by Jim Boldebook
Marketing That’s Moving the Metal!
Over the past three months I’ve reached out to some of the most successful dealers I know for feedback on advertising and marketing strategies they feel are contributing to not only increased share of market, but a higher return on investment on one of the biggest line items on their statements. Here are some of the thoughts shared:
Brand Fortification: Not the brand of manufacturers, but the brand of the dealership, what it stands for, the dealership’s Unique Selling Proposition. Over the past three years I’ve sent out 127 brand templates and articles on the importance of identifying, building, and reinforcing the dealership brand. I’ve shared ideas from some of the biggest retail marketing success stories in America on avoiding brand dilution. A number of my dealer friends have implemented the suggestion of using Emails for internal communication. Several dealers tell me they send out a brief message each day, sharing congratulations on birthday and special occasions, and a recap of current advertising campaigns. Sometimes it’s just a review of dealership sales and satisfaction milestones and accomplishments. Sometimes an interesting story from the dealership’s past.
Dealers are using Emails to remind all employees of ‘VIP family and friends/referral programs’, as well as soliciting ideas and input on a variety of subjects from team members.
Two dealers told me they are having great success sending personal Emails to customers who have just bought a vehicle, thanking them and asking for feedback. Rather than a lengthy questionnaire, a simple “What did you like most about your buying experience..and is there anything we could have done better” seems to generate a more qualitative response.
Many dealers are now focused on early identification of serious buyers, responding rapidly with personalized information requests, helping shoppers with research they need to close the shopping gap.
Reinventing the Business: Everyone I chatted with seemed to agree the business has changed structurally and will never be the same. Successful dealers are experimenting with vehicle delivery of both new and used vehicles, taking trades on consignment, offering full maintenance programs for used vehicles, 5-7 day return programs, and renting out vehicles in conjunction with companies like HYREcar (for lyft and uber drivers).
A number of dealers told me they have focused more energy in service and specifically on the service drive. Better training for service writers, better compensation plans, and more advertising for service specials. More dealers are selling tires and aftermarket specialties on the service drive.
Less Dependence on CO-OP: A number of dealers I chatted with told me they have expanded non-co-opted ad spends for share-of-mind marketing that combines new vehicle franchises as well as used inventory. A Ford dealer told me he’s ‘off the co-op drugs’. His new ads feature new and used vehicles together, often pitching a NV lease payment with a purchase payment on a certified vehicle, explaining how the dealership will work with the customer to offer the best possible option.
More traditional advertising for used vehicles: The dealerships reporting the greatest revenue gains have had the greatest gains in used to new sales ratios. That just makes sense in a market that is seeing almost 3 to 1 used to new vehicles sold in America, coupled with the shrinkage in new vehicle gross. Quite a few dealers I spoke with told me they have re-balanced their ad spends to incorporate more radio and television, both cable and broadcast. In some markets there has been a dramatic increase in ‘over the air’ digital reception of networks where most new Televisions can now pick up crystal clear digital reception of the major networks. These networks are also offered on many of the new smart TV apps as free local channels. One dealer in a major metro market told me when he shifted some of his digital spend to radio he experienced a drop in traffic but an increase in average used vehicle gross, as well as F&I revenue.
Eliminating Funnel Friction: Dealers tell me there is often disconnect and drag from the top of the lead funnel to the business end where leads are converted to meaningful action. Before the Internet, dealerships had controlled protocol for visitors and phone inquiries. Today, there is often confusion in the funnel as sources vie for attribution, resulting in an unfocused, impersonal response from the dealership. Often a shopper will submit a request for information on a specific model they are considering and receive a completely disconnected response from a service who is more concerned with attribution for the lead as opposed to actually providing an answer to the shopper’s question.
Last December I wrote an article for Dealer entitled Used Car Marketing secrets. Three of the dealers I spoke with told me that article really energized them and got them focused on improving used vehicle sales. If you’d like a copy of that article, or a copy of the branding template I referred to in this article, just send me an email and I’ll pass them along. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving and a successful holiday selling season!
“The dealerships reporting the greatest revenue gains have had the greatest gains in used to new sales ratios..”