I’m a firm believer in spending money to get the word out about your business. Customers should be well-acquainted with your brand when they get in an accident and need collision repair. Without a solid brand presence in the market, you probably won’t come to mind when they try to think of a shop to fix their vehicle. If you’re in a state like New York where customers make the choice on where to repair their vehicle after a claim, you had better do some advertising.
Today, marketing comes in many different forms. I’m going to give you a brief history of our marketing strategies so you understand how we became a household name in the markets we serve, and hopefully that will help you if you’re looking to do some advertising. Not all the decisions we made along the way turned out to be good ones, so hopefully our mistakes will help in your decision making.
The Phone Book
In the early 80s, we did some basic advertising and marketing. Some of it was expensive and some was very inexpensive. Phone-book advertising was where 75 percent of the budget was spent. At that time, everyone wanted to have the biggest and most attractive ad to get their message out. Looking back, I believe we spent too much on that form of advertising, and of course today phone books are obsolete. The rest of the budget went to things such as church bulletins, bowling league and little league baseball team sponsorships, diner paper placemats and direct-mail flyers, all of which I would recommend because they’re inexpensive and also because it’s important to do the small things that connect you to the communities you serve.
We’re on TV!
After we broke through the $1 million mark in the early 80s, we began to spend some money on mass media
advertising, beginning with radio and TV. We wanted to align ourselves with a sports talk radio channel and a TV campaign during Buffalo pro sports games. In the commercials, we would explain all the reasons why we were the best choice, a message that was very typical at the time. You know, 30 or 60 seconds of the same old commercials that everyone else puts out there, bragging about our quality, convenience and state-of-the-art facility. We even had a hometown sports personality narrate and appear in the commercials, but after a few years of spending big money, we noticed that this form of advertising was not producing the results or return on investment we had hoped for. When renewal time came up for both the radio and TV campaign, I asked our advertising contact at the sports channel (that happened to be owned by the Buffalo Sabres owner) for a meeting to see if we could spice things up. What came out of that meeting really made a huge difference and put us on the map in Western New York.
The Buffalo Sabres
At the meeting, I asked our ad rep if we could replace our 30-second ad with a feature during the Buffalo Sabres game that highlighted a collision and call it the “Carubba Collision of the Game.” He went back to the ownership and they approved it. Twenty-five years later, we’re still doing the feature! It’s a video replay of a good hit (collision) shown from multiple angles and in slow motion while the announcer describes the collision. It’s played over ice (not during intermission but while there’s a break in the action) when there’s about 10 minutes left in the game. The announcer says, “Tonight’s Carubba Collision is…”, and it ends with the tag line, “Make the right decision – insist on Carubba Collision, the official collision repair provider of the Buffalo Sabres.” While the announcer is doing the read on TV, it’s simulcast on the radio.
We also have a collision of the game for the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Bandits (lacrosse), University of Buffalo Football, Syracuse University football and basketball, and Syracuse Crunch (hockey). We make it a point to sponsor a team in every city or town we’re in, buying the official collision repair provider status for all the teams. We do either a collision of the game feature or a dunk of the game or even bloopers.
I believe that being positioned and associated with the hometown team makes you part of the community. The majority of the spots say nothing about what we do because the name speaks for itself. We complement these features with bookend commercials (two to 15 seconds in length) during breaks in the action, and are the first spot shown and last spot shown during a break. Fifteen-second spots are more effective because you have a better chance of keeping people’s interest.
Lastly, we also sponsor the weather and/or traffic either on TV or radio, both of which have great viewership and listenership. Plus, if the traffic and weather is bad, we want to be out in front of people. BSB