Thinking Beyond Products to Draw Customers

Innovation means more than new products. Innovation means thinking about everyday things at the dealership you can improve and use to reach out to new customers and serve them better.

What does innovation mean at the retail level? Yes, it means having fresh products to stock in the showroom. But it can also mean serving customers better, enhancing their experience and bringing them new value. GE has seen first-hand how retailers have boosted revenues using practical and relatively inexpensive ideas.

Leverage the Internet

The Internet can be a powerful tool for independent dealers that want to compete with home and garden chains. Having a robust web presence means potential customers are able to comparison shop more easily.

One large consumer-focused dealer excels at selling over the Internet. The business’ site allows customers to compare side-by-side features of various models, as well as engage in a live chat with a dealership employee on equipment specifications. Although Internet retailing isn’t widespread among lawn and garden dealers, many find that it boosts their sales.

Dealers are also realizing the benefits of building relationships via Facebook and Twitter. Creating a digital community of local enthusiasts for your products may encourage loyalty and keep you in the forefront of the minds of your commercial customers.

Dealers are using Facebook to advertise specials, showcase new equipment in the showroom, and to distribute service flyers and invitations to open houses. To encourage online interaction with their Facebook fans or Twitter followers, some dealers offer a small prize or a limited-time discount offer.

Provide added value

Commercial landscapers value their relationships with local dealers. Many regularly attend dealer-hosted open houses. You can maximize the purpose of the annual open house for your contractors. Some dealers are viewing their open house as the perfect opportunity to provide customers with educational material and at the same time showcase new products.

A dealer could present informative workshops with external speakers, such as an examination of the tax benefits of leasing versus buying new equipment, or a primer on simple equipment maintenance. Offering the educational services to customers shows you are investing in their success as well.

Keep customers coming back

A third non-product innovation theme is maintaining relationships with key accounts. For instance, one Texas-based dealer hosts a monthly barbecue lunch for its existing and prospective commercial landscape customers. The dealer displays equipment alongside the barbecue pit and picnic tables in the parking lot so buyers can walk around and look at the newest products. It’s a unique way to keep customers coming back regularly.

Making it as a business today means new players and new rules. Dealers have realized they can’t rely solely on manufacturers to deliver innovation in the form of new products. To create a strategic advantage, dealers must pursue innovation close to home.