May 2012, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
You use advertising to sell products. Marketing is more than just running ads. Marketing is about who you are, why you’re different and how you deliver that message. When deciding what to do with your advertising budget, remember to market what makes your operation special, what you do for people and your community, and why someone should spend money with you.
This week, we celebrated the 350th episode of Nuts and Bolts, a live, call-in radio show I do on a local AM station. For one hour a week, we talk about Best Ride, our buy here pay here dealership. I spend time explaining what we do and why we are different than our BHPH competitors and the special financing available in our area. The show generally transitions from an infomercial into a mix of callers—some regulars trying to stump me or be funny and new callers asking about what is wrong with their car. Every caller on the air gets his or her name into a hubcap, and we draw for $50 each week. I have talked to folks about politics, eBay, computers, ethanol, the Middle East, nitrogen in tires and even about a possum under a caller’s house. That was just last month.
I try to guide people to a simple solution if one exists for their issue. When the problem is complicated, I guide them to our shop for a diagnosis. We do quite a few free scans to help people afraid of repair costs. Most weeks, someone calls in to thank me for the help with a problem they previously called about. We have folks come into the dealership almost every day to ask me a question or do business saying they heard the radio show. Folks believe that because I am willing to give away advice on the air and scan their check-engine lights at the shop, I am sincere about wanting to help. People equate my being helpful on air to the attitude of our business, which brings us revenue every month in the form of vehicle sales, service and detailing.
Another thing we do every year is put on a big hot-rod show to raise money for a local charity. We give away lots of donated prizes and an old pickup we fix up. We have a monster 4x4 all painted and decaled up that we park all over town and at local events. We have a Halloween costume contest for kids and pets every year with cash prizes that brings a couple of hundred folks to the store. We donate to charities, sponsor a softball field where tournaments are held and work with local civic groups. All these things are fun and rewarding for us to do, all while keeping the Best Ride name in front of different groups of people who might not hear of us any other way.
Promotion of your business is generally more work than just advertising. We have to get out and be visible, take and print pictures, move the big truck around, and attend functions. I hope you are already active in your community. I believe it is important to partner with charities in your area and get personally involved. Help them become more successful, and they will help you be more visible to more people. Some folks who never hear your ads or see your website will know who you are. You may not be hawking your best deals or your hottest rigs, but you are promoting your company and your people as charitable and involved in the community. And it shows to be more than just words.