So, the experts were right. The first quarter is over and YOY sales are slightly down. Not so bad in general, however March was down 1.7%, with some brands down in double digits. Unlike the past few years where everyone could win, this year we will see actual winners and losers. Market share gains and losses have already been realized and now is a logical time for OEM’s and dealerships to re-evaluate everything.
This reminds me of the old adage “give a man fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”. Since 2009, most dealers have benefited substantially from consistent YOY growth. In 2017, it’s a different story, you must know how to fish to catch more than your fair share. Just waiting for fish to jump in your boat or dropping a line into the same old spot isn’t going to work.
This fishing analogy is really called “Push-Pull Marketing”. It’s simple, “Pull” marketing is a strategy to pull consumers who are already in the market into your dealership. To fish where the fish are biting. A “pull” strategy is easy when there are more and more fish to catch, plenty for everybody. However, “pull” marketing won’t be nearly as easy in 2017 because more people are fishing and the number of consumers in the market will be the same as 2016 or potentially less. We also have an increasing number of 3rd party lead providers trolling the waters. They are going after the same fish and they are really good at fishing for in-market consumers.
Digital Advertising has evolved substantially and the number of vendors that supply this type of “pull” marketing has never been greater and dealerships have never devoted more of their marketing budgets to fishing online. We are looking forward to releasing some case studies with Google in Q2 2017, that highlight the dealerships that have the most successful digital strategies to “pull” in market consumers into their dealerships and show continued growth in a flat market. If your digital strategy does not include content that features every year, make and model you sell with real payments based on live inventory and OEM incentives, online fishing is going to be very difficult for you in 2017. Why? Consumers are no longer biting on ads featuring “Save Thousands”, “Dozens in Stock” or “Whopping Good Deals”. If your ads don’t look like this, then change your bait! And you have to update them daily to make them accurate, real and compliant.
You should be testing your ads often against your competitors, including third parties who are amazing at generating click bait. Don’t pay for this, Google has a free Ad Preview tool that simulates your ads on any device without costing you any clicks or impacting your click through rate (I suggest desktop and mobile) and you can set it for your local market. Just go here, it’s easy.
But, to really win in 2017, you have to PUSH.
The dealers who will gain the most in 2017 also know how to “push” consumers in a flat market. They fish off the back of the boat, really well. Its harder, the fish are deeper, but they are also much bigger. In addition to “pulling” in-market consumers, they have strategies and processes to “push” consumers who are not yet shopping… into realizing all the logical benefits of upgrading into a newer vehicle. They know that 50% of consumers don’t realize they can upgrade for a lower or similar payment. Most dealerships do some very basic equity mining, but are not good at this type of fishing. Think about it, they have people (who don’t want to call customers all day…that are very likely not in the market) calling consumers who don’t want to be called.
How do we push customers into the market? To start, STOP sending generic static email blasts. Rather, send custom emails with actual upgrade options built into the email for the vehicles your customers are most likely purchase. Use your historical trade patterns to build customized offers and stop sending your core models to everybody. It’s got to be personal. Also, stop sending your own customers to your public website. Can you imagine starting over every time you went to Amazon? Instead, build private shopping portals for every customer and stock it with custom, personal offers that include their equity, service coupons they can download to apple wallet, and pre-configure their lease and finance payments on every model you sell. Finally, when your customers visit your service department…don’t present them with some bad paper printout. Get yourself a 55” touchscreen display and show them their options right on their private portal in seconds, then offer to email or print out what they are really interested in purchasing. Or save it, so they can review it when they get home on their private shopping portal. Or maybe just do something crazy and walk them over to that exact vehicle you already know they want because you saw them shopping for it the day before on their portal history. That’s how the best dealers fish for the big grosses by logically “pushing” people into the market who are not yet shopping. Technology is key and there are some incredible companies pushing this industry. Don’t settle for a flat market, you can have a balanced approach to fishing and gain market share. Good luck and let’s make 2017 a winner.
The barriers to entry for these new vendors is next to nothing and there are few credentials to verify their claims versus their actual results. Unfortunately, many dealers have found themselves in a “buy and try” cycle for years. That trend will change as the market flattens and real YOY growth becomes harder to achieve. If you need help or just advice about fishing in a flat market, contact us.