I was reading the paper this morning, and saw an ad for $2 off a blade sharpening and $10 off a tune-up. I’m not going to lie, I was really glad to see the ad – not because I need the work done on my mower, but because this season is taking its toll on dealers all over the United States. Florida experienced really cold temps, and then went into record heat; the east coast has been hit with several Nor’easters; and the Midwest can’t get out of the late snow season.
Here’s some highly privileged inside information: I write these articles at least a month in advance of them being published. Therefore, if you are looking for something that happened yesterday, sorry, I am not the right place to come. However, you did come to the right place for various opinions and empathy for what you are going through. If you are a dealer and are experiencing bad sales – possibly the worst ever – don’t think you are doing something wrong. It’s this way in most parts of the country.
Last week, one of our vendor partners called to see how business was. I told him it was slow…real slow. He said, “Good, we are too.” I don’t think he meant that in a bad way. Remember the old saying “misery loves company?” I’m sure that’s what he was trying to say. No one wants others to be having a bad time, but sometimes it’s easier to stomach when you know someone else shares the same problems.
So what do we do while we wait for spring? There are a few things that can be done to help spring arrive earlier. First, make sure you have your parts in house. If you have a legitimate distributor, chances are they have a buying program to take advantage of dating terms or cash discount. If you have cash, use it to pay for your order and add the cash discount to your bottom line. If you don’t – and that’s okay after such a dismal winter – take the long terms. This will help you have parts for that first nice day without having to pay for them immediately. (You do realize that spring and summer will eventually come, right?) So make sure you have products and parts in-house.
Next, talk to your distributor about available co-op advertising money. You are doing this for two reasons. The first is to find out which manufacturer is in the advertising game and which isn’t. Believe me, it will save you time getting that information now instead of when you don’t have time later. The other reason is to know how much co-op you’ll have when you decide to advertise.
Advertising is not what it used to be. Depending on what local media you choose, they can do things with targeted audiences that will make your head turn. For example, take radio. An iHeartRadio station can provide you with local ads and banner ads for the customers you want to reach who are using iPhones and Android devices. And when you’re watching TV, do you think it’s strange how almost all the commercials relate to you? It’s not luck – it’s targeted marketing/advertising. Your ads can now go where you want them to go. No more wasting money on people who could care less about your business. (For you manufacturers, I insist that you advertise in [ital>OPE<ital] magazine, of course, as it reaches all kinds of your customers!)
Once you figure which manufacturers offer co-op funds, make a plan. If you’re like most dealers, you may not know where to start. Select your media choice, and have them help you create and place your ad. Your choice of when to advertise needs to be up to you. There is preseason, in-season, and fall season. You’re most likely going to advertise a service you can perform, add a coupon, and wait for them to break your door down. If you advertise at the wrong time, all you’ll get will be crickets. So it is really important that you understand the most effective time [ital>you<ital] should advertise, and not leave that decision up to the media salesperson. (They’re no different than us. Of course we know it’s wrong to sell a full-priced snowblower in May, but we’ll do it!)
Lining up with your distributor partners and having co-op ready to go will help the season get here sooner. Your customers will wait until the last second, but you can’t. You have to be ready when they are.
As always, feel free to write A.D. a note, and voice your opinion. You can e-mail me at OPEMAGAD@gmail.com or Tweet me @OPEMAGAD. Until next month, keep your blades and mind sharp!