Don’t underestimate the power of advertorials
Rental centers have a ton of “best kept secrets” in their rental inventory and most owners and managers sit back waiting for people to come in and ask for them by osmosis. In the meantime, the lawn and garden centers, contractors and even some hardware stores are the ones creating demand and getting the business.
At Bledsoe Rentals, we’ve had an ongoing campaign for aerators since the early 1990s. This campaign increased our demand and inventory so much that we went from three aerators at each store to a total of 48 between the three store locations plus nine towable aerators for larger yards.
While people tend to aerate mainly in the fall, they can do it anytime they are dealing with compacted soils. Even with my large fleet of aerators, we still end up with waiting lists in the fall renovation season. A lot of lawn and landscape companies rent our units rather than purchasing them. That way, if it breaks, they just come get another unit or we take them a replacement unit and then they can keep their crews working nonstop.
We started the promotion of aerators in 1990. Immediately that fall,
we had waiting lists on our three units per each of our two locations. The next year we doubled the six units to 12 and still had waiting lists as we more heavily promoted the benefits of aeration through advertorials in the local media.
In 1998, we bought our second suburban area store in Lee’s Summit, Mo. In 1999, we knew the new location was going to be a big hit and increased the inventory of aerators to nine at each store and added a large number of slicers, seeders and a few power rakes to each of the three stores. That fall, we continued the promotions and we had large waiting lists, so we started increasing the inventory by three units per store each year until we got to the current 48.
All three of my current stores are in Kansas City suburban areas where people have a tendency to compete with each other to have the best looking lawn on the block. When I first started pushing the education on aeration and subsequently on all lawn renovation equipment, we did have one location in a declining part of Kansas City and our responses weren’t as great there. We’ve since closed that original location and rebuilt that store in a third suburban high growth potential area.
There has been no difference in aerator rental activity at our current suburban locations. However, before we closed our original store in the declining neighborhood, we were down to only two aerators and only three slicers and two power rakes there. When we moved that closed store inventory to the suburbs, we immediately increased that inventory to match the other two suburban stores. It took about three years for the new store to build its rentals up to that level of inventory, largely because the recent recession had slowed the anticipated home building in that area, but it has been growing through the recession at about 12 percent per year.
We have had one to two towable aerators at each store until about four years ago. With larger lawns in the suburban areas, we were seeing enough demand to increase that number to three towables at each store. That seems to
be the saturation point of demand for those units.
Homeowners far exceed the lawn companies in number of rentals, but the lawn companies rent them for multiple days. While it would seem that the lawn companies would run the units a lot more, we charge them a premium to take care of that concern.
Billy Goat Manufacturing, an American Rental Association (ARA) associate member and 44-year exhibitor at The Rental Show, is located nearby. As a result, we have acted as a testing ground for the Billy Goat line of lawn equipment for several years and have a great working relationship with the company.
At The Rental Show 2011 in Las Vegas, Billy Goat introduced a self-propelled turf renovator for dethatching and seeding lawns. We tested them out and ended up putting seven in inventory last spring. They were widely accepted and in high demand as we were upselling our customers into this unit versus the standard slicer. Even though it is heavier than a slicer, it’s so much easier to navigate and also handles reseeding and dethatching. I highly recommend checking them out along with other lawn and garden equipment suppliers at The Rental Show in New Orleans.
In 2008, we updated an advertorial about lawn renovation. We put it in a direct mail campaign, the lawn and garden section of the local newspaper, on the counters in all of our store locations and posted it on our website. As a result of the response, we had a record year for lawn renovation equipment rentals.
If you don’t make people aware of those items in your inventory that could be beneficial, the equipment always will be underutilized. I am sure there are several other advertorials that could be written telling about the benefits of other types of equipment, which could spur utilization numbers through the roof, the same as we have been able to do with aerators.
Tom Fouts, president/CEO, Bledsoe Rentals, Lee’s Summit, Mo., can be reached at 816-524-4222, or email email@example.com.
Advertorial samples courtesy of Bledsoe Rentals