Never Stop Advertising

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Even during a sales slowdown — here's why

HOW DO POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS know about your store? I hope you've got some answers to that question. During my college days (more than 30 years ago), my Advertising 101 professor made a statement that has stuck with me throughout the years in both great and challenging times: "If you do not constantly use advertising in your business, rest assured you will use it to exit your business."

At that time, I had a job at a major mall in Northern California. I needed to earn money, and the flexible hours of the retail business fit well with my class schedule. During my employment at the mall, I was fortunate enough to work with the chain store's advertising director, who manned 48 stores in Northern California and Nevada. He, along with my classes in advertising and marketing, taught me that advertising is effective and should not be skimped on.

Don't believe me? Here are some reasons on why you should advertise. While they are basic, they certainly are applicable to the ever-changing retail environment that the powersports industry is facing today.

The prospect, who must at all costs become a customer, needs to be aware of all products and services available at your store. Remember when auto dealerships were for buying a car and you went to a full-service gas station or corner mechanic for maintenance and other services? I am sure you can remember hearing, "Don't go back to the dealership; they'll rip you off."

My, my, what a different time today: Many in the auto industry are surviving on service department revenues alone. How is the revenue in your service department? You can't wait any longer to check and make changes; rest assured that your customers won't wait either.

Advertising constantly pre-qualifies your customers. Advertising is another form of communication with your customers on a regular basis that will continue the bond between dealership and customer. Remember, loyalty is built and continued every time you are in contact with them. Once a customer walks out or hangs up the phone, the relationship must be re-established again and again. Never assume you have done your best, or that you know the rest.

The competition comes from every single form of advertising, from every type of retail business. Other retailers are always out to get your customers' dollars all the time. The more that customers see your ads, the more your store and all it offers is re-established in their minds.

Advertising increases your market share. When planning your advertising, position your products and services to targeted customers who are looking for those items. Have you or your staff ever heard a customer say that he or she didn't know your store existed? Just imagine how many customers have not told you that?

Advertising creates awareness to maintain your customer base. It also continues to enhance your store's image. Word-of-mouth advertising only can be earned by constantly giving your customer the best experience in every aspect of being in your store and being assisted by your staff.

An ongoing advertising program enhances your employees' pride, loyalty and, ultimately, morale. Advertising acts as a problem-solver by promoting certain brands, services you can track and evaluate.

CLAIM YOUR IDENTITY

During the past several months, I have collected advertising produced by dealerships in Northern California. You may also want to track the advertising in your area. I discovered that most stores use the same OEM ads, with their dealership names at the top being the only altered portion. The result is no real store identity. Design your own ads. Strive for more of a store identity while maximizing all available co-ops you've earned. I also saw a lot of ads that didn't contain store hours. Don't assume your customers know your hours.

Another startling omission: Not one dealership ad mentioned its service department. Mention all factory-certified training and the years of experience in all advertising, store brochures and repair orders.

More than 95 percent of the stores did not mention they were locally and family-owned. Now more than ever, this is valued and important to customers.

One advertisement though, really stood out. A dealership advertised that if customers bring in their receipt from the last dealership where they made a purchase, they will be entitled to 10 percent off for all regular and sale merchandise in stock. Their slogan: "Your receipt is now a 10-percent-off coupon." I must admit, I was curious how well it was being received, so I went to the store and met with the manager, who said that the return exceeded their expectations. This was a national P&A chain, and this location was 25,000 square feet. The store also didn't have a stockroom.

You know your business. If advertising is not your forte, hire a professional.

Steve Zarwell is a dealer consultant and a member of the Dealernews editorial advisory board. Contact him via editors@dealernews.com.