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How to Best Utilize Pump Toppers at Your Truckstop

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail


Welcome to the newest post in our blog series, Darren’s Great Ideas! for Independent Operators

How to Best Utilize Pump Toppers at Your Truckstop

Pump toppers can be one of the best ways to drive business into your operation, create a message to shop and boost retail sales from the fueling islands. 

Depending on which expert you follow, the impact of pump topper messaging ranges from some exposure to significant exposure. Supporters and detractors agree, there is however exposure.

Here are five ways to best utilize pump toppers:

  1. Communication analyst Albert Mehrabian did some interesting research on the effectiveness of communication channels. According to Mehrabian, people listen visually more than verbally. So when you market to your customers use visual aids, which will make your message more memorable. Video imagery can be costly, but it has come down in price significantly over the years. If you have grandchildren like I do and you have ever taken them to Six Flags and stood in any line, video imagery of what they should be drinking and eating works every time. I always here, “Grandpa, can I please have XXX…”

  2. Use the pump toppers to promote those items that make you unique. Advertise what is inside of your location and those things that are special for your location. Do not make the age old mistake of assuming those who are fueling with you know what your operation is about.

  3. Use your fuel as a weapon to drive inside purchases. Food is a great category to focus on and can be seasonal. For example, consider creating a 10 for 10 program on the gasoline side. In the warm months, it could be purchase 10 large fountain drinks and get 10 cents off a gallon of gas during your next fill up, capped at 20 cents. A fall/winter promotion could be to purchase 10 large coffees and get 10 cents off a gallon of gas during your next fill up, capped at 20 gallons.

  4. Consider adding free-standing markers with promotions or identifiers that are driving customers into the operation, such as promotions around breakfast sandwiches, drinks or snacks. If you have the ability, change them out during lunch time with a new food offering. When you use actual props, models, or concrete objects, the message becomes even stronger.

  5. On the diesel side, TIME is critical to the over-the-road driver. You want to encourage fueling customers to spend money inside. But, it is important to remember that in many cases, owner operators have just spent $400 to put fuel in their trucks. They are not thinking about spending more money. If anything they may be feeling buyer’s remorse. To message to them be smart about what you promote and keep in mind, Monday through Friday they are working and are less inclined to “shop” just as we are during the week. Food should be your focus here specifically the fast quality grab n go meals and if you are going to promote truck supply items and frequent-fuelled opportunities make sure they are speaking to their needs. Wants do not have the same impact on a purchaser during working hours.

No matter what message you decide on, it needs to emphasize why your location is the stop of choice. Use the toppers to promote what you have to offer and the features and benefits you have that others do not. 


/// Read more Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators posts here.  


Join the conversation! Do you find pump toppers to be effective?

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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.