Author: Guy Smith, Vice President, Automotive Industry Business Development, Jay Advertising and Marketing Communications
Breaking out of the competitive clutter
Breaking out of the competitive clutter begins with challenging conventional wisdom with new buyer-aligned ideas and then taking some calculated risks. The end of this “breakout journey” just might be the first mover opportunity that just might change the rules of automotive marketing, merchandizing and selling, and provide you with a strategic competitive advantage.
Performance improvement begins with a definition of what success exactly looks like at some predetermined point in the future (e.g., 1-3 years out). Begin by defining success with the factors most relevant to the dealership (e.g., units/parts sold, margin, net profit, customer loyalty and others). But, regardless of how the dealership defines and works to achieve its success measures, the bigger question will be “what will the dealership not achieve even if those success measures are achieved”? In other words, what share is the dealership getting or not getting while achieving those metrics? To gain share is to displace competition. So, how does a dealership do that in the context of business-as-usual marketing and selling strategies? The answer is to break out of the business-as-usual mode of thinking and operations.
Let’s begin with car buyers.
Knowing and serving them remarkably is the path to more wins against competition. We’ve all read the data; auto intenders prefer to buy the way they want to buy and on their terms. Studies suggest that they don’t particularly like the car buying experience and dealership engagement isn’t what it was even a few years ago due to the Internet standing between them and you.
The Silver Lining
There is a silver lining in this buying dynamic, however. Consider how much time intenders spend researching cars and offers on the front end of car purchases today. How can a dealership be more top of mind in the information gathering, consideration and final selection stages of the buying process?
Yes; a strong digital foot print has a lot to do with engaging the market and increasing demand, but there is more power in changing additional aspects of the automotive marketing and sales model. Changing the brand, marketing and sales focus from “push” to “pull” will get you inside the head of intenders faster and more deeply. A new dimension of “pull” in a marketing strategy develops when the dealership asks itself a series of “what ifs” and implements against the possibilities inherent in bolder answers.
Here are some “what ifs” to consider on your way to breaking out from the pack.
What if . . .
- . . . an “up” was initially considered as a “guest” more than a buyer, and how could that distinction factor in the way they were hosted and how comfortable they would feel during a visit to the dealership?
- . . . the dealership experience was geared to be an extension of an intender’s pre-sale on-line research where the nature of the visit would be more tactile and hands-on, and their visit was discovery-based allowing them to learn more deeply about cars of interest?
- . . . rather than a line-up of cars typically arrayed in the showroom, key automotive sub-systems were also arrayed in engaging kiosks according to attribute categories of safety, comfort, technology, efficiency, performance and others?
- . . . the sales persons were re-titled as “product specialists” and were trained with a much deeper knowledge about the design, capabilities and benefits of the cars they are selling?
- . . . the dealership website was richer in relevant content . . . with key employees functioning as subject matter experts who share useful insights to help intenders make more informed buying decisions and help owners take care of their vehicles post-sale? Think of this as an on-line “Knowledge Bank”, a repository of information that builds the image of your dealership as “the house of helpful information and trust”?
- . . . a dealership name became a brand, and the dealership brand name took on more image-building importance in your advertising strategy than 100% co-op push advertising?
- . . . test drives were based on intenders defining what constituted a real-life driving experience, and the offer of a test drive began with a question: “how can we help you best experience this car so that we’ll know it is exactly right for you?”
- . . . guests opted into the sales cycle and “bought a car” versus being sold a “sold a car”? Wouldn’t the “close” be the most logical outcome of a very informative and supportive buying experience?
Ultimately, the path to performance and meaningful differentiation will begin with tasking ourselves with these compelling questions. Depending on the answers and non-conventional path that a dealership chooses, it just might have a first mover opportunity and develop a unique pull-centric value narrative that is really is something different to advertise.
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- Guy Smith | Senior Vice President/Partner