By David H. Martin
New technologies often disrupt the old ways we do things with the promise of making everything simpler, better and cheaper. Communications technology has advanced to make our lives simpler, but with more choices than ever, it’s made marketing planning anything but simple! So where do you start? Dealer advertising once seemed fairly straightforward. Where traditionally, many dealers considered the company’s Yellow Pages program the hub of their marketing efforts, their company website is now that hub, for both today and tomorrow’s business.
Start with your website
Every dealership not only needs its own website to educate and motivate both consumers and commercial/industrial customers, but also for all of the following reasons:
• It opens the door to low-cost, permission-based marketing via email reminders and promotional messages to existing customers.
• It greatly expands the impact and lead-generation ability of print ads, direct mail, radio and TV commercials, outdoor advertising (billboards), yard signs and even your business card.
• It affords a dealer plenty of time and space to engage content marketing, which may include a more complete product story, convincing customer testimonials and the presentation of special offers in full detail.
• It offers the opportunity, through search optimization marketing, to snare leads from major search engines, as well as from allied manufacturer/supplier websites.
• It empowers you to reap the synergy of an integrated marketing program, one that lets you cost-effectively integrate new media with traditional media, such as Yellow Pages, newspaper ads and direct mail.
Add selected digital media
Your website is just the beginning of digital marketing possibilities, which include email marketing, mobile/SMS text messaging, online display advertising, paid search advertising and webinars. Social media (including blogs, Facebook and Twitter) are other possibilities. Some of these tactics may seem too complicated to handle without professional help. I suggest you seek someone local who can help integrate traditional and digital media into your marketing plan.
Integrate traditional media
Here’s a list of traditional media tactics used by water treatment dealers:
• Billboards • Magazine advertising • Community sponsorship • Major event sponsorship
• Coupons • Newspaper advertising • Direct mail • Promotional signage • Door-to-door
• Radio • Flyers • Telemarketing • Free-standing inserts • Television • Local events
• Yellow Pages
Will traditional media be eventually eliminated? Not likely. But better-targeted versions of traditional media (such as TV) will become more affordable and potentially effective. For example, cable TV is now available in all US homes, making dealer spots affordable in targeted neighborhoods and suburbs of major cities. Radio ads are better-targeted than broadcast TV, but lack visual reinforcement unless combined with billboards or print ads. Newspapers, long a staple of dealer advertising programs, continue to decline. If used at all, consider running smaller ads that emphasize your website address for full details. The same smaller-is-better philosophy can be applied to Yellow Pages ads if you emphasize your website address in the ads.
Local magazines are another option, but choose them thoughtfully. Try to be highly targeted, perhaps more so than you can choosing newspapers in which to advertise. And don’t overlook regional business trade publications that can put your C/I credentials in front of the right people in your area.
With the overwhelming effect of the popular Do Not Call registry, many dealers have turned from telemarketing to other lead-generation techniques, including direct mail. Direct-mail color postcards have become popular because they display the offer immediately, without concealing it in an envelope that has to be opened. (What if it never gets opened at all? You’ve wasted your money!) And, of course, postage costs are much less.
Can you still telemarket on a limited basis? The answer is yes. You can telemarket your past and current customers or even new prospects met at home shows with their permission. Beyond that, you can actually acquire a calling list of homes in your area who did not register for Do Not Call. These are people who, for the most part, won’t get upset when you call. Best of all, you can acquire a list of these people to call at no cost, if you limit your request to homes in three specific ZIP codes in your marketing area. Pick one or more major home shows where you can meet people and capture leads to set appointments.
Integrate guerrilla marketing into your plan
With rising media costs and increased consumer resistance to advertising, look to include some low-cost and no-cost strategies and tactics. Provide free drinking water for local races and charitable cause-sponsored events. Put up yard signs for neighbors to see while you work. Afterward, distribute door hangers or knock on the doors of neighbors. Offer to lecture on local water issues at meetings sponsored by organizations in your area. Network at local business organization meetings on a regular basis.
Contact editors and producers at local newspapers and broadcast stations. Offer to be a willing industry expert on local water issues that catch the attention of the media. Send out news releases announcing your upcoming speaking engagements, company sponsorships and community fundraisers. Your efforts to raise your company profile in the community might not pay off with immediate business-generating leads. But you will be building important awareness and credibility as water treatment experts.
So many options, so little money
Of course, you can’t afford to do everything. But you can do better this year, with solid planning. Get competitive pricing on all your local advertising options. It’s time to plan an integrated marketing campaign for 2016. Take a look at what your competition has been doing, but don’t be overly impressed. Write down a complete list of your sales and marketing objectives, especially plans to enter new markets or market new products. Write down specific promotions and events. Devise advertising schedules in at least one traditional medium that has worked for you in the past. Then integrate something new, perhaps a new website. Weave in guerrilla marketing and public relations. Get off to a great start this year, then maintain your momentum with continuous marketing. Integrated marketing in the Digital Age is not simple, so consider getting outside help. Start planning now.
About the author
David H. Martin is President of Lenzi Martin Marketing, Oak Park, IL, a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org