5 Things You Need to Know about Marketing Your Dealership in 2017

By: Michael Cirillo   |   02 Jan 2017

It's a new year and you're ready to start marketing your dealership. There's just one problem. The term "online marketing" is the fastest way to get a room full of dealers to scowl and gnash their teeth. For some reason, the thought of online marketing renders this uncontrollable frustration that many dealers can't seem to shake.

It's understandable. The internet has been a growing element of a dealer's marketing efforts for over 20 years, but many fail to see the results that they've been promised over and over again by money hungry vendors. Don't worry; I'll spare you the rant in this post, especially since I've already done so elsewhere.

Ushering in a New Year is the perfect time to start marketing your dealership properly. It's a time to reflect on the previous year's efforts and identify what worked, and what didn't.

Whenever I set out to create a new strategy, there are factors that I always consider. I believe that there are certain beliefs that will either make my marketing (and business) objectives achievable or kill the momentum altogether.

On November 1, 2016, I was invited to keynote Den Digitale Forhandler (Digital Dealer) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Standing in front of 350+ car dealers, I shared the five things dealers (and you) need to know about marketing your dealership in 2017.

Be warned, you've likely heard all of this stuff before. Why? Because the five things you need to know about marketing your dealership in 2017 are the truth.

And let's face it if you found this post and are still reading it, my guess is that you haven't applied what you're about to hear as well as you thought you did.


Video Credit: http://bilinfo.dk


1. Focus on what matters most

There is a lot of competition in the market. There are car dealerships on every corner. The chances are that your store is sharing a similar message to all of the other dealerships.

I talk a lot about this in my book, "Don't Wait, DOMINATE!" When every dealership is sharing the same message (e.g., "0.9% APR Financing" or "We're the #1 Dealer in Toronto") consumers get confused and begin ignoring you completely.

Not only that, many dealers follow the perceived 'upper hand' that competing stores always seem to have. There's always a store that is leading the region, and you're always going to want to overtake them. The reality is that rather than focusing so much of your energy on what they're doing, you should focus on what actions you can take that will have the most positive impact on your business.

It's like watching a murmuration of starlings. Like a thick black cloud, thousands of tiny black birds take to the sky, shifting directions without notice. Each bird following the wing of its closest neighbor. Each bird following "the leader."

When you click on the video below, ask yourself, "Which bird is the leader?"

You're right. The market is cluttered. It's important to understand, however, that the same way you have your eye on the competition, they have their eye on you. They are wondering the same things.

Instead of changing direction without notice, set your sights on a clear target and fly straight towards it. The best way to make this happen is to have your marketing plan document handy at all times. Good marketing plans will help keep you focused on the things that matter most to your business because it will cause you to cross-reference each of your actions to your business goals, mission, vision, and core values. 

FlexDealer Dealership Marketing Plan Template


2. Why Are You In Business?

What's your definition of success? What do you want to achieve? These are not often the easiest questions to answer (which is why so many business owners skip over them), but you MUST answer them!

You can probably guess what the most prominent answer is.


By far, "Money" is the answer I get most often. Sadly, money isn't what your entire focus should be.

Why not?

Money isn't the best motivator and has a tendency to bring out the worst in us. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that money is evil or anything like that (after all, we aren't running non-profits).

I am suggesting that if making more money is all you care about, it will shine through in how you interact and market to your customers.

Money is the natural byproduct that there has been an exchange of value. It will happen when you give more than you take. The best way to give more than you take is to share what you believe. Doing so will help align you with others that share your beliefs. 

At FlexDealer, we're on a mission to enrich and empower the lives of automotive professionals all over the world. We do this by aligning our client's objectives with the demand of the online market. We believe that the best way to give more than we take is by adhering to our six core values. They are the pillars of what we believe and act as a mechanism that attracts like-minded potential clients and partners.

So my question to you is: what do you believe?


3. Be Valuable to Somebody, Not Worthless to Everybody

Value is something you better get used to hearing in 2017! Every day that goes by where you try and accommodate all audiences the same way, you dig a deeper hole for your dealership.

Each vehicle in your model lineup was intended for a specific group of people with similar interests. Take a look at these images taken directly from the Peugeot 108 brochure and see if you can identify the common denominator.

peugeot 108

She is clearly a woman with style!

Peugeot 108

The power women putting on her lipstick. She's powerful, independent and just doesn't care if she gets any on her teeth (at least that's what I assume seeing as how she's trying to apply her makeup looking into a camera and not a mirror.)

Peugeot 108

Go figure! A couple out for a nice stroll in the nice weather. It's the woman who is going for the second glance at the vehicle!

Rather than trying to depict the Peugeot 108 in a way that would appease all audiences, they dialed in on the young female segment and highlighted the vehicle in a way that the target audience would find attractive and relevant.

Your focus should be to overdeliver so much value that the market can't deny you. Consumers are going online every single day to gather information that will help them make informed purchase decisions.

Where do you think they find the information? Not on your website! And that's the problem. They should be able to find information on your website. They should be able to go to your website and get all of their questions answered.

Currently, dealers give away their ability to educate the market to the OEMs and third-party websites like Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, Cars.com and others.

It's not too late to turn that around, though. You can recapture the market by providing value. Provide so much that it hurts. Focus more on what you would want if you were in the customer's shoes. Focus less on yourself.

Zig Ziglar said it best:

Zig Ziglar Quotes

4. Be Patient

You're going to want to flip flop. You're going to want to abandon ship at times. Don't. That's the worst business strategy ever.

Success will never be achieved in marketing if you don't stay the course. Since you've identified a clear objective, it's well in your interests to do everything in your power to achieve it.

Doing so will require a ton of patience. So much patience that it will hurt at times. Anything worthwhile achieving requires patience.


5. Rinse, Refine, Repeat

Once you've set your sights on a goal and are determined to move towards it with strong motivators and patience, you have to be okay with failure.

It's impossible to execute any marketing strategy perfectly, and you need to account for that. If failure is a part of the plan, it will make it much easier to move through it and learn.

After you've seen your strategy through to the end, it's important to determine what worked and what didn't work. Get rid of what didn't work while refining what did work. From there, repeat the process from the beginning for each of your marketing efforts.


Michael Cirillo Author and Speaker

Michael Cirillo

Michael is the CEO and fearless* leader at FlexDealer. An enthusiastic team chearleader and defender of transparent business practices, he relishes long motorcycle rides and big ideas. As a bestselling author and keynote speaker, Michael works with dealerships of all sizes as well as fortune 100 and 500 companies to rise above the clutter and dominate the web. When he's not playing 'dad' to three crazy kids, he's shooting the breeze with industry leaders on his internationally-embraced podcast, The Dealer Playbook.

(* notwithstanding large insects)

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