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Basics of Online Marketing

Sep 12th, 2013 | By | Category: From our latest issue

By Dan Messina

[Editor’s Note: The following is a continuation of Dan Messina’s article “5 Ways to Promote Your Business in Your Community and Feel Great About It” featured in the September issue of Tow Times.]

Online marketing. These two words are found in just about every marketing plan in every company across the U.S. If you’re not using online marketing today, you will not survive in business in the future. Here are the basics of online marketing. It starts out with a simple web page.

Web Page

A web page tells your market about you and your company. You can display your ownership, staff, location, products and services. The site also allows your customer to interface with you and purchase your products. Over 90 percent of consumer purchases are done on the Internet. Many companies sell to businesses using web pages.


Email allows you to cost effectively interface with people all over the world. It gives you the ability to send a message to 10 people or 10,000 with one email. It allows you to cost-effectively introduce your product or services to thousands with just one message, and think of the money you save if you don’t have to send a letter to every potential customer.


Do I even have to tell you about using Facebook to communicate?

YouTube – People are filming everything you can imagine and placing it on YouTube. Some people are becoming famous, and some are getting rich, just by placing a live film on the Internet.

Blogging – A blog is basically a journal available on the web. The activity of updating a blog is blogging and someone who keeps a blog is a blogger. Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. Postings on a blog are almost always arranged in chronological order with the most recent additions featured first.


A service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

As you read the towing magazines, footnotes, and other newsletters the industry is being pushed towards online environment and the technology that comes with it. As towers we are so used to doing things the old way that it’s tough to switch over to the new way. There is a cost associated with the Internet that towers never had before. You have to look at it as an investment for your future.


Advertising Your Business

What advertising media should you use to promote your business? Simple. Use the one that is most influential, believable and comprehensively reaches the highest percentage of your target audience for the lowest cost.

Is that easy? No.

There are many advertising media options for reaching your target audience.

Pick An Advertising Media Category

The first decision to make is what category or combination of categories of advertising media to use — newspaper, magazine, radio, direct mail, television, telemarketing, direct sales, yellow pages, outdoor, etc.

Note that we did not say that the first decision was what the company could afford. It is a fundamental mistake to buy any advertising media that you can’t afford to use effectively or that will not generate the volume of sales you need to stay in business.

Many companies decide what advertising media to use too fast and base the decision on too little information. Don’t make assumptions about what you should do until you get some information. And you absolutely do not want to make media decisions based on what media sales rep knocks on your door.

A clearly defined set of goals for your advertising campaign will help you to choose the best advertising media available. Know what you want your advertising to do, so you can measure the results and make decisions accordingly.

A realistic budget should indicate which advertising media could be effectively used for your campaign. And understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses between the different advertising media will help you to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.


Newspapers As an Advertising Media


Newspapers get 21.5 percent of all U.S. advertising expenditures.

Newspaper ads rank highest for believability for all media.

High local coverage and immediate (daily) delivery of your message.

Excellent mass media — almost everybody reads the newspaper.

An interactive medium — people hold it, save it, write on it, cut coupons, etc.

Flexibility in production: low cost, fast turnaround, ad shapes, size, excellent quality for inserts.

Special targeted sections and shopping guides.

Extraordinarily high Sunday readership.



Very busy/cluttered competitive environment — must compete against other ads and the newspaper copy.

Little control over ad placement.

Low production quality.

Hard to target your specific audience.

Short life span (24 hours.)


Radio As an Advertising Media


Radio gets eight percent of all U.S. advertising expenditures.

Immediate delivery of message and high frequency of message — you can repeat several times per day.

Local audience. Selectivity by format. High availability.

Low cost per thousand (CPM) exposures.

Low cost production.

Reach an exclusive and captive (mobile) audience.



Limited to audio message.

High channel switching.

Your message expires immediately — no shelf life.

High advertising clutter.


Television As an Advertising Media


Broadcast and cable television combined get 23.4 percent of all U.S. advertising expenditures.

Immediate delivery of message and high frequency of message — you can repeat several times per day.

Very high impact — TV is the best for stimulating the senses.

High mass audience coverage, high prestige.

Low cost per thousand (CPM) exposures.

Local regional emphasis, cable audience availability, some audience selectivity.



Very high costs of production and airtime.

Limited audience selectivity.

Your message expires immediately — no shelf life.

High advertising clutter.

High channel switching.


Direct Mail As An Advertising Media


Direct mail gets 19.2 percent of all U.S. advertising expenditures.

Highest response rate of all media.

Highest level of selectivity of all media.

High quality control.

A measurable media for cost and response. Easy to test.

High personalization.

Creative flexibility.

Long life span.

No advertising clutter (once they open your piece.)



Highest cost per exposure.

Over-saturation of market — people get a lot of mail.

Negative connotations about buying through the mail.

Negative connotations about “junk mail.”


Magazines As an Advertising Media


Magazines get 5.3 percent of all U.S. advertising expenditures.

Excellent photo reproduction in full color.

Long shelf life with high pass-along readership.

High readership rates and reader loyalty.

High ability to select audience.

Regional editions for a more local audience.

Proven selling power. High prestige.



Long lead times. Unable to deliver your message immediately.

High CPM for mass audience advertising.

Heavy advertising clutter — often half of a magazine is advertising.

Poor local coverage.

Can’t deliver your message with a high frequency.

Yellow Pages As an Advertising Media


Yellow Pages get 5.9 percent of all U.S. advertising expenditures.

Very high percentage of new buyers (over 50% percent.)

Very high percentage of active buyers (over 88percent.)

Completes the marketing process by bringing customers in.

Second highest media for believability.

Reaches 76 percent of U.S. adults in the average month. Available in almost every home and business.

Longest shelf life. Open 24 hours per day.

A measurable media for cost and response. Easy to test.


Highest advertising clutter — 100 percent ads.

High cost for competitive positioning.

High CPM (but highest active buyers.)

More directories mean lower reach per directory.

More headings mean lower reach per heading.

You can only change your ad once per year.

Understanding and estimating what effective frequency you need to achieve to get your message through is very important. After all, if you pull or change your ads before your customers get the message, you will be wasting your advertising budget.

Traditional guidelines for print advertising suggest that you give your prospects at least four viewings within a four-week time period to achieve an effective frequency rate. But if you are a small, local advertiser, you will be playing the game a little differently.

So, how long should you run your ad, and when should you change it?

If you are running a 1/16th page ad, you probably want to let the same ad run for a long time (indefinitely.) If you want to make special offers with a 1/16th page ad, then you probably want to let each special offer run for at least a month to make sure people see it.

Some things to consider if you run a newspaper ad:

1. What are the demographics the newspaper or magazine is offering?

2. What media will allow you to best target your trade area?

3. What is the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for your specific target audience for each newspaper or magazine?

4. Don’t assume that one newspaper is better than another.

5. What environment does the paper provide? Is the paper well liked and believable?

6. You normally want to advertise in the same newspaper as your competition is advertising in.

7. The position your ad gets in the paper is very important.

8. The rate base is the real number of copies of a newspaper or magazine that get printed and sold. Relationship is the average number of readers per copy sold.

Each kind of media has advantages and disadvantages. How can you figure out what to do? Understand what kinds of media are available to you. Understand what they cost and whom they reach. Understand where your customers are looking for information. Test different ads and media, and measure the results. And keep testing over time. Your work will be richly rewarded.

Dan Messina offers towing company owners business strategies to increase profits. Visit