By repeating your offer and adding an incremental, time-sensitive pressure, you help emphasize the importance of your message.
Beyond increasing your overall return, multiple posts reinforce your facility’s credibility in the eyes of local car owners.
Auto Repair Advertising Final Note: How much should I send? If, for example, you’re currently hitting 1,000 homes and neither want nor can afford to send the same number of multiple mailings, consider shrinking your list.
You will do better to send sequential direct mail to 250 homes than to send 1 mail to 1,000.
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