February 2012, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
Advertising for dealerships has always been a highly debated topic. Advertisers contend that dealerships cannot grow without marketing. Dealers lament over the thought of the wasteful dollars invested in advertising versus actual return on investment.
Marketing experts carefully spin the numbers so as to show the benefits of share of voice. The metrics are woven in such a way that not advertising would appear unintelligent. The strategic balance of budget versus the intangibles of advertising reach is an ongoing struggle in dealerships. Front-line management pushes for traffic-building events while upper management preaches budget constraint. Debates over the validity of advertising campaigns will rage on between the advertiser and the marketing expert.
Economic restructuring forced dealers to be more persnickety with their advertising dollars. In some instances, dealers were forced to restrict budgets to strictly-measured sources with high return on investment. In those markets that saw a higher depletion of market share, dealers ceased to advertise at all. The focus then became managing the existing customer base and finding customers without spending advertising dollars. With the advent of email-blast marketing, dealers found they could market to their own customer base without spending money. The Internet brought about a more focused advertising approach which consequently forced third-party lead providers to regroup. Dealers proved resourceful enough to create their own niche of online leads. Larger vendors pulled back on selling to non-dealers and realized they could capitalize by selling directly to dealers. These moves combined with manufacturer-direct sources reduced the costs of having to utilize online advertisers.
In the past, dealers were considered easy prey by mainstream advertisers using media like radio, television and direct mail. Dealers were often coerced into matching dollars spent by a rival just to save face with the manufacturer. Cost restructuring forced dealers to allocate revenue to different areas’ within their dealerships. The expense once considered a necessity was now being considered a luxury and an unnecessary, costly expenditure that now had to be reigned in under control.
Dealers have always been creative marketers and the economic pressures proved again that they could reach customers without raising budgets. The Internet as a tool has become a fascinating source of information. Dealers can now dial into their marketing approach and specifically measure the breadth and depth of their reach. That information is a tremendous ally in the course of operating a variable expense. It is no longer necessary for management to rely on inaccurate sourcing provided by unmotivated sales personnel.
Marketing isn’t an all-encompassing word and is generally misunderstood by the masses. Marketing is a strategy used in sales, communication and business. While most dealers are creative advertisers, very few embrace the fundamentals of professional marketing. Marketing a dealership is more about the separation of degrees than it is about what’s for sale. Professional advertisers understand the auditory subtleties that create demand in a product.
Carefully constructing the image that the dealer perceives in his/her head is an intricate process that requires knowledge and experience. The creation from concept to a marketing program that has appeal is better left to the experts. The business of selling automobiles is now a part of the global economy, and the dealer is at the epicenter of that approach.
• Tier 1 advertising creates brand awareness in that global market. The manufacturer creates brand awareness and stimulates desire for the product. The deal or the separating message is produced in generalities with the intention of creating a lead.
• Tier 2, or regional marketing, separates brand from brand while selling the offer. Regional marketing bands generate a creative message that supports the brand and also supports visiting the local (area) dealer.
• Tier 3, or dealership marketing, represents the individual dealer and sells the story of the ownership experience.
All three categories require some form of consistency in messaging to the potential customer. For a marketing campaign to work, it requires consistency and a commitment to the plan. The messages through a multitude of creative marketing sources support the common theme so the customer is getting the same message consistently.
Here are five easy ways to measure your marketing from inception to return on investment.
1. Have a plan. Determine what individualizes your dealership. Why would a customer come to you? What do you offer that the customer cannot get elsewhere? How do you want that message expressed?
2. Work the plan. If your message is going to be about quality of service, make sure your staff provides the best service. The customer is predisposed to messages that say one thing, while the service says something completely different. Make sure your front-line team understands the message and lives it. The front-line staff is responsible for the outcome, good or bad.
3. Get an expert opinion. Marketing combined with the right advertising message can be the difference in getting it right or failing miserably. Dealers don’t need to spend the money if the message is inconsistent and unplanned.
4. Spend the money. Advertising allows a dealership to spread its wings wider than its existing market. There are always customers looking for different dealers to service their needs. As a dealer, you want that customer to find you first.
5. Be consistent. Don’t spend a little to try and save a lot. The message has to be consistent with every aspect of your advertising approach. Direct mail, email blasts, newspaper and magazine ads, and other media must share the same message. Consistency requires discipline, but doesn’t require that you outspend your ROI. Dealers have to carefully measure which sources are likely to provide the best return and stick to them.
Vol. 8, Issue 12