As you close out 2011 and prepare for a much better 2012, make sure your advertising is working as hard as the rest of the team.
Do the research! There is no such thing as a “once size fits all” with media spending. Every market has it’s own unique, exceptional nuances. You can’t apply national averages with broad-brush strokes and hope to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness. Handled properly, the automotive retail environment lends itself to accurate data collection. Unlike most hit-and-run retail experiences, there are several ‘natural’ collection points in the sale, financing and delivery of a vehicle. Somewhere between completion of the ‘deal’ and final farewells, the customer will lower defenses to accommodate tactful and brief questionnaires. Never more than one page. Never more than 40 questions. The focus should be on specific media habits, such as the following: What radio station (if any) do you listen to in the morning? Which local television (or cable channel) do you watch for news? What are your three most watch cable channels (shows…if there is more than one cable system in your market area)? Which websites did you visit to research your vehicle purchase? Which social websites do you visit (checklist)? What is your preferred method of communication? Cell phone? E-mail? Text?
Don’t put all your ad eggs in one basket! Despite the fact that e-media continues to grow (projected to capture 17% of national spend in 2012, almost 19% by the end of 2013), television, in particular cable and radio, continue to grow. All of those at the expense of print’s continuing decline (projected 19% nationally in 2012, down to 17% by 2013). In fact, radio gained an additional 1.7 million listeners aged 12 and over this year, reaching 241 million nationally.
Radio now reaches 93.4% of adults aged 18-34, 94.5% of adults 18-49 and 95.2% of adults 25-54. Traditional electronic media is still the most powerful component in automotive advertising.
Build your brand! Back in my early days your dad was either a “Ford” or a “Chevy” man. (Okay, sometimes a “Dodge” man.) Auto brands were as cherished as your favorite sports team. Loyal followers overlooked an off-year “bad” style, and the common engineering/manufacturing flaws of the day. Every Chevy person would tell you Ford stood for “Fix or Repair Daily.” Ford families had equally harsh things to say about Chevy. Today it’s not uncommon to see buyers swapping marques with every new purchase. The single greatest opportunity for brand loyalty is within your OWN brand. Loyalty to you and what you stand for, and how you stand behind what you sell. There is a direct correlation to the perception of your brand with repeat and referral business. If you’d like a free copy of the Brand Survey Template which will help you focus on understanding exactly what your brand means to the public, just e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the title of this article in the subject line and ask for the Brand Survey Template. Remember, the perception of your brand is reality.
Advertise used vehicles in traditional and e-mediums! A number of dealers I communicate with on a regular basis are enjoying great success advertising used vehicles on radio, television and on the home page of their websites for the same reason many of the most profitable dealers have always front lined used cars on their lots. Research shows buyers are widening the distance filters for the distance they are willing to drive for the make, model, color, option packages and mileage they desire.
If you sell new Hondas, a shopper may search your inventory, then shop the dealer closest using your info to haggle on a price. Unlike ‘new’ models, you are the only dealer with the exact ‘used’ vehicle in your possession. Many dealers are now using their website home pages to showcase used vehicles (or using unique ‘used’ landing pages in their advertising. Vehicle shoppers on every economic level are making greater use of websites to search inventory, fill out credit applications and even make payments on buy-here, pay-here vehicles. Used vehicle advertising should no longer be confined to traditional print media. The economy dictates that a substantial percentage of formerly new vehicle shoppers are now moving to the pre-owned market including certified and luxury buyers. I’ve written several articles on dealers who have made both their fame and fortune only advertising used, and selling their share (and more) of the new vehicles they sell.
Manage your message! There is a great book out there called “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath that sums it up well. It’s a great read and a highly worthwhile addition to your collection. Using the acronym Succes (success), the Heath brothers lay down these tenants of stickiness:
S – Simplicity: Streamline your message. Less is more!
U – Unexpectedness: Surprise your audience with new information!
C – Concreteness: Give concrete examples (the number of miles to a tank of gas). Boston to New York on less than ten dollars!
C – Credibility: A testimonial from a highly satisfied customer has more credibility than a celebrity endorsement.
E – Emotional: Hook with emotion. Close with logic.
S – Stories: Use stories that illustrate how your product or service has improved your customers’ personal or professional lives.
And here is one more ‘S’:
S – Send them to your website! Make sure all of your advertising sends customers to your website! Have an easy to say, easy to remember web address. (If you already have an established address, remember you can point any other address to that same website.)
Website basics! The absolute best websites are the ones that are the easiest to navigate, the easiest to read, the fastest to load, the simplest to use and the quickest to provide the most important basic information the customer is looking for. Ten years ago I wrote an article forecasting that the Internet would become the ultimate information system for customer convenience. Yes, the younger, more e-savvy folks can figure out how to get what they want regardless of design, but for many, surfing the web is a frustrating experience. Now that the telephone book is rapidly going the way of dinosaurs and the phone companies charge a dollar or more to provide a telephone number, a large number of “casual” surfers to the web for basic contact, location and directional information. Put that information on the “top of the fold,” preferably in the masthead.
For instance, take a look at www.PenskeToyota.com. The page opens with boxes for two locations and a large map underneath showing the locations on the map and the distance between the two. Pretty easy to figure out which is closest to you. Click on either location and right on the very top is the address (in case you want to mail them something), phone numbers for sales and service and a link to open a Mapquest map where you can get exact driving instructions within seconds. All of the information you need to search inventory, fill out a credit app, schedule service or get a value for trade-in is right on the top of the page, no scrolling necessary.
Make sure you’re ready to socialize! Just because your daughter says you should definitely be on Facebook and Twitter, tread cautiously into social domains. Yes, it’s nice to have a lot of people “like” you on Facebook and “follow” you on Twitter, but uncontrolled and unmanaged social media can have disastrous implications. Don’t just jump into these arenas unless you understand how they work, who can post, and who will manage the process on a daily (not weekly…daily) basis.
Waste not, want not! December is the perfect time to review, line by line, your past years advertising/marketing expenses. Segregate your 2012 budget into three sections: a.) the items you are confident of both effectiveness and value, b.) the items you are not really sure of and c.) the items you seriously question the value of. Insist on a complete presentation and revisit of both b.) and c.) items. Would those dollars be better spent reinforcing a.) items, or simply jettisoned in favor of a reserve for new opportunities and promotions. Last year, several dealers I counseled on budget examination were able to noticeably improve advertising ROI by shifting dollars to more effective channels. Don’t renew print contracts at same or increased dollar levels to simply preserve a line rate. You may be better to allocate less to print at a higher line rate. Don’t sign contracts without vetting the value of specific advertising and marketing plans with the entire management team.
Here’s wishing you and your team a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2012.