Until October 2007, there was no Chevy Dealer in Estero, Florida. That was the year Patrick Denson and Charles Winston built Estero Bay Chevrolet from scratch.
"During our first full year of sales," says Mr. Denson, "we sold 600 cars, 100 more than General Motors expected from us. This year, we are on track to sell 2000 cars. Advertising on Fort Myers radio has been part of our growth since the very beginning."
Shortly after the dealership opened, the economy went into a deep recession which made selling cars at a new dealership very difficult. "No one could get credit," says Mr. Denson. Our inventory was limited. And to make matters worse, gas was $4.50 a gallon."
"To make it through," he adds, "we went to work every day to establish our unique brand of integrity and fairness to separate ourselves from the older, established dealers. We also invested in advertising on Fort Myers radio to let car buyers in Southwest Florida know we were here and we were different from our competitors."
Radio Delivers Proven Return On Investment
Mr. Denson became a big believer in radio during the 15 years he spent managing dealerships in Ft. Wayne, Phoenix, and Sarasota-Bradenton. "When I became an owner here in 2007, I had to make sure every dollar we spent counted, because, now, it was my money. Since we opened, advertising on Fort Myers radio has proven to deliver the value and return-on-investment we need to continue our year-over-year growth."
According to Mr. Denson, his dealership invests continually in Fort Myers radio. "Advertising on radio provides us with the biggest possible reach for a lot less money. We do some TV during our peak sales periods, but the expense doesn't make it viable for us to do consistently. And, since we've opened, we have never advertised in the newspaper."
"Look," says Mr. Denson, "if Charles, whose background is in accounting, ever suggested that we cut advertising on Fort Myers radio from our marketing budget, then I would say, are you crazy? It's why we're growing."
Last year, consumers in Southwest Florida spent $1.8 billion on cars and trucks. This is more than was spent on anything else including groceries, clothing, furniture, and restaurants. To be precise, automotive spending accounts for 21% of all retail spending in Collier and Lee counties.
Mr. Denson's belief in radio advertising as a strategy to capture a big slice of this automotive spending is supported by market research. According to Nielsen, significantly more car buyers in Southwest Florida are reached by advertising on Fort Myers radio than by TV, newspapers, or streaming audio services like Pandora and Spotify.
Mr. Denson's radio advertising is a mix of branding and promotional offers. But, the one thing car buyers don't hear in an Estero Bay Chevrolet commercial is a disclaimer. "We never advertise any offer that requires a list of exceptions or fine-print," he says. "This would undermine our brand. I do not doubt that customers would perceive all that fast-talking as a lack of integrity on our part. That's why we never do it. That makes us unique."
Estero Bay Chevrolet's commitment to radio advertising does not go unnoticed by other small business owners in the Fort Myers-Naples area.
Invest In Frequency And Stick To It
"People ask me all the time if radio advertising would be effective for their business," says Mr. Denson. I tell them that advertising on Fort Myers radio will work if they invest in frequency and stick to it. Nobody will hear your commercial once and think you are the second coming."
"If you are doing it right," he says, "you should start seeing results in a few weeks. If you don't, then don't quit. You may need to adjust your message, advertise during a different time of day, or change the voices in your ads. With radio, you can afford to always be fine-tuning your commercials to make sure you are reaching the right people with the right message."
"You don't need to start big," Mr. Denson adds. "Sometimes, at least for us, the most expensive Fort Myers radio stations are not the right ones to advertise on. Choose the stations that best target the people who are most likely to buy from you."
"Finally," he advises other business owners, "advertising on Fort Myers radio will drive results. So make sure, before you start, you are prepared to handle all the business that will come in."