By Jeff Scherer, Associate Partner, Callbutton LLC — It was good to hear Liz’s recent comment confirming that first-time buyers are returning to the showrooms. It also stirred some thoughts for me about taking the present pulse of showroom traffic, so I called a few of my industry and dealer friends to get a state of the union.
Overall, the responses I received said that traffic is nowhere near 2007 levels, but every one of them was encouraged by the upswell in business in the past 60 days. Financing remains challenging. Margins are tight. A few are utilizing social sites. Web marketing is by far outperforming any other channels. Leads are treated as more sacred than ever.
Thought for the day: If people are not coming to my showroom, how can I take my showroom to the people? I frequently write statements like that and then try to think about how many readers say, “Duh, Jeff. We’ve been doing that for years.” If so, excellent! You can move ahead three spaces. But for the other 80 percent of the dealers that may have dabbled in off-site promotions, “this is your wake-up call, Bud Fox!” (my favorite line from movie “Wall Street,” for non-movie buffs)
Short checklist for off-site events (this assumes you have trailerable inventory):
- Determine where your ideal prospects are located. Sam’s Club? Golf course? Movie theaters? Best Buy?
- Coordinate permission with venue (obviously). Maybe agree to do cross-promotion for them.
- Determine best hours to cover — probably no point in being in front of a theater at 10 a.m.
- Staff with our BEST salespeople. Don’t just send the new guy just because you need to keep him busy.
- Provide refreshments & snacks (uh, maybe not at theaters, but maybe give them some candy that you purchased from the venue)
- Be prepared to handle credit apps, make demo appointments, etc. Have clean product, breath mints, etc. This IS a boat show.
One further thought on movie theaters — what better place to reach some important primary influencers — women and kids? Maybe run an on-screen ad and tell them to check out your boats in the parking lot on their way out.
It’s no secret that it does take some planning and coordination to pull off something that is representative of your company and brand, and right now may not be the ideal time to take this project on. Much will also depend on your market, location, logistics, weather (sigh), etc.
Subway recently figured out a way to take the mountain to Mohammed. They realized that many of the workers building the new Freedom Center at the former WTC site did not have time to work their way down the limited elevators (and/or climb down), then go down the street to wait in line to grab lunch. Cleverly, Subway built a sandwich shop into a shipping container and hoisted it up to where workers could easily get to it. Probably not an inexpensive investment, but considering they have direct access to a captive audience for another 3+ years, I think we would all agree that this was a smart business move — AND they beat any of their competitors to the punch. More details here
Even if you are not able to do a formal off-site event, I would challenge you to think about meeting your customers where they live, perhaps in places that you would not have thought about a few years ago. Many things have changed, along with the economy, in all of our lives. Successful businesses should continue to do the things they do right, but should also be willing to step out of their boxes (aka showrooms) and bring their wares to their next customers.