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5 Common ‘Marketing Mistakes’ Dealers Should Avoid

By avoiding these common errors and committing to a budgeted direct response marketing campaign, your dealership can and will sell more units, make more money and have more fun!


Marketing Mistake #1: Believing the purpose of marketing is “getting your name out there”
Oftentimes, dealers receive their marketing training from the very sales rep that is trying to sign them up to a six-month “image enhancing” marketing campaign. They’ll tell you, “You need to be consistent and get your name out there.” This is called image advertising, and although this type of advertising may work for OEMs and huge companies like Budweiser and Nike with multimillion dollar advertising budgets, it’s simply not the most effective marketing method for powersports dealers. The reason is, you only have so much money to spend on advertising, and the goal of your advertising is to hit your target audience and generate sales leads. This is called direct response advertising, and it usually includes a call to action with a deadline. The goal of your advertising isn’t to get your name out there, it is to get your customers in here!

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Marketing Mistake #2: Not having a structured marketing system
A professional marketing system is a plan that includes a calculated budget based on real historical data cross-referenced with future sales goals. Choosing media buys can be overwhelming, with choices from yellow pages, cable TV, radio, newspaper, billboards, trader magazines, not to mention all the community involvement opportunities to sponsor events, sports teams, clubs etc. Did you notice I haven’t even mentioned the Internet? Talk about overwhelming! With eight out of 10 customers utilizing search engines, it’s easy to argue that all of the previously-mentioned traditional methods are old school. Nevertheless, once you have your budget intact, it becomes clear that you only have so much money available to spend, which in turn forces you to focus on getting the most bang for your buck. One of my favorite lines to use with ad reps is, “I’m sorry, this looks like a great opportunity but it isn’t in our marketing budget.” A structured marketing system also includes an ‘advertising calendar,’ which allows management adequate preparation time for print media, direct mail, e-mail campaigns, open houses, etc., all of which require significant preparation in advance in order to be effective.


Marketing Mistake # 3: The marketing incest trap
So what is marketing incest? Well, Happy Hal takes out a huge loan, set’s up shop and then realizes that he needs to market and advertise to “get his name out there.” However, no one at New Dealer Set-Up ever taught Happy Hal how to effectively advertise. So what does Happy Hal do? He looks at Wild Willie’s Powersports, an apparently successful business across town. He notices that Wild Willie is running ads offering a low price guarantee in the local trader and newspaper with a list of the brands he carries. So Happy Hal follows suit, and now you have two dealers in the same market area doing wasteful advertising that doesn’t work. It’s called marketing incest because if you look at most dealers’ advertising, it’s all the same. This happens in almost every industry. Legendary author Earl Nightingale of Lead the Field and the Strangest Secret said, “The Secret to being successful in any business Is to look around you and observe what everyone else is doing, and then do the opposite.”


Marketing Mistake #4: Acres of diamonds
This is a famous story of a farmer who traveled the globe, desperately mining for diamonds. Working day and night for years, he exhausted himself to the point at which he couldn’t take it any longer and passed away. As the story goes, right on the very piece of property the farmer owned was what turned out to be one of the largest diamond mines in the world. The farmer had acres of diamonds right in his own backyard the entire time. Generating strong repeat and referral business can be a huge component of the success of any business. However, like the diamond farmer, far too often we are exhausting our efforts by spending too much time and money looking for new prospects instead of communicating with our existing customers to build relationships, which in turn create loyalty and repeat and referral business.


Marketing Mistake #5: Building all marketing promotions around low prices
Powersports studies have repeatedly shown that price is not the number-one determining factor in a customer’s buying decision. This isn’t to say that price isn’t important to customers, because it is, but with a little creativity it’s possible to build effective direct response marketing campaigns without placing the entire store on sale for 25 percent off! Open houses and customer appreciation days are great ways to drive traffic with free food and drinks, door prizes (donated by vendors), product seminars, kids entertainment, games, contests and more. Take a few of your oldest aging units, and P&A, and mark them on sale to create that sale feel without giving away the farm.


Marketing certainly isn’t an exact science but by avoiding these common errors and committing to a budgeted direct response marketing campaign, your dealership can and will sell more units, make more money and have more fun!

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