Introduction: These Tactics Might Not Be For You
If you’re thinking about marketing to sub-prime customers as a means to grow your dealership’s new and used car sales, you probably fall under one of the four following categories:
Never experimented with the special finance segment;
Dabbled a little bit and made a few deals;
Run a thriving sub-prime operation with room to increase your sales;
Or you’re an automotive special finance ninja already functioning at full capacity.
If you never experimented with the niche, this blog post is probably not really for you. I intend to cover marketing tactics to help you talk to more special finance customers, but if you don’t already have the right inventory, the full gamut of lenders, and an expert special finance manager that understands the guidelines of each lender; more marketing won’t compensate for lack of fundamentals.
If you dabbled a bit in the niche, it’s time to commit. If you think selling cars to strangers is tough, selling cars to sub-prime customers is an art form. Dabbling will only waste your money because the people you are competing against are masters and have honed their craft for years and are continually perfecting their skills at the game. Commit to becoming a master first, then the tactics in this blog will be of value.
But if you’re running a successful special finance operation, this content is tailored specifically for you. You have all the fundamentals in place; you’re already committed to the niche with the right resources, you probably built great relationships with your lenders over time, and you’re winning deals against the special finance kingpins. You’re the segment that will benefit the most from the tactics I will share because you’re ready to harvest the fruits.
I’m not too worried about the fourth category because they’re probably not reading this blog post because they’re already at full capacity and they don’t need more leads.
So let’s focus on the people this content can help.
Tactic #1: Don’t Sleep With The Enemy
I wanted to uncover for you a few under-the-radar tactics to help you grow the sales of your special finance department because I wanted to provide you with a temporary edge over your competitors.
It’s no secret that the car business is very incestuous when it comes to marketing. Everybody is looking at each other, making sure to copy and imitate anything new; so having a few tactics that are harder to identify visually can be of great value for your operation.
In this train of thought, it’s critical that you never fail to remember the invisible giants you are competing with. Most dealers I survey rapidly point to physical locations around their store when asked about their competitors, but forget about the auto loan portals who bid against them for ads on Facebook, Google Ads and most digital platforms using highly sophisticated bidding strategies. These are the same portals who resell you leads from within your market after draining your monthly digital advertising budget.
You might not see them, but they are your direct competitors, even if you were able to negotiate an exclusivity with them. If you’re buying leads, you’re building their brand with your money.
It might be a means to an end, but first party leads should be your priority and your ultimate objective.
Tactic #2: Switch From Sub-Prime To Near Prime Marketing And Explode Your Sales
When dealing with sub-prime customers, you face an inevitable glass ceiling on your sales. It seems like the lower the credit score, the longer it takes to get the deals done and burning gas.
The solution? Change your marketing message to attract near-prime customers with a credit score between 560-719 which represent a higher percentage of car loans originations than sub-prime customers with scores under <560 and a much faster turnaround on deals.
First, you need to avoid any reference to the typical marketing lingo associated with bad credit car loans in your message. If you’ve been running your operation under a sub-prime brand like YourTown Auto Credit, for example, think about creating a second brand and stay away from the usual copy we see SEO companies adding to the Websites to make Google happy.
Near-prime customers probably had a 90-day delinquency a few years back and are scared of getting a resounding “NO”, but they won’t go through the humiliation of driving around with a bumper sticker advertising your sub-prime operation; and will most likely be unresponsive to the usual sub-prime message because they don’t identify themselves with the category.
The marketing angle that’s been producing the best results for our dealers is one where we position the new brand, not as a vehicle selling operation, but rather like an exclusive lender your dealership might have access to in the area.
You can see an example here.
This messaging works great for current special finance operations and works even better for franchise dealers who want to get in the space but don’t want to give a bad credit stench to their franchise and the dealership as a whole.
If you keep the look&feel of the marketing elegant, and the messaging angled towards bank-style verbiage, you will start getting leads and inquiries from a new segment in the special finance space that feels stuck right now between their fear of getting a humiliating “No” at a traditional dealership, and their aversion to visiting a sub-prime operation.
Tactic #3: Use Social Media To Hunt, Advance, Farm and Close Prospects Under The Nose Of Your Competitors.
There is so much controversy when it comes to car sales and social media. So much misinformation. Everybody has an opinion, but nobody is really moving the metal.
At one end of the spectrum, you have people who extol the virtues of a social-only approach where the sales pitch is the enemy; and at the other end, you have people who are constantly trying to shove a deal, a special, a rebate, a price or a payment down their follower's throat.
I think both camps and everything in the middle is wrong.
You should use social media to:
let your prospects know about your expertise on a particular subject to position yourself as an authority, and the “go to” professional for your audience;
to educate your audience about the transformation you want to help them make using your expertise;
(most importantly) make connections.
To do this, I like to use a simple system where every day I take time to hunt for new connections, try to advance my connections towards the transformation they seek, farm the connections who aren’t ready to make a decision, and close the ones who are.
Here’s how it works:
Every day, block some time to make new connections with people on your favourite social media platforms. You should have a strategy for Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn at the very least.
Pick a number. It can be 10, 20 or 50 a day; it doesn’t matter. But stick with it religiously. Build the habits and discipline required to execute. That’s the hunting part.
Once people have accepted your connection. Engage with them. It can be something as simple as:
“Hi [firstname], thank you for accepting my request to connect. I help people get the vehicle they want and need, even if their credit score isn’t absolutely perfect… do you need help with that?”
And wait for the answer. If the hat fits, it won’t take long before they reach out. Trust me, with the average credit score between 600-650 you’ll be surprised how many people are happy to engage. When they do, simply ask them about their current situation and where they would like to be. That’s the advancing part.
If they are ready to let you help them. Well, close!
If they are not yet ready to take action on the transformation, let them interact with the educational content you post daily. Now that they are a connection, they will have the ability to see in their newsfeed the articles, videos, and blog posts you can curate. That’s the farming part.
Be diligent, methodical, and obsess with your daily routine to hunt, advance, farm and close and you will be generating more leads, deals and opportunities than advertising will ever be able to produce.
Once you’ve mastered the rhythm of the process, make sure to get your whole team involved in the tactic. The funny thing is that none of your competitors will be able to understand the source of your new found success
Tactic #4: Forget About Web forms On Landing Pages – Switch Your Call For Action To Messenger
If you’ve seen leads trickle down from your traditional sources like your Website or landing page, switch your call for action button to load Messenger instead of a regular credit app.
“Messenger is the Facebook app users are forced to use while on Facebook to send personal messages to friends and family. If you haven’t used Messenger yet, think of the app as the texting tool you use on your phone to send an SMS to a friend or colleague. Messenger also works on all devices, and you can even use it to connect with people for business or personal purposes. You can also use it to send text messages, photos, videos, and even start a video chat.”
If you haven’t yet, make sure to read the blog I wrote on selling cars using Messenger here.
Using Messenger instead of traditional Web forms will allow you to get all the information you require to pull a credit bureau and help the prospect but with an interaction that is more conversational. Instead of crossing your fingers that the prospects will answer multiple questions and click submit, you can ask them about their work, their place of residence, their income or other aspects of their financial life in a way that is less intimidating, and that also feels somewhat more anonymous than a phone call and much faster than email.
Best of all, you can automate this conversation using an automotive credit Chatbot and make sure you engage on the spot with every prospect no matter what time of the day or night they decide to investigate your special finance offer.
You can see an example of a credit Chabot I created here.
Switching your call for actions to Messenger will easily help you double and triple the number of conversations you will have with quality prospects.
You can also use this tactic with the call for actions within your dealership’s digital advertising using the URL of your chatbot or the JSON code when advertising using the Facebook ad platform.
I made sure to include links to numerous examples and all the sources to help you apply these tactics and transform your special finance operation to increase your car sales. But if you require guidance or would like me and my team to execute on these special finance automotive marketing strategies for you and build from the ground up your near-prime brand so you can hunt, advance, farm and close more prospects using social media, don’t hesitate to reach out.
I love to share the information I find so you can sell more cars. But what I love even more is rolling up my sleeves and making it happen while working with hungry, proactive, and ambitious dealers like you.
Sean Cassy is the Digital Marketing Specialist and Co-Owner of Turbo Marketing Solutions. You can contact him by email here or reach him by phone every weekday at Turbo Marketing’s head office