Marketing 101 - Working Through the Plan, Part 3

This is the final installment of working through the overall plan that was laid out in Marketing 101 - The Overall Plan (see index). I will discuss the last four items of Off Site Events, Brochures, Association Advertising, Media Advertising.

Off site events can be a very powerful way to get a number of qualified prospects in just a few hours. You have unique products and they beg to be shown off and the perfect place for that is off the premises of the dealership. You might make arrangements with your local The Home Depot or Lowe's or 84 Lumber and other companies where contractors and workers come daily to get supplies to do their work. These places are the best and most effective in my opinion. The politics of each individual store means that you must develop a relationship with them and it may take some time to get in, but once you are in it can be very fruitful for you. Think of it as prospecting standing still. Set up a nice display, have some prizes for a drawing, gather business cards, prize slips, and follow up with all of them in a timely manner. You get a chance to talk to them and gather information as to what kind of prospect they may be. There is more about this kind of event on the home page of our website: Commercial Truck Success.

Two things about brochures. One is that the factory brochures for your truck lines usually has a place for a dealer stamp on the back that is hardly ever used. I recommend you staple your card to it and stamp the brochure. Two, it is a great idea for you to develop a little brochure for your operation that speaks to someone in the privacy of their home or business about what it is you do, how you do it, why you do it the way you do it, and has photographs and other important information about your department. Do it well. Hire it out and get some input after you have laid out a format. Print it on high quality paper and make it look great. This can be used for a couple of years then it will need to be revised and updated with newer photos and any changes. If you put personnel photos, you may have to update it more often if anyone leaves. It should be up to date. Brochures can be a great tool used in prospecting, when people come into the store, to send in the mail and so on.

Association Advertising. This is a great way to target a segment of the market usually in a print format. I was a member of a number of contractor associations that published a monthly or quarterly newspaper, magazine or multi page newsletter. When you advertise there, you are supporting the organization and developing relationships. They also have events periodically and meetings. It is a great idea to participate and support their events and it is a great time to have one or more display pieces to show off. [I talked in a previous article about stocking interesting pieces. It is much more powerful to have something really eye catching and full of options to show off at these kind of events. They have seen all the standard stuff--show them the WOW! Set yourself apart from the crowd. You'll be glad you did.] You can do a display ad in their regular piece or you might consider something more powerful like an insert where you can say and show more. Find some associations that you can join.

Media Advertising. I put this at the bottom of the list. I will explain. First of all, I am a fan of media advertising; however, choosing it first and giving it that kind of priority will not help you build a large and strong business unless you do the other things in The Overall Plan first and regularly. Media advertising is typically a blanket form of advertising. You are hitting a large area and hoping to get some response. There are many methods I have used. I have tried display advertising and classified ad space in the newspaper, inserts in the newspaper. There is also Truck Trader advertising, Trader Online, Truck Paper, and many others that are targeted to what you sell. There are also various magazines that could be of help, but can be more costly.

After trying a lot of things, I found that the newspaper didn't do much of anything for me no matter where I put the ad or how large it was. This is the favorite place for dealerships to advertise, but in the commercial market--at least in my own experience--it is not effective. I was in the Big Truck and Equipment Trader with a double truck (two pages side by side) for a number of years and it was effective. What I learned about the Truck Trader is that what works best is this: Number one, unique and number two, used (price and value). It has grown a lot since I was in it, which makes the two things I stated even more important. You have to find something that allows you to set yourself apart from the crowd. Everyone has the standard stuff, so the best you can hope for advertising those pieces is to compete over the lowest gross profit. When you have something unique, you can price it where you want. Used trucks are very popular in the Trader publications. I have sold two of my own cars in there very effectively. Every used car or truck is unique and people are talking price all the time, but what they are really looking for is value. If you are stocking used commercial trucks, you will do well in the Truck Trader. I tried some other truck publications with much less results. I can highly recommend the Truck Trader, especially the Big Truck and Equipment Trader, however, it will be much more effective if you remember the two points I just discussed.

In addition to print advertising, there is radio and TV and now Internet advertising. Radio is inexpensive and ineffective for this market in my opinion and I have used it. TV is costly and I think it can be very effective, but I never found the budget for it.

Here's my final recommendation on advertising. Try a number of things and keep good records of the number and quality of the responses. Make sure and try them for enough of a period that gives it a good chance of success. Then, use what works best for you. I have consulted with a number of dealerships and find that they do not keep track of their advertising to know if it is working or not. This is very important. We used to log every call from the Trader and where they were coming from and what they were calling about. Keep a log like that for a while and you will know what is effective. Good hunting!

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