Expanding Wraps 'Any Way We Can'

Okay, vehicle wrap printers/installers, how do you turn prospects into new customers to grow your business? Employing integrated and multichannel strategies, wrap firms market their services via numerous means, from printed direct mail and optimized websites to paying relatives to decorate their cars with company logos plastered on them. And why not, asks Troy Downey, founder and owner of A.P.E. Wraps Ink, a 10-year-old firm situated in Chula Vista, CA?

“Pay your nephew to drive it everywhere!” he asserted. And Downey is not kidding, citing killer return-on-investment (ROI) numbers measured as cost per thousand impressions. When it comes to mobile ad views, eyeballs are eyeballs, he contends.

But before reaching into your wallet to fork over spending money to 20-year-old Johnny, make sure your firm has a wrap that you’re proud to display around town. “There’s no doubt that your [own] car or vehicle wrap needs to be well designed and well executed,” Downey added. The same holds true for customer wraps that include your logo on them as part of the agreement.

“We typically offer a $50 credit for clients to run our logo on the lower rocker panels on each side of the vehicle, or in front or back of the rear wheels,” explained Downey. “Fifty dollars sounds tangible,” he noted, and is a much better tactic than offering a seemingly small percentage discount to a plumber or other mom-and-pop business that he considers his bread-and-butter customers. During slower times, Downey even has had rear windows tinted for people and “given them 50 bucks to drive around” with his logo.

To the east in Millville, NJ, owner and certified wrapper Sean Tomlin of Designer Wraps has made his firm’s logo placement a part of the formal contract with customers. “When they do business with us, they agree to ‘tag’ their vehicle with our two-by-three-inch sticker,” Tomlin said. There’s an opt-out clause, but “95 percent of our customers are okay with it,” he pointed out. Design taste is subjective, of course, and there are times when giving customers what they desire may mean not wanting your firm’s name associated with it.

Like A.P.E. Wraps on the West Coast, the New Jersey shop also promotes itself by driving its own wrapped vehicles around the area. “One of us may run out to grab coffee and when they come out, there will be people waiting by the car to ask them about it [the wrap],” Tomlin said. “It’s a great opportunity to introduce ourselves.”

Both locally and regionally, this is the number-two form of marketing for Designer Wraps, which is situated 45 miles from Philadelphia. “We market any way we can and use a mix of everything,” he said, including direct mail and distributing email newsletters. “They’re solicited, not blasts,” Tomlin clarified. Its own website’s photo gallery pages generate a decent amount of traffic, and the firm also obtains leads from its listing on Avery Dennison’s carwraps.com site. It even posts quarterly Craigslist online classified ads under “business communications,” “color changes,” and “roof wraps” categories, Tomlin revealed. But what’s its number-one marketing method?

Organic SEO

“Google search is number one by far,” shared Tomlin, who owned a website company 10 years ago and knows the basics of search-engine optimization (SEO). Top keywords earlier this summer, in addition to the firm’s actual name, included “car wraps,” “bass boat wraps,” car wraps New Jersey,” “vehicle wraps,” “car wrap Philadelphia,” and “car wraps colors,” he reported. “Pay-per-click [advertising] is sure-fire but costly, he warned, adding that a well-organized, optimized website can yield powerful “organic” search results.

Color changes on cars, including matte finishes, represent a big market opportunity, Downey added, but these are more expensive sales ($3,600 to $4,500), so there are not as many jobs. Such vehicular personalization is not going to “grease the wheels every day” like a partial wrap, which may command anywhere from $1,500 to $2,800 per vehicle. The challenge, according to him, is figuring out how to tackle larger volumes because “their margins are lower.” This is where bottom-line calculations of cost per square foot come into play, he said. “For a 310-square-foot graphic, for example, how much material is off roll and laminated at the end of the day? You may have used 400 square feet, plus mark-up. Then, you have to factor in the design interface [phase] and installation time.” The size and type of vehicle matters, too: A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cargo van will cost more money to wrap than a standard Chevy van, for instance.

Downey is not so high on direct mail, but to build sales momentum and keep business going in Southern California he periodically hires people to “beat the street” in more traditional ways. “We typically approach small businesses in strip malls,” he said, checking out parking lots and knocking on doors.

Show and Tell

How do Downey and Tomlin sell prospects who don’t necessarily know they need a new wrap? “We take pics with our iPhones while we’re on the road,” said the latter. “We then write down the company’s name and Google it [later], then mail them a flyer.” One reads: “Thinking of Replacing Your Cracked or Faded Vinyl Lettering?” “We know it’s cracked or faded because we have picture proof,” Tomlin concluded with a smile.

Downey agreed, “It’s better to target those who do have a decal that’s crappy. We explain to them how much the printing technology has improved in the past five years.” To that end, he acknowledged that “all large-format printers are well refined now.” Still, his printer of choice is manufactured by Seiko I Infotech. “When it comes to premium products, I need high quality, no babysitting, and the fastest speed. Seiko really set the bar high with its ColorPainter [model].”

The trucks he drives past that have absolutely nothing on them make Downey scratch his head, wondering if their business is legitimate. “Either the owners aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed -- or it’s their ad agency not doing their job. They’re leaving potential business on the table,” he said. “I’d make them a deal that they can’t refuse for a ‘Mickey-Mouse’ decal. What I should do is wrap their trucks for free in exchange for a percentage of the new business they bring in.” Now, there’s some interesting food for thought. Barter, anyone?