About 1/3 of Country Mark's 100 locations are unattended. The petroleum co-op has found a winning formula with LED signs manufactured by Watchfire Signs. Watch the video to see how they use their digital signs and Price Watcher gas price signs to bring in customers and foster good will with each community.
We interviewed Gary Barrett, Retail Development Manager of Country Mark to learn more about how the co-op is building it's brand - even in unattended locations- with outdoor digitla signage.
Of the 100 + sites that Country Mark has, 1/3 are unattended sites. Barrett says they struggle with the message that the public can buy fuel there. Some people think it's just for members only. He says the best way to combat that is to put a message board there.
"We wanted to be the center attraction for the town basically. I would say, you know, every month, I have different organizations coming to me asking me if I'll put different information up there about different events. And they are very appreciateive that they can do that. They are always very thankful. Any big events in this town usually go up on the sign. It's just good PR between you and the people in the community."
Barrett says there is no limit to what they'll put on the sign as far as community messages. "Even from the beginning we had people...we had the school calling if they were having this fundraiser or that fundraiser. We had churches call us to have things put up. Anniversaries...birthdays...we didn't have anything we wouldn't put up. I know it takes a lot of extra time but when you are in a small community that's what people care about. Anything you put up there, somebody would always make a comment about, so we know that they were reading it. If you want to add something to the site as far as something that catches someones eye, the signs definitely do their job."
Is an outdoor LED sign easy to use? Barrett thinks so. "The sign is very easy to run, didn't take a lot of training. It's very self explanatory. If you just get in there and look at it, click on the different things and see what they do, it wasn't hard at all to learn how to run it."
Pam Davis of the Union County Co-op adds, "It comes with an EasyArt library that has a lot of choices and different categories. Having that EasyArt there was very helpful to begin with, because it already had things there for me to choose, an I just had to click on them and add it into the schedule and update the sign. Then as I got more comfortable with it, I started creating some of my own animations, but I still use the EasyArt because there are so many choices there."
Barrett says Country Mark goes beyond digital message centers and also adds Watchfire LED gas price signs to locations. "Our branding package, when we brand the site, includes electronic gas price signs. We were using another company and we had all kinds of issues with corrosion and LEDs burning out and we spent a tremendous amount of money repairing those. One thing that Country Mark does is cost share that expense with the member co-op for each site. So it was costing us a lot of money to upgrade those. When an LED burns out, people don't know what the price is and they drive to the competitors. Or they think if that's as good of a job as they do maintaining things, their quality of their gas may not be as good as they say and may not be a good experience if we stop at this site."
Country Mark has tried other brands in the past, and Barrett feels they have found a winning combination since partnering with Watchfire. "The new products that we are using from Watchfire have been water-tight and have performed beautifully. We've been using them the last 2 - 3 years and we've had absolutely no issues with any of the Watchfire units. It's been a worthy investment that we made."