Let’s face it, if you’re a new car dealer, the product you sell is a commodity. The fact is, there are only two ways to increase sales volume with a commodity.
- Lower your price
- Increase the value of what you’re selling
There is no industry more competitive than the auto industry and in most markets dealers are racing to the bottom when it comes to price. The challenge you face is that you can only go so low – and most dealers are already there.
There is no strategic advantage to having the second-lowest price in a commoditized market because most consumers choose to buy where they get the best deal.
This challenge is compounded when many manufacturers, in order to protect their brand, place tight restrictions on how low you can advertise prices.
The Internet is flooding your market with many of the same vehicles and making it easy for consumers to know exactly what they can and should buy your vehicles for.
This is not going to reverse itself or slow down. The Internet has won.
This leaves dealers with only one option if they truly are committed to selling more cars – they must increase the value of what they are selling.
Selling cars boils down to three simple rules:
- You must grab the car shopper’s attention early on.
- You must explain the reason why you’re making them an offer in order to be believable, credible, and build trust with your marketing and sales.
- You must make an offer that they actually want (that’s not always the vehicle) and it has to be absolutely irresistible.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Then why do so many dealers struggle with being different or unique?
I’ll break down these three rules to help you create better offers and increase your sales and traffic. But first, you need to understand one thing:
The most successful dealers and marketers start with the offer, not the product they are selling.
However, a large percentage of dealers skip this critical step because they are too focused on what marketing channel to use or their marketing mix.
When we do a digital or a direct marketing audit, dealers expect us to find something wrong with their account structure, their data, or their landing pages, and – if you look hard enough – you can find improvements with everything.
However, most of the time, we find that marketing campaigns underperform because they are missing the most basic and fundamental marketing principles.
Let’s dive into my three simple rules in more detail and then we can move on to creating better offers!
1. You must grab their attention
If you’re wondering why I continuously write about the importance of your headlines, it’s because it’s the first thing your prospect sees or hears when starting to pay attention to your ad.
This applies to all your advertising – digital, direct mail, email, landing pages, your website – everything.
Your headline is the moment when car shoppers decide whether to continue paying attention to you or not.
Your headline has to be something special. Think about how much information you get every day from the Internet, your inbox, the TV, radio, etc.
In the past, people were not saturated with so much information. The choice of what to pay attention to was not as difficult.
But today, if you don’t grab their attention instantly, car shoppers will not have any second thoughts about engaging further. A great headline can stop car shoppers from moving on, and instead, move them in the direction you want (to pay attention and participate in your ad).
Imagine for a second, your only opportunity to grab a car buyer’s attention is to stand at your lot entrance and say something to motorists as they’re driving by your dealership.
What would you say to get them to stop driving and pull onto your lot?
I would imagine if 100% of your income depended on this, eventually you would get pretty creative, surprising or even shocking with your message.
If nobody ever calls, emails, texts, clicks on your ads – you can’t get your message across. You’ll never sell anything!
Your headline is the most critical part of your marketing because it causes two actions in your potential customers…
- It stops them from ignoring you and moving on.
- It redirects their focus and attention to your offer.
Your headline is the first element that hooks your prospect, but it’s not the last or even the only hook.
Your hook can be reinforced or communicated with an image and video as well as your headline and the rest of your copy.
From this moment on, you need to learn how to think in terms of grabbing attention first.
Let’s look at a couple of examples because if grabbing a car shopper’s attention was so easy – everyone would be doing it.
Example #1 – service offer to inactive or “at-risk” customers
Let’s take our attention away from the front end of the store for just a moment, let’s first look at your service department.
Most dealers do a decent job retaining new customers as long as those customers are still under the new car warranty.
But once that warranty expires loyalty ratings tend to plummet as customers leave -primarily because of a perception that independent repair shops offer lower pricing and are more convenient.
During the maintenance stage of their ownership (specifically while the vehicle was under warranty) dealers make several offers through a loyalty program with various coupons and offers.
Customers take advantage of those offers but over 50 percent of them leave when a large percentage of their potential work is no longer covered.
Some of them decide to reward independent shops with their business even while under warranty for things such as oil changes – mainly because of price or convenience.
So, why does the industry as a whole continue advertising with the same headlines and hooks such as – “OIL CHANGE ONLY $_.__”?
There’s a reason they left you in the first place! Advertising the same offers you were making to them before and after they left you isn’t going to bring them back.
When we created our Private Service Events, we knew that marketing to car owners about service was a very crowded market space. We knew we had to have a great hook in order to catch car owners’ attention.
So, we decided to take something that had high perceived value (a multi-point inspection) and provide it for free.
A free multi-point inspection was not new to the auto industry, but positioning it the way we did and pinpointing our targeting was.
The headline and hook were…
Obviously for this headline to work, you must target the right audience – people who are ready to receive this offer and have a high propensity to engage and become a paying customer again.
For our clients, it completely changed the conversation they had with inactive and “at-risk” customers.
The headline and offer were completely unique and different and the response and ROI have been incredible.
We will explain “why” the customer was more engaged when we get to the next section of this article since that is the part of the process that bonds people to you once you’ve gotten their attention.
Example #2 – Sales offer that gives consumers what they want in today’s market
This next example is one of my favorites. When we first started selling Virtual Sales Events (using Easy Car Buy), we missed the mark badly.
We reverse-engineered our equity mining product (formerly known as bLinked) and put the car buyer first. We gave customers the shopping experience that they really wanted and turned it into something curious, exciting, and accessible to all in-market car buyers.
Plus, the dealer no longer had to rely on F&I data which meant it wasn’t restricted to previous customers.
This product was going to be our magic bullet to drive floods of new conquest traffic and sales.
Car buyers just weren’t engaged or getting it. We were so caught up in the capabilities of the tool we forgot to do the most basic fundamental step – grab their attention.
It took us several attempts to find the right hook, and the first one that really stuck was…
If all we said to people was…
“Hey! See low monthly payments on every vehicle in stock,” or just emailed a bunch of monthly payments, no one would have paid attention because they see common ads like that 24/7.
Instead, we created a way for them to get what they wanted (more relevant information) easier and faster than third-party sites.
This gave dealer advertising messages new life, a new edge, and just enough curiosity to get people to pay attention.
In this example, the hook was a combination of free access to a private part of the dealer’s site, as well as the headline, “How To Upgrade Your Vehicle and Lower Your Payment With No Money Down!”
Think of your hook as the reason. If someone receives an email from you, what is the reason for sending it? That reason is your hook.
You want to think as if you were the customer.
Ask yourself questions like these:
- “Why is Scott emailing me this?”
- “Why are they sending me this invitation?”
- “Why are they giving me access to this private site?”
Your answer must be compelling, curious, exciting, believable, and credible.
How do you find the right hook in a commoditized market?
One of the reasons most dealers settle for common marketing offers is because creating the right hook is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
I struggle with it. Most of the time it takes up the majority of my time when I’m trying to create a new campaign.
Once I create that hook, though, I feel like the rest of the creative process comes much easier.
You often hear about people who write for a living (such as songwriters) getting writer’s block.
At times you can sit for hours and come up with nothing – you get stuck.
Then once you nail your hook, it’s like the flood gates open up.
Can we all agree that a vehicle is a commodity (especially in today’s market)?
People shop for the best price and then they buy. There’s virtually nothing that differentiates one dealer from another.
Remember, advertising that you have a great customer experience doesn’t mean you do. You must explain why.
So, let’s assume you are going door-to-door and want to sell cars.
If you want to influence MORE people to call you, email you, text you, or drive down to see you, do you think you’re better off grabbing their attention after they decide on which dealer they plan to visit or before?
If you said before – you’re correct.
Guess what? If you’re trying to catch their attention before they decide on a specific dealer, you must reach them in their home, at their place of work, and on their time. That’s where they shop, so you need to improve your door-to-door selling skills.
So, we’re knocking on doors. Let’s assume that our data analyst did a great job finding a street where a high percentage of the homeowners are in-market for their next vehicle. We need to get someone to pay attention to us and not slam the door in our face.
Going door-to-door, our hook will most likely be spoken. But, as we advertise online, the hook can be represented in many ways.
If I were trying to sell cars going door-to-door and wanted to create a good hook, I’d need to know who I’m selling to.
A lot of people already have a vehicle. They don’t usually trust car dealers. The majority rely on third-party sites for information before deciding where to buy.
If they have a vehicle and don’t care anything about me, or worse, don’t trust me, how can I get them to pay attention?
Immediately what comes to mind is this: What if I gave them all the information they currently rely on third-party sites for? But, instead, I gave them MORE information than they can get anywhere else and I did it faster and easier?
That would be incredible! Anyone in the market to buy a car would love to shop hassle-free and with no pressure.
Now that I have that idea, I have to think of one quick line I can use to grab their attention immediately and STOP them from slamming the door in my face.
“Hey, quick question for you, I have a private website where you may be able to upgrade your vehicle and lower your payment with no money down. You interested?”
If they are in-market to buy a car (which our analyst is confident they are), the curiosity, relevance, and excitement of it is too hard to pass up.
If you want to be different and unique, you have to show up like nobody else to create a great hook.
When creating great hooks, you’ll soon discover that it forces you in the direction of selling the consumer what they actually want. That’s okay because it leads us to the next part of great marketing – making them offers they can’t refuse.
The best headlines and hooks lead right into your offer seamlessly (email or direct mail copy, TV or radio commercial, digital, etc.) so it’s hard to see them as two different things.
2. Always explain the reason “why”
Your reason why explains your headline or hook. It also helps bond you to the customer.
People buy from you based on emotion and they justify their decision with logic.
If you want to keep people’s attention after you’ve grabbed it and really get them engaged, you need to get really good at explaining your “reason why”.
One of our dealer clients and a good friend of mine was having trouble coming up with both a hook and “reason why” for a marketing initiative he wanted to do in order to increase customer pay revenue.
He wanted to increase customer pay from the right people though. In the past, he had advertised discount coupons, but most of the traffic that took advantage was his regular customers.
He felt like he was giving away money for nothing and was questioning if the ROI produced a true uplift in customer pay.
So, we decided to start with the data.
He didn’t want to see his regular customers taking advantage of the discounts, so we had to find people who were no longer customers, rarely serviced their vehicles with him, or had never visited his service department.
Once we established a list of people in these three groups who had a high propensity to service their vehicle with him, it was time to create the hook and reason why.
We didn’t want to go in the same direction as everyone else. That rarely grabs attention.
Plus, most of these people had been ignoring his coupon offers anyway. If they hadn’t they wouldn’t be inactive customers.
The hook was the “Private Service Event – FREE multi-point inspection” I mentioned in example #1 earlier.
The reason why was honest, believable and credible. We created an ad that explained that, as the dealer, he wanted to make sure his previous customers’ (even though the last transaction was a long time ago) vehicles were ready for the summer travel months ahead.
He explained why this was so important and that even the most dependable vehicles need extra care and attention to maintain proper performance.
This was his reason why. Sometimes the simplest reason why works best. We get tempted to find some creative or completely new approach. The simple fundamentals always work best and produce the best results.
Believability and credibility help you build trust. Trust is your most powerful tool when creating your reason why.
You can explain your reason why in 2 minutes or up to 20 minutes depending on your marketing channel and what you’re selling.
3. Now it’s time to make your offer, increase traffic, and boost sales
A good headline, hook(s) and “reason why” create the right environment for your customer to take the action you want – as long as you make them an offer they can’t refuse.
To do so, you must make offers people actually want.
Think about your dealership and the marketplace we are currently in.
Everyone sells cars, and car shoppers have a plethora of choices to buy their next car and everyone is selling the same product.
The customer drives to whatever dealership is the closest or whoever is the cheapest (based on what they researched online).
Dealers all compete on convenience and price.
That’s a challenging business to be in because now you’re chasing people down to the bottom and your margins are going to get smaller and smaller until eventually, you have no profit whatsoever.
Does this sound familiar?
How to Create a Great Offer
Using example #2 about the Virtual Sale Events I mentioned earlier, let’s set up our offer with the right headline (hook) and the reason why first.
We used this in direct mail, email, social, banners and display advertising. Regardless of how it’s used, we’re going to get people’s attention because who wouldn’t be interested in upgrading their car and lowering their payment and not having to put any money down?
The Reason Why:
The reason why will be about how the dealership has never had a higher demand than they do right now for the consumer’s vehicle. And the dealer wants to make sure he can buy as many of these as possible in order to meet the demand. So, he instructed his sales manager to post every new and used vehicle in stock with low payments to make it easy for the consumer to trade in their vehicle.
That’s a believable and credible story. It stirs emotion because nobody (especially if they are in-market to buy) wants to miss out on an opportunity to take advantage of something that’s unique.
Here comes the offer:
He’s going to create a private landing page where the prospect can view every vehicle, upgrade their car, and lower their payment with no money down.
And he is going to give access to this exclusive site – for FREE.
All the customer has to do is give the dealership their name, email, and phone number.
The low monthly payments are just part of the offer. The dealer is going to include access to other things as well in this offer.
Imagine you’re the customer…
What would you naturally need on this landing page to make your shopping experience faster, easier and more fun?
If you want to create a great sales offer, first write out the things your customer might be thinking:
- How much is my trade-in worth?
- I owe money on my trade-in and I’m not sure how much.
- Are these the lowest payments possible?
- What about my credit?
- Do these payments include any special incentives?
Once you have those questions, you can naturally enhance your offer by addressing those thoughts.
So, in addition to the low payments, this dealer is going to offer an easier and faster way:
- For people to find their perfect new or pre-owned vehicle with payments that include all the manufacturer rebates and incentives.
- To add their trade-in for quick appraisals, determine their equity situation and have all the payments adjust instantly.
- To compare standard financing to leasing options.
- To adjust their down payment and see instantly what that does to their monthly payment.
- To request a lower payment, schedule a private showing or get pre-approved.
Do you see how this dealer’s offer perfectly matches the questions and thoughts of the consumer? With each piece of the offer, you sweeten the deal, removing yourself from being just another dealer.
Think about those questions and thoughts for a second. Right now, you have all kinds of in-market buyers in your market who are getting the answers to those questions somewhere other than your site.
Most dealers have tools on their websites to do a lot of these functions. However, when a customer has to bounce from one widget to another (and usually entering in their contact info at some point with each widget they move to), they bounce off your site.
There is a reason why the average consumer only stays on a dealer’s entire website for 3.5 minutes.
Offer them what they want, and provide tremendous value by making their life better by creating a shopping experience that is faster and easier.
Now you’re creating an irresistible offer to create more leads for your BDC and sales teams.
Unique, irresistible offers are your ticket out of the commodity corner the Internet is painting you into.
Remember, consumers are not as threatened about price as they once were because they can find out the best price within minutes – most are shopping your price anyways from their phone in your showroom.
You have to make offers that are unique and different.
No matter what type of headline, reason why, and offer you choose to create, your dealership’s offer has to include what the customer wants and thinks they need.