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Car dealers need a mix of online and offline marketing

“However, it is impossible to quantify whether someone has arrived at your website as a result of seeing a TV advertisement or hearing about you on the radio. These mediums can easily be a stimulus and we take an omni-channel approach. We see spikes in our own web traffic if one of our manufacturer partners launches a TV advertising campaign for a new product.”

Sheppard also believes the UK will move closer to the American marketing model, which sees a brand very much represented by the personality of the local dealer through a multitude of channels, but particularly television and billboards.

Sheppard is quick to identify the more successful dealerships in the group as those more likely to be actively involved at a local level. “There is a direct correlation between those dealerships which are most successful and those which are deeply embedded in their community,” he said.

“This is achieved in a number of ways, from sponsorships to attending events such as county shows and it can’t be established on a digital platform.”


‘People buy from people’

This viewpoint is echoed by Diana Mackinnon, general manager at Lexus Edgware Road, who engages in wide-ranging reciprocal marketing activity, such as with golf clubs, often supporting fundraising events. This year the dealership was running golf sponsorships almost every week throughout July and August, including the House of Fraser Charity Event. Parent business Jemca was also the official car supplier for the Ladies European Masters and Lexus Edgware Road has a long-standing relationship with Dyrham Park Country Club.

“It has taken three years for this relationship to come to fruition, but it has proved the right place to be and I am almost as well known as the chairman himself,” said Mackinnon.

“The other day, the managing director texted me a photo with a caption asking ‘is this my car park or is it your forecourt?’ Lexus now easily makes up the majority of vehicles among members and while it is a slow burn, the snowball effect is now very much apparent.”

The centre is also well into the second year of its partnership with Middlesex County Cricket Club, which has included a presence at its junior academy in Finchley, provision of ‘goody bags’ at the regional schools’ Kwik Cricket finals, sponsorship of its volunteer awards, the ‘OSCAs’, and its backing of cricket player Joe Denly.

“While it’s imperative to forge these relationships with local clubs and individual members, if they become prospects or customers, we will predominantly communicate with them using digital means.”


‘We’re not in a position to ditch press completely’

Miles Alvis, franchise manager at Lookers Volvo in Colchester, believes there is still a place for press advertising. In fact, it remains a Volvo dealer standards requirement with manufacturer downloadable ads available along with digital MPU and banner ads.

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