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Useful Ways to Maximize Promotion

1 May, 2010 By: Jim Kahrs imageSource

Useful Ways to Maximize Promotion

You finally have an appointment scheduled with that big
account you have been trying to land for the past three years. You are going
through all of the preparation making sure you have anything and everything you
will need to make that great first impression. You have copies of your new
company brochure, information on the manufacturer and the products, product
brochures, a list of current customers and reference letters from a couple of
the more notable customers. Of course, you realize as you are putting this
together that the reference letters are from 2002.  Yet the collection and
actual use of reference letters is among the most overlooked tools in many
dealerships. I often ask dealers if they can name 10 uses for these letters. If
you have trouble coming up with 10, read on.

A Sequence of Actions to Reference

At one time or another, most dealers have had a program in place that
encouraged and possibly rewarded sales reps for getting customers to provide
them with these testimonial reference letters. Having done this a number of
times I can offer two distinct purposes: the first is to outline the top 10 uses
for reference letters, and the second is to provide some simple ideas you can
implement yourself.

Before discussing reference letters any further it is
important to outline the sequence of actions that must be followed to really
ensure success in acquiring new customers. The first step in the process is
public relations (PR). At our consulting and management training company much of
what we do is based on the Hubbard Management System. In this system public
relations is defined as “a technique of creating states of mind in different
types of audiences or publics.” You are looking to create a positive state of
mind with your prospects and customers relative to your dealership and your
capabilities. From public relations you move into promotion. Promotion means “to
make something known and thought well of — promotion consists of getting names
and addresses, contacting them and offering services to get them in.

With these two areas properly handled, the job of the sales
team becomes much easier. Sales is the area that meets with prospects to analyze
their needs and gets prospects to actually purchase the products and services
that you are offering. Too many dealers feel that a strong sales team replaces
the need for public relations and promotion. This could not be further from the
truth. If you look at the most successful dealers in the country you will see
that they do not rely solely on their sales force for these activities and, in
fact, have successful PR and promotion plans in place.

Creating a PR Buzz

Now that we have covered this all-important sequence of actions let’s get back
to basics. One of the most basic PR actions is the use of press releases. If you
do business with any widely recognized customers like large corporations,
colleges, local sports franchises, etc., a reference letter can be used to
create a joint press release. For an example, let’s say your dealership name is
Service First Inc. and you supply copiers for the University of Podunk. You
could write a press release titled: "The University of Podunk has selected
Service First Inc. as its copier supplier." The press release would then include
an excerpt from the reference letter like, "The outstanding service response,
and team of sales and service professionals at Service First, have truly been an
asset to the university." The press release would go on to outline the problems
that you solved for the university. The purpose of this is to show other
prospects what your capabilities are and to position yourself with a well-known
and well-respected organization. You should first get permission from the
customer, but this is usually not difficult.

Another very successful PR action is the use of open houses
at your dealership. If you are going to have an open house or an in-house demo
you should have recent reference letters framed and posted in the demo room.
Framing can be as simple as 8 x 11-inch lucite holders. A company newsletter
that is sent to customers and/or prospects is another excellent form of PR.
These newsletters can and should include reference letters or excerpts from
them. There are other PR actions that can involve reference letters but these
should get you started.

The second step in our sequence is promotion. Promotion
includes advertising, direct mail campaigns, company website, etc. The best way
to start here is to post reference letters on your website. You can scan the
letters into a digital format and post them as a PDF file that can be opened and
printed should the Web visitor wish. Again, make sure to get approval from the
customer prior to posting his or her letter. When it comes to advertising and
direct mail campaigns you can take excerpts from reference letters and build ads
or mail pieces around them.

When writing a reference letter, people usually include
what you helped them with most. The good news is that other companies will be
suffering from the same issues. For example, if you get a reference letter that
says, "Service First really listened to our needs and provided us with the most
reliable equipment we’ve ever had," you could create an ad or flyer that asks
the question, "Are you looking for reliable equipment from a dealership that
really listens?" Then include the quote from your letter in the promotion piece
you are creating. Including the name of the company that provided the reference
will add credibility to the ad. Including quotes with initials only will show
that it comes from someone other than you and allows the source to remain
anonymous. Like PR, promotion offers many other opportunities to put your
reference letters to use. Do not be afraid to experiment a little.

The third step in our sequence is sales. It is the job of
the sales team to find prospects and/or meet with prospects that have responded
to promotion, then successfully move them through the sales cycle and get them
signed on as customers. Reference letters can be a very valuable tool in this
task. They can be sent out as personalized mailers to prospects. For example, if
you have a letter from a well-known accounting firm, you can send copies of it
with a personalized letter to other accounting firms. This can be a tremendous
help when calling to schedule appointments. Many people will take the time to
meet with you when they see that you have helped their biggest competitors.

Let Me Count the Ways

Sales reps should also include reference letters in their pitch books. You
know...that book that usually has a bunch of loose price sheets, copies of old
sales promotions and some outdated brochures. A well-organized, up-to-date pitch
book would include reference letters from your most notable customers. This
gives instant credibility in the eyes of the prospect who does not know you from
Adam. Reference letters should also be included in proposals. When you present a
solution to a prospect, reference letters from others that had the same or
similar needs will help close the sale. It allows the sales rep to provide an
unbiased viewpoint of how this solution will solve the prospect’s problems.

The last area that I will cover is related to your
employees. Incentive and reward programs can and should include reference
letters. Programs can be created to reward employees for soliciting reference
letters or being named in them for the outstanding service they provided to a
customer. You can also use reference letters during the interview process.
Copies can be given to applicants to show them your company’s commitment to both
employees and customers and to build your image in their eyes.

Those of you who were counting know that I covered ten
different uses for reference letters. I can assure you that there are many more.
If you are not using this valuable resource it is not too late to put a program
together. Keep in mind that to ensure the necessary supply of letters you will
have to ask for them. You’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to give
you a great letter, once you do. 

Jim Kahrs is the President and Founder of Prosperity
Plus Management Consulting, Inc. a management consulting company based in
Smithtown, NY. Jim may be reached at 631-382-7762 or by email jkahrs@prosperityplus.com.

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