So there I was. In the middle of a promising IT career but unsatisfied, my real passion at the time was for most things automotive. I along with a group of friends wanted to make a living doing something we love but we had no work. I decided that maybe with a few well-placed internet ads I could drum up enough business to keep a few of us busy after hours and maybe make some money. The ads worked. Quickly we filled that little backyard shop with everything from oil changes to high-performance upgrades. As I got to know the customers, my advertising changed. I identified the advertising locations that got the most response and just as important, how to attract specifically, the kind of work that was quick and most profitable for our little backyard shop.
The business grew and moved several times before it ended up in a commercial location on the south side of town. It was here where everything changed. A bigger shop meant more overhead more employees and more problems. Everything we loved about working on cars was overrun by everything that made it hard. Just about the time, I thought we had encountered every problem possible things got worse overnight. An already battered and bruised little business was the victim of a robbery. They tore up some of our cars, customer’s cars and stole a number of tools and other items. Sometimes something that seems bad at the time was just what it took to knock the blinders off. Why would someone steal radiators, batteries, and exhaust parts but leave high-end tools, stereos, etc?
Not to be simply accept something as bad and move on I wanted to see what the deal was. I discovered how easy it was to sell automotive catalytic converters, radiators, batteries, and other metal parts. Not only that, steel car bodies brought decent money as well. Not to be defeated in all of this I took this new-found knowledge to the junkyard, and then the bank. We stripped and scraped a few cars customers had given us, then, used that money to buy a few more. Taking the same knowledge I had learned advertising for the auto repair and performance business I took to the internet & print, a whole new set of ads.
Enter, auto salvage. It did not take long to learn that the money in this business was in volume. I could spend more time on each car and pull more valuable materials from them but in the end a quicker process and moving more volume got better results. The same shop that once brought cars back to life was now buzzing with the activities required to take them apart. To keep cars coming onto the shop I did a variety of marketing. I wrote simple catchy ads that noted the ease of turning unwanted vehicles into cash. These ads were thoughtfully placed in wanted sections of newspapers, classifieds, and our website. As this business rapidly grew our economy tanked. Since this operation depended 100% on the price of recyclable materials it failed in 2009.
By the end of 2010, the metal market had recovered and I was ready to try again. Armed with the knowledge of why the business failed I knew I had to do it differently this time. Volume was still king but diversity was going to be required to have any chance at long-term survival. While my competitors popped back up and went straight back to selling scrap, I found more reliable alternatives. One of them was fixing many of the vehicles up and reselling them to the public. As you can imagine this required some creative marketing. I absolutely love writing silly ads for the ugly duck cars and it’s something the company is known for locally. We do still scrap a lot of cars now do it in a variety of ways in an honest effort to economy proof the business.
Over the last few years reaching customers that want to sell junk cars has changed. Far less often are they turning to newspapers or classifieds sites. They are searching directly from their cell phones, often speaking the request. Keeping this company competitive in this environment required more change. The days of a website with a domain that matched your service and a few well-placed keywords putting you at the top of a search are over. Search Engine Optimizations (or SEO as it’s often called) is now a complicated game. I let my IT background work for me but also kept my nose in books on the subject, and attended online courses regularly. Continued education has reliably kept our auto salvage operation not just on top locally but has broken out of the boundaries our trucks run in. The junk car service is now partnered with other haulers in other states allowing us to grow into a regional service.
It was not until other business owners started to ask me for help advertising their businesses that the blinders got knocked off again. What I failed to realize over the years of managing these companies was so simple. I was never that good at auto repair or efficient at auto salvage. I was good at identifying who my customer is, putting ads where they would see them, and write in such a way that got and kept their attention. What I had failed to see others started to notice.
Within a year Sensible Services Inc. managed the ad campaigns for a wide variety of companies. Specializations included search ads, remarketing, and social media advertising platforms. We also helped companies tune up their search placement and got websites in order. When the pandemic hit Sensible Services helped many companies make the move from radio & tv to the internet where their customers could still be reached. We also helped national brands and online schools reach out to new potential customers.
Moving forward into 2021 Sensible Services has added to its internal team and formed strategic partnerships with other agencies. These alliances allow us to offer our specialized services to more people and also give our customers access to more advertising resources than ever before. I look forward to watching this agency grow but it is my hope that writing brutally honest ads with a touch of humor for dumpy old cars never gets old.