Welcome to 2018: Marketing, Branding and Story-Telling in the Year We Live in
When I opened my first quick lube in 2015, I was still working full time at a financial institution in Baltimore. I figured I would take over the business, market it as if it were 2015 and have a nice little investment business with good cash flow. What I didn't realize was how few quick lubes actually market in the year we live in and what opportunities there could be for expansion. Eight locations later, I am full-time running my quick lube business and constantly looking toward the future for what platforms to market, brand and story-tell on.
Before I get into too much detail, I would like to point out I have no formal PR experience, I have no formal sales training and I have no educational background in marketing. Everything I do comes from a keen sense of paying attention to attention. Following where people's attention is, is far greater than any kind of tactic that can temporarily get impressions. Following attention will create a business based on sustainability, and not a house of cards based on a fleeting maneuver that only temporarily creates awareness.
I really believe that our grandparents are better equipped to run a business in 2018 than most of us are. The suburban sprawl and expansion of big box stores removed the personal touch of the business-human relationship. It seems like gone are the days of the butcher having your specific order ready for you before you walk in the door. That same butcher knew about your sons travel baseball game and your new lawn mower you just got. Some people would say those days are permanently gone because of the Amazon's of the world. I don't feel this to be the case. The Internet has created scale at such immense measure that it is now perfectly reasonable to interact with your customers on a personal basis with insight as to their daily hobbies, projects and events.
Marketing vs. Branding vs. Story-TellingBefore I get into examples of marketing in the year we live in, I want to describe what I believe to be the difference between marketing, branding and story-telling.
MarketingMarketing has traditionally been distribution of content you want to have in front of your customers. In the case of our particular industry, marketing has traditionally been revolving around the quality of the products, the speed of the service, the time you are selling back to your customers (i.e. no appointment necessary) and the quality of the customer service.
BrandingBranding is a formal business word for reputation. Branding is the distribution of content to create an image of what your business is in relation to its customer. Branding traditionally was controlled end-to-end by the business, and the business carried the narrative however they wished. With the scale of the Internet, it is possible that the mass-flow of virality can hijack a brand and create its own narrative. We have seen positive and negative examples of this countless times with larger brands.
Story TellingStory telling is how your business relates to the customer and what separates your business from an identical replica. We are seeing large businesses fail to embrace story-telling, and one by one over the next 10 years, some of the largest brands we know will be extinct due to a lack of story-telling on platforms that have influence.
All three of these key components to customer acquisition have nuances that need to be catered to, depending on the platform they are being performed on. Any one of these three actions can be done on 2018 forms of distribution, but the nuances of the platform will determine performance.
Welcome to 2018If you're an operator who is reading this and thinking to yourself, I have a website, I have a Facebook page, I have an Instagram account and I am marketing in the year we live in, sadly you're mistaken. You would be correct if this were 2007, 2010 or 2012; however, it is not enough to only have a Facebook page or an Instagram account.
Maybe you're even an outlier, and you have even boosted some Facebook posts — welcome to marketing in 2015, but still not 2018.
At a very surface level, I am going to talk about different ways to market, brand and story-tell your quick lube on the various platforms that have attention — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — and whatever is coming around the corner next.
Some of these methods are on their way out the door, but from a cost-per-customer and ROI perspective, these methods are still above and beyond pre-roll banner ads, radio spots, TV commercials, direct mail or, even worse, billboard and outdoor advertising.
Influencer MarketingThe aforementioned platforms have attention that cable news networks could only dream of, and the cost of entry is so low, it is entirely possible to run a daily program at the same quality and production that would have cost (and still does cost) millions of dollars for large network shows. Because the cost of entry is so low and the views are so high it has sprung a new generation of media stars that are famous in a non-traditional sense.
There are different tiers of influencers, and the cost of collaborating with some of them has reached levels that are pushing it out of the realm of practicality. However, given the tools provided by the platform and given the locality-based nature of our industry, it has never been more practical to get distribution of branding or story telling through micro-influencers.
Micro-influencers who have followings of 2,000-15,000 people typically have better engagement than a typical A-list celebrity who started an Instagram account because they felt the attention they had slipping away. These influencers are also more cost effective, because they can do a spot for your business at much better pricing.
A favorite of mine is the local mom-bloggers who have deep engagement and reasonable pricing. Sometimes, it takes as little as a free oil change for them to post a review through their platforms, but sometimes it takes a set fee. With influencer marketing, typically you can control the message to a point, if you are paying the influencer. If you are offering free services for exchange of a review, it's best to leave the content to the influencer to make the spot feel more native. These are the kind of nuances that are important when using different platforms.
I must point out, my methods of marketing work fantastic if you have a good product and service. If you rely on ignorance or have a weak service, then these methods will only expose that faster.
Facebook Dark PostsI wanted to lead with influencer marketing and Facebook dark posts, because these seem to be on the tail end of their ability to distribute attention. The Facebook ad platform is the greatest marketing tool that has ever been created. The deepness of their information can be startling, but the possibilities are endless. Facebook dark posts are officially titled “unpublished posts.” According to the definition from Google, a dark post is the following: "An unpublished post is a status update, link share, video or photo that was never meant to be shared as an organic post. Staying true to its name, it’s never published but is only surfaced as an ad.”
Basically, it’s a Facebook post where you control exactly who sees it through ads. If you have seen the main image on this page on Facebook, then that means you have seen one of our dark posts targeting you.
The purpose of these posts is to create a message for a specific goal without cluttering up the newsfeed for those who would see it as irrelevant. For example, if you’re trying to sell your services and all of your followers already use your services, then it wouldn’t make sense for them to see an ad on their newsfeed for your services. However, you still want to post a message for selling your services to drive sales. This is where dark posts come into play. You can create a dark post with a message to sell your services and use that to advertise to your target market.
Using the ad platform on Facebook, I can create native Facebook ads and have them put in front of people who recently were geolocated at a Valvoline Instant Oil Change or Jiffy Lube. Using the platform, I can target people who recently purchased a used car, or using the ad platform, I can strategically target potential customers who complained about their previous oil change.
I also now use the ad platform to hire. I can run classified ads against former employees of Jiffy Lube, VIOC, Midas, Take 5 or whatever my intended target “former employer” is. This has minimized my cost of running classifieds, and it also minimizes my need for intense interviewing — knowing that the candidate has the necessary technical skills before stepping through the door.
Snapchat and SnapAdsSnap Ads pop up between features on the Discover tabs of Snapchat, while the user is eating content. A Snap Ad includes an up-to 10-second movie, with the option to swipe up for use of more content (longer video, post, app install, etc.). This method provides the best mobile movie ads achieving five times the click-on rate of similar ads upon other social platforms. Snap Advertisements blend right in with additional snaps, so by the time you understand you’re viewing an ad, you’ve already watched it. These cost about $1,000 to run.
Local GeofiltersLocal Geofilters are an excellent advertising tool for events and physical locations. You set up a filter that's designed around your event or business and can activate the filter for any certain location. The cost of this option depends on how big the area is, and the duration how long the filter will be live. These may also be setup for stores, venues, communities or whatever location you’d like. They are a relatively inexpensive method to gain brand exposure.
We ran a Geofilter for our Dillsburg location in York County, Pennsylvania, last fall. The filter resided from 9 am to 5 pm and covered the Route 15 corridor, including waiting rooms of every dealership from Mechanicsburg to York Springs. The filter cost about $10 to operate (not including design).
Promoted Instagram StoriesNative advertising has to be frictionless, and the best draw of attention I am seeing right now, that seamlessly gets eyeballs without coming off as spamish, is the promoted Instagram stories. These are not promoted Instagram posts — which couple side by side with Instagram posts. These are promoted Instagram stories, which are entirely different.
Instagram Stories Ads permit you to insert a short advertisement in between users’ stories. The ads fit the format of the story, keeping the user encounter consistent and flow uninterrupted.
The ad can be made up of either a single photo or video, up to 15 seconds long, and can be used to target various business objectives, from brand awareness to website product sales.
It’s the first time that Instagram has provided advertisers the ability to display full-screen advertisements inside the actual app, giving you an opportunity to hold the user’s entire energetic focus, even if just for a moment.
Join Me in 2018If you read this advice as somehow anti-traditional or pro-digital, you have me mistaken. At my core, I am a businessman, I am pro-attention and I am pro-cost-effective. It’s difficult to justify a $1,000 billboard ad spend. Next time you drive down the road take a look at the people around you; three out of four people in the car are looking down at their cell phones. Heck, half the drivers aren't even looking at the road — let alone a billboard.
While the quick lube industry continues to ignore the direction of attention, I will continue to keep accumulating attention at an extremely low cost.