Holiday marketing is well under way in the retail world, with Black Friday just 10 days away. Don’t make this holiday season the same old thing, where you drag the Christmas tree out of storage, put red bows on indoor displays, play Christmas music instead of the country music station and bring in a fake Santa.

Those tired practices do little to promote your dealership — or sell equipment or merchandise. It’s not that you need to invent new holiday promotions, just give them a twist that shows off your dealership and the expertise of your team.

Some ideas came to mind when I checked out resources from the Small Business Admn. for Small Business Saturday, which is celebrated this year on November 30. First observed in 2010, Small Business Saturday is a relatively new campaign to promote small, “brick and mortar” stores as opposed to big box or large online retailers. One resource outlined holiday marketing on a budget, which started me thinking about how a dealership could adapt those ideas.

1. Host an Open Shop instead of an Open House. Invite customers in to see what happens when their equipment comes in for repair and introduce them to your talented technicians. Don’t worry that your shop is not a showplace. You may need to clean things up a bit, but I think your rural lifestyle customers will be impressed when they see your diagnostic tools, for example.

2. Promote a “visit with the owner” instead of a visit with Santa. Stand by the door and greet everyone that comes in that day. Have your sales team nearby to help introduce you to customers. Don’t make it your mission to sell, but to say thank you — and be ready to answer questions or take complaints.

3. Set holiday shopping hours. Many dealerships have transitioned into shorter winter hours. Customers can’t shop if you’re not open. Set some time during the weeks leading up to Christmas to stay open later — or stay open all day on Saturday. Make sure those holiday lights are shining and your parking lot looks busy.

4. Develop wish lists. Why not have ready-made equipment wish lists posted on the counter or on your website? You could develop lists for hobby farmers, acreage owners, hunters or horse owners.

5. Engage your team. This is the perfect time to have fun with your employees. Find out who has a talent for decorating and give them a budget to spruce up your holiday decorations. Have a cookie decorating contest or a chili cook-off. Invite customers to vote for their favorites.

6. Give back. Lessiter Publications, the company that publishes Rural Lifestyle Dealer, has a program I admire. They make donations to the charity of choice for each employee. Think about the impact you could have in your local community — and the pride you would instill in your employees.

Throughout the season and year round, you can also take pride in this statistic from Independent We Stand, a campaign sponsored by Stihl: For every $100 spent at an independent business, $68 returns to the local community, compared with $43 for a national chain. 

Lynn Woolf,
Managing Editor
Rural Lifestyle Dealer