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Finding Answers to the Question: Will It Really Work?

8 Nov, 2002 By: Wes Phillips imageSource

Finding Answers to the Question: Will It Really Work?

Office technology
dealers looking for a better return on their marketing investments are often
apprehensive about initiating or altering their strategies. Dealers are hesitant
to spend additional resources and money without knowing the answer to the
question, "will it really work?"

After talking with
and questioning many dealers, I have identified a number of common traits.
First, many dealers have never allocated a set percentage of the revenue to fund
an ongoing advertising budget. Second, some have never developed and implemented
a consistent marketing message. Third, others have not integrated the marketing
messages into their sales and advertising processes. And, finally, most are
unsure about just what it is that makes their company different from the

By posing the
question "will it really work?" you are taking the first step in
putting your dealership on the road to marketplace leadership. As encouragement
to those dealerships that have asked this first question and to help you take
the next steps, this month's and next month's column will feature two case
studies that demonstrate it is possible to get a better return on your marketing

Excitement And Talk

The first case study involves a Texas dealership with an established
identity in four separate markets. By all measures, it was earning an acceptable
return on its marketing investment and, at first glance, appeared to not need

When an opportunity
to grab extra market share and firmly establish the company as the marketplace
leader developed, it became obvious that the existing marketing dollars would
have to work harder and additional monies would need to be invested.

Historically, the
foundation of this dealership's media strategy was the use of radio advertising,
supplemented with a yellow page presence. The creative execution for the radio
commercials consisted of using actual customers sharing their unscripted
comments and perceptions about the benefit of doing business with this
dealership. In addition, the advertising budget was at about 1.5 percent of
total sales, which in this dealership's circumstance was fiscally (and from a
marketing perspective) prudent.

The dealership
determined that the next step in solidifying its marketplace leadership was to
recruit a high profile spokesperson. The person they chose would need to be not
only respected in the community, but must exemplify the qualities demonstrated
by the dealership and validated by customers in the radio commercials.

There were three
immediate obstacles to implementing this strategy. The first was who to choose.
In Texas, the obvious choice for a spokesperson is a sports personality. Yet
there is a risk in this strategy since many advertisers have been put in
unfortunate situations by the notorious behavior of sports celebrities. Luckily
for this dealership, there was one sports personality that was virtually
risk-free and had a well known reputation for honesty, integrity and commitment.
That individual was David Robinson, the center for the San Antonio Spurs!

Once the choice was
made, the next step was to determine if it was even possible to get Robinson to
participate in the dealership's advertising efforts. When negotiations were
opened with Robinson's representatives, it quickly became clear that money was
not going to be the most important criteria for Robinson's involvement.
Robinson's representatives wanted to make sure that the company he would
associate his name with measured up to his high standards! Fortunately, this
dealership had not just given lip service to providing great service. When this
dealership's references were checked, the responses were glowing. Plus, the
consistent year in and year out radio advertising had raised the dealership's
level of market awareness to such a extent that Robinson's representatives in
San Antonio perceived this dealership as having the market stature and
leadership consistent with Robinson's stature.

With Robinson
secured, the dealership was ready to implement its funding strategies.
Fortunately, this dealership planned ahead to develop new ideas and strategies.
The company goal was to launch the enhanced advertising strategy in November.
Planning began at the beginning of June, providing five months to work on the
many details involved in this venture. This lead-time permitted a budget
reevaluation and adjustment of funds previously devoted to yellow page
advertising. Although the savings from modifying yellow page ads practically
offset the added expense, still more was needed.

At this point, the
dealership put together a well-documented strategic advertising plan and
submitted it to their manufacturers. The plan detailed how the sports
personality would be used to position the dealership and the manufacturer, what
media would be used, the benefits expected from the plan and the anticipated
cost. Finally, the plan requested the manufacturers involvement to help fund the
project. With plenty of lead-time and thorough upfront work, the dealership was
able to secure the manufacturer's support!

With the additional
budget in place, the next step was to refine the advertising content strategy
and media mix strategy. The decision was made to continue the use of radio as
the core component of the media plan. The hard part of the creative strategy was
how to use David Robinson in a believable manner. This was accomplished by
having him make powerful comments about the traits of effective teams. Actual
customer comments were added, validating and paralleling the dealership's
similar traits. In addition, billboards were added to the media mix to take
advantage of the high profile nature of the spokesperson. The billboards were
very elegant and simple with a visual image of David Robinson, the dealership's
logo and a headline that tied directly to messages contained in the radio spots.

There were two other
components of this strategy. One was the use of a direct mail piece using the
spokesperson's picture. This piece was also redesigned as a cold call tool. The
other was to have David Robinson appear for one hour at the corporate office for
what is called a "meet and greet." The dealership put together a very
effective, all day technology open house designed to generate excitement among
customers and prospects. The event also served to boosted company morale and
made a strong, positive impact on the dealership's staff!

So, what was the
outcome of these efforts? Gross profit on sales from the one-day event alone,
offset the entire additional cost of the billboard strategy. When the
dealership's fiscal year ended, they posted record sales and net profits! In
addition to increased market awareness, the internal staff possessed a greater
degree of cohesiveness and the dealership was able to fulfill all of their
commitments to manufacturers.

To Be Learned

No matter the size of your company, there are lessons to be learned and examples
to follow from this case study.

1. The power of a
fixed percentage of sales spent on advertising every year.
The dealership's
ongoing commitment to advertising aided and reinforced its commitment to
success. The company was able to get things accomplished because other people
were aware of them and had the perception that they merited serious attention
and consideration.

2. Action
matching words.
This dealership made sure that their service performance
actually matched the promises made in the advertising. This requires an ongoing
commitment and investment that pays dividends in the long run.

3. Long term
In order to get marketing dollars to work harder, there was
advanced planning, which allowed different possibilities to be investigated and
negotiated. This would not have been possible if the day-to-day issues and
concerns were allowed to overshadow long-range success.

3. Nurturing
manufacturer relationships.
Manufacturers were incorporated into the process
and viewed as a potential partner. Given ample information and time,
manufacturers could see the benefits and potential of working with the
dealership to help meet its goals.

4. Thinking
outside the box.
Even though this dealership was doing quite well, they knew
that more was possible and they were willing to allow their creativity to be
exercised. This helped to create ideas and opportunities that led to more sales,
increased profits and market place leadership.

Your company can
benefit from these principles and generate excitement, talk, leadership and more
profit. Next month's column with highlight a case study featuring how a new
dealership was able to generate powerful momentum and results.

Phillips, CEO of Hunter Barth Advertising, located in Costa Mesa, California,
submitted this article. Hunter Barth Advertising is a full service marketing and
advertising firm specializing in the office technology industry. You can reach
Wes at 949-631-9900 or at Phillips@hunterbarth.com.

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