Position Your Dealership to Thrive In A Recession6 Jan, 2009 By: Darrel Amy imageSource
Position Your Dealership to Thrive In A Recession
days you hear the phrase, “We are in a recession proof industry” floating around
sales bull pens. There is no question that we are headed into a time of
economic slowdown. And, there is no question that we can be in one of the most
Once you get over being frustrated about why we are heading
into a recession, its time to consider how to change your business strategy to
thrive in a recessionary environment. When the economy is going full steam
ahead, clients invest in the latest technologies. When the economy slows down,
clients become more conscious of ways to reduce overhead expenses.
In the same sales bull pens, you also hear the familiar line,
“The economy is tougher so you need to work even harder.” While there is an
element of wisdom to anyone enhancing their work ethic, the challenge is that if
sales people work harder to sell something that people are not buying, that
means they will end up with an even higher level of frustration.
Instead of just working harder, sales efforts and marketing efforts need to
be smarter. Namely, they need to shift focus to what the clients want: lower
Thriving in a recession means refocusing your marketing and sales efforts on
strategies that help clients reduce expenses--without having to make large
capital investments. In this article, we will explore areas of your dealership
that should be examined in the light of the economic slowdown.
A Recession- Proof Sales Strategy
Even the whisper of a recession causes clients to pull back on discretionary
spending. It also causes companies to turn to a more defensive posture. The
focus goes from revenue generation to expense reduction. Therefore, we need to
adjust our dealership strategies appropriately.
It’s not that we sell different systems, services and solutions. It’s mainly
that we focus on different key benefits. The lead moves from selling the latest
and greatest office technologies (color MFP’s) to selling cost- reducing ideas
(color cost control.)
Managed Print Services
Our lead moves from selling hardware to selling services and solutions that
reduce costs. One of the best examples is a managed print services strategy.
In this strategy, the focus is in discovering and controlling clients’ total
cost of ownership in printing. Then, the proposal is to have the client
outsource the management of their current fleet to your dealership. This
strategy shows immediate savings and requires no capital expenditure on the
clients’ part. It also gives an immediate injection of residual cash flow into
your business. Of course, you will also go back each quarter to help the client
optimize their fleet to further reduce costs--leading to the sale of hardware.
Another cost reduction strategy is to lead with a process automation or
workflow improvement approach. In this strategy, you are coming in to help the
client analyze their business processes, find problems and apply technology to
solve those problems. Done correctly, this solutions approach can
simultaneously reduce the clients’ cost of doing business while automating key
processes in their business. Automation means that the client can do more with
fewer employees, reducing staffing requirements and giving them flexibility in
the way staff roles are assigned. Of course, the solution is going to require
hardware upgrades and software sales. However, most of these solutions can be
implemented with a lease program that, once again, does not require a capital
A Recession-Proof Marketing Strategy
Just as important as your sales approach is your dealership’s marketing
approach. It is vital that your marketing message compliment your
recession-proof sales message. This begins with correct positioning of your
company and then extends to your promotion strategy.
The way things are packaged makes a big difference. If you showed up on
Christmas day with gifts wrapped in bright yellow and blue paper that said
“Happy Birthday,” you might have a good gift but it would be improperly
positioned. The same thing would be true if you showed up to a birthday party
in August with a gift wrapped in red paper with a picture of Santa Claus.
Both boxes might contain the same gift. Before the gift was opened, the
focus would be on the improper wrapping of the gift. This same disconnect can
happen if your dealership’s marketing message is not properly positioned.
In good economic times, it makes sense for your marketing message to focus on
the latest & greatest gadgets that clients can invest in. Your goal is to show
your company as the perfect source for this technology: great gadgets from
great manufacturers, backed by great service.
In slower times, your marketing message needs to shift. The goal should be
to identify with your clients’ business challenges. First, show you understand
their problems related to an economic slowdown. Show how you are able to help
them reduce costs and automate processes to weather the storm.
Sure, marketing can be considered a discretionary expense by a dealership.
However, dealerships that don’t invest in repositioning their marketing message
for their recession-proof sales message risk delivering birthday gifts wrapped
in a Christmas paper with a big red and green bow. Again, what’s in the box may
be the exact gift that the client needs, however the client may not be able to
see the gift through the improper wrapping paper!
The way you package your offerings as you shift sales strategies is vital.
Thus, marketing investments are anything but discretionary as you head into a
Market Positioning for a Recession
The foundation of any company’s marketing message these days is their
website. When current and prospective clients visit your website, what do they
see? Do they see a company that is focused on selling the latest and greatest
gadgets from great manufacturers backed by great service? Or do they see a
company that understands their clients’ needs to implement cost reducing
The first impression that a client gets from your website is that you have
their best interests at heart. They should quickly see that you have strategies
to help them reduce costs. As they drill down further in the site, the content
should be going deeper into the cost reducing strategies.
Marketing Through Indirection
Most direct marketing in our industry has focused on promoting the newest
gadgets. While there is no question that we have some of the coolest new color
multifunction systems and software solutions ever invented, the key to selling
these may be to not focus on the amazing gadgets.
Recently, my smart college professor wife (Dr. Amy Amy--yes it’s true) was
talking about the “principle of indirection.” This theory says that you focus
on one thing with the result being a positive result in a totally different
area. For example, it doesn’t make sense for a company that sells hardware to
sell clients on managing their current print fleet. But the very act of not
trying to sell someone hardware builds the trust needed to become their
exclusive partner for managing output devices, and, then sell them hardware.
This is the principle of indirection in action.
Another example is doc management. It doesn’t make sense for
a company that sells hardware to make their sales pitch around improving
business processes. However, when IBM, the world’s most successful hardware
company, launched their solutions initiative they indirectly increased hardware
sales and profitability. We can do the same thing in our business by
positioning our dealership’s as sources of business process automation
solutions. Make sure to position your dealership to take advantage of the
“recession-proof” ability of our industry. Focus sales efforts on reducing
client costs. Focus marketing efforts on positioning your company as a source
of overhead expense reducing solutions. Leverage the principle of indirection
to pull hardware with refreshingly high profit margins.
Darrell Amy is the President of Dealer Marketing Systems, a firm dedicated
to helping dealers position & promote their companies for solutions success.
Darrell is also a part of the MPS 2.0 team, an initiative led by Digital
Gateway that readily supports dealers to succeed in managed print services.
Darrell can be reached at 214-224-0050 ex 100 or at