Marketing mastery: Dealers—Be a rancher, not a hunter

Home Column Marketing mastery: Dealers—Be a rancher, not a hunter

Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Jim Augustus Armstrong


(First of several parts)

According to, Home Depot spent $1.06 billion on advertising in the United States in 2018. They were the third-largest radio advertiser in the U.S. in 2017 and made it to the list of top-five retailers in North America in 2017 based on sales. At press time, they have 4,939,108 followers on Facebook, 283,000 subscribers on YouTube and 940,000 followers on Instagram.

Home Depot is outspending you thousands of times over. You will never beat Home Depot, Lowes or any other giant, multi-national, multi-billion-dollar corporation by going head-to-head with them in the advertising game. Yet that is what many dealers try to do with their advertising, usually without realizing it.

The vast majority of dealers engage in “institutional” or “brand-building” advertising. This basically means that you put your business name out there repeatedly—both in digital and offline advertising—in an attempt to build up “name recognition.” The hope is that if people see your name enough times, consumers will think of you when in the market for flooring and buy from you instead of your competitor. It’s the basis for the old advertising “wisdom” that says people need to see your name at least seven times in order to think of and buy from you. It’s the idea behind the phrase, “You need to get your name out there.”

There is some truth to this strategy. You can build up name recognition, but there are three serious problems for independent dealers who attempt it.

No. 1: It’s extremely expensive. In order to build up name recognition to the point where a meaningful percentage of consumers in your market think of you when they need flooring will cost hundreds-of-thousands of dollars spent on advertising over a number of years.

No. 2: It takes a while to work. Assuming you have the budget to attempt this strategy, it can take years to build this kind of name recognition. Flooring dealers need their marketing efforts to generate sales now, not three years down the road.

No. 3: You’ll attract a lot of price shoppers. Think about the difference between a walk-in who is a repeat/referred customer vs. a cold prospect who came in because she saw an ad or discovered you online. The latter is much less trusting, more price-sensitive and she is much more likely to “shop around.”

An effective alternative to brand building for flooring dealers is ranching.

Most dealers are hunters. They hunt a customer, bag it, skin it, then they’re off hunting the next one. Smart dealers are ranchers. They round up a herd of customers, then invest time, energy and money into nurturing the herd, building a relationship with them and protecting them from poachers. A relatively small herd allows these dealers to have thriving businesses.

There are many advantages to this approach over brand-building: It’s less expensive, works faster, brings you the best customers, creates total differentiation from competitors and recession-proofs your business.

Finally, it fully utilizes the strengths and advantages you have as a small, agile, independent business owner, and exploits the weaknesses inherent in gigantic organizations like box stores. Over the next several installments I’m going to cover specific strategies that leverage your strengths and outline how these strategies fit within the ranching framework.


Jim is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with marketing services and coaching to help them attract quality customers, close more sales, get higher margins, and work the hours they choose. For information, visit:


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