Dealers doing it right

Above, the home page of www.BPSSuperstore.com

Real-world marketing advice from the dealership trenches

By Colleen Brousil

Let’s start with a quick introduction. I’ve been with ARI Network Services as the director of marketing for just about a year now. Before making the move to ARI, I worked as the editor of a publication much like this that served the powersports industry for a little more than a decade. I’ve dedicated my career to helping retailers like you improve your business. Where do I get my intel? A lot of it comes straight from the trenches, and in my year at ARI, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot from the dealers who we serve.

That’s why I’m kicking off my contributions to OPE magazine with some real-world digital marketing advice from a pair of outdoor power equipment dealers.

You likely face many of the same challenges that these two dealerships do — seasonality; limited time and financial resources; and competition from big box and online mega-retailers. I asked both of these dealers for their advice on high-impact efforts you can make to move the needle on your digital marketing this winter, taking the realities of your business into consideration.

I first had the pleasure of chatting with Brian Hollopeter of Medina Tractor in Medina, Ohio. Brian’s educational background in information technology has made him the go-to digital marketing guru at his family-run dealership. Here are a few pro tips from Brian to consider implementing at your dealership:

Diversify your online brand: While the dealership’s name may be Medina Tractor, a majority of its sales come from lawn mowers. “There was a stigma that all we dealt with was tractors,” said Brian.

So a few years ago, the dealership purchased the domain www.MedinaMower.com and created a mirror of its main dealership website at www.MedinaTractor.com with a mower emphasis. “When people are looking for local mowers, ‘lawn mowers’ is always going to be one of the keywords,” said Brian.

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Home page of www.MedinaTractor.com

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Home page of www.MedinaMower.com

Having the keyword “mower” in this secondary website helped boost the dealership’s search rankings and busted the perception that it was a tractor-only destination.

Do you depend on a single website domain? If you do, you might be missing out. Consider alternative domain names, and talk to your website vendor about how you can diversify your online brand with additional domains.

Open an online parts store: “We don’t really like being controlled by the weather,” related Brian. “That’s always been one of the biggest problems — our revenue depends solely on the weather. If there’s a drought or if it’s wet, you can see it on the balance sheet, but we also knew that if it’s snowing in Ohio, it doesn’t mean the grass isn’t growing in Florida or Texas, so we launched outdoorpartspower.com.”

Creating this e-commerce-only destination created an additional year-round profit center for the dealership without a huge resource investment. By selecting a turnkey e-commerce website solution that includes manufacturer catalog data, Medina Tractor has been able to make it easy for its online customers to find and buy what they need without a lot of support.

“Our online sales have almost doubled each year for the past three years,” said Brian. “Parts and service are always going to be profit centers, and we’ve been able to create an additional cash-flow center without any additional employee overhead.”

Being social pays: While email marketing remains a reliable main-stay of Medina Tractor’s customer communication strategy, with more than 1,000 fans, Facebook has also served as an excellent avenue to connect with the community. Paid Facebook ads have additionally allowed Medina Tractor to expand its messaging well beyond its dedicated fan base. “If you’re trying to sell a piece of used equipment that’s eating up your cash flow, you can throw $50 at it through a Facebook ad and have it seen by 5,000 people,” said Brian. “It’s different, it’s cost-effective, it sure isn’t going to hurt to experiment with it.”

Brian’s parting advice: “If you don’t have someone in-house who knows what they’re doing, find a trustworthy partner who gets it,” he said.

I connected with Greg Bohl’s at Buckeye Power Sales while the dealership was in the midst of a complete redesign of its website at www.BPSSuperstore.com. This multi-location Ohio dealership understands that to stay competitive, it has got to stay on top of online trends, so it’s moving forward with a more modern, e-commerce site. Here are a few gems of digital marketing wisdom that Greg was willing to share with his peers.

Get on YouTube: “The whole drive behind our video efforts is that it helps with our search ranking,” said Greg. “Plus, people just like to watch videos.”

Buckeye’s YouTube feed features a mix of manufacturers’ videos, interviews featuring the dealership from local TV shows, and some videos it has produced itself.

You don’t have to hire a crew or invest in expensive equipment to establish a presence on YouTube. A setup as simple as an iPhone on a tripod can do the job!

Target your messaging: “Everything we do is targeted,” said Greg. “Whether it’s pay-per-click or a direct-mail piece, we’d rather spend a little more money to make sure we’re hitting the demographic we’re looking for.”

This is especially true of the dealership’s search engine marketing efforts. “We’ve got the opportunity to reach someone who is actively searching for the product we’re promoting,” said Greg.

Greg recommends that you strategically track the traffic generated from that pay-per-click advertising. “Whether it’s some kind of landing page or an offer that they then bring into the store or call in with, it’s important to be able to track the performance of those ads.”

Greg’s parting advice: “Take advantage of co-op dollars — spend the money!” When Greg first started asking his manufacturers to co-op pay-per-click advertising, he heard the word “no” a lot, but that tune has started to change — if you don’t see pay-per-click as part of your manufacturer’s co-op program, ask!

Greg also advises that you should clarify that if you’re spending the money on pay-per-click, you’re ensuring the traffic comes directly to your website. “Sometimes they refuse to do it, but it’s worth asking,” concludes Greg.

Got any digital marketing pro tips you’d like to share with other OPE dealers or a challenge I can help solve? Send me an email at colleen.brousil@arinet.com — I’d love to learn from your experience and help connect you with the solutions to your digital marketing challenges.

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Colleen Brousil is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Brousil served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. Brousil is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of an award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”

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