A change in marketing strategy has helped Benfield Motor Group reduce costs and build its brand.
With its large presence in the north of England – 25 dealerships span from Newcastle to Carlisle and down to Harrogate and Leeds – the 26th placed AM100 dealer is working hard at maximising its PR and promotions activity.
Chief executive Mark Squires told AM: “We’ve slashed our press marketing spend over the last two years and particularly in the last nine months. Buyers have moved away from press as a medium for researching their car purchase.
“We’re now building the quality of our brand perception and who we are.”
With the motor industry constantly in the headlines, Squires has been asked to comment on issues such as scrappage and Nissan’s investment in its nearby Sunderland plant by regional media such as the Newcastle Journal and the BBC.
With the assistance of group PR manager Andy Naylor, Benfield has placed a number of positive stories such as its own Nissan sales outweighing the manufacturer’s national decline in registrations, and celebrity chef Aldo Zilli helping launch its new Alfa Romeo showroom.
Spreading a positive message works. “Whatever the marketing cost, the biggest factor in getting people to visit your showrooms is that they know you are there,” said Squires.
A £200,000 investment in its new website and online marketing, including pay-per-click, has driven web traffic up by around 70%.
The group has a dedicated internet sales team of four staff who manage enquiries and leads driven from the website, tracked by bespoke 0845 phone lines. It deals with 800 to 1,000 enquiries monthly, and last month it made 170 sales.
Business has come from outside Benfield’s north-east and north-west locations.
Customers ordered from Cornwall and the group has sold 10 cars to Irish buyers, who were attracted because the euro’s strength against the pound made Benfield’s offers more affordable than their domestic deals.
It even collected the buyers from Newcastle airport when they flew in to collect their vehicles.
“We’re getting more sophisticated in understanding and measuring where our spend is most effective,” said Squires.