It looks like spring is coming, both literally and figuratively. Industry indicators have been improving for a while now. The MAFSI Business Barometer was up in the fourth quarter last year. The NAFEM Show was upbeat, with booth space sold out and an 8% jump in attendee traffic.

So, what’s that mean to you? As the market begins to come back, maybe you can resume some of the activities you cut when the market fell out.

Most businesses, for better or worse, tend to cut their marketing efforts when things look tough. Nobody likes to do it, but nobody likes layoffs either. So maybe you cut the hours on the person who did the e-mail blasts and the website. Maybe you cut the open-house events and hold off on the catalog updates and the flyers. Quit the local ads for a while.

Now that the equipment and supplies business is starting to come back, maybe you can get back to marketing. One part is how to market your message. How do you move the message? What media do you use? When? That’s what most people think about when they think of marketing.

But the other part, just as important, if not more so, is how do you message the market? What is in your message? If it’s not compelling, it doesn’t much matter where you put it. And beyond the what is the how. It’s the presentation. Do you phrase it most effectively? Have you thought about the psychology of colors, or how viewers tend to scan a visual image? It all makes a difference.

One aspect of marketing is advertising, of course. Ever talk with someone who says he doesn’t “believe” in advertising? As if it’s a matter of faith?  Some ads work, and some don’t. The differences are in the details. Advertising can be measured if you’re willing to pay for measuring it. And if you’re not, the evidence may be indirect, but it’s real. Scientists know about black holes partly because of what’s not there. Sometimes advertising is like that—you can tell it’s working by what happens when you stop. Often it takes a while to see the trend, but eventually you’ll see it. And if nothing happens, it’s not about advertising—it’s about your advertising.

Knowledgeable marketing folks will tell you that no matter what else you’re doing, you have to strategize your messages. First you need to emphasize a simple idea. You cannot tell your entire life story, and you cannot be all things to all people. Your dealership might be good at many things. But if you had to hang your hat on one of them, what would it be? Knowledgeable staff? Inventory? Quick response? Sure, you can lay claim to multiple strengths. But which one to consistently emphasize? Which one positions you most clearly against your competition? You’re creating an identity.

And then be consistent. Simple, simple, simple, and hammer it home. Make sure your e-mail themes, your website, your catalog design, your ads all reinforce each other with similar themes. If nothing else, someone who can’t read a word of English should be able to see a consistent identity in the non-verbal message. What colors are in your signage and logo? Do you repeat those colors and patterns consistently?

At the end of the day, your customers should have a sense of what your dealership stands for, and how it’s different from others. If you can make that happen, you’re well on your way.

Chief Editor“””


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