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The Journey

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We Love Our Customers.

Head to W&L Subaru’s website and right away you’ll have a sense for who its customers are. Scroll down the page and you’ll see images of Subarus rolling through various greenery with all sorts of outdoor equipment attached to the vehicles, with people smiling and itching to get on their rest great adventure.  

This is a perfect example of how W&L targets the people that live in Northumberland, Pa., a rural area that is surrounded by the Susquehanna River. The brand, which has been nationally recognized and received the 2018 Subaru Love Promise Customer and Community Commitment Award, does everything with the community is located in in the back of its mind.

Meghan Balum, the marketing director for W&L, describes the brand as “outdoorsy” and “family-oriented,” making photos of families packing up their Subarus to go camping the perfect fit to get customers to drive from all around to visit the dealership.

From purchasing the vehicle to buying accessories for outdoor activities and maintaining it for adventures, W&L takes its customers for a journey through the lifetime of the vehicle.

The Thought Process

According to Balum, establishing a brand is especially important because you need to find a way to speak to your customer.

“It’s all about establishing a relationship [with the customer] and finding out what the needs and wants of the market are,” Balum says. “If you don’t understand that and your brand doesn’t speak to it, you won’t be successful.”

Once customers enter the dealership, the showroom floor features vehicles with outdoorsy accessories, which shows customers the narrative of the journey the dealership will take them on.

The Execution

Capitalizing on the demographic of both the area and the typical Subaru customer, W&L has found ways to brings customers in by appealing to their love of the outdoors. For example, the service department throws a service clinic about winterizing vehicles. Balum says it’s promoted as “keeping your adventures going all throughout the winter.” At the last one, Balum says more than 150 people were there and 150 vehicles were serviced.

“As far as parts, we try and push ways to have a more fuel efficient vehicle,” Balum says.

W&L also continues to appeal to the outdoorsy customer by displaying racks for kayaks and snowboards and other various outdoor accessories in its showroom. The collision repair center, which opened in July, uses marketing campaigns that center on common causes of collision in the area, such as deer.  There are a number of larger campaigns that it throws throughout the year, as well, that help create a relationship with the community and its customers.

Subaru has four “Love” campaigns that W&L does throughout the year: Subaru Loves Pets, Subaru Loves Learning, Subaru Loves the Earth and Subaru Loves to Care. Each one of these campaigns has been successful in taking W&L from simply being known as a “dealership” to becoming a partner in the community.

“Customers like knowing that that they’re tied into your brand,” Balum says.

Subaru Loves Pets:

Every year, W&L partners with the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) for it’s animal-centered campaign. Each year, the dealership holds an adoption clinic where the adoption fee is either greatly reduced or, in the case of animals that may not be in high demand, dropped all together. The dealership also offers free vaccines for rabies, which 202 people took advantage of at the last event. Anyone who adopted an animal at the event got a “new parent's kit” filled with various W&L-branded toys. 

Another part of the Subaru Loves Pets campaign is “Help us Fill the Forester,” where customers and employees can fill a Subaru Forester full of pet supplies, like food and blankets, explains Balum. Balum says at the last one, they received $205 worth of cash donations.    

Subaru Loves Learning:

For its learning campaign, W&L partners with either a non-profit or a school each year to bring in school supplies and books. This year, Balum says the dealership donated 150 books that were science driven (circling back to its outdoorsy brand) to Grace Beck elementary school in Sunbury, Pa.

Beyond books, Balum says the dealership asked the school what their needs and wants were for the year, as far as supplies, and gave $10 toward supplies with every customer test drive of a Subaru Ascent. For customers and staff that wanted to donate supplies directly, collection bins were placed in the dealership.

“They [customers] could fill out a form saying the book was donated by them on behalf of Subaru,” Balum says.

Subaru Loves the Earth:

Being centered around the environment, this campaign touches on two pillars of the foundation for W&L’s brand—nature and the community.

The focus of the campaign changes each year, but it’s all about preserving the area and spreading the word through the community. Last year, Balum says the dealership made a push to help a certain type of butterfly that was on the verge of extinction by encouraging the community to create butterfly habitats. Kids that came in were given a kit to create a butterfly garden, Balum says.

This year, W&L has decided to make use of all the recycling that it does by collecting all of its recycled materials and handing it over to an organization that collects it and turns it into furniture that can be donated.

Subaru Loves to Care:

W&L partners with Geisinger Medical Center’s lymphoma and leukemia patients throughout the year to provide blankets and care packages for their long stays.

“We want them to know that others are thinking of them,” Balum says.

In addition to the markets, coloring books and other craft materials, Balum says words of encouragement are also added to keep their spirits up.

The Takeaway

Balum says it’s important to constantly re-check yourself and make sure you’re staying true to who you say you are as a brand. One way that she makes sure W&L does that is by continuing to get more and more involved in the community. Balum makes sure that every quarter, the dealership is involved in at least two community events.

“It helps you stay in check with who you are and makes sure you never lose sight of it,” Balum says.



Defining Your Customer 

Meghan Balum, marketing director at W&L Subaru in Northumberland, Pa., says the rural community-centered community the dealership is located in, has served as an inspiration for the brand. But, what works for W&L won't work for everyone. 

Our marketing is going to be different than a dealership in Pennsylvania," Balum explains. Balum shares some tips for identifying what will appeal to your customer. 

Sign up for the chamber of commerce.

Balu, who was new to the industry when she joined W&L Subaru three years ago, says this was a valuable resource for her and helped open her eyes to what was important in the community.

Get information on your customer.

"What we think we know, we might not know," Balum says.

When she started, she heard to never waste money on radio. Then, she conducted surveys with her customers and found 80 percent like to listen to FM radio.

Look around.

Another piece of advice Balum has is to simply look around at what's working in the community that you're in. 

"Pick up a newspaper, look at billboards, see what people are doing." 

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