- “We want to buy your car!” Dealers have had great response from incorporating a “we will buy your car for cash” message in their advertising. In fact, several dealers have developed campaigns around that theme with broadcast ads, lot banners, signs in vehicle windows and e-mail programs. One dealer I spoke with offers service writers a cash bonus for every vehicle the dealership buys from the service lanes.
- “Making offers on private sale ads” John is a buyer for a large New England dealership group. He scans private ads on AutoTrader, Cars.com, Ebay and others, making cash offers predicated on a clean CarFax and vehicle representation. John says offering a specific price range generates substantially more interest than just a “general fishing message.”
- “Better/faster response to inquiries” Several dealers have commented on the fact that improvement in ad response time and follow-up protocol has resulted in not only more sales, but a higher level of customer satisfaction. How long does it take for a customer to get a response from an inquiry on your dealership’s web site? How easy is it to get information on your website or over the phone? Sherry is the customer relationship manager for her family’s three dealerships. This year she put together a four-person committee made up of spouses of dealership employees, whose job it is to randomly “shop” both Sherry’s dealerships as well as competitors in the marketplace, reporting on timeliness and quality of response. The group meets on a regular basis with the sales team to share results.
- “Make contact easier” I’ve heard from quite a few dealers who have taken my advice regarding contact information on dealership web sites. Every page of your web site should have a phone number for both sales and service in a prominent position “above the fold.” Many customers use the Internet solely as an information device to obtain directions, hours and contact information. Make it easy! Forget about design aesthetics. Phone number. Hours. Physical address. (A lot of your customers are looking for an address to plug into their GPS.) An “info e-mail link” forwarded to someone who will give it prompt attention is important. Note: next to the link, spell out the actual e-mail address in the event the users mail client doesn’t automatically open from clicking on a link.
- “Advertise payments” High used car prices and inventory shortage, coupled with low interest rates and a re-energized leasing market have made entry level vehicles a better choice for some used vehicle (gotta buy) shoppers. Disclosure including a cash or trade equity requirement has become fairly standard, but be sure you include the basic legal disclosure requirements for your state. Advertising more than five vehicles at the same payment usually eliminates the need for cumbersome stock number requirements in radio ads. I’ve noticed a number of dealers blatantly violating the basics with tactics such as (*) asterisk in print and on signage that require large down-payments, unusually high FICO scores, etc. Dumb.
- “Friends and family” A number of dealerships are enjoying great sales success by offering special promotions to the employees of vendors, suppliers and friends and families of dealership employees. This works best when it’s a real program as opposed to just a cleverly designed promotional piece. Dealers using this idea often steer invitees to specific managers, dedicated email addresses and phone numbers. Note: One of the most successful dealer groups in America consistently sells several hundred vehicles a year to employee family members. The discounts are generous and anyone qualifying for the program gets special attention from a manager for service and warranty issues. My dealer friend tells me the secret to continued referral success from employees is the highest level of satisfaction from the family members they refer.
- “Appeal to credit challenged” With a record number of unemployed, under-employed and credit blemished customers, an appeal to their situation can often produce success. One of my dealer friends I spoke with recently hired a credit specialist who worked in collections with a major finance company for 20 years. While many customers actually have better credit than they realize, there are some customers who benefit from ‘counseling’ with a sympathetic, knowledgeable employee whose job it is to help them obtain credit and get the vehicle they need. “We’ve been able to generate higher down payments and co-sign support through our counseling process.” Another advertising strategy employed in appeals to the credit challenged is messages that invite customers to fill out credit applications on-line in complete privacy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on ‘what’s working’ at your dealership and in your market. We’re all working a little harder, and hopefully most of us are working a little smarter! Continued good selling!