RERMAG

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A lot of what gets done in the equipment rental business gets done on the quick. Instinct rules, so it's not surprising that when it comes to marketing and promoting their services, many smaller rental operations just wing it.

Some rental center owners design all their fliers on the kids' computer at home. Others spring for a few generic 30-second spots on the local radio station or cable channel. There is always the tried (and true?) ad in the Yellow Pages each year.

Many independents, faced with consolidation forces moving into their space, conceded the job to associations or co-ops, who create promotional materials for hundreds of members in hundreds of markets, leaving a blank space to insert a company name and address.

Cost-effective? Yes. Actually effective? That depends.

Behind any promotional effort — be it DIY fliers or mass-mailers — should be a clear understanding of what works and what doesn't, what you want to accomplish and how.

A critical first step in developing an effective marketing strategy is to leverage what you do best — your “core competency.” If that happens to be 24-hour, on-call service, say so and say it as often as possible.

The most effective marketing strategy is to be rated best in one or more meaningful areas of operation. If you can't be best, then try to be better than most of your competition, or at least different.

Studies have shown that less than one-third of all customers make decisions based totally on price. Now many rental sales reps might scoff at that figure, but the very best ones know that rates are usually not the sole determining factor in making a deal.

In business, “perception is reality” and that's why a well-conceived and well-executed marketing campaign becomes essential.

Contrary to popular opinion, however, promotion is not exclusively about attracting new customers, though that must be a goal of any growing company. The average business loses 10 percent to 30 percent of its customer base each year. Keeping the customers you have is the most cost-effective marketing strategy you can invest in.

What do your customers need and how do you meet that need better than your competition? The answer should be the theme of your marketing effort, and at the tip of every employee's tongue. Get started.

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