Getting an 'A' in Advertising

Many dealers may consider cutting back on things like marketing dollars when times are tough. Dealer Jerry Clay continues to invest in marketing and use the powerful tool to attract customers to the unique services and product offerings that set his dealership apart from the big box.

Jerry Clay and his wife Phyllis became the exclusive owners of Clay’s Power Equipment in Raleigh, NC, in 2004. They turned the nursery into a go-to retailer for the outdoor power equipment customer and have since attracted a large customer base of both homeowners and landscape contractors.

Reaching Customers with the Help of Customers

One way that Clay’s has grown their customer base is through aggressive advertising. Clay realizes that in order to be successful with a complex customer base, they have to utilize different forms of advertising. “In our market, as a consumer and commercial dealer, we do a combination of various types of advertising to reach our target customers,” explains Clay. “Some forms work for both, but we have found that newspaper ads zoned to target zip codes, along with newspaper inserts, tend to work better for the consumer, and direct mail works better for the commercial customer.”

As part of their advertising efforts, they have begun branding all of the riding mowers sold. On the back of the seat on all riding mowers, you will find a 6x8-inch color Clay’s logo. Clay says this really works well for increasing the company’s visibility. “These decals can be seen when the mower is on the trailer going up and down the highway as well as when the mower is being used,” explains Clay.

Clay also gets some help with branding from his commercial customers. Commercial customers are asked to support Clay’s by placing a sign with the store logo stating “Provider of Commercial Equipment” on their work vehicles. “This is a low-cost way to get our name in front of a lot of people and encourages loyalty from our commercial customers,” says Clay.

Marketing Services as a Package Deal

Programs like the Clay’s Cutter Club offer customers convenience and value not found at the big box stores. The Cutter Club provides customers with priority repair and maintenance, free unlimited blade sharpening, and free initial delivery, just to name a few. In addition to this consumer customer service, the larger commercial customers enjoy the convenience of Clay’s parts delivery system.

The Clay’s Cutter Club consists of many services already provided by Clay’s with the purchase of equipment. The idea is to market all of these services together. “We were already offering a lot of these services, but were not actively advertising them,” explains Clay. “We decided to put them all together under one name and market them with the sale of equipment to our homeowner customers.”

They advertise the Clay’s Cutter Club and products through their local radio station with on-hold advertising (people put on hold listen to Clay’s advertising), TV advertisements, and weekly calls to customers conducted by sales staff. The calls help in building relationships with customers and forecasting future sales.

“We have a goal sheet set up for each week to record phone calls made and conversations that took place,” explains Clay. “The goal sheet and notes are reviewed at the end of the week. That way everyone knows if a customer is looking to buy in the next few weeks or months.”

In the past they have also gotten the company name out there by supplying Honda Generators to cool the NC State football team during games. This afforded them the opportunity to pitch a tent, in plain sight of the 60,000 fans, displaying the generators. Service was reiterated with an ad in each of the game programs, and during the radio broadcast.

Internet Marketing Clay also takes advantage of the ever increasing use of technology and created a website for educating customers on their service and product offering. Their website features product information, service capabilities and the company mission. The website offers a lot of information, including 10 reasons to buy from Clay’s.

“We made a domain,, to use on all marketing information,” explains Clay. “It contains reasons why people would want to buy from us. We think it creates curiosity so the customer would want to go online to find out more.” The domain address, which can be found in the Yellow Page listings and other advertising, has been receiving a lot of hits.

Some reasons listed for why a customer would choose to buy from Clay’s include:

- Family owned and operated for 46 years with owners on premises.

- Power Equipment is our specialty. We don’t sell paint, hardware, or lumber. We are the power equipment experts.

- We service what we sell. We employ industry certified, factory trained service technicians that will keep your equipment running long after your purchase.

- 2007 Yard & Garden magazine National Dealers in Excellence award winner.

- Excellent parts inventory for most brands with fast delivery of special order parts.

They currently offer Internet sales for certain manufacturer lines, but hope to expand their offering in the future, realizing that it has been good for business. “It gives us an opportunity to expand our business without the overhead, creating another business within a business,” says Clay.

Clay works hard to market his business effectively to a wide range of customers. Once his aggressive advertising brings them through the door, they are all treated the same — as invaluable customers.

“We treat our customers like we want to be treated, with honesty and respect,” explains Clay. “We take an interest in them personally as well as professionally.”

Originally appeared in the November 2007 issue of Yard & Garden.