February 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
Ready, Willing, and Able
Advertising and marketing are my favorite aspects of special finance. Most of us who have been working in this field for a while have developed a certain passion for specific kinds of marketing. My passion lies with direct mail and Internet leads. Both have produced excellent results year after year, and the results are what we warriors of the industry are looking for. We are in constant search of what yields the highest grosses. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? However, we have to be prepared before we can market.
Prior to initiating any marketing campaign, I ask three important advertising and marketing questions: Am I ready? Am I willing? Am I able? Regardless of what your marketing passion is, you shouldn’t launch your campaign if you can’t answer yes to all three.
Am I ready? Are my people trained to handle the customers? Are my systems and maps in place? Have we practiced, drilled and rehearsed until everyone does it the same way, every time, with every customer? Do I have the manpower to handle the responses from the marketing? Moreover – and this is vital – is my team a team? No one person can do a significant quantity of special finance alone. In the land of subprime, it has to be a full team effort!
Am I willing? This is the easy one to answer. Of course, I’m willing. I can never remember waking up for work thinking, “No, I don’t feel like making any money today.” I don’t know anyone in his or her right mind who would say that. So, this part has always been a “no brainer” for me. I don’t work for free and I would have to believe neither do any of you. In special finance, we are compensated based upon results.
Being “able” can be your biggest challenge. When you planned your ad campaign, did you take a good hard look at your inventory? What finance companies are you signed with, and how are your relationships with them? Do you understand their programs?
We would all love to have a fleet of typical subprime vehicles purchased at $7,000 to $10,000 and be way back of book after recon. However, the reality of it is, we usually don’t. We are all scraping to find the same kind of inventory. Since the vehicle production fairy is on vacation, we have to take an analysis of what we have on the ground and what we can purchase. We can then gear our marketing plan to use what we have on hand. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing, “Well, I got the customer in, but we don’t have the car to put him in that fits the program for which he qualifies” or, “I have the customer here, all the stips and cash, but we are not signed up with the right program to get it done.” That scenario will tear the heart out of your team and crush its morale.
We put our ad campaigns together the third week of every month for the following month. We commit two-thirds of our budget at that time and leave the balance to play with based on the “Ready and Able Program” throughout the month. We move quite a bit of metal at our dealership, so even though we have an idea, we really cannot know exactly what will be on the ground to work with that many weeks in advance.
We make sure our mail pieces are completely compliant. We select a targeted mailing list and make sure our mail house gets the postal receipts and manifest to us in a timely manner for follow-up.
We also make sure we use the best Internet lead providers. Providers have to be honest and the applications have to be fresh and exclusive. Anyone we do business with must stand behind their product. They need to be our partner in business, not just our vendor. We evaluate quality and price when ordering. However, it doesn’t matter how much something costs if the quality and customer service is not there. Sometimes you need to pay a little more to get the return.
So, warriors of special finance, we must be ready, willing and able in order to launch a successful marketing campaign and see the results for which we are constantly struggling. We must have our teams trained and cohesive. We must always be self-motivated to do the very best job we know how. We must be on board with the finance companies and understand their programs. We must have a handle on our inventory. With all of these things in place, we will be successful marketers and see our profits grow.
Special Finance Insider Vol. 2, Issue 1