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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Marketing For Dealers

By far, the question I get most often from dealers is: "Can you help me with my marketing?" My answer is always yes, but I usually have to preface it with a few caveats before I begin 'helping' them. The first question is, "What do you mean by 'marketing'?"

My theory is that most people go into business doing something that they know how to do. For example, a stylist will start a salon or a mechanic will open a garage. Someone who is passionate about saving people money, or they just like to work on printers might go into the office supply industry. Me? Well, I just love paper: all kinds of paper. Invitation paper, velum, plain paper - just about anything you can put a mark on. I love them all, and when I begin a project that requires paper, it's like choosing a favorite child.

That's why I went into the consumable industry. As long as there will be paper (whatever happened to that theory about the paperless office?), there will be ink and toner. I just can't imagine a day when consumers won't want to print a photo, letter or print their friend's baby shower invite at home. But someone else's reason for going into the consumables business is going to be completely different than mine. But one thing that most business owners have in common is that they aren't marketing people; they are mechanics, stylists, or technicians.

Marketing is a vague term, and it means different things to different people. How you market your business depends widely on you. If someone suggests that you write articles about your company and submit them to local magazines so you can position yourself as an expert in your field, but you aren't a writer, can be a disaster. But if you are a passionate public speaker, then you might ask to speak at a chamber event, or volunteer to present on the "best value" in office supplies at a local sourcing trade show.

We also have to consider what your strengths are, not just as an individual, but as a business. Do you provide printer service, or just sell inkjet and toner cartridges? Do you offer Managed Print options? Do you focus on retail (B2C) or business (B2B) sales? Do you have a niche? Are you in a community with older consumers who do not necessarily use the internet? Are you in a college community where the internet is king?

There are so many different opportunities for marketing your business, but choosing the right one is hard. My advice to every one is to try something, measure the results, tweak it, then try it again. It might take awhile to find out what makes your market tick, but you learn something with every step. Start small, and then grow your marketing. Begin with a flyer, or email, and change your offer a few times to see what clicks with your customer.

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