“Most of my marketing right now,” he says, “has got to be for my customers who are proven. They know where I am, and they’ve spent money here.”
Assisting the store’s marketing budget is the 80/20 co-op it receives from Honda for branding. “It’s cheap money,” Donahoe says, “and I’m running a bunch of 10 o’clock news sponsorships for it with our branding spot. Does it drive traffic? No. But it’s lose-it-or-use-it money, so it makes sense.”
TV marketing in general is tough, Donahoe says. “I think too many people TiVo stuff anymore. So if you do buy a big spot, it gets run right over anyways. That’s why I run news and football. I’m Monday night football and Saturday night college football. I don’t think most people TiVo athletic sports, although probably more do than I care to know.”
Heartland Honda uses tracking 800 numbers only for its Cycle Trader ads. “I used to do more,” Donahoe says, “and it became a logistics nightmare. You need a full-time person just to monitor that.”
When Donahoe says “monitor,” he means someone actually listening to the conversations. He knows that many dealers use unique 800 numbers just to track marketing effectiveness, but he doubts doing so is worthwhile. For example, he doesn’t need any third party to confirm that Yellow Pages are quickly becoming obsolete, even though the Pages’ sales rep still tries to convince him otherwise.
“I got a Yellow Pages call last week,” he says. “It really pissed me off because of the scare tactic they were trying to use: ‘All your competitors are there. You’re going to miss out.’ I was like ‘I’m not missing shit. No one goes there. They go to Google; they don’t go to the Yellow Pages. So I’ve greatly reduced everything.’”
Other Heartland Honda marketing activities have included a Bike Night with a custom bike giveaway, as well as a 20x60 tent at the local Bikes, Blues and Barbecue event, which attracts 400,000.
The store hosts monthly Honda Rider’s Club of America rides. Four to six times per year, it also rents a motocross track to provide demo rides, free food, door prizes and giveaways.
Ironically, another real-world Heartland Honda giveaway may be ending because of Internet encroachment. The store has a Big Buck contest in which it rewards an ATV to the hunter with the biggest kill. The January event has attracted 400 people, helping sell an extra 50 ATVs.
The contest is held in conjunction with a pawn shop that’s also an official checkpoint for measuring deer. This year, however, Arkansas began allowing hunters to tag their deer online. The pawn shop’s numbers are down accordingly.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to continue to do it or not,” Donahoe says. “We’re doing it this year because we’re committed. It’s a fun event, but I can’t afford to just keep giving stuff away.”