It’s been said that the best-laid marketing plans are those that incorporate various “touches” with the end-user. The more channels that are utilized, the better the chance of a dealer delivering the desired message to customers and prospects. Many of these are digital (emails, blogs, landing pages, white papers, case studies), but there are countless other ways to engage a client.
Perhaps the best methods are touches that are intended to be seen by people who didn’t intend to see them. Billboards, radio ads, TV commercials are a few examples. But what about automotive wraps? Direct mailers? Stadium advertisements during sports and entertainment events? Hot air balloons? OK, maybe not, but there are a multitude of ways for a dealer to relate the virtues of its product and service offering, and a little imagination can go a long way toward guaranteeing the effectiveness of a marketing program.
Mary Steffl, marketing manager for Loffler Companies of Bloomington, Minnesota, notes the dealer relies on traditional marketing outlets to provide a balanced approach with its inbound strategy. Advertising with its sports-based partners helps to keep branding strong within the community. Billboard and radio advertising are key touches in new markets, and Loffler has a large digital display at its headquarters that overlooks a major metropolitan highway.
“Our fleet of service and training vehicles are also branded and seen all over in all of our locations, so our name, logo and product/service stack is always visible,” she said.
The same can be said for Impact Networking of Lake Forest, Illinois, which has branded delivery trucks, service vans and even sales reps’ cars to increase visibility. Its sponsorship of sports teams, both local and regional, have solidified the brand during the past 10-plus years, notes Karlee Ricks, marketing manager.
“When Impact became a sponsor of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008, it put us on the map, according to our CEO, Frank Cucco,” she observed. “He said that we closed bigger deals and clients took us more seriously. For this reason, we have replicated the model and partnered with various teams throughout the country.”
Radio advertising still resonates with clients of Hendrix Business Systems of Charlotte, North Carolina. According to Tim Manuel, marketing and operations manager, the radio spots have proven to be a strong drawing card for more than 10 years. Other initiatives, such as direct mailers and publication advertisements, have been a mixed bag, but Manuel keeps all options open for proliferating the company’s brand.
One area that has proven to be a real boon for Hendrix is hosted events. During the past eight years, the company has put on showcase and open house events that have attracted upwards of 150 customer and prospect guests.
“We have an uptown location in Charlotte, the Bank of America building, that’s a beautiful showcase office,” he said. “It contains both production and workgroup equipment. It’s also set up as a technical showcase to highlight the new document software that’s available. They’re catered events, and we try to do them in all of our locations once a year.”
Blue Technologies of Cleveland extends its visibility at customer galas and fundraising events, offering sponsorship and support. Direct mailers are frequently used to keep clients abreast of changes at the dealership, such as the implementation of its new ERP system, along with invitations for its annual hosted event. Blue Technologies also partners with SBN and advertises bi-monthly with an educational article that focuses on each business unit and solution the company provides. The stories are complemented with a full-page advertisement.
“The drawback with more traditional marketing efforts is it’s difficult to track or determine viability or ROI,” said Cyndi Konold, marketing director.
Constance Barbian, director of marketing and communications for Benchmark Business Solutions, points out that direct mail, radio and print advertising are very much a part of the dealer’s marketing mix. Many of its traditional marketing endeavors are linked to community support and partnerships, which help the dealer leverage brand recognition.
One of the newer initiatives Benchmark has embarked upon is custom video spots created for each of its sales representatives. The videos are included in both the company’s email and social media campaigns.
Billboards, ads and signage have all been effective tools to help Prosource of Cincinnati enhance its brand awareness. Trade show attendance, particularly in the education and health care markets, is effective in promoting solutions specific to those verticals. As for direct mail, it is primarily seen as a role player as part of a larger digital or traditional marketing campaign. A production print marketing campaign may have a direct mail piece that highlights the capabilities of Prosource’s equipment, which can help nurture prospects in the middle of the sales funnel. It can also feature a scan-able element to drive customers online.
Amy Mersch, marketing manager for Prosource, is also a fan of the humble vehicle wrap, which helps keep the dealer atop the minds of clients.
“As we have grown throughout the Midwest, one thing we continue to hear from our customers, prospects, and the community is that they see our branded trucks everywhere,” Mersch said. “This brand awareness is a natural result of us doing our work and serving our customers. It also reinforces that we have a large, active team in our customers’ markets, dedicated to keeping them up and running.