How to Differentiate Your Dealership From the Competition

This is the second follow up blog in a series of five from a recent article titled “These Are the 5 Automotive Tips You’ll Love in 2019” I gave brief descriptions on all five tips but I wanted to give you more specific examples, ideas and strategies.

The first tip was “This is What You Need to Know to Save Time & Money in 2019“. Today’s blog covers the importance of differentiating your dealership’s marketing messages from everyone else – especially in an automotive era where the Internet and 3rd-party sites are commoditizing the dealer.

Bottom line… consumers choose dealerships that stand out more favorably, advantageously and appealingly over the other dealers they compete against. The more clearly your marketing telegraphs what makes you the better choice, the more often they’ll choose you over your competition. You need to create maximum real and perceived advantage in your clients’ eyes and minds at all times.You must develop a “differentiator” that sets you apart from other dealers and attracts clients by offering them a powerful and unique benefit. This first starts with what you believe you and your store can become.

There is a reason a good operator can take an under performing store and within three to six months double to triple sales. In my 28 years in this industry, I’ve seen his happen hundreds of times. I’ve seen it happen with my own stores (I’m very fortunate to have a great business partner and General Manager who is a true industry A-lister).

The question is… Do A-listers work a lot harder than everyone else? Probably, but hard work alone won’t double and triple sales. A-listers have a better philosophical strategy. They approach everyone they deal with in a totally different and more effective way than everyone else.

A-listers go for major breakthroughs. They don’t accept present-day business circumstances as the way it has to be. They have better processes and do a better job differentiating themselves and their stores from everyone they compete against.

A business strategy that may be common as dirt in one industry can have the effect of an atom bomb in an industry or business application where it’s never been used before. The auto industry is ripe for that bomb and these breakthroughs are coming whether you want them to or not.

The last article talked about taking great business strategies from other industries and making them your own. By doing so, you have an opportunity to also differentiate yourself.

So, if you’re going to give your dealership explosive jumps that put you far beyond most of the people you compete with, you can’t do it by following the same practices you’ve (and they’ve) always followed. You can’t allow outside influences such as 3rd-party sites to continue to take the influence you once had over buying decisions.

Focus on other industry’s success practices… you’ll be amazed at how easily you can adapt these ideas to your own dealership’s situation. There are better ways to produce significantly better results from the same time, manpower, effort, activity, and capital.

What are breakthroughs and why are they so critical for dealers in today’s market?

Marketing breakthroughs can give you dramatic improvements that make you more: impactful, powerful, efficient, effective, valuable and inspiring to your client. They make your store different so you can avoid the “All dealers are the same” problem.

Breakthroughs make your marketing produce two to three times the results from the same effort or less. Breakthroughs transform your dealership from selling a commodity into a valuable solution your competition can’t or doesn’t offer. Breakthroughs let you out defend, out attack, out leverage, out sell and continuously out maneuver your competition on every level.

Innovative dealers produce breakthroughs that lead our industry. So do a lot of individual General Managers. Dealerships and people who lead, command more business, keep more business and take more business from their competitors. They also command far greater respect and trust from their clients and our industry.

Right now the dealer down the street is constantly trying to come up with new ways to take your clients away from you. 3rd-party sites are continuously developing better ways for the consumer to value them more than you. You’ve got to beat them to the punch. Breakthroughs are the pathway to do that.

Breakthroughs let you reinvent your dealership before your competitor does it to you. Breakthroughs make people wealthy.

The speed that change is occurring around the auto industry requires that breakthrough thinking become continual, everyday thinking. Not just a rare or occasional event at a yearly meeting or conference.

You don’t want to wait for a major event to change your dealership for the negative. So you must invent and constantly be reinventing your own better future. That means becoming ethically opportunistic, looking at everything around you (in and outside of the auto industry) with an opportunity-based focus.

It also means you must adopt a possibility-based mindset that looks for new, different and better ways to reach your goal or address the market situation.

You must see opportunities where everyone else sees problems, obstacles, limitations or boundaries. Recognize how much more you can achieve by leveraging the impact of whatever is going on around you, your dealership and the industry. The most exciting breakthroughs occur when you reach beyond the traditional way of looking at or doing something and become open and receptive to new possibilities.

Ask yourself continuously…“Where’s the big overlooked opportunity, here?”

Start by identifying what clients want most and give it to them.

Why do people buy from you instead of the dealership down the street? Do you really know the answer? If not, you either 1) offer car buyers a unique set of advantages or benefits, but you’ve never identified them yourself, or 2) you offer car buyers no unique advantage and you’re just “lucky” they chose you when they decided on which dealer showroom was going to be the 1.4 they visited.

The reality is any time another dealer wants to offer your clients advantages you don’t, they can take them away from you. Remember, the importance of thinking about your customers and prospects as clients – not customers. There is a huge philosophical difference that was covered in the previous article.

Most major breakthroughs are a result of looking at things with a common sense, very logical degree of open-mindedness… and the ability to take action on what you see. The most dramatic breakthroughs frequently center on better ways to do things – faster, easier or more effectively or logically.

You must determine the most powerful benefit or advantage you can offer a potential new or current client so it’s irrational for them to choose to do business with anyone but your dealership. Make them offers they can’t refuse.

Your marketing has to offer a unique benefit they’re not getting from your competitors. When you do this, you clearly educate clients so they see, appreciate and are compelled to take advantage.

You have to identify where the opportunity is and go after it with major breakthroughs. So, ask yourself better questions. Here are a few to get you started…

  • When I first started in the auto business, where did my clients come from (what process, methods or action did I or the client use)?
  • What’s the process or method clients come to my dealership today?
  • Why did clients originally buy from me?
  • Why do clients buy from my dealership now?
  • What is the biggest client complaint about my dealership (or the buying process in the auto industry overall), and how do we address this problem?
  • What is my competition’s biggest failing, and how do I specifically fill that void?
  • What has been my biggest marketing success to date (define it as a specific promotion, campaign, offer, etc.)?
  • What is my biggest marketing problem or challenge today?
  • Do I make consistent efforts to communicate with my clients about what my dealership is doing to help them?

How to elevate your dealership to a position of notable superiority over your competition?

In order rise above all the noise in a very crowded marketplace, you must offer your client a unique and distinctive benefit or advantage above and beyond that of your competitor. If you don’t, people have no motivation to respond to your offer.

You must identify and understand what it is you or your company does or can start doing for your clients that provide them with a result or an advantage superior to everyone else.

Developing, identifying, and incorporating a dynamic marketing differentiator can be challenging. But the reward will be well worth the time. It will give you the distinction and the advantage against everyone in your marketplace.

There are many kinds of differentiators you can look. Some dealers attempt to do this now. Some dealers position themselves as having the best in-stock selection. Their differentiator is “broad choice.” Other dealers may have a more limited selection, but they market themselves as “low price” because of their low overhead. Another dealer may decide they don’t want to be known for just price or selection. Instead they offer the best service or “customer experience”.

The possibilities for building your differentiator are unlimited. However, I caution going in the direction of the ones mentioned above. Do any of the differentiators above separate you from any other dealer – especially in the eyes of today’s consumer?

Is “low price” sellable in today’s market when I can sit on my couch and at the touch of a button know your price is no better than anyone else’s? How important is your “broad choice” of models when I have my choice from hundreds of dealers? I can pretty much find what I want without leaving my home. Why do we as an industry use internal communication terms like “customer experience” in our ads as if the consumer knows what that means? If that is your differentiator tell them why your customer experience is better… don’t just say you have a better customer experience.

Buzz words alone are not a dynamic marketing differentiator.

The best differentiators dynamically addresses an obvious void in the marketplace that you can fill. But you have to fill the promise.

Before recommending a specific marketing differentiator, let me describe a curious and unfortunate phenomenon. When you ask most people in our industry to articulate clearly and concisely in one paragraph or less, his or her dealership’s differentiator… most have no answer. Why? Because they’ve never thought about or offered a specific solution. Most of them have no differentiator, only a business that feeds solely upon the momentum of the market. There’s nothing unique, there’s nothing distinct. They promise no great value, benefit, or service – just “buy from us” for a variety of reasons that mean nothing to the client.

Other than a convenient location, a dealer will not get much patronage if they fail to offer appealing promises, unique features, or special services? Clients expect special consideration and great service in exchange for their business. You are no longer only compared to other dealers. Today, your customer experience is judged well before they visit you… it’s measured online against the world’s best retailers.

Dealers who adopt a dynamic marketing differentiator fare immeasurably better than those without one. They have a profound advantage over all their competitors.

So if most of the current marketing differentiators fall short based on today’s real world marketplace… what’s your big promise?

First, go back to those questions you asked yourself and identify which needs are going unfulfilled. Think about all the offers and marketing that’s done today. Almost all are the same offers we used when the consumer actually relied on dealers for the information.

  • A broad selection: It doesn’t get broader than what’s on the Internet.
  • Big discounts: Not really – I can buy for almost the same price everywhere. Plus True Car helps me verify that your price really isn’t that much lower – if at all.
  • Convenience (i.e. location, incredible selection, immediate delivery): This only matters once I’ve sold myself online.
  • Services above and beyond the basics: This actually can be quite strong but you have to be more specific and the promise of “service above and beyond” has to be real and perceived by the consumer as more valuable.
  • A longer and more comprehensive warranty or guarantee than the norm: Any dealer of the same brand can match your warranty.

The point is to focus on the one niche, need, or gap that is most sorely lacking.

It’s time to act

Whatever you’re doing with your marketing and sales… however you’re doing it and wherever you’re doing it… you can and must continually find better ways to maximize your results. But maximizing and creating breakthroughs means more than simply getting the most profit, highest performance, greatest productivity and effectiveness out of a marketing strategy. It also means achieving maximum results with minimum time, effort, expense and risk – something few people practice or even think about.

As I mentioned earlier, you don’t just compete with other dealers for the car buyer’s attention. Most car buyers trust the manufacturer and 3rd-party sites over your own site. They rely on those sites before they ever make contact with you. So, you are also competing with these 3rd-party sites for time and attention – but more importantly – you are competing with them on influence. If most consumers use these sites to research their next vehicle, the odds are stacked against you that you will influence their decision at all. By the time most prospects communicate with you, they’ve already sold themselves on what they plan to buy and many times where.

What would happen if you could offer what your clients actually wanted? What if you did it faster, easier and made the shopping experience better than your competition and the 3rd-party sites?

What would your marketing differentiator look like?

Recently, J&L Marketing’s President, Jamil Zabaneh did an outstanding webinar discussing the future of automotive marketing and the challenges dealers face. He discussed what really matters to today’s car buyers and how to effectively win the race to the conquest buyer.

To win that race… to create a unique marketing offer… it has to address what car buyers want most. That’s the only way you will develop a dynamic marketing differentiator that produces more leads and sales. You have to offer something compelling. What motivated buyers 5, 10, 15 and 20 years ago is not as motivating today because they don’t need you for the information in those old school marketing offers.

If you make the decision to watch the webinar now (which I highly recommend), you can do so by clicking the image below. It does a great job of not only giving you a specific dynamic marketing differentiator but explaining why it works so well in today’s marketplace.

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