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Conduct a baseline evaluation of marketing process

For you political aficionados who recall political adviser James Carville’s “It’s the ECONOMY..stupid!” tag line, you may also remember the marketing clout of that ‘in your face’ edict that helped sweep Bill Clinton to Presidential power for eight years. Never in my thirty years in this business have I felt more like screaming “It’s the PEOPLE…stupid” on the front page of every automotive magazine, marketing rag, digital read, newsletter and blog.

While many of my friends (and not-so friends) in the advertising/marketing business will tell you it’s how much money you put into social media, or what content you deliver, or what the subject line of your email is, or how techno-slick your process is, I will confidently counter that until you truly understand WHO your current and potential customers are, what their media habits are, what they think of YOUR brand, as well as their key personal motivators and challenges, you will never achieve your optimum marketing efficiency and effectiveness. Not only your customers…but YOU…and YOUR people!

This is the perfect time to conduct a baseline evaluation of your entire marketing process. If you have not done a ‘brand’ assessment of your dealership, email me for a free template to help guide the process. Here are some of the questions you need to get answers to:

  • WHO is my best (profit/satisfaction) current customer? Where are the from? What do they buy? Why do they buy from me? What are their media habits?
  • WHO are my best potential conquest customers? Who are they buying from? Why are they NOT buying from me? What are their media habits?
  • WHAT is my ‘brand’? How do people REALLY think about me? What is my UMP? (Unique Marketing Perception).
  • WHAT is my advertising/marketing message? Does it reflect reality of my UMP? Is my message consistent across all platforms?
  • HOW am I delivering that message? What algorithms am I using to determine my media mix? Where am I spending money because of ‘habit’ or ‘tradition’? How am I tracking media effectiveness?
  • HOW much should I be spending in traditional media platforms? How much in digital? Am I READY for social marketing? Do I even understand what it means? Do I have the means to manage it’s effectiveness, opportunities and challenges?
  • HOW are our people? Do they reflect our values, our philosophy, our vision? Does every member of our team UNDERSTAND our ‘brand’? Are we doing adequate training? Do our employees (all) support and enhance our marketing goals or do they negatively counter them? DO we have ‘LEADERS’ or ‘managers?’

A lot of dealers who suffered through several terrible years of business are fearful that every new announcement from TrueCar, CarFax, Kelley, Edmunds, Google, etc. is another bite at the dealerships profit sandwich’. Good dealers with strong brands and reputations know there is nothing to fear but fear itself. In fact, one might argue that the digital revolution has made the automobile business even easier for well-run dealerships, offering exciting new communication opportunities to effectively penetrate difficult-to-reach segments in a customer-friendly manner. Dealers are no longer limited to 30 second TV spots with constrained demographics. Websites, You-Tube and digital blogs allow unlimited, inexpensive delivery of content.

Yes, most customers do some digital research. Many know the invoice, incentives, even doc fees, ADM and holdback. But most also now realize there isn’t a 20-40% mark-up in prices. Rarely do customers come into a dealership today with unrealistic expectations of pricing. But just as it is a mistake to pre-judge the customer based on trade, looks, number of kids or the kind of clothes they wear, it’s also a mistake to believe the customer knows and understands everything related to the vehicles you are selling including price, powertrains, options and availability.

Even though people are people, and everyone we meet has many similar habits, wants and desires, everyone is different. Even in the same city. In the same neighborhood. On the same street. ‘People are people’, but every ‘person’ is unique.  When they call our dealership, email our dealership, text our dealership, walk onto the showroom, will we live up to our ‘brand’? Our reputation? The referral of their friend or family member? Will we live up to the offers and claims we made in our advertising? Will we seize the opportunity to exceed their expectations by treating them as they want to be treated? Will we reinforce their good judgment or send them down the road to our competitor?

One final thought on what seems to be one of the hottest topics in marketing today. Social Media. Hopping online without a focused plan can be the biggest (and most expensive) mistake your dealership will ever make. Think about what goals you want to achieve with social media. Are you looking for conversations with customers? Are you looking for ‘dealership’ advocates?; Most importantly, WHO will manage this process? Take the necessary time and planning to get it right the first time.

Next month I will share some thoughts on new research that reinforces the importance of the ‘people’ power aspect of advertising and some specific ideas that may help you in putting together a ‘branding’ reinforcement campaign to solidify your dealership’s UMP.

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