Driving Volume to Dealerships

By Elizabeth Kephart Reisinger

While people may have listened in the old days when E.F. Hutton spoke, in today’s marketing environment, customers are more likely to take their advice from friends and neighbors instead of strangers.

The proliferation of information and marketing mediums has made the old standby advertising of radio spots and the occasional television commercial as likely to attract customers as going door-to-door. Dealers and marketing experts agree: to be noticed in a crowded market, the same old marketing tactics just won’t do.

KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS
Getting people in the door is clearly an important component of the marketing challenge. Dealers then must find out who’s coming in the door and why.

While most dealers ask the customer detailed questions about car-buying history, they rarely ask how many other drivers are in the household and what those people are driving,says Scott Toland, president and an instructor at The Marketing Academy, a company that has been working with auto dealerships on marketing strategies since 1983. Toland cites the 80/20 rule, noting that 80% of a dealership’s business will come from referrals and repeat clients; only 20% of potential customers are responding to advertisements. Therefore, a dealership’s customers are important spokespeople.

LOOK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Stephen Burks takes a similar approach reaching out to his customers, buyers of luxury and exotic vehicles. Burks, marketing director of Springfield, Mo.-based Motorcars International, has found that experiential events – such as hosted events with yacht dealers and investment bankers – work well for his high-end clientele. Most dealers would do better by partnering with institutions such as financial advisory firms.

To get innovative ideas, he often looks beyond the car market.

“I may go out and grab a high-end magazine, such as Modern Luxury, and see what they’ve done for events,” says Burks. “By studying the other parallel markets and their methods, I can develop some opportunity off of that.”

Ray Davis, chief executive of Umpqua Bank in the Pacific Northwest, has said on numerous occasions that he looks at  top players in other industries — not to other banks — for ideas on improving his company: Umpqua has won wide acclaim for its approach to customer service and marketing. Some Umpqua Bank branches, for example, are considered community centers in their neighborhoods, hosting knitting classes and book clubs as a means of improving the bank’s position in its footprint.

SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY
Walser Auto Group’s advertising message is tied to its sales philosophy: The sales staff is not paid on commission and the sales floor is a negotiation-free, hassle-free environment. The 52-year-old company with 10 dealerships in the Minneapolis metropolitan area centers its marketing on one slogan: “The Walser Way.”

“We’re more interested in telling people what it’s like to buy from us,” says Paul Walser, the company’s owner and chief
executive. His media strategy, which excludes television ads, focuses on 60-second radio spots, targeted print ads, and
occasional billboards. “We don’t have a big visual story; it’s an audio story.”

The strategy has worked, although Walser admits that the dealership group plans to step up its advertising in the coming months. “We did a survey several months ago and we were disappointed with what consumers knew about our way of doing business,” Walser says. “We plan to get back into a more aggressive posture.”

Getting through to consumers is harder than ever. The dealerships attracting the most business today understand this
new paradigm and are constantly seeking to move beyond the traditional radio and TV advertisements. Being more aggressive, regardless of the marketing method, is most important.

While people may have listened in the old days when E.F.

Hutton spoke, in today’s marketing environment, customers

are more likely to take their advice from friends and neighbors

instead of strangers.

The proliferation of information and marketing mediums

has made the old standby advertising of radio spots and the

occasional television commercial as likely to attract customers

as going doorto-door. Dealers and marketing experts agree:

to be noticed in a crowded market, the same old marketing

tactics just won’t do.

Know your customers

Getting people in the door is clearly an important component

of the marketing challenge. Dealers then must find out who’s

coming in the door and why.

While most dealers ask the customer detailed questions

about car-buying history, they rarely ask how many other

drivers are in the household and what those people are driving,

says Scott Toland, president and an instructor at The Marketing

Academy, a company that has been working with auto

dealerships on marketing strategies since 1983. Toland cites

the 80/20 rule, noting that 80% of a dealership’s business will

come from referrals and repeat clients; only 20% of potential

customers are responding to advertisements. Therefore, a

dealership’s customers are important spokespeople.

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