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Marketing: Targeted marketing is more crucial than ever

The crisis in the car industry has made cost efficient and effective marketing a priority for dealers.

Look at market conditions – in January, car production fell by 58.7% to 61,404 units; manufacturers including Land Rover, Aston Martin, Honda and Toyota announced huge redundancies due to the economic crisis; and van maker LDV appealed for a government bailout.

Despite this, industry figures still predict about 1.7 million vehicles will be bought in the UK this year by customers feeling the effects of the credit crunch and super sensitive to how they spend their money.

Sales-winning strategies

Marketing is therefore still a crucial part of a dealer’s business. The strategies they adopt to win sales will have to reflect the change in market conditions.

Targeting the right people, turning prospects into buyers and ensuring your company is the first on the list of those looking for a new vehicle are essential as mistakes go unforgiven in a reduced market.

According to Greig McCallum, of communications agency Balloon Dog, the biggest growth market in buying terms is the over-50s.

McCallum says that when these mature buyers want to buy a new car they do their research online first before visiting dealerships. This means that because their initial information will be web-based dealers’ websites must be up-to-date and user-friendly.

The over-50s will have a basic knowledge of the vehicle when they enter a showroom so sales advisors must be aware of this and be one step ahead, preferably with details about finance deals and extra features ready to hand.

McCallum says: “You need to work with Google and find out what the key phrases are when people are searching for a new car and put these in your site so that when the search engine searches for these terms your site comes up first.”

This is important because 80% of browsers who use a search engine will click on the top three websites.

Paying for a sponsored link on a search engine could be worthwhile as it ensures your company is always at the top of the first search results page.

Prices for this service vary as it works on a bidding basis for particular words and phrases. 

McCallum also suggests that dealers make sure their database is up to date by contacting Royal Mail, which can help them run a postcode search. This enables businesses to access the UK’s 28 million post-codes and check them against their own data.

The Royal Mail website also lists companies called solution providers which can supply details such as estimated income and vehicles per household to help dealers target potential customers.

McCallum says that because manufacturers are producing more niche vehicles, such as soft-roaders and superminis, there are more markets to pitch for, so it is important you are pitching to the right person.

Tracking phone calls


Harry Bott, sales and marketing director of Mediahawk, a telephone tracking and marketing company, says tracking phone calls allows you to find out what sort of people are responding to the business. It can also measure the response to a particular advertising campaign.

Calls can be monitored to assess how many are being answered and conversations recorded so firms can analyse whether enquiries are being handled efficiently.

Bott adds: “We had one dealer who was missing 50% of calls because they only had one line into the building. Another dealer group moved its finance section into one of the big dealerships, but did not increase the telephone lines and missed more than 20% of its calls.”

In terms of measuring marketing success, Bott says there are several analytic packages which tell you how many people are visiting your site.

He says: “Traditionally, 70% of dealers’ money goes on sales marketing, with 30% on aftersales.The internet is making sales more effective and I would spend 70% on aftersales marketing and 30% on sales marketing.” 

Nick Bull, head of automotive at Millward Brown, an insight agency for brands, says dealers should beware of short-term tactics.

Referring to recent advertisements offering two cars for the price of one, Bull says: “This is an interesting idea to sell well specified vehicles, but I think it is a tactic that is short-term and will damage equity and margins in the long term. 

“The danger is doing everything to sell cars and forgetting about the brand. 

“There is more to buying a car than price. There are a lot of great deals out there but people want to buy trusted brands and this comes back to the emotional part about that brand.” 

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Top tips for super-salespeople

  • Sales advisors need to be aware that most customers will have knowledge of the vehicle they want before entering the showroom due to online research
  • The sales advisor therefore needs to be one step ahead with information that would not be included on the website
  • Websites must be up to date
  • Speak to Google about search words and phrases so that when people search online your website is among the top three
  • Consider a sponsored Google link so your website is always at the top of the page regarding particular searches
  • Investigate a Royal Mail postcode search to ensure your customer database is up-to-date and you know whether people have moved
  • Consider speaking to a solution provider who can give you details about people in the area such as income, cars per household and occupation to help you target prospective customers
  • Follow up campaigns to understand what does and does not work.

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