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Efficient retailing No.12: Planning is key to making a success of plate change

Many businesses fail to plan in enough detail for big registration months, leaving themselves exposed to issues like underperformance on volumes, lack of staff to cope with the increased activity and potential cash flow problems caused through lack of control.

We are now in July and those businesses who expect to perform well in September will have already either ordered, or be very close to stocking many of the new units they expect to sell in the run up to and during the month.

Obviously, dependant on franchise, free access to stock can vary enormously, so pre-ordering can be more critical to some than others.

Assuming you know the models and mixes of vehicles available it is imperative that a specific marketing campaign be developed which appeals to your local market and focuses on these units.

Often campaign decisions are taken poorly and subjectively, but a little research into your database and finance logs from two and three years ago will help you ensure your mark-eting is aimed specifically at customers who may be ready to change.

Find out where the biggest elements of your business came from historically and build your campaign to target replacing those customers’ vehicles.

Consider issues such as headline price, monthly payments and low-rate finance offers.

Of course, the above can be equally applied to the mix of new vehicle stock needed to have a successful September.

If you haven’t already begun to acquire your stock, try to use some specific information to help you order the right vehicle lines. This will help you penetrate your market better than the competition.

In the run up to September it is also worth looking at your current used car stock profile and mix. Critically, ensure you don’t carry too much stock into the month to avoid cash flow issues, but also build a picture of what the stock profile may look like after a successful September.

This will enable you to plan a post month campaign based around disposing of all the part- exchanges generated and may enable you to offer better valuations than your competitors during the month, giving you a possible advantage over them.

I talked earlier about your marketing campaign, which should certainly be multi faceted to ensure the broadest reach into your target audience.

Yours could include press, in which case you need to establish a campaign period to enhance impact, website activity which should highlight special offers, and most importantly, prospecting. In tough markets, this is the key to selling well.

To maximise your prospecting conversion rates, again target customers who two to three years ago bought similar vehicles to the ones you want to sell this September.

I appreciate this sounds basic, but many times I have seen businesses just hand out contacts with no thought to targeting the data. Double checking this information before use will ensure effectiveness and improve conversion.

Big registration months don’t happen automatically, so time spent planning is essential.

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