Most equipment dealers today are selling what are called “mature products.” These products have been on the market for years and are similar in function to those that your dealership’s competition is selling. A lift truck is a lift truck, a tractor is a tractor, an excavator is an excavator, a greens mower is a greens mower, albeit some products have more bells and whistles than others! This all results in a market sameness and market sameness can cause a decline in customer loyalty and increased competitive shopping on the part of the customer. It is difficult for manufacturers and equipment dealers to admit, but we are selling commodities.
So what is the answer? How can equipment dealers break out of this mold of sameness? Might we suggest that the equipment dealers focus their advertising and promotion efforts upon what is of interest to their customers? Your customers for the most part use the equipment they purchase to make their living. Therefore their major concern is “unscheduled downtime” and knowing whether or not the dealer
Annual surveys run by associations, manufactures and trade magazines clearly indicate that what draws the customer back to buy the second, third and fourth piece of equipment is: 1) parts availability, 2) repairs completed correctly the first time, on time, 3) accurate repair estimates and 4) friendly, experienced and responsive personnel. These same surveys on customer expectations clearly indicate that the more an equipment dealer can deliver as far as aftermarket services are concerned, the greater the equipment dealer’s sales opportunities in his overall market place will be. So if this is what the customer is looking for, why not intensely advertise and promote how superior your aftermarket services really are? Why not tell the customer you have $750,000 in parts inventory and that your supplier provides overnight delivery on parts you do not stock? Why not tell the customer that your dealership has twelve factory trained technicians with a combined total of 125 years of experience working on the equipment that the customer buys?
Parts availability and superior service response time should not be assumed. Your equipment dealership should advertise and strongly promote these issues.
Many years ago, a major equipment manufacturer took a daring step in a national advertising campaign. This company advertised and promoted the fact that the part would be free to the customer if not delivered in 48 hours. This worked so well for them they changed it to 24 hours
This parts and service advertising campaign created quite a bit of attention worldwide. Attention that got the manufacturer and its dealers organization additional equipment sales at the expense of their competition. No one assumed the customer completely understood the program, it was advertised and promoted constantly.
Unfortunately most manufacturers do not advertise their aftermarket capabilities sufficiently. Many equipment dealers take their lead from their suppliers and tend to neglect advertising their aftermarket capabilities. This can be verified by analyzing an equipment dealer’s financial statement or departmental budgets.
By assuming your customers and prospective customers know all there is to know about your aftermarket services, you are failing to sell your dealership’s strengths.
Your aftermarket support is your most unfailing weapon against competition!
Advertising is telling your customers what you have to offer. Ask yourself the question: In my advertising, what does my dealership stand for? Dare to be unique, to be different. Words such as quality, genuine, authorized, factory dealer are okay, but have lost their meaning and have been overworked. Take some time to discover your aftermarket strengths and let your customers know what they are and capitalize on those particular strengths. Your aftermarket advertising should offer the customer: features, advantages and benefits, a reason to buy from your dealership rather than from the competition.
THE HOME OF LEGENDARY SERVICE!
When you buy from our dealership, you are not just buying
the sales department, you are buying the whole dealership!
Take nothing for granted in your aftermarket advertising and promotion. The customer wants to know that your dealership is capable of keeping their equipment up and running and avoiding downtime. Let the customer know from the start that you want their service business . . . you want to keep unscheduled down-time to a minimum.
Emphasize the qualifications of your service technicians, their top-notch training. Let your customers know you have state of the art equipment and tools to keep their equipment running. Offer solid guarantees concerning your service. We have never known an equipment dealer not to re-do a job if it was done wrong. Why not advertise and promote this particular fact? Compare and promote your service capabilities over your competition . . . truly market your service!
Let your customers know that you stock the right parts for their equipment, and if the part does not happen to be available in your inventory, your parts personnel have the ability to source the part immediately. Let the customers know that your prices are competitive. Break down, through your advertising and promotion, the questions that customers have concerning your parts pricing.
Advertise the fact that the dealership’s excellent parts availability and service response time is a protection for the customers’ investment. Advertise the professionalism of your parts and service personnel. Offer positive satisfaction: Because our business depends on it, we are making your satisfaction our policy!
Develop and use in your advertising and promotions a mission dtatement for your dealership. An equipment dealer’s mission dtatement defines and communicates the vision, strategic direction, and long term goals of the dealership to all employees, and of course, to your customers.
Some advertising & promotion suggestions:
1) Facilities brochure: this piece will tell a story about your dealership and what it has to offer your customers. It should not fail to emphasize those services you offer as far as the aftermarket is concerned.
2) Dealer newsletter: this is a piece written internally in the dealership and mailed out to customers monthly or even quarterly. The piece highlights different departments within the dealership, introduces new products and services, new employees, specials, training and accomplishments. If done well, customers really begin to look forward to receiving it on its due date.
3) Letters of inquiry or follow-up: letters written to your customers wanting to know what they think of your parts and service departments. What changes they think you might make to better service your customers.
4) Thank you letters: Really great advertising for your dealership. Two extremely important words that everybody likes to receive.
Since your customers want to know how good you really are in the aftermarket, why not let them know? Advertise what your dealership has to offer in the aftermarket and watch not only your parts and service sales grow, but watch how your new equipment sales also grow.
John R. Walker is president of Aftermarket Services Consulting Co. Inc. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to contact John.