According to a Harvard Business Review study titled Please Touch The Merchandise (Dec 2011), “Utilizing physical warmth to engender trust should be especially effective in retail settings involving high-risk decisions and a high degree of interpersonal contact between salespeople and customers, such as car dealerships and clothing stores. In these settings, a simple gesture such as a warm cup of coffee or a warm handshake can convey trustworthiness, going a long way towards easing consumers into transactions.”
It’s every Dealer’s dream to look out on a floor packed with potential customers, yet so many dealers fail to properly execute on Local Event Marketing. Every 5k Run/Walk, County Fair or other occasion where thousands of area people gather is an opportunity to “humanize” your Dealership to brand new customers. Since most people STILL would rather go to the Dentist than a car dealer, your professional, warm manner in such a relaxed, fun setting will go a long way toward building your brand.
Let’s look at the mistakes many dealers make in this scenario, and the solutions:
–Sponsoring an event without showing up
o This is a lost opportunity and wasted money. Spend your valuable Advertising budget on something else.
–Sponsoring an event without negotiating a premium position for your dealership
o Look at the map provided by the organizer. Are you getting stuck next to a loud generator, too close to the band, a smoky BBQ pit, next to another dealer, etc? Take a look at the site ahead of time, and insist on a premium spot where you can have a conversation without screaming, choking or other distraction! And SHOW UP EARLY with your vehicles, you don’t want to get “squeezed in” by the guy selling t-shirts and Henna tattoos next door.
–Showing up to an event without two vehicles
o You must demonstrate your OEM’s choices: Sedan vs. SUV or Minivan, Highline vs. “Starter” vehicle, etc. Every brand has alternatives, make sure your on-site inventory will fit the tone of the event.
–Not researching the event
o Is it an upscale event, younger, older, etc.? Check out the entertainment, that’s always the key to whom the event will draw. The Sinatra Crowd is very different from the Indie Rock Crowd. Don’t participate in any event that doesn’t dovetail with your buying demographic with regard to age, income, interest etc.
–Not having Salespeople at the event
o Good salespeople will FIGHT over the opportunity to hand out 200 business cards to people sitting in your vehicles, asking buying questions. Lazy salespeople will prefer to sit in your store and wait for an “easy” up. I have seen many potential customers ask non-qualified people that are staffing an event very serious buying questions such lease terms and warranties, only to be met with blank stares and a brochure handout. Sending your Receptionist or Service Staff to an event shows contempt for the potential customer. We have actually had customers ask us to hold the specific car that we brought to an event, and come in the following Monday to close. That salesperson now clears his schedule for every event we sponsor!
–Parking a Car and Leaving!
o Yes, I have actually seen this happen. At the end of the day, the car was covered in half empty beers, cigarette butts, food containers and handprints! Once again, save your money (and your cars) for something else if you can’t commit the right personnel.
–Using a third party event company approved by your OEM
o I have seen this dozens of times. These people look good, but will bring NO ONE to your door to buy a car. They don’t SELL, usually aren’t familiar with the product, and hand out promo items in exchange for worthless “hand raiser” leads. I tried to get into a vehicle with one of these companies, but they were locked! Better to take a pass altogether.
–Having poor promotional items (or NO promotional items)
o What are people taking home that reminds them of your local brand? We noticed at one concert venue that the sun sets behind the stage during the show, blinding the audience for a solid hour. We immediately ordered a few thousand “fun” sunglasses and beer “koozies” with the OEM’s signature color, along with the Dealer’s logo and website. When the client looked out over the sea of people all wearing (and drinking from) his store’s brand, he knew it was a winning night! By the way, NOT ONE promotional item was left on the ground or in the garbage after the show. We see people wearing these glasses all over our area, and now they ask for them at every event we sponsor!
–Not utilizing all promotional opportunities offered by the event organizer
o All events have media partners (Cable, TV, Radio, Print) that trade out thousands of dollars in promotion in exchange for a physical presence. Get your logo to the organizers EARLY, and make sure it’s a “Buy Now” message with your website. Ask to be mentioned in Radio Ads, Print, on their T shirts, posters, event booklet, handbills, etc. Get your logo everywhere possible, you paid for it!
–Failure to Leverage Digital Marketing
o Don’t forget the #1 contributor to Google’s “Quality Score” for SEO, LINK BUILDING! Make sure your logo is on the event or venue’s website ALL YEAR LONG, and that logo is linking back to your Home Page! This will help your website climb in the Google Rankings.
–Failure to Leverage Social Media
o You can bet that hundreds or even thousands of people connect to your event or venue, make sure you promote your participation in the days leading up to the event on your Facebook, Twitter, etc. Negotiate free tickets to the Event in your Sponsorship package and have a Facebook Contest (with a PAID Facebook post). We have generated hundreds of new, engaged Facebook users this way for our clients.
–Not asking for Automotive Exclusivity
o It’s FREE to ask, why not? Try requesting “Truck” or “Luxury” exclusivity, you never know. If they want more money to keep all other dealers away, consider it, but make sure you elevate your position accordingly as a larger sponsor (more promotion,Title Sponsor position, etc). Committing to multiple years is also a valid tactic, as guaranteeing the organizers an annual check is meaningful.
Every Dealer would agree that bringing the product to the customer is a valid sales strategy. There is no reason that a local Dealer shouldn’t exercise the same strategy and tactics that National Brands take for granted. Make sure you engage in the proper Tactile Marketing techniques, and you will realize measurable ROI for every local event.