Gearing up for our family vacation meant a trip to a big box outfitter. While making my way around the maze and mountains of merchandise, I saw lots of great ideas that could be adapted at rural lifestyle dealerships. You may not have access to the kinds of retail marketing experts these mega retailers have on staff, but you do have what rural lifestylers want and need. A few adaptions could elevate your dealership beyond an equipment provider to a “lifestyle provider.” 

1. Adding Hello and Good-Bye

The outfitter we visited had a person stationed at the entrance as a firearms check-in point. However, I think his greatest value was to greet customers as they walked in and thank them as they left. Immediately, the shopping experience became more personal. This is an easy and no-extra-cost approach that dealerships should start doing right now. There’s no need to designate just one person. Scheduling greeter duties among the salesperson, receptionist or parts team is a way for your entire team to get to know your customers.

2. Entertain to Educate

The store was loaded with video displays that demonstrated how to use the hunting, fishing and camping gear. I think video is an underused resource for most dealerships. YouTube and smartphones have made us video-hungry when it comes to entertainment as well as education. Use these same tools and record short videos on such topics as how to change oil or remove a mower blade. Stick to topics that can be explained simply, with safety in mind, and make sure the area and the expert look professional. Authenticity is key, so there’s no need to make the video a slick production. A short, informative video recorded on a smartphone, uploaded to YouTube, and then shown on a video display benefits your customers — and keeps them in your dealership longer.

3. Show the Lifestyle

The outfitter showcased stuffed wildlife in recreated settings, but I think the outdoors images were just as powerful in creating the atmosphere. Are you taking advantage of the images from your manufacturers' marketing departments? These professional images can often be printed on sizes large enough to make an impact in your store. And, encourage your salespeople to take photos on every delivery. Not every shot will be worthy of display at your dealership, but you can always use the images for social media posts. And, borrow this idea from Heritage Tractor, Baldwin City, Kan., to gather images: They sponsor a photo contest for their annual calendar.

4. No Wasted Space

The outfitter had canoes dangling from the ceiling and paw prints on the floor. The outdoors lifestyle came to life because it wasn’t shown only on shelves. Break free from traditional displays — look up, for example — and see how you can make your store more visually appealing and more fun to visit again and again.

You’re an equipment dealer, which is something to be proud of. But, step up from that title and find simple ways to create a rural lifestyle store that sells equipment.