Many dealers are successfully using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to market their business and stay connected with their customers. Social media marketing is an increasingly popular and affordable way to get your business’s name out there—and dealers are taking notice.
“It’s obviously becoming a very popular marketing tool for retail organizations, but is still unique in the yard and garden industry,” says Brian Steensma of Steensma Lawn & Power Equipment in Kalamazoo and Plainwell, MI. “We started doing it for both the marketing opportunities and to set ourselves apart as being more on the cutting edge.”
Steensma uses Facebook, YouTube, craigslist, eBay and a blog to gain exposure for his business. Steven Tolbert, who handles the marketing at Smitty’s Lawn & Garden in Olathe, KS, also wanted to take advantage of what social media marketing could offer the business.
“People typically do research online before getting serious about making a purchase,” explains Tolbert. “When I started the project of implementing social media for our dealership, I wanted to create an environment where during that research process the customer would find our blog and that would then point the customer to the website once they got serious about making a purchase.”
Social media marketing gets a response from existing and potential customers. It’s not typically what leads to an equipment purchase, but they do take notice. “I have many people come in and say they have seen our Facebook page,” says Steensma. “I haven’t had anyone come in and buy a new tractor solely because they saw our Facebook page, but they are impressed.”
Customers are usually a little surprised to learn that their local outdoor power equipment dealer has a social media presence. “This industry is typically a little more conservative in the newer trends and things like social media,” says Steensma. “So many customers don’t expect it and are generally impressed.”
Social media websites are great for attracting and impressing customers, but shouldn’t be used as a sales tool. “On all of our social media sites I have tried to not put on the selling hat. It’s not a selling tool, so you need to have a different attitude there,” says Tolbert. “We want the website to be more for the branding and building who we are.”
Content Created Just for the Sites
Beyond branding, social media sites offer dealers a unique opportunity to share their expertise with customers. Offering them useful information on how to properly use and maintain their equipment shows you are a useful partner.
“We want to create an environment ripe with information,” says Tolbert. “I’ve gone outside the power equipment arena a little bit and just talked about lawn care and general maintenance and landscaping—anything that has to do with outdoor living.”
Once the site visitors find helpful information on your site, they will turn to you again and again. When they are considering an equipment purchase, your dealership and expertise should then be top of mind.
“It gets them used to turning to us for anything related to power equipment as well as serve as an avenue for our announcements,” explains Steensma. “With our customers, we want to become a lawn and power equipment partner. We want to be out in front of them on a routine basis, not just when they need another piece of power equipment. We offer mowing tips, landscaping tips, maintenance tips, and announce any specials.”
Properly Managing Social Media Marketing
Deciding to involve social media in your marketing is a huge undertaking. Doing it right means dedicating a good amount of time in order to be consistent. Many social media marketers would suggest hiring one employee to handle it all.
At Steensma Lawn & Power Equipment, they hired a dedicated IT employee to get their social media program off the ground and maintained in the busy months.
“I suggest getting someone that knows all about the technical side on your staff,” says Steensma. “It’s very time consuming to have an Internet presence. Whether it’s your website, online sales or your social media marketing, doing it well is important. If you’re going to be out there, you have to be timely and professional.”
At Smitty’s Lawn & Garden, a different approach to managing social media marketing has worked for them. Instead of assigning the responsibilities to one staff member, they spread the work around.
“Try sharing the social networking responsibility throughout the organization,” suggests Tolbert. “A variety of people can write the blog posts and pass them through one person for grammar and proofing. As long as everyone has an understanding of the type of image you are trying to portray, multiple people can use it successfully.”
Knowing what you want your message to be as well as how to get it out there successfully can help you grow through social media marketing. One thing you or one of your employees should understand is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Correct SEO improves the visibility of your site in free search engines like Google and Yahoo.
“If you do your SEO correctly, writing your blog rich with SEO words and terms, you will successfully rank higher than your competition in searches,” says Tolbert. There are several online tools available for helping you figure out SEO (tools.seobook.com).
Taking the time to get to know the strategies for social media marketing and implementing them consistently can help you reach out to customers and become a trusted source for all their outdoor power equipment needs.