Vendors list Do’s & Don’ts for optimizing scooter sales

Friday, January 31, 2003

When it comes to energizing scooter sales, mobility dealers don’t need to try anything radical, manufacturers say. All it takes is a fresh perspective on procedures already in place.

By thoroughly scrutinizing their advertising plans, marketing strategies and sales techniques, mobility manufacturers say, dealers can boost their scooter business while simultaneously improving other important areas, such as customer relations. At the same time, vendors caution dealers against adhering to outmoded conventions and using sales tactics that aren’t in the client’s best interest.

A successful sales approach typically begins with an effective advertising campaign, which mobility manufacturers say should hinge on factors specific to each company.

“Advertising is definitely not one-size-fits-all,” said Mark Miller, marketing director for Exeter, Penn.-based Pride Mobility Products. “You need to look at what you want to accomplish, what your budget will allow and what your market dictates.”

Miller suggests that dealers focus on the demographic population they want to reach and tailor a campaign best suited for those clients. He also advises dealers to keep a close eye on what the competition is doing.

“Count on your manufacturer for support, set your long-term goals, and you’ll have the answers you need,” he said.

Jim Ernst, product manager for Kansas City, Kan.-based Leisure-Lift, called demographics a key determinant of which media to use. Knowing which programs potential customers tune into and the publications they read helps narrow the scope, he said.

“It’s a rifle shot instead of a shotgun effect,” he said.

Dealers with low advertising budgets should concentrate on print media, he said, and progress to radio and TV as allocations grow.

“Advertise where seniors read, such as the obituaries in the newspaper and church bulletins,” Ernst said. “These are economical ways to get started when you don’t have 20 grand to spend.”

He recommends that those who can afford TV consider using professional media buyers to place the ads. “They can help pick the best spots for you to reach your target audience,” he said.

Whichever media dealers select, they should be mindful about how often their spots run and how long a campaign should last, said Susan Elder, director of marketing communications for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare.

“One thing we preach is that advertising needs to be an ongoing, sustained program,” she said. “Don’t just come in and do a two-week cycle, because you will be very disappointed. It takes time and consistency to produce results.”

Proper marketing is another crucial facet to bolstering scooter sales, manufacturers contend. Like advertising, it requires dealers to make a series of choices related to their own particular circumstances. And although they have divergent promotional ideas, manufacturers were in lockstep about emphasizing the company’s local identity.

“A reputation takes time to build and dealers need to consider that very seriously,” said C.J. Copley, director of marketing for Old Forge, Penn.-based Golden Technologies. “A reputation builds something that advertising can never buy - word of mouth.”

Leisure-Lift President Duwayne Kramer added that it is imperative for a company to distinguish itself from the competition.

“Otherwise you’re just a me-too, and you get dragged into a price war,” he said.

Manufacturers all cited events such as health fairs as great publicity tools. Providing inservices at hospitals and senior centers not only get the products in front of buyers, but they also give dealers a chance to show off their expertise and service skills, vendors said.

Providing quality customer service and product support is the foundation of a company’s reputation, and Elder said it is a manufacturer’s responsibility to work with dealers on those things.

One critical distinction dealers should make is that marketing and sales are two different functions and should not be combined, said Beth Thieme, v.p. of Bridgeport, Mich.-based Amigo Mobility.

“They are too often lumped into one, and salespeople are relied upon to do the marketing,” Thieme said. “But that diminishes the impact. When done correctly, marketing paves the road and creates a map for the salesperson to follow.”

Merchandising is another valuable piece of the sales puzzle, and manufacturers readily endorse techniques that create a sensory experience for the customer.

“Create an environment that is inviting for the customer - one that allows them to take their time and shop,” Pride’s Miller said. “Decorate with banners, especially during special events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Make sure hangtags list all important product details. And have literature readily available.”

Golden’s Copley added that dealers should do everything possible to make buying a scooter a “personal” experience.

“All customers should have a scooter that is the most appropriate for their needs,” he said. “That means explaining the features and benefits, giving them a hands-on demonstration and allowing them to get a feel for the product before they buy.”

Conversely, there are sales procedures manufacturers tell dealers to avoid. Chief among them: promoting third-party insurance - a small portion of anyone’s business - as a scooter funding source.

“I am personally challenged when I see ads that say something is covered with no out-of-pocket expenses,” Amigo’s Thieme said. “When you tell that to uneducated consumers, you are exploiting them. It’s harmful to our cause.”

Randy Walsh, Golden’s v.p. of sales, agrees. “Telling people they can get a scooter for free is misleading and unethical,” he said. “It has got to stop. Even though it’s a small minority who do it, we all look bad because of it.”

In fact, relying on third-party payers is an antiquated concept - one that dealers should be de-emphasizing, manufacturers say. Being dependent on insurance is costing dealers potential cash-and-carry sales, notes Invacare’s Elder.

“If a customer doesn’t qualify for reimbursement, don’t consider that person to be an unqualified lead,” she said. “You just need to work it differently. Be proactive.” HME
Category: Scooters
Dealer Do’s:

- When planning an advertising campaign, focus on the demographic population you want to reach and tailor a campaign best suited for those clients.

- Advertise in publications seniors read, such as newspaper obituaries and church bulletins.

- Consider using media buyers for radio and TV advertising.

- Commit to a sustained advertising program.

- Host or participate in health fairs and product inservices.

Dealer Don’ts:

- Don’t combine sales and marketing into one function.

- Don’t use language that leads people into believing they will get a free scooter.

- Don’t rely too heavily on third-party insurance as a scooter funding source.