Every company is engaged in marketing their products and services. Just like any other business function, it needs your attention. However, marketing often takes a back seat to other
business concerns, usually because it is misunderstood.
Marketing is not just brochures, direct mail, Internet, e-mail and advertising. It is much more! Consider this: most dealerships produce nothing, right? The products you “market” are produced by a manufacturer. So ask yourself, “If we don’t build anything, then what are we?” The answer is simple. “You’re a marketing company!” Sears has been one of the most successful retailers in modern history. Some of their brands—Diehard, Craftsman, Kenmore and, most recently, Land’s End—are all very successful brands, yet Sears produces none of them. They are, however, extremely good at “positioning” these brands as leaders. Even today, these brands carry the bulk of Sears’ revenues and profits.
Marketing can be summed up with the five “P’s”:
Products — What is your product lineup? Do your brands complement each other or compete? Do your products cover a breadth or depth in your market, or both?
Price — Are you going to maintain gross margin and focus on service, or are you a low-cost provider? Both strategies are valid. Just consider Target versus Wal-Mart.
Place — How will your customers and prospects obtain your products?
Promotion — How, where and with whom will you communicate about your products and services? The common denominator in nearly every business failure is the lack of promotion.
Positioning — The way you promote helps position, but every interaction with your company creates a position in a customer or prospect’s mind.
The “old school” method is pretty much summed up as: “My partner and I got a box of brochures and we hit the phones and the street.” Sound familiar? There is no doubt that personal selling is the primary marketing strategy for most dealerships, as it should be. Some have suggested that the role of salesperson is being diminished, but I submit that if your strategy involves truly developing long-term relationships with your customers, it must involve people. Consultative selling revolves around having a partner that is there to assist whenever needed and to bring new ideas and products to the table to help the client run their business more profitably.
Many dealerships appropriately pay particular attention to personal selling. Compensation plans, goals, training and the associated investments in a salesperson are given a lot of thought, but it often stops there. Like a soldier on the front line of battle, your sales reps need support! But what does that support look like?
Salespeople make use of the phone to get appointments, go on calls and hopefully gather some valuable nuggets of information. The level of detail you want to collect is up to you and the goals of your dealership. You can go with a simple contact management system and collect basic information, or you can have an integrated CRM written into your operating software that collects more details. System suppliers for our industry have recognized this need and are writing CRM into their systems. Integrating service, parts, rental, inside sales and accounting with the sales rep provides everyone in your business with a real-time snapshot of the customer’s relationship in an instant. Such software can be expensive, but it is a big mistake to allow individual data collection and storage by salespeople. The overriding fact is this: It’s your data, it’s valuable and it needs to be controlled by the dealership in one central location. Doing so makes the support of your sales reps through promotion much easier.
Promoting Your Dealership
One of the best things you can do to support the efforts of your sales force is to be proactive in promoting your dealership. Look at any of the most successful and prominent brands in the world, and the one thing they have in common is they continually promote their brands with messages and images that are aligned with their corporate position. Promoting your dealership has several effects:
- It puts your brand nearer to that top-of-mind awareness position with your prospects, so that when called, they are more likely to see your reps and listen to what they have to offer.
- It sends a message of strength and confidence to your clients and potential clients.
- It creates a sense of pride and buzz within your own dealership.
- It generates leads and sales.
Often times, promotion has been viewed as an expense—some would say, “I spent $5,000 on a direct mail program and nothing happened.” That’s the equivalent of spending a day in the gym and assuming exercise is a waste of time because you didn’t lose weight. Products in our business are bought, not sold. You have to be there when a product or service is needed, or at least close to being needed. No one buys a lift truck simply because you have it on sale. There has to be a need for one, and if you’re continually pounding your messages home, you are much more likely to get that call, that opportunity, once the need arises (the payback).
There are two types of promoting you want to be engaged in:
Sales Promotions — Having special offers entices those on the verge of taking action to go ahead and take it. Particularly now, with the economy emerging from a recession, there is pent-up demand.
Positioning — These are messages that reflect the values, mission and strategy of your dealership. In advertising, depending on the image the brand wants to portray, they’ll use different colors, music, pictures and spokespeople that reflect the “position” they want the brand to have in consumers’ minds.
With today’s media offerings, it’s never been more cost-effective to reach these potential customers and put your dealership, your brand, at the top of people’s minds for material handling equipment.
Direct Mail, E-Mail and Social Media
At the very basic level, today’s promotion involves two key media: direct mail and e-mail. E-mail is a very cost-effective way to get your message to your customers and prospects. It allows for fantastic intelligence on who is opening it and what they’re clicking on, and it can result in nice lead lists for follow up by your sales force. Direct mail also is still a very cost-effective way to reach the person that you missed with your e-mail campaign. Further, both media can be used to promote each other, creating a doubling effect for those that now pay attention to both. Considering that the average sales call today costs a dealership over $250, it is easy to see the benefit of mail and e-mail. Your sales force should certainly be engaged in social media such as Linked-In. Plenty of your prospects and customers are already there—are you engaging them?
E-mail, direct mail and social media on the Web should include a Web site strategy. Getting people to your Web site and coming back is the goal. But why would they come back? Web site strategy has evolved from putting a storefront and letting people “check us out and learn more” to providing value-added content that is relevant to the needs of your audience. When you consistently add to it, the changes provide the impetus for them to come back over and over again, letting you help them become better at what they do. Do that, and you become what we call an “authority” on material handling, and now you have the top place on the prospect’s mind when they’re ready to take action. You want to have your site search-engine optimized for the topics and keywords by which you want to be found on search engines like Yahoo! and Google.
Marketing can start simple and remain that way. As you become more adept, you can expand your efforts, collect more data, do more targeting, engage more media, reach more people with more messages, and gain more awareness. Start small; remember, one step at a time.
|Meet the AuthorBarry Lauterwasser is president of Symbion Marketing LLC, located in Louisville, Kentucky, and on the Web at www.symbionmarketing.com.|