Colorado operators set the table for a profitable Thanksgiving benefit.
By Domenic Olmeda
This Marketing Magic series highlights ways to attract business with impactful promotions.
Thanksgiving is a day to be mindful of the things we’re grateful for in our lives. Whether it’s a warm home, friends and family or — for shop owners — a thriving vehicle service company, there are plenty of reasons to gather together and for a celebratory feast.
Sadly, not everyone can rejoice in good fortune during this holiday. However, Steve Mills and fellow members of the Pikes Peak NAPA AutoCare group in Colorado Springs, Colorado, found a way to bring Thanksgiving cheer to those in need.
“I heard of a deal on the radio about donating turkeys to Care and Share, which is our local food bank,” says Mills, who runs Steve Mills Racing & ACR that’s also located in Colorado Springs. “So, I put a call out to our network president, and we contributed about 50 hens the first year.”
Five years later, Mills and his compatriots have grown this charitable gesture into an annual event. We recently chatted with him and other participants to discover how this activity produces a cornucopia of business-boosting benefits.
Ton of Turkeys
To start, Mills reaches out to local grocery stores on behalf of the group, seeing which ones can fill an order for a big batch of birds. “Periodically, our source changes,” he says. “I aim to begin calling two to three months in advance, because I have a better chance of getting them all purchased and picked up on time.”
Once the poultry has been procured, Mills and his partners take their service trucks out to the supplier in the morning a few days before Thanksgiving. Then, they distribute the meat treats among their rides, form a column and drive through the Colorado Springs area to pick up additional turkey and canned food pledges before arriving at Care and Share.
“Last year, we had 14 vehicles hauling them,” Mills says. “We try to make a parade out of it.”
Each participating business chooses how it wants to raise awareness for the endeavor. Having taken the Advanced Marketing class at Management Success (a company in Glendale, California, that provides training and coaching for repair shop owners and service advisors), Mills applies his cause marketing know-how by publicizing the event on his operation’s Facebook page as well as on his monthly postcard dispatches. “Customers see it on social media or the card, and they’ll call and ask, ‘How do we get involved?’” he says.
To this end, patrons are encouraged to submit canned items. In exchange, they receive a discount on a future service at Mills’ repair facility. “Last year, we had about 60 people kick in for the drive,” he says.
The promotions don’t stop there, either. “On the day of distribution, the convoy tours Colorado Springs as we build momentum to our final destination at Care and Share,” says Brian Groff, owner of Groff’s Automotive in Colorado Springs. “Along the way, we do several live broadcasts, bringing awareness of much needed donations for those who [require them].”
This year, another partner plans to bolster the benefit’s footprint even more by documenting the trip. “I’m going to have a videographer make a small public relations clip and put a story to it,” says Eddie Lawrence, co-owner of Mobile Transport Repair (MTR) in Colorado Springs. ”That way, I can put it on our Facebook and website.”
The only major cost associated with the Thanksgiving endeavor is sourcing the birds, according to Mills. “We finance them out of the business development group,” he says. “Typically, it’s somewhere between $2,000 to $3,000 for about 140.”
In 2016, the operators in Pikes Peak NAPA AutoCare donated 144 turkeys to Care and Share. This translated to roughly 2,100 pounds of poultry and scores of happy families in the Colorado Springs region. “What makes us feel best is when we arrive at the food bank and someone says, ‘Holy cow! You brought how much turkey?’” Mills reveals. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Of course, the effort also yields favorable benefits for the shops involved. “When it comes to a person who just heard the broadcast due to our individual involvement with the local community, it opens the door for future prospects’” Groff says.
During the month of the activity, he reports a 5 to 7 percent increase in work volume at his operation, while Mills estimates receiving 15 extra customers afterward. “We also ask for donations here, so it’s not just about what we buy as a group to contribute and send,” Groff says. “We’re not asking for business — we’re asking for donations, and that brings the opportunity for a new client to come in.”
Since Lawrence’s fleet service facility generally doesn’t interface with the public, the event’s positive publicity helps put him on the grid. “Just the fact that MTR is among those doing this charity keeps our place in a good light and shows we are contributing to the area,” he says [for more tips on connecting with local patrons, read Business-Boosting Barbecues].
For those interested in hosting their own donation drive, Mills recommends teaming up with networking circles to maximize the amount of poultry procured. “Most people can’t put out $3,000 for 2,000 pounds of turkey,” he says. “So, by being part of a development group, we can do it in a bigger way.”
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