Once upon a time, marketing your performance shop only required a sign, a Yellow Pages ad and a box of business cards.
Today, that reads like a fairy tale. The sign and business cards may still be useful, but the phonebook has gone the way of the dwell meter. (Actually, the dwell meter is much more useful.) To reach out to performance shop customers today, you need to focus on an overall digital marketing plan.
Digital marketing may seem like an unwieldy dragon. But you don’t need to see it that way. It’s nothing to fear.
Online marketing simply means organizing various online elements, from search engine marketing and optimization, to email and mobile marketing, to online reputation management and social media.
On second thought, that does sound like an unwieldy dragon!
Enter the dragon-slayer: the search engine. The single most important tool for online customer acquisition remains the search engine. And the knight in shining armor of search engines remains Google.
OK, that’s enough corny fairy tale analogies.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engines are a pretty broad category. So, let’s focus on Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM is basically the online equivalent of Yellow Pages advertising. These are the listings that appear on the very top or the side of search results, often in a colored box.
To further simplify the process, I’ll focus on Google’s SEM program: Adwords (adwords.google.com). If you can use the Internet, you can build a basic Adwords campaign for your shop. But Adwords can get very complicated very quickly, so it’s important to stay focused.
As a quick aside, SEM is different from Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If SEM is the Yellow Pages, then SEO is the white pages-the free listings. SEO is about more than just getting listed online, it’s about getting listed at the top for the search results. That can take a lot of time, with no guarantee you’ll ever end up on the first page of Google.
(Google’s local Places offers a better chance at a better ranking. See the “Local Visibility” sidebar for a few quick tips on how to improve your ranking on Places.)
Adwords isn’t free, but it is instant. Virtually the moment you launch an Adwords campaign, your ads will begin to appear on Google. If you pay enough, you can buy your way to the top. For some shops in competitive markets, that can be quite pricey and end up costing far more than it’s worth (I’ve seen bids going as high as $100 a click!) But you don’t have to overspend to get good results. It’s all about having a clear strategy.
Unlike traditional display advertising, Adwords is pay-per-click: You only pay when a prospect clicks your ad and visits your website. Also, unlike display ads, Adwords doesn’t allow you to use different fonts, colors or graphics. It’s more like a classified ad with a limited number of characters.
The upside is that everyone has the same limits-so that levels the playing field.
More people use Google than all other search engines combined. So it makes sense to start with Adwords. Once that’s working for you, you can move on to Bing, Yahoo! and others.
There are three parts of an Adwords or SEM campaign: your keyword list, your budget and your ad(s).
Choosing Your Keywords
Your ad appears only when someone searches for a word or phrase on your keyword list. So, your goal is to guess what words or phrases your prospects will use. That means getting inside your customer’s head.
For example, is he looking for “tuning,” “tuner shop” or “street performance”?
But you don’t have to figure it out alone. Google has a Keyword Tool to help you choose the right keywords for your shop. It shows the average searches for a phrase, so you know what people are thinking.
For example, more prospects may search for “Holley Carburetor” than “Street Performance Carburetor.” Pick whichever generates the most results. And since you’re looking for local customers, be sure you always use your city or ZIP code in your keyword research. (For example, if you’re in Boca Raton you probably don’t want prospects in Seattle.)
In the Keyword Tool there’s a checkbox that reads: “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms.” Try leaving the box unchecked the first few times you use the tool. You’ll be amazed at how many really good (and really bad) suggestions Google will give you.
Narrow your list down to the five or 10 best keyword phrases for your shop. Focus on your biggest new customer generators or your biggest profit centers. You can always add more keywords later.
For now, you want to learn to walk before you run (or drive before you race).You’ll notice all the keywords have pricing. That’s the next step: budgeting.
Setting Your Budget
In my opinion, budgeting is the hardest part of an Adwords campaign. There are two components: setting your per-click bid and setting your overall budget.
Per Click Bid: Look at your list of five or 10 keywords. Now, I suggest you focus on “undervalued” keywords. Those are keywords with a relatively low bid and a modest search volume. Once you get the hang of the process, you can always bid on more expensive keywords later. (Remember, these are bids. You may not actually pay that full amount. Or you might get outbid.)
“A best practice in setting a maximum bid for an ad group is to start high and lower that bid as necessary,” suggest the authors of Online Marketing for Dummies. The authors explain that a higher bid will give you a better initial rank as a new advertiser. Google uses an algorithm that is based on your bid amount and the number of clicks your ads average. So, the more revenue you generate for your business-and Google-the more often your ad will appear.
Daily Budget: Google asks you to set a daily budget. Never leave your budget open. You could go bankrupt without a cap on your spending. Set the limit based on what you can afford to spend in a month. And be careful not to bet your shop on a huge Adword budget.
There are no guarantees in advertising and even fewer in online advertising. A few pennies a click may seem fairly harmless, but after thousands of clicks it can add up faster than you expect. Keep your budget, and your expectations, within reason.
Writing Your Ad
The hardest part of writing your ad is fitting everything into the space. You’re limited to a 25-character headline, two 35-character lines of ad copy, and a website address.
Here are some strategies for each element:
Headline: Your headline needs to stop readers. Try repeating part of your keyword or phrase in your headline. For instance, if your keyword was “K&N Filters,” then your headline should mention K&N and/or filters. When writing a headline, ask yourself: What makes me stop and read an ad?
Body Copy: Your body copy should be interesting and make a simple, clear offer. Why should a prospect click your link or visit your shop? Make your message engaging. Google your keywords and study what others at the top are doing. Try a ZIP code in another state. Don’t steal their ad copy! Learn from them. (Remember: the ads at the top tend to be the most successful ones.)
I suggest you develop two ads that you run in rotation. After about a week or two, see which ad is doing best. Keep the best ad and rewrite the other. After another month, do the same and keep improving your ad every month until your feel it’s working for you. (This is what the pros do.)
Domain Link: Don’t link your ad to your home page. There are likely too many confusing and conflicting choices there. Instead, take prospects to a “landing page” that specifically relates to your offer or sales message. If your ad is for engine porting, your landing page should be specifically about engine porting. Consider posting a unique “engine porting” coupon so you can track your results. (See below for details.)
I’ve just touched on Adwords basics. For a more in-depth Adwords tutorial see Dublin-based RedFly Marketing’s YouTube video series at bit.ly/redfly1. (It’s quick and informative, and I find Sinéad’s Irish brogue delightful!)
Review, Revise, Repeat
One of the biggest advantages of an SEM program like Adwords is that you can measure your results and adjust your campaign. In the beginning, check your Adwords dashboard a couple of times a week. Do it too often and you may be wasting time. Do it too infrequently and you may be wasting money.
Also, when they stop in, ask each new customer where they heard about you. Track the source.
A good tracking technique is using the unique coupon on your Adword landing page. Write the total your customer spent on the back of the coupon. Then, you can count ad clicks, coupon redemption and total amount spent for a new customer. The number should tell how well your Adwords are working. It will also tell you if your campaign is paying for itself.
I hope I haven’t overcomplicated the process-or oversimplified it. Running an Adwords campaign is simple, but it’s definitely not easy. So, I suggest you focus on the basics, and then expand your program as you gain confidence.
Still feel you need help putting together or managing your Adwords campaign? Google now offers free telephone signup support (www.google.com/adwords/phone-signup/) to make the Adwords setup process quicker and easier. If you want someone to manage the whole process for you, you can hire a Google Adword Certified expert. Fees vary. (Search for them at www.adwords.google.com/professionals/search/).
Five Steps to Local Visibility
When a prospective customer searches online for a performance or tuner shop, they’ll likely perform a “local search.” That is, they’ll type in a search term and a city name or ZIP code. For instance, I might search for “muscle car 60131.”
When searching locally in Google, Yahoo! or Bing, the first thing a potential customer sees is a list of businesses next to a local map. These “local search results” are where you want your business to appear, so customers searching for a performance shop or retailer locally will find your business.
And best of all, they’re free.
Phil Rozek, founder of LocalVisibilitySystem.com (a resource to help business owners attract more local customers) offers five steps to bump up your search engine visibility and local presence. Here’s how you might use his steps in the performance market:
1. Check your website. Does it include the keywords that prospective customers might use to search for your shop? Find popular search terms by using Google keywords: goo.gl/RiypS (If you don’t have a website, build one. It will help you rank higher locally.)
2. Create or “claim” your local page. This establishes that you’re the rightful business owner. Only create one listing for your business (although it’s fine to have one in Google, one in Yahoo! and one in Bing). Also, be sure to put a link to your website on your local page.
3. Refine your listing. Here are three quick tips for what to do on your local business listing once you’ve created or “claimed” it:
Extend Your Title – Is your title or business name generic like “Fred’s Automotive”? Add a few descriptive or promotional words like “Performance and Tuning,” “Motorsports,” or “Hot Rods & Customs.”
Select The Right Categories -“ Choose at least one category. Don’t be afraid to select multiple categories-”but only if they’re relevant like “Racing Car Parts Store,” “Engine Rebuilding Service” and “Auto Electrical Service.”
Create A Full Description – Use keywords and describe the unique features or benefits of your shop like “cylinder head porting” or “chip tuning.” Also, be sure to include any important information like your hours of operation.
4. Get listed on Review/Resource sites. Look at CitySearch, Yelp and other major review sites. Don’t see your business listed? Submit your information to each site for free. (Be sure your address and phone are listed the exact same way as on your local pages.)
5. Use the free tool at GetListed.org, which will instantly give you free, specific recommendations for how to improve your local visibility to customers in your area.
While you’re working on your Adwords campaign, don’t forget to think about your free local listings, too. Every little bit helps.
Whether you do it yourself or work with a professional, launching a Search Engine Marketing campaign can help you affordably attract new customers.
And you’ll live happily every after. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)