It’s time to get creative for 2011. Do something you haven’t done in the past. This is what will make you and your store stand out from your competitors to potential and current customers. You want your current and potential customers to always think of you and be reminded of something good you did when they start looking for a car to buy.

You may be sponsoring various events in your community already, but do people remember you sponsored it and talk afterwards to their families, friends and coworkers about the experience they had? Think back about something good you have experienced in the past. It is easy to remember, isn’t it? Why is that? Was it because it was something you probably didn’t expect to happen but did, and it resulted in a great feeling?

When you surprise people with something nice and totally unexpected, they will remember it very easily. It impresses them. It feels good to get something for nothing just because you were in the right place at the right time. What can you do differently to enhance your customer’s perception of your dealership?

For example, I have seen dealerships send employees dressed in dealership branded attire unannounced at a social event in their community like a local high school football or baseball game and hand out $1 coupons to be used at the refreshment stand. The customers don’t need to know you have worked out a deal with the school to reimburse them for all the coupons they collect at the refreshment stand. This not only improves their sales and helps them raise more money to fund projects at the school, but it promotes your dealership in a non-traditional format to hundreds of people in a short time span.

Another way to promote the store is to work a deal for the breakfast or lunch rush time with some of the best local restaurants to give the customers their drink, donut or even their lunch free at checkout time. It is not advertised but is made known to the customer at the checkout only after you have paid for it. This is a relatively inexpensive way to advertise and get people to talk about your store. People love getting something for nothing, and they will tell 10 people about what happened. Doing this periodically around town on a random basis with other local merchants will have people trying to figure out where you are going to be next and when.

Have you thought about going around your community and talking to your fellow businesses about joint- and cross-marketing? Most businesses are very receptive to this, as it will only help promote their business also. You can hand out coupons for other businesses in your service department or showroom. At the same time, the other businesses will be handing out your coupons at their businesses. You will normally hit a larger audience and generate more buzz about your store this way compared to an ad in the local paper.

The promotion or coupon you use must be able to generate an immediate effect on the customer and/or have a very short time frame in which to use it. This is the only way you and the other businesses will know it is working. It may not generate much the first time you do it, but repetition of promoting your store in this manner should generate buzz.

Again, some of you may already be doing something like this. If you are, try to figure out a different twist to it to keep the public talking about your store. Keep it consistent, and make it easy with no strings attached. The public is tired of gimmicks; they will not embrace it if they always have to do something to get something free. Make sure you keep it unexpected.

Sit down today and think about what you are accomplishing with your advertising and promotion dollars. Remember, advertising is different from promoting yourself. Promotion is there to give you name recognition and must be practiced continually to maintain your presence in the market. Advertising is geared to motivating someone to do something today. You and your dealership need a mix of both. Promotion works for the long term and assists your current advertising in achieving better results.

 Vol. 7, Issue 12
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