by : Bruno Lucarelli
Your dealership is still the hub of your sales universe, but you continually need more spokes in the wheel to survive. These “channels” will vary by geography, market size and brand. They do however, serve a critical function. They are the difference between success, mediocrity and failure.
Your customers’ media consumption has changed radically in the last 24 months. Have you altered your dealership’s media plan to adjust? The answer from 99 of 100 dealers reading this will be “no,” and with good reason. Your expertise is in automotive sales, not media. But paying attention to what’s going on around you, or for that matter your own daily experience, could make the difference.
For almost a century, there were a very limited number of “channels” that led a consumer through your door: location, newspaper ads, radio ads and local TV ads (in smaller markets) comprised the majority of most dealers’ “media mix.”
The radical change in consumer behavior in the last five years, however, has companies scrambling to catch up to the elusive auto customer. Are you paying close attention to the new “channels” that could help shoppers discover your inventory? Look no further than your own habits, showroom, friends and family.
• Your web site is your new front door, you know by now. Keep it clean, open and easy to use. If there isn’t a car for sale one click away, make it a priority.
• Many dealers stay in constant touch with their store through their Blackberry or similar device. Yet, they haven’t considered text messaging as an advertising option. Try it. Soon.
• A large proportion of dealers have children of high school and college age. Yet they miss the opportunity to examine how their own family consumes media. According to a recent Pew Research Study, two thirds of all Americans under the age of 30 are regular users of social networking, yet less than one percent of dealer and OEM ad budgets are spent in this space. Start a “group” on a social media site for your dealership. Why not a “social networking channel?”
• Are you still buying cable TV? Make sure to move your money into news, sponsorships and sports. This category of programming is less likely to be pre-recorded by a cable DVR or similar Tivo device. The major networks are lowering rates around the Tivo effect for their large clients. Are you getting a similar deal? Drama programming (FX, TNT) is much more likely to be recorded, with over half of these DVR viewers skipping your spot. Take a closer look at your store’s “cable channel.”
• Still using newspaper? Do your best to measure your response rate, even anecdotally. A few well-placed questions in the buying process will determine your ROI.
Draw a chart of your “channels,” and constantly measure which are contributing most to building your dealership’s brand. This exercise never ends. Learn it. Live it. Make it a part of your daily routine. Knowing where your sales originate is the key to long-term success.
Bruno Lucarelli is the Eastern U.S. sales director for Cardomain.com, the largest automotive social network in the world. He has over 20 years experience in both traditional and digital advertising, including eBay Motors, Autotrader.com and CBS Television.