Q: My new business offers wash, wax and oil change services to customers at their work or home. I plan to have a front-end advertising budget of $500 and will contribute $100 per month thereafter. What would be the most effective means of advertising on this limited budget?
A: The three questions that must be answered are these: 1. How powerful is your message? 2. Is your ad budget sufficient for the size of marketplace you're attempting to reach? 3. How committed are you to the success of this venture?
The idea of having one's car washed and oil changed without having to make a special trip certainly has some appeal. But since the idea is new, most people are going to have some serious questions they need answered before they're going to be willing to dial your number.
The answer to question one, "How powerful is your message?" ultimately comes down to this: How well can you tell your story? How persuasive are you? Your success in this business won't be determined by how well you wash cars and change oil. Your success will be determined by the degree of confidence that people have in you after being exposed to your advertising message. You must anticipate your customer's concerns and provide answers to all their questions before they ever have to ask them. Can you do this?
The answer to question two, "Is your ad budget sufficient?" is obviously no. A budget of $500 upfront plus $100 each month after that is definitely not a sufficient ad budget to allow you to prop your feet up and wait for the phone to ring. The good news, however, is that time and money are interchangeable. You can always save one by spending more of the other.
Are you willing to invest some time and energy in this venture? If so, the best use of your upfront money would probably be to buy 1,000 little one-sided flyers (5.5 by 8.5 inches), the kind you can get at any corner print shop for about $100. You'll want to use a lightly colored, inexpensive bond paper with two standard colors of ink. Yes, the second color of ink is going to drive up the price of the flyers a little, but it will also make your business appear much more "real" to your prospective customer. Even more important than the two-color printing, however, is that your flyers be laid out by a professional. Whatever you do, do not have a friend or relative do this for you on their computer at home. The difference between a professionally designed flyer and a homemade "Cousin Leroy" flyer is usually the difference between success and failure in this sort of endeavor. Be prepared to spend $100 to $150 on graphic design.
Next, you're going to need signage on your vehicle. Have the name and cell phone number of your new business applied in vinyl letters on your vehicle using the same font that was used by the graphic designer on your flyers. This is going to cost you the rest of your upfront budget.
Now, go put 1,000 flyers under 1,000 windshield wipers in office parking lots. Without a doubt, you'll get a couple of nasty calls from people who are having a bad day and want to share it with you, but you may also get enough calls from potential customers to prove that your new business model will work.
Assuming that you get enough calls from the first 1,000 flyers to give you hope for the future, the only thing you'll need to do is print more flyers and stick them under more windshield wipers. This method is certainly unorthodox--and possibly even against city ordinances--but it works.
Good luck to you.