Article

Avoid Panic Marketing

November 2013, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Paul Potratz

It’s the 21st of the month and you are getting concerned. Actually, it’s a little worse than that. You’re panicking. You don’t think you’re going to hit the goal this month unless you come up with a new idea, quickly. You give your ad agency a call and explain the situation, hoping they can find a solution for the slow traffic and sales. This causes a chain reaction of worry, and soon your staff and your ad agency are in full panic mode.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? If it does, don’t worry. Panic marketing is a common problem for all kinds of businesses. In our industry, there are a multitude of root causes — some dealers don’t have a comprehensive, planned marketing strategy; others have a plan, but little confidence in its effectiveness. Some dealers have a habit of tinkering with their campaigns right up to the launch. Others are always looking for the next strategy, including short-term fixes.

Whatever the cause, there is a cure. By taking these seven steps, you and your team will be able to spend less time looking for new strategies and head off that end-of-the-month anxiety.

Step 1: Develop a Unique Selling Proposition
Why should someone buy from you? Focus on benefits like free car washes, lifetime warranties, free service and free loaners. Put together a few options, and then ask 20 strangers which offer would convince them to buy from you. Promote your benefits before you promote your prices. Include them on your home page, in your TV commercials, in your auto responder e-mails and in your showroom banners. Remind your team members to share your unique selling proposition with every customer.

Step 2: Develop Brand Standards
How does your dealership look and feel? Think about how Apple, Target, Best Buy, Macy’s — even Potratz advertising — have a consistent look. Start with your dress code. Mandatory shirts and ties go a long way toward creating a professional look. If your team wears golf shirts, every employee should wear the same color on the same day. Taking pride in your appearance is critical for success and helps develop a memorable image.

Step 3: Create a Marketing Calendar
For franchised dealers, a marketing calendar that matches your sales events with those of your manufacturer is a must. Don’t try to beat the OEM’s price. You will create more buzz with your unique selling proposition. And timing is important: Personalized creative and messages should be viewed 45 to 60 days prior to each event. Be creative with headlines and copy, but make sure each piece includes the OEM-issued event name and fits your brand message. Don’t let the little things become excuses for procrastination. With proper preparation, sales events will be morale boosters rather than frenzied stressors.

Step 4: Start With Digital
Your digital marketing strategy should include search engine marketing, retargeting, display ads, video pre-roll and Facebook ads. Digital is crucial because it allows you to advertise more than price and payment. Remember, the way you treat customers is what really sets you apart. Better yet, you are only paying when visitors click or convert.

So let’s talk numbers. Digital marketing should account for 60 to 70 percent of your advertising budget. If you sell 100 to 150 vehicles per month, your monthly ad spend could range from $9,000 to $15,000 or more, depending upon the competitiveness of your market.

Also make sure you know your impression shares; that is, the number of search returns for “Toyota Avalon San Diego,” for example, that belong to your store. A reasonable goal is 85 percent for front-end sales and 90 percent for fixed ops. Track clicks and conversion of leads to appointments and appointments to sales daily.

From the logo to the uniforms to the checkout counters, Target has established a simple but unmistakable color scheme that signifies a certain level of quality and an enjoyable shopping experience. Dealers who have yet to create a brand identity can start with this simple step.
From the logo to the uniforms to the checkout counters, Target has established a simple but unmistakable color scheme that signifies a certain level of quality and an enjoyable shopping experience. Dealers who have yet to create a brand identity can start with this simple step.

Step 5: Buy Traditional Media in Moderation
You should schedule appointments with traditional media reps once every six months. Insist on running early in the month, and only during prime times. Don’t get fooled by offers of 3,000 spots or 3 million impressions for one low price. It’s cheap for a reason. Instead, find out when your OEM or region is buying spots. Match them as best you can — within budget — and don’t forget brand standards. I don’t recommend buying banners on newspaper sites, ads on Pandora or paid SEO.

In terms of commercial content, run a branding piece that shares your unique selling proposition until you can’t stand it anymore, then let it run a little longer. Repetition creates brand awareness and, by extension, sales and service leads. In fact, changing your ads is the biggest killer of market penetration. How do you know 15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance? Probably because you’ve heard it a thousand times.

Step 6: Don’t Neglect Website Performance
Do your online forms work? Do your phone numbers connect? Is everything up to date? You must monitor these functions constantly. Once your website is fully functional, you can focus on content.

Start with photos and videos of you, your team and your happy customers in action. Videos are a great conversion tool and cannot be automated. Studies show the average car shopper will visit 18 to 22 websites in the research phase of the buying process. Why so many? I think it’s because most dealer websites don’t provide enough information to keep potential customers from wandering off. 

Post vehicle reviews and video testimonials, and not just by your in-house experts. Your customers will talk about their new car on camera; you just have to ask. Use the rules of scarcity and abundance on your vehicle listings. Study analytics to see past performance and use insights and heat mapping to make informed decisions. Don’t confuse these two: Analytics refers to past performance; insights help guide what needs to be done to improve performance.

Step 7: Think Like a World-Class Athlete
Dealers are athletes. You train, practice and lead by example. Your teammates might think they know all the best practices and see no need to participate in sales training. This false confidence loses sales and causes the dealership to spend more in advertising. You must be training your members on their phone skills, word-tracks, follow-up skills, CRM use, Facebook use, and knowledge of the products they’re marketing. To do this, try role playing and testing weekly. Demand the best, have zero tolerance, and you will receive the best.

It’s time to eliminate panic advertising. Follow these steps and your profits will rise, you won’t have difficulty finding the best talent, and you’ll find that those last two weeks of the month are a little brighter. It may not be easy, but it’ll be the best thing you ever do for your business.

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