"Our franchisees love advertising on Detroit radio," says Katherine Villeneuve, Director of Marketing & Franchise Support for Auto-Lab. "They understand that radio reaches the masses, and can achieve the messaging frequency to be effective."
Auto-Lab started in 1989 as a single-independent store in Sturgis, Michigan. The company has expanded to include 21 franchises across the country. Nine of the stores are located in Metro Detroit, each operated by a local, small business owner.
Auto-Lab offers consumers the same diagnostic, maintenance, repairs, and parts as a car dealership's service department but, for what Ms. Villeneuve describes as a 'fair price'.
To drive traffic into one of Auto-Lab stores in Southeast Michigan, each franchisee contributes 3% of their gross sales to a cooperative marketing fund. Ms. Villeneuve then works with the owners to create persuasive, annual advertising campaigns.
For the last four years, the Metro Detroit Auto-Lab owners have chosen advertising on Detroit radio as the primary way to reach new customers.
"Our owners really appreciate the presence radio has in Metro Detroit. Just about everyone in the market has a car. And, almost everyone listens to the radio while driving. These drivers are our potential customers."
Market research affirms Ms. Villeneuve's observations.
According to Nielsen, 91.8% of households own at least one vehicle.
Furthermore, Edison Research indicates that AM/FM radio commands the largest share of audio consumption among drivers.
Most importantly, for small businesses like Auto-Lab, advertising on Detroit radio reaches 90.7% of consumers who have their cars serviced at least once per year. This is significantly more than are reached by local TV, newspapers, social media, or streaming audio sites like Pandora and Spotify.
"In the past," says Ms. Villeneuve, "our Metro Detroit franchisees have tried advertising on Detroit television and local cable. They've also tried advertising with the Red Wings. Radio, though, has proven itself as the channel that works best."
"We know it works," she says, "because we track the source of customers who comes in through our point-of-sale software. A significant number of customers tie back to our advertising on Detroit radio.
One of the most potent benefits radio advertising offers Auto-Lab is the ability to affordably change messages on a regular basis.
"Detroit is a four-season town," says Ms. Villeneuve. "So, during pothole season, we can change our message to promote a special offer on alignments. In the summer, we can promote air-conditioning maintenance."
"We also infuse our Auto-Lab complete car care branding into every radio commercial. We have many competitors in the market, including car dealerships, so we want to make sure everyone who owns a car believes that coming to us is always the be option."
Ms. Villeneuve believes advertising on Detroit radio can be effective for other small business owners as well.
"If you do use radio advertising," she advises, "then be sure your website is in good shape. I find that when listeners hear about us, the next step is for them is to visit our website for more information and to see reviews."
"Since our Metro Detroit owners started using radio advertising, we have seen a big increase in our web traffic."
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