Dealers’ Domain

Question: What are some unique ways you have advertised or promoted your business, and how did they work?

Each year, for about the past six to eight years, we have built a large snowman in front of our shop, weather permitting. It started out many years ago by building a smaller snowman with my children, and then each year we tried to build it a little bigger. In 2003, we built our first really large snowman. It made the front page of our local newspaper the first year and has been in the newspaper many times since then. (What great free advertising!) We had a lot of people stopping by and looking at it, so we put a sign up telling people that they could get a free picture with the snowman. A lot of people stopped by, so we took their picture, then printed out a copy for them while they waited. (It was a great way to get people looking around our store.) We also e-mailed a lot of pictures out. What started out as some family fun, turned into some of our best advertising. We have made postcards, billboards and newspaper advertising with the snowman over the years. It seems like every year in October and November, we get a lot of people asking if we are going to build our snowman in the winter. We even get some people that call in for something, then they ask where we are located, and we tell them. Then they say, “Oh, are you the place with the big snowman?” A lot of people ask if it is real because it is so large. Our tallest one yet was over 21 feet tall. The hat is a 55-gallon drum, the eyes are 12-inch cut-off wheels, the nose is a traffic safety cone, the mouth is five lawnmower wheels, and the scarf is a full 40-foot bolt of orange fabric. It usually takes five to 10 people, eight to 10 hours to build. It is a lot of work, but well worth the effort.
— Ken Stoller, owner
Stoller Lawn & Garden Inc.
Orrville, Ohio

Tagging our ads with pictures of my family and myself in them, or doing the radio spots myself, I get the “Hey, I saw you on TV” or ” I heard you on the radio” statement all the time. I never get anyone saying I saw your name tagged at the end of the ad.
— Tony Nation
Nation’s Small Engine’s Inc.
Hot Springs, Ark.

We are a family business. We — father, wife and son — have involved ourselves deeply in community activities from Cub Scouts to soccer to Little League to town committees to League of Women Voters, etc., so that we are well known to a wide range of area residents. Since this is a highly developed urban market, without the roots of everybody growing up together in a small town, our visibility is a major factor in causing people to think of our services and products when they have the need.
— Ty Brooke, president
Brooke Rental Center, Inc.
Vienna, Va.

Unique types of advertising techniques include cheap little business card holders I buy at the office supply store. I load them with cards and give them to the auto parts dealers, tire stores, box stores, and other power equipment dealers. Even if the cards don’t stay on their counters long, the clerks are made aware of my services and often refer customers to me.
Also, in front of my shop, an 18-inch by 24-inch sign at the curb reminds people each time they pass that I have a repair business. I screw a real estate-type transparent information box on the curbside sign frame and print out fliers for the box. For the customers who might be somewhat less than gifted at reading, I include small pictures of the equipment I repair. Aside from the phone number and the name of the business, there’s no other text.
A 5-foot-wide, professionally printed banner board on the back ramp of my delivery trailer often causes potential customers to call my cell phone while I’m driving ahead of them. The banner lists my Website address, phone number and a couple of pieces of equipment in season.
— Flute Snyder
Hudson Mower Doctor
Hudson, Wis.

At our store, we advertise on a cable TV channel that has all two-minute infomercials. I buy two together to get four minutes in which I show our store, talk about and demonstrate the products, and mention any specials we are running at that time. I have been doing this for over 12 years and never thought it would work so well. Customers come in and want to “talk to the expert,” which builds credibility. They especially love the demonstrations of the products featured. I see a good increase in traffic and sales when they are running. The cost is reasonable at $425 per week for 35 spots plus production. I usually run a spot for two weeks and use my co-op. I have had customers come in six months after they have seen an ad and now need the product and make a purchase. I have also done a 30-second spot on a local CBS station which has done great also. The spot I ran catches your attention and makes you want to stop in to check out all the deals on scratch-and-dent equipment. If the ad is good and the cost is reasonable, it will bring results. Some of my customers come as far as an hour away. I feel that TV is the best place for me to spend my money because it gets me the best results.
— Sally Miller, president
Dobosh Center
Pittsburgh, Pa.

We have tried many things. The best two I have found, at least for my area, are hats and T-shirts with our name on them. I have done billboard, newspaper and radio ads without any noticeable results. Hats, shirts and “word of mouth” — without a doubt — always work for us.
— Matthew Borden, owner
Ed & Matt Equipment
Greenville, R.I.

We have tried every unique, out-of-the-box, off-the-wall promotion under the sun. None have been worth repeating! We ask customers to fill out a short survey from time to time. The two largest responses by far are always: 1) Word of mouth, 2) Saw you from the highway. Having a visible, easy-to-find location, and treating people right (just good honest business) is what has kept us open for 34 years.
— Dean Davis
Dogwood Inc.
Carbondale, Ill.

Although these are only “unique” to us, for the first time last year, we did some radio advertising; also, we used the same slogan on all or our print ads. Not sure if these were the reasons, but we did have a 10-percent increase in our total volume last year. I would be very interested in hearing what other dealers were able to do.
— John P. Moon, owner
Moon’s Farm-Yard Center, Inc.
Ulysses, Pa.

I use TV, radio, newsprint and direct mail. Nothing really unique…maybe I need to think of something else and do it.
— David Vassey
Vassey Lawn & Garden Center
Cleveland, Tenn.

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