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Retail Marketing: Treat Them Smartly


Barnum may have said “There’s a sucker born every minute,” but even he discovered that it doesn’t pay to underestimate the intelligence and buying savvy of the American public.

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Successful businesses don’t underestimate the American consumer, especially when it comes to high-ticket items. Most retail salespeople agree that their best customers are adept at seeing the real costs of items, can cut through sales hype, are pretty clever, and are looking for true value in what they purchase. They want the best possible option between what they can afford and what you have to offer.

So your best course for success is to assume your audience will respond positively to intelligent and rational offers of value. They may not buy on that basis, but you will likely find greater success in the long run if you provide prospective customers with complete information about the products you offer.


Think about how you personally approach making a buying decision. How much “studying” do you do before making a final decision? What information do you need to base a decision on?

Consider this in your advertising approach. While people think less is more when it comes to ads, research has proven that ads with information-rich text get read more and in greater detail than with a lot of sale-ese.

Consumers want to make good, intelligent choices. If you base your marketing and promotion efforts on providing all the information they may need to make a comfortable decision, you will find great success.


Not everyone will buy, of course, but those that do will feel more comfortable in their decision. And they are more apt to tell others.

In addition, this focus will help keep price from being an issue, allowing you to capture more sales at a higher return rate.

Gift Giving
You see them everywhere now – grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants. Gift certificates have become a powerful and successful marketing tool, and an easy way to increase business with nominal out-of-pocket expense. Today, many people turn to gift certificates as a gift option vs. shopping for the perfect present or trying to find something for that man “who has everything.”


The basic concept is simple: sell pre-printed gift certificates in various denominations to be redeemed for equal value at a later date. Not only do gift certificates guarantee future business (and an opportunity for add-on sales), they put cash in your register today, not later.

Gift certificates offer some tremendous advantages to both parties. First, they’re perfect for people who don’t know what gift to buy. Second, because the certificates give you immediate cash without having to supply a product or service until later, the money received from the purchase of gift certificates is like an interest-free loan.


Third, gift certificates are an inexpensive way to build or broaden your customer base. Finally, it’s a good way to get new customers in to experience your capabilities, expertise and service.

You can either have specially designed gift certificates created for you, you can create them yourself on your office PC, or you can buy blank generic certificates at most office supply stores. Make sure you get your company’s name, address, phone numbers and hours of operation imprinted on the certificates. The added cost of having certificates created for you adds a touch of class and enhances perceived value.


You could have different colored certificates done in various denominations, or have one common certificate with a blank space where your sales person can fill in the purchased amount. Make sure you have an employee or manager sign each certificate to discourage forgeries.

And keep good records of all gift certificates purchased and redeemed. By using certificates that are numbered sequentially, this recordkeeping will be easy. Make sure all redeemed certificates are stamped as having been used. Add newly sold certificates to your records, and check each off as they are redeemed.

Women Power
Women are a major factor in the tire and auto service business. The Tire Review Dealer Profile Study shows that nearly 40% of a typical retailer dealer’s customers are women. And across the entire aftermarket, women make up well over 60% of those purchasing vehicle services.


While women have become a major force in the retail tire business, there are some subtle differences in the way men and women think, act and react. For instance, women are less apt to complain about bad service or poor treatment, they just won’t come back. At the same time, women are more likely to tell others about their retail experiences – bad or good. And women tend to be more loyal to brands and companies.

Because they often earn less than men, women are more cost and value oriented – even in dual income families. And because of time demands, convenience is a major concern. At the same time, if you say the job will be done at 5 p.m., it had better be done at 5 p.m.


Often, children accompany their moms on tire or service purchases. This means clean waiting areas, age-appropriate magazines and toys, play areas or a working television. And, obviously, safety is a major consideration in any tire or vehicle service purchase.

As you would expect, taking advantage of female customers (with the unfortunate idea that women don’t know anything about cars) is a ticket to trouble. Treat them fairly, take the time to explain, and make them feel comfortable and confident in their decisions.

Bang For The Buck
There is a basic rule in promoting your business: prospective customers need to see the name of your company at least seven times before they even think about making a purchase. That’s at least seven times – keep in mind that tires and vehicle services are usually not proactive buying decisions.


Advertising is expensive, and the heavy advertising needed to get to prospects seven times can drain a budget. But here some easy things you can do to make your promotion efforts more effective and dollar efficient:

  • Whether it’s newspaper, radio, TV, cable, direct mail or Yellow Pages advertising, make your ads as eye- (or ear-) catching as possible. Memorable – not cheesy – ads get noticed and get remembered.
  • Repetition is key. Take advantage of frequency discounts – especially with newspaper ads or radio spots – as much as possible.
  • Avoid putting all your newspaper ad dollars into one or two huge ads when you can take the same dollars and buy more smaller ads over a greater period of time. And don’t get locked into one section of the paper – spread your ads throughout the newspaper.
  • With radio, try to buy a package that provides a lot of daily exposure over a month of so. If you can’t afford that today, wait until your budget builds up.
  • Never accept the quoted price for radio spots. Radio ad prices are almost always negotiable. And don’t buy spots on a station just because you or your friends listen to it. Stations target specific audiences – by age, sex, martial status, etc. If you’re trying to hit a particular segment of the market, tailor your radio buy to that segment.
  • Frequency rates are usually not available with local TV stations or cable operations. So focus on an audience most likely to buy your products or services, or use TV/cable to hit specific target groups – like housewives or mothers.
  • Don’t change your print or radio ads just for the sake of change. Consistency, like repetition, builds an image for your business. It’s like fishing: give them time to notice the bait.
Happy Birthday!Researchers say that people respond positively to their own name. And especially to their own birthday. Why not take advantage of your customers’ special days to build good will – and name recognition – for your dealership?
  • When you’re gathering information about your customers, ask for their birth date. Add this information to your database.
  • With this information in hand, you could drop them a note, perhaps a birthday card, or even send a special package of coupons for future use.
  • You could even have monthly birthday specials, and invite select customers – usually your best customers – in for a one-day sale.
  • Or you could offer customers a special birthday gift. Send them a postcard on their birthday offering a special gift – it doesn’t have to be expensive, perhaps a calendar or pen with your company’s name on it – if they come in for tires or service that month.

It’s a good idea to keep track of any expenses related to your “birthday marketing” activities, and compare resulting sales from targeted customers to those expenses. If you don’t see a sales increase, the drop the program.

Go Ahead and Ask

Confident in your business? In your products and service? See a lot of satisfied customers? Then maybe it’s time to ask for referrals.

Many retailers – especially tire dealers – are bashful about asking for referrals, preferring to hope that positive word-of-mouth advertising will benefit them. But why wait and hope? Why be bashful, especially if the customer has indicated they had a positive experience with your store?

Why not ask a happy customer: “Could you refer me to any of your friends who might be interested in our services?”

If you have letters of appreciation from other happy customers, post them on a bulletin board near the front desk. These can help spur a positive comment from customers.


Some dealers offer a referral program, earning a future discount for the customer who refers your business to others, and/or offering a discount to those referred to their business.

And don’t hesitate to ask for multiple referrals. Give the customer a handful of your business cards. Or create special referral cards (offering a discount) that customers can give to others. You can even leave some of these in the customer’s car when the work is done, or mail them to the customer a week or two after their visit.

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