How to Avoid Marketing Blunders

by Mary Wisniewski

Imagine running a car promotion before telling employees about the deal. Sounds silly, but this marketing blunder has actually happened.

Several years ago, marketing consultants Gravitational Marketing worked with a dealer to create a radio promotion. The very first morning it aired, the station contacted the marketers. Their listeners were confused after calling the dealership: Its employees were unaware of such a deal. “This is a classic mistake where the dealer fails to communicate what the program is this month,” Travis Miller, co-creator of Gravitational Marketing and co-author of Gravitational Marketing: The Science of Attracting Customers, says. With the incredible amount of marketing initiatives a dealer deploys, a few are bound to go Amelia Bedelia wrong; however, most are preventable.

The number one mistake dealers make is taking the same marketing approach as everyone else and expecting great results. Same is lame, says Miller. Frank Myers Auto Maxx is one Gravitational Marketing client striving to break out of the “same” marketing tactics. “Everyone does the same things,” Tracy Myers, owner, says. “Everything they are selling is a commodity. When selling a commodity, it is very limiting to what you can offer the customer.” The Winston-Salem, N.C.-based dealership strives to create stronger relationships as a way to step out of the abyss of dealers nationwide. Take its movie nights. People come to the dealership to eat popcorn and watch family films on a widescreen television. For another relationship-building tactic, Myers patrols social networking sites, spending 1.5 to 2 hours on the Web daily. Part of knowing what works well is also knowing what does not work at all. In the past, outside companies have led to poor results for Frank Myers.

“No one knows your business like you do. Outside companies can have the greatest and latest things, but maybe it won’t fit into your culture and won’t work,” Myers says. When Myers has hired outside companies for direct mailing needs, the outsiders have failed 95 percent of the time, even when it was a good piece, he says. “We don’t have a franchise. We are an independent dealership. The family name is our brand. If we use a generic direct mail piece and don’t personalize it with our culture and our consumer, it won’t work,” says Myers. Outsiders are not the only marketing obstacle dealers face. Industry insiders say the biggest marketing blunder dealers make is holding onto the past.

What worked best for the past three years does not mean it will work for the next three years, says Brion Stapp, dealer principal at Stapp Interstate Toyota – Scion. To keep on top of the changing marketing climate, the Coloradobased dealership, for one, hosts quarterly reviews to ascertain where to spend marketing dollars. Television and Internet are the top two best marketing mediums for Stapp Interstate. Most dealers, however, have not developed or concentrated time on Internet strategies.

“Most dealers are behind the times,” says Jason Mattia, chief financial officer and founding partner at automotive Internet consulting company AutoEngage, Inc. The ex-auto dealer says most dealers realize an auto online presence is critical but still view it as a secondary part of their business.

Gilbert Chavez, president of Carzeus Consulting, LLC, shares Mattia’s sentiments.

“[Dealers] don’t know what to do,” Chavez says. “They aren’t embracing technology or Internet strategies. They aren’t embracing [them] because they are panicking. They are going to something that worked for them in the past.” Chavez cites a dealer who recently tried to “dominate” cable as one such misguided marketing endeavor. “You wouldn’t be in the car business without a healthy ego,” Chavez says. “It’s great that you are aggressive in marketing in a down economy; however, if he dominates cable, he thinks he can dominate the market.”

Chavez encourages Internet marketing strategies, instead. This is because a dealer would know if he or she hits its target, for one. “With online marketing, it’s a laser. It’s a bullet,” says
Chavez.

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