The impact of your brand determines what a consumer thinks about your company and whether or not they want to buy from you. Perception is reality, and this is especially true with advertising. For example, whom do you think of first when ordering a pizza? What kind of peanut butter do you buy? Who makes the best laptop computer? What do you take for a headache, Tylenol or Advil? What brand of toothpaste or shampoo do you prefer? We are all consumers, and we are all inundated with a barrage of product messages vying for position in our minds. Our awareness and, ultimately, our decisions to purchase are developed and guided by the perception we have of a company and its product or service for sale.
As entrepreneurs, we must look at the world of marketing as a battle zone of competition, where we must cut through the haze of confusing ads to reach prospects with a message that sticks in their minds. If you’re not one of the top three dealers in your market that people think of when they want a car, then your branding needs help. They won’t remember you. You do not stand out, and there is no memorable reason to buy from you.
We car dealers are stuck with the age-old paradigm that low prices drive traffic. What about value? What about service? What about emotional desire? Do you shop at the least expensive stores? Do you eat at the cheapest restaurants? Do you go to the doctor or attorney who charges the lowest fees? The answer is no, not unless we have to. As consumers, we want value. We want service. We want professionals. We want the sizzle with the steak that motivates us to buy now.
Effective advertising is designed to reach consumers inner thoughts, appeal to each of these factors and give reasons to buy now. It is designed to create and increase brand awareness. Also, it is designed to beat the competition for the top position in the minds of consumers. It creates an emotional desire for your product and service by highlighting your competitive edge, and it gives the reasons people should shop at your store instead of your competition. Without it, you can easily become lost in a sea of expensive and forgettable advertising that does nothing to build your business’ name.
What is the one thing that sets your business apart from the competition? What does your dealership do better than any other? Why should they buy from you now? In other words, what is your competitive advantage? Whatever that may be is exactly the message you want branded in the mind of the consumer. It is what you want prospective buyers to remember whenever they think about buying a vehicle. It is what you want the consumer to think and remember about you. This message, continually reinforced through consistent advertising, supports and develops your brand. The deeper the brand, the easier it will be for consumers to recall your message and think about you before they think about the competition.
The most powerful media for advertising your message is television. Radio ads are strong too, but only support the message and remind prospective buyers about the commercial they saw on television. Your print advertising does basically the same except in a print ad. You can highlight your product or service and competitive edge in more detail. The buyer can take their time and learn more about you and your offerings at their own pace and by their own choice. Each ad must work together to collectively build your brand and engage the prospective consumer in a manner that appeals to what they want and need now.
Advertising is expensive, especially for television. However, bad advertising in any media form is even more costly. If your business is located in a major market area where television is simply too costly for the budget, there are alternatives. Cable television ads, for one, are much less expensive and, in some cases, better targeted to a specific demographic than the broadcast networks. There are also companies that purchase last minute bulk advertising time from the major networks at significant discounts and then resell those advertising spots to smaller businesses. Do your homework and investigate what is available in your market, and find the most affordable forms of advertising to effectively get your message to your target markets. It is well worth the time invested.
Advertising online is a whole new frontier, but the same basic rules of marketing apply. You must have an Internet presence today to be successful, and you should take advantage of every possible opportunity to drive traffic to your Web site. Today, the Internet is what the yellow pages were yesterday. Running your dealership today without a Web site is like trying to be in business 20 years ago without a telephone. You simply miss too many customers as they scurry for information while they shop.
Effective advertising online is much more complicated than simply having a Web site. Your site has to be inviting, appealing and easy to navigate. It must convey a strong and memorable message about your business that impacts the customer in a positive manner and keeps their interest. It must engage the consumer in an interactive process of information exchange, and it must say what you want it to say about your business in as few words as possible. Your inventory must also be presented well with as many professional photos of each vehicle as possible. There should be at least five photos per car. You’ve heard the phrase “a picture says a thousand words.” Your Web site is an interactive visual picture of your business and is, more often than not, your first impression to the consumer. It needs to make a strong statement that your customers will remember.
Regardless of the size of your advertising budget, you should incorporate a marketing plan into your comprehensive business plan and develop ads that have impact. This marketing plan should be developed with the purpose of building your brand in the minds of the consumers in your market with a message that appeals to their wants and needs. You must present your key differences, and tell buyers why they should buy from you. Anything short of this is inefficient, and the advertising may just be a waste of your hard earned money.
Vol 5, Issue 8