Dealer Don Beyer: Authors bring in crowds
About 200 customers packed Don Beyer Volvo in Falls Church, Va., on a cold Thursday night in February. They heard local author Edward P. Jones read excerpts from his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Known World.
On June 14, the group's Volvo and Subaru dealership in Alexandria, Va., will host author and long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox. Her memoir, Swimming to Antarctica, describes her exploits, which include swimming the Bering Strait from the United States to Russia.
Store co-owner Mike Beyer says dealerships must develop distinctive marketing efforts such as the readings to reach customers.
"Traditional media don't generate results anymore," Beyer says.
There are too many TV channels, newspapers are too cluttered, and the Internet is too broad, he argues.
An author series suits his customers because many are educated and like to read, Beyer says.
Volvo Cars of North America Inc. says nearly half the Volvo owners in the Washington area have graduate degrees.
Jones' reading cost a fraction of the $25,000 the Beyer group typically would spend on a direct-mail promotion. The dealership spent about $6,000, including the $5,000 speaker's fee, Beyer says.
Timothy Gilbert, chairman of the automotive marketing department at Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla., says events such as the author readings reflect dealers' efforts "to build a value-added relationship with customers."
"Dealers only sell cars every two to four years" to a customer "and service cars based on need," Gilbert says. "They don't see their customers on a regular basis."
The Beyer group promotes the author appearances by sending e-mail messages to customers. The Falls Church store distributed about 8,000 invitations to Jones' appearance, Beyer says.
"Once word got out, more people tried to come, but we ran out of space," he says. Many customers who didn't get invitations gave the dealership their e-mail addresses so they could attend the next reading, he adds.
The dealership bought 50 copies of Jones' novel for a signing after his reading. "The books were gone before he started speaking," Beyer says. "People were just scooping them up."
You may e-mail Donna Harris at [email protected]