When Todd and Summer King were reviewing the books of the dealership they had purchased, one number jumped out at them: $800.
That's how much the former Pensacola Tractor & Equipment had spent on marketing in one year, and the dealership had no web site.
The Kings initiated several different media campaigns and activities designed to regain old customers, attract new ones and improve foot traffic and name recognition. They shared a few of their ideas:
Buck it Up. Kingline is getting recognition in its market for its annual "Big Buck Contest" that attracts a large field of hunters from Florida and Alabama, a major market segment for the dealership. The 2009 contest was sponsored by New Holland, Bush Hog, Tufline, as well as a local taxidermist, fishing store and jeweler.
A flyer from Kingline Equipment's 2009-10 Big Buck Contest, which drew nearly 100 participants.
The grand prize for the 2009 contest was a 30-horsepower T1510 New Holland tractor. A 5-foot Bush Hog Razorback rotary cutter and Tufline 5.5-foot disc harrow went to the second- and third-place winners. Cash, gift certificates and a compound bow were given away in the junior division, and there's also a ladies' division.
In 2010 the grand prize will be a New Holland Rustler utility vehicle.
The entry fee is $50 and the money goes toward prizes. Summer keeps a leader board in the showroom so visitors can see who's on top each week. "The guys love it," she says. "Competition is fun, and it's a lot of fun for everyone."
She adds it also helps New Holland re-establish its name in the market. "John Deere is a great marketing company that sells tractors. New Holland is a great engineering company that sells tractors, but they haven't done the best job in marketing. So I think it helps us."
On the Tube. With the previous owner spending very little on marketing, Todd and Summer faced the task of creating media programs from scratch. They tried spending money in TV, radio and print publications but found themselves getting "bombarded" with inquiries from all directions.
So they took a step back to evaluate where they got the best response and decided to focus on television ads to improve the dealership's name recognition. They worked with a local TV station and ad agency that was well-versed with television advertising.
Their message was about Kingline's "all-inclusive" ability to handle equipment sales and parts and service. "People said they saw our commercials on televison," Summer says.
Calling All Landscapers, Municipalities. When the dealership was moved in 1999, it put more distance between the employees and the landscape contractors and municipal markets that sustained the business in previous years.
Kingline Equipment reconnected with them by to establish a more positive working relationship, Todd says.
Communicating face-to-face with municipal customers - about 20% of Kingline's market - is especially important. "If you get too far away and lose the business, andthen ask them 'Why?' they say, 'Oh, we started using so and so.' Whoever is in front of them is who they're dealing with," Todd says.
To make sure they can meet with vitally important customers, Kingline has hosted an open house each spring for landscape contractors and municipalities. The event includes door prizes, lunch and field demos.
"The supplier reps are here so if the customers have questions or need anything, they're here to help. And we go beyond the equipment we sell. We get a sod supplier in here, people selling lawn chemicals, and one year we had an accountant who talked about the Section 179 accelerated depreciation program," Todd says.
"These are things that are helpful to the contractors. We get a good turnout and then follow up with phone calls and keep in front of them."