As a dealer, I’m sure you’re well aware that we live in a changing world. This isn’t new information for you.

Growing up, I relied on our local news station or our daily newspaper for weather predictions, sports updates, and news reports. Now, I rely on other sources for the same information. More importantly, I access it when and how I want to.

In the same way, the automotive industry has changed and the buying journey for the average consumer no longer looks the same.

Dealership Influence is Shrinking

Consumers once relied on the OEM or the dealership to give them the information they needed – like price, financing options, monthly incentives and trade-in value.

In most cases, this information came to them in the form of advertising. Consumers relied on this advertising to inform them of what was available. As a result, all advertising consisted of features, benefits and offers. The only way the consumer could learn more was to call or visit the dealership.

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Over the last 100 years, the dealers and the OEM has had control of all messaging and offers, but that’s changed. The Internet stole this control and consumers began seeking information online that was previously only found at a dealership.

Because of this, dealers were forced to turn their focus towards website optimization and digital marketing, but this change of focus did not solve their problems.

Dealers still face the same issues and their circle of influence shrinks every day as they lose more control of the buying journey.

Your Circle of Influence is Shrinking

The problem is, dealers never changed their messaging. They changed their marketing to different channels, but they never changed their message based on what consumers look for.

Consumers are no longer interested in the offers and discounts dealers provide because they can find the same offers and discounts without your help.

So, why are digital marketing, direct mail, TV commercials, and radio spots all filled with information like lease and APR offers – especially when these lease and APR offers are the same offers that every dealership your brand sells is offering?

No wonder dealers have lost influence over the buying journey!

We live in a day and age where dealerships are faced with a game that only a few can play – the survival of the fittest. Whoever can evolve their dealership to meet the needs of consumers fastest and best, wins.

How to Expand Your Circle of Influence

Ten to 15 years ago, the average consumer visited 4+ dealerships prior to purchase. Nowadays, it’s less than 1.5!

The key to expanding your circle of influence and attracting more quality traffic is offering your potential car buyers something they can’t refuse. In order to do that, you must stick with marketing fundamentals that work and eliminate what doesn’t.

From a consumer perspective, people continue to respond to great marketing for a few reasons:

  1. The perception of exclusivity – Consumers love something that is exclusive to them and that others cannot receive.
  2. There’s a believable call to action or reason for them to enroll and engage.
  3. It creates urgency by suggesting that the offers are too good to offer long-term or to the general public.
  4. It creates a “fear of missing out”. People don’t want to miss out on deals.

From a marketing perspective, you still have to follow best practices:

  • Use of data analytics to determine the best in market audiences to market to.
  • Data insights to guide creative and copy decisions.
  • A multi-channel approach (paid search, Display, Social, mail, multiple emails, BDC support, ringless voicemail, outbound calls, etc.)
  • Campaign management to maximize profitability.

There are also marketing mistakes you want to avoid…

Failing to address your customer’s needs. Not being unique. Making customers work too hard.

How easy is it for your customers to get all the information they need and more importantly want?

To expand your influence over the car buying journey, consider focusing a large portion of your marketing efforts on avoiding these mistakes.

There are real opportunities to rise above the noise and become unique and really differentiate yourself by doing this.

Virtual Sales Events Make Offers Car Buyers Can’t Refuse

The easiest way to make customers an offer they absolutely can’t refuse is to guarantee them a result they absolutely want.

Virtual Sales Events learn from what has worked in the past (and follows the best practices of both consumer and marketing perspectives) and molds that to work for today’s market. Just like all good direct marketing, a successful Virtual Sales Event must be exclusive and believable, and it must include a strong call to action – all while creating an urgency that ensures your prospects won’t want to miss out.

A successful Virtual Sales Event should hit on the top reasons why consumers respond to great direct marketing and appeal to the 98 percent of shoppers that normally never consider driving to your dealership or responding to your advertising.

It starts with marketing to an exclusive in market audience and taking them to a landing page that is not for the general public. It motivates them to go on the landing page through a call to action/offer that solves their pain and guarantees them the result they want most.

Today’s car buyer wants to interact with your inventory.  But they want to do it faster, better and easier than what you give them now. They want to quickly and efficiently adjust monthly payments and prices on the fly, they want this information to include their trade-in value, equity, and credit tier.

Compare that experience to the status quo. Most dealerships do not provide all this or (if they do) do it in a way that is inconvenient. No wonder the average consumer only stays on a dealership site for 3-4 minutes!

Give them what they truly want and consumers will no longer have to bounce from one site to another in order to discover this information. They should be able to get all of this in one place.

The main reasons most consumers invest the majority of their shopping time on 3rd party sites is because they trust them more and it’s a better shopping experience.

They compare their experience with your dealership to companies like Amazon – not the dealer down the street.

The Internet has opened multiple new marketing channels and provides a lot of great data and insight, but it has also come at a cost.

Third party sites are saturated with commoditized inventory and pricing. This has created an environment of razor thin profit margins and made it much more difficult for dealers to differentiate themselves from competitors.

If you want to differentiate your dealership from competitors, the task is clear – you must give consumers information they can’t get everywhere else.

This allows you to make unique advertising/marketing offers that other dealers and 3rd party sites can’t make. You have to provide it to them in a way that is more convenient and easier to use.

Expand Your Influence and Regain Control

Oftentimes, dealers I’ve talked to prefer for people to come into the dealership because it allows them to control the sales process and handle objections.

They want to walk the lot with the customer and find out if they’re interested in new or used, if they plan to finance or lease, what type of vehicle they’re interested in, which vehicles they spend the most time looking at, what type of down payment (if any), what credit tier they might think they’re at, if they’re willing to trade-in a vehicle, the details for that trade-in, their payoff equity, and more.

The only way dealers currently feel like they can get all that information is by bringing the shopper to the lot, but today’s technology allows you to track all of this information online.

Dealers who are engaged with consumers earlier in the buying journey (before they sell themselves) are expanding their influence over consumer buying decisions and regaining control of the sales process.

These dealers are attracting more car buyers because they are giving them what they absolutely want… convenience, time savings, hassle free shopping, etc.

That’s how you can create the ultimate vehicle shopping experience!

In fact, dealers who are taking advantage of these marketing forces are doubling and tripling the amount of website visitors’ time on site to seven to twelve minutes and working three times more leads than the average dealer who continues to advertise status quo marketing messages.