I’ve always maintained that good marketing is art AND science. That’s why I spend a lot of my time in spreadsheets analyzing data. I got to meet with a very smart agency executive the other day, someone with more direct industry knowledge and experience than I have, and someone working the trenches every day to put dealerships like ours on the map. He mentioned that most buyers in the buy here pay here (lease here pay here) market buy within 48-hours once they make the decision to buy, but I’ve been telling our sales staff that our customers need to be followed up with for at least 120 – 180 days. Who is right? We both are. Buy here pay here customers most often buy because of a specific event. Often that’s the car breaking down and facing major repair costs. The nurse that car along, knowing they’ll have to replace or repair it soon, but trying to get as much mileage out of it as possible.
The difference between involvement and commitment…
A pig and a chicken were waking down the street one day and as they cruised past the local diner, the chicken noticed a sign in the window that said, “Ham & Eggs. $3.95.” The chicken squawed and yelled, “Geez! Would ya’ look at that?!” In reaction, the pig threw his hooves in the air and said, “Whadda’ you squawkin’ about? From you it’s an occasional contribution. From me it’s my ass!”
The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.
For me it’s the same. I’m committed, in part because the better I do my job, the more money I can make. So the hours spent, the skills developed; these have a very real and very personal return on investment for me.
Many of our marketing initiatives rely on the sales team, the BDC or even service to carry them out effectively and that’s not always easy. Here’s a few examples:
- We shoot testimonial videos at the end of the sale. The customer is already there and it takes less than a minute to shoot and upload these with a camera phone.
- We’re introducing social selling. Find and friend your customers, talk to them, engage with them on social media. Use Facebook. Use Twitter. Use Linked In to make professional contacts for dealer referrals.
- We built our own Craigslist tool for posting in the services area of Craigslist(where it’s still free). Because, as a buy here pay here, we don’t sell cars. We sell financing. So Automotive, Financial and Legal. They can also post inventory if they so choose using the tool.
- We want to introduce walk around videos to the website and to Youtube. With the salesperson’s face and voice in the video. With their personal brand represented for hundreds or thousands to see.
- We send out post cards after purchase, on birthdays, and as thank you’s for the references. These result in referrals and in reference leads buying vehicles as well.
Now personally, I think our sales team is absolutely chock full of smart, competent. committed people. Sometimes, though, it seems like the don’t work in their own best interests. I’ve been told they don’t like to participate in these marketing initiatives because they don’t see a value in it. That’s what confuses me. Given the tools and the opportunity to do better; given the direct relationship between doing more and getting more; why wouldn’t they want to do these things?
I know a lot of dealers use spifs to motivate their team, but that seems wrong to me. Even the idea of a manager stamping their foot and saying, “It’s your job… just do it,” seems wrong.
What does it take to get them to buy in; to do it because they actually see the value?
What do you do?
Think bout it. When someone is listening to the radio, watching TV or reading a newspaper, they aren’t looking for your ad. Your ad is an interruption. It’s a nuisance. It’s SPAM.
Your website, on the other hand, is where they go specifically to learn more about you and your products and services. They are researching and educating themselves about what you offer. They have sought you out to learn more about you. Traditional advertising is really about yelling into the darkness and hoping someone will listen. That’s why big numbers are so important. Just like any good Spammer, we’re looking for the most eyeballs, the biggest ratings, and the largest audience. We talk about thousands and millions of viewers, or readers and we’re willing to pay through the nose because we know that only a tiny fraction of those viewers will take even an instant out of their lives to acknowledge your attempt to reach them.
It’s the equivalent of walking down a busy street, tapping people on the shoulder and saying, “Hey buddy… you wanna’ buy a car?”
So it’s far, far better to focus on getting in front of those people who actually care bout your offering. It’s better to talk to 100 people who care, than 100,000 who don’t. So how do you ensure that? By focusing on digital rather than traditional advertising. Here’s how I break down our digital campaigns:
- Pay Per Click (PPC): Of course PPC is the cornerstone of our online advertising. At Express Auto we use Reach Local to manage our campaigns across Bing, Yahoo, and Google. We pay $50 above and beyond the ad budget for each campaign we run. We run three campaigns currently:
- Straight Search – Keywords
- Remarketing – Targeting people who have been to our website with ads across other sites
- Competitive – Where we target competitor’s names as keywords
- Preroll. We run :15-second video spots on local TV and Radio websites. Yes, this is more like traditional advertising, but it’s more narrowly targeted both geographically and demographically. Most important, it’s trackable and mobile enabled.
- Display. Straight up old style banner ads. Again, targeting is the key. We have focused these ads very narrowly based on specific factors.
- Mobile. This is becoming more and more important moving forward. We placed a big bet on mobile when we converted our site to a responsive design. It’s paid off. Fully 50% of our web traffic is now coming from mobile and tablets. So we’ve moved aggressively into mobile ads, and in app advertising. This is proving very successful for us at increasing call volume. Tap to call functions are built into all our mobile ads and that one-click convenience is proving irresistible for a lot of people.
Marshall McLuen’s famous quote, “The medium is the message…” may be just as true for the internet as elsewhere, but John Wannamaker’s quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” doesn’t have to be. If we know our market, and target them with a rifle and not a shotgun, we can track specific results from specific campaigns. The modern marketer has to be more than a salesman, more than a pitch-man, the modern marketer must be a psychologist and data analyst. Constantly looking for what will give the edge over the competition.
Case in point; the folks over at WebPageFX have put together a survey of the three big search engines; Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Now I knew that Google was by far the biggest, but according to them, Google holds and 80% share of the search market, while Bing and Yahoo between them have about 8% each. So Google is 10-times as big as it’s next biggest competitor.
At WebpageFX, we track over 1,000 profiles in Google Analytics. Combined, these profiles are a massive data set of search information from all over the globe. We have search data for over 35,000,000 queries in 2012. Proper analysis of this data reveals the current market share of search engines and the locations where different search engines are popular in the United states.
In Saturday’s post I mentioned that for companies, Craigslist isn’t about selling. It’s about marketing. That’s a paradigm shift in how most auto dealers see Craigslist now. I think, most of us see Craigslist as just an online version of the Car Shopper, or local newspaper classifieds, but it can be so much more than that.
Craigslist is an advertising venue, much like a billboard. It’s a way to send a message to a target audience. Identifying that audience is the key to moving from Craigslist Selling to Craigslist Marketing. Indirect messaging can be effective if you are talking to the right people. For example, Express Auto, where I’m Marketing Manager is a Buy Here Pay Here dealer. We don’t sell cars, we sell financing. If I target people looking for credit repair, or bankruptcy assistance, I’m probably taking to someone that either needs or will need our services. I don’t have to push inventory, so Craigslist’s changes are irrelevant to me.
So here’s the skinny on what I’m doing with Craigslist.
- Identify your markets and use the right lists. Our stores use only the sites that work for their locations. Holland (which also lists in Muskegon and Grand Rapids), Kalamazoo, Battle Creek (plus Lansing and Jackson), Niles (South Bend and Elkhart, IN), and Benton Harbor (Southwest Michigan). The important thing is to keep each market’s listings different, so we’ve designed several unique templates for each. This way we don’t get flagged for duplicate content.
- Suck it up, stop trying to game the system, and do it right. Stop trying to post hundreds of vehicles. Post your most high-profile inventory and pay the lousy $5. Pick out the 6-10 vehicles that best represent your brand and promote your value proposition, not the specific vehicle.
- Use the Craigslist services area (which is still free) to your best advantage. Express Auto offers in-house financing. So I’ve created ads we’re using in our various markets to promote us in finance, legal and automotive services. Each one tailored, not to sell cars (we don’t even mention inventory in those categories), but to promote to the various audiences that are searching those categories. Legal services is mostly ads for bankruptcy lawyers. So our ads promote the fact that we’ll finance you if you’ve had, or are going through a bankruptcy. Automotive services features by mechanics, transmissions shops and companies looking to pay cash for junk cars. So we promote with ads saying, “Trade that old junker in,” or, “Looking at a big Repair Bill? Time to trade!” For financial services we promote credit repair.
- Use your staff. We’ve made one salesperson at each store our “Craigsman.” Their job is to post for their Craigslist sites and refresh their posts every 48-hours. We’ve worked with them to train on how and when to post, and the rules of proper posting etiquette. We’ve also included their picture and direct phone line in the post, to promote their personal brand as well as the company brand.
I still see Craigslist as one of the most under-utilized marketing tools we have at our disposal. We just need to change our thinking about it. We’re not arranging a garage sale, or hawking an iPod. We’re developing our brand, educating our communities to our value proposition and putting a human face on our company.