Advertising Your Quick Lube — Where to Start

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According to Bloomberg, eight out of 10 entrepreneurs fail within their first 18 months of starting their small businesses. If you don’t believe that, just watch an episode of ABC’s reality pitch show “Shark Tank.” So why do so many good ideas not get off the ground at all or crash and burn when they do? While there are many control factors that play into each individual situation like poor leadership and ideas that were never good in the first place, there are uncontrollable factors like market climate and take rate can also greatly impact business. There are certain advertising strategies you can use to help insulate your small business from both foreseen and unforeseen challenges.

Knowing how to think strategically and spend advertising dollars accordingly can help even the smallest business weather the biggest economic and controversial storms. Want to know the first step in doing so? Stop approaching paid advertising as a superfluous measure, and start seeing it as the necessity it is. You wouldn’t dare open up a quick lube without budgeting in payroll and inventory. Treat your advertising budget the same way instead of treating it as an optional expense.

Research, strategize and include a healthy marketing budget in your business plan. Sounds simple enough — even logical — right? Most people would probably answer, “sure” but in March of 2016, the UPS Store decided small business marketing was a common enough problem that they should help solve it. What did they do, you ask? They built a mass media ad campaign around it (aka they put major dollars behind it). The UPS Store’s campaign told the all too common stories of what happens if businesses do not do an adequate job of reaching customers through advertising and marketing materials through a series of TV spots.

“The pain point of how small business owners market themselves properly or go out and tell their story kept coming up in our research,” said Karen Kelly, director of marketing and advertising for The UPS Store in an interview with Ad Age.

In one spot, called “Not So Grand Opening,” small businesses including a bakery, barbershop and online design store have grand openings, but no customers come.

“It’s not enough to just open your doors and wait for people to come in — you have to market your business,” Kelly said.

Once you understand the reasons why you must advertise and the importance of in-store advertising and marketing materials (business cards, signage, pamphlets, hand outs, POS screens, vendor POP, etc.), it’s time to talk types of mass media advertising and discuss some of the pros and cons, so you can start to think about what are the right media for your business.


The sexy medium. Everyone wants to be on TV, but the truth is, these days, it’s rarely a feasible or even the best fit for a lot of businesses — especially small ones. If you want to be on TV, plan to spend at least a few thousand dollars on the placement of it, not including the production of the spot you choose to run.


Viewership: Reach a lot of households at once

Underwrite: Validate the legitimacy of your business in the eyes of the consumer

Branding: Brand your business on a larger market scale


Expense: Placing a TV buy can be very expensive; especially if you don’t have a professional you trust negotiating your buy.

Remarketing: There is no way to truly know who you are reaching, thus eliminating your ability to collect data and remarket to potential customers who may have seen your commercial.


Depending on whom you talk to, broadcast radio is either a fan fav or a dying medium. The reality, however, is it isn’t radio that determines the success of a radio placement but, instead, very much the message you’re pushing, the creative you wrapped it in and your strategy for doing so. If your advertising budget allows, radio could work very well for your shop.


Audience: Cast a smaller net. Radio stations often have a targeted group of listeners making up their core audience.

Production: A 30-second ad on the radio is often less expensive than 30-second ad on the TV. It’s also less expensive and faster to produce the creative for it.

Key placement: Take advantage of a captive audience. Reach potential customers who are already in their vehicles during peak drive times.

Partnerships: Partner with stations and have them come out to your shop for live radio remote promotions.


Recollection: The listener has to remember what you said. Unlike a magazine ad, where they could rip it out and save it for later, a listener who heard your ad on the radio has to remember who you were and why they cared.

Cost: Like TV, radio can be expensive, depending on the market and who is negotiating the buy.

Digital display and paid search

Most likely, the best bang for your buck, especially if you’re just starting out. Digital display and paid search campaigns are placed through Google Ad Words and will put your business in front of the people either searching for you, businesses like yours or affinity audiences who may be interested in what you have to offer.


Cost: Set up your campaign based on what your goals are and what you have/want to spend.

Multiple messages: Do you have a happy hour offer and a general “come see us” message that you want to push at the same time? Go for it!

Optimization: 75 percent of people are searching for you Friday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Google will automatically throttle your campaign dollars to push the majority of your ads out at those times if you choose to.

Production: Production can be relatively as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it. However, you can’t convert impressions into shoppers unless people click, so you might want to put some money behind your digital ads to make them compelling.

Remarketing: Show someone another ad who you know already clicked on one of your ads earlier. Staying top-of-mind is key to getting those clicks to convert into sales.


Overwhelming: Because there are a lot of options with digital display and paid search, getting started can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not comfortable with all things digital. The good news is, there are a lot of people out there willing to help.

Digital Outdoor

A great option depending on area, location, cost and the availability of digital display.


Timely: Much like radio, when you’re able to reach people when they are already driving their car and it is top-of-mind you have a better chance of resonating with them.

Multiple messages: Like digital display and paid search, you can push multiple messages during certain times of the day or days of the week.

Production: Well designed outdoor boards take some strategic thought and a good designer, but if you have both of those things on your side, producing the art and getting the boards up is a pretty fast and easy process.


Cost: This is not always a con depending on your area, but sometimes these boards can be expensive — with that being said, depending on your goals, it may be a worthwhile investment.


If the location of the board(s) and the location of your store(s) are not compatible, a digital outdoor campaign may not be as good of a fit as putting your money into radio or paid search.

Direct Mail

In the age of digital, direct mail has become a controversial option for many. Some are adamantly opposed to direct mail, while others swear by it. Like everything, there is an appropriate time, place and situation where direct mail does work for certain messages.


Tangible: If your piece can make it from the mailbox and onto the countertop before it goes straight into the trashcan, you have a higher success rate of getting that person to convert. This is why it’s so important to make sure you have a compelling reason and message before you send direct mail.

Trackable: You can easily measure the success of your direct mail piece based upon redeemed offers, etc.


Cost: Direct mail is notorious for being expensive to produce and send. With so many other equally as good or better options for reaching people in the digital age in which we live, make sure you have a specific reason for sending direct mail.

Noise: It is highly possible that some if not the majority of your pieces will get lost in the clutter of the junk-mail that occupies mailboxes today. Consider doing something special to make sure your piece stands out.

  Having a strong advertising strategy is essential to the success of your fast lube, no matter if you have one store or many. Make sure to keep these things in mind as you create your strategy, settle on your budget and decide which of the above media you will buy:

  1. What is the goal?
  2. Who are we talking to?
  3. What are we saying?
  4. Where is there room in the business to grow?
  5. What can we afford?
  6. How will we define success?

Answering these six questions will help you decide what mediums will and won’t work for you, depending on your messaging, budget and goals. If you have no idea where to begin, start here.

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