If your livelihood depends on your ability to sell cars, even in times of chaos and uncertainty, what I’m about to share with you might be the most crucial piece of content that you will come across this year.
If you’re an automotive sales professional or part of the management or ownership team of a dealership, you quickly need to take some essential steps to protect your income and your business and shield it against the inevitable roller coaster ride we’re all about to take because of the global health crisis.
It’s no secret that the current worldwide events will have a profound impact on the automotive business and your ability to sell cars in the next few weeks and months. But you should also be prepared for the long term repercussions due to the financial impact and ramification caused by people's reaction to fear.
In other words, it’s a new world out there today. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from navigating the dot com bubble burst in 2000 and the housing market crash in 2008, it’s that living in denial in the early stages of an economic change will only make you vulnerable.
You must take immediate action to optimize your customer acquisition systems, think strategically, make yourself known as the top automotive authority in your market, and position yourself as the only option for potential prospects.
Anything less won’t cut it.
Keep in mind that these times of contraction are also incredible opportunities to stand out and take the lead in your area. Most of your competitors will slow down, pull back completely, or chase short term tactics that won’t last through the crisis. This lack of strategic thinking will make them weak and expose the frailty of their organization.
Remember what Warren Buffett said: “…a high tide raises all boats, but low tide exposes everybody who is swimming without pants.”
If you use the information I’m about to share, you can not only survive the trouble times ahead, but thrive, prosper, and even grow amidst the chaos and uncertainty we are facing in the car business today.
What To Do When The Market Shrinks – Go in The Opposite Direction
The first thing we will experience in the next few days, weeks and months is a significant reduction in the size of the market. Many buyers who were at the bottom of the funnel, ready to buy, will delay, postpone or cancel their decision to purchase and prospects throughout the top and middle of the funnel will extend their shopping process beyond the current 104-108 days shopping cycle.
This behaviour will shrink the traditional 7-9% of in-market vehicle shoppers everybody is usually fighting for, so spending more money on Google pay-per-click search campaigns or reaching potential prospects with initiatives focusing on incentives, prices and payments will produce minimal results.
You must review and carefully assess every dollar you are spending on targeting this shrinking portion of the market.
What should you do instead? Go in the opposite direction and focus your efforts on non-intenders, aka the other 95% of the population who is not in the market for a vehicle.
I have reviewed this strategy in detail in my video, The One Thing. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you watch it now.
In a nutshell, I explain how the car business is the most beautiful business in the world because everybody would change their vehicle today for something bigger, better, faster, more fuel-efficient, electric, with more cargo space, or the latest technology; but they don’t know they can.
These prospects keep themselves out of the market because of their misperception of things like their trade value, their credit, or the cash required to do a transaction.
When you create content marketing that tackles these misperceptions, you get these non-intenders to move into the market to solve the automotive problem they have, and you and your dealership get the first kick at the can with these prospects.
While all your competitors will be fighting in a bloody ocean bidding more and more for ads targeting a shrinking audience that will cost a fortune to reach, you will be alone in a blue ocean full of prospects where competition is irrelevant.
Shift From Advertising Cars To Providing Value Through Content Marketing
In times of chaos and uncertainty, the market for people looking to buy a vehicle might shrink, but people’s need for automotive solutions doesn’t.
In other words, there are fewer buyers but as many people who need to upgrade their transportation.
The difference might sound subtle, but understanding the nuances will make or break your communications in these troubled times.
You see, potential prospects move on the awareness spectrum from left to right, going through different stages of awareness.
In the beginning, they are entirely unaware, unaware of the problem they have, the solutions available, and your dealership brand or models. Then one day, an automotive issue appears on the radar of their life. The vehicle is too small or doesn’t provide enough cargo space, the lease or finance is coming to an end, or the vehicle is due for some costly repairs. Now they are problem-aware.
Once these prospects realize they can fix the problem they have, and that there is a slew of available car dealers or automotive professionals to help them find a solution; they are now solution-aware.
Throughout their research for a solution, solution-aware prospects might come across your brand, your dealership or your name as the solution. Bravo! You made the shortlist. These prospects are now product-aware.
Finally, at the very far right of the awareness spectrum, you have the product-aware prospects who happened to have already bought from you or your store. They already know you, love you, trust you. They are the most-aware prospects.
Intenders are, in effect, product-aware and most aware prospects. When times are good, you can somewhat afford to focus your marketing on selling inventory, prices and payments. It’s not the most powerful type of communication, but it works.
But in times of contraction, when you shift your focus towards non-intenders, you have to realize that you are now talking to prospects in the problem and solution awareness stages.
These prospects don’t care about specific brands or models yet, so spending money on pushing inventory is pointless. Instead, you need to shift your communication efforts on creating content that will educate prospects about the problem they are facing and the potential solutions available.
This content marketing strategy will position you and your dealership as the automotive authority in the area. It will also help you move non-intenders into intenders and intercept prospects at the top and middle of the shopping funnel way before your competitors have a chance to reach them.
You’ve probably told your sales team a million times not to sell the features, but to sell the benefits. It’s kind of the same thing I’m trying to get you to do, but with your marketing.
Let your competitors pay hefty prices to push their inventory down people’s throat on every platform available. You, instead, create valuable content that will provide prospects with ways to become aware of the automotive problem they have and the automotive solutions you offer.
Remember that people don’t buy the physical object we sell but the emotional benefit they get from it. People don’t want lawnmowers; they want nicely cut grass. People don’t want a snow shovel; they want a safe driveway.
People don’t want vehicles; they want an automotive solution to their transportation problem.
Warning: You Could Go Broke With Paid Advertising
During times of chaos and uncertainty, business owners usually make one of two knee jerk reactions. On the one hand, you have those who shut everything down and hope to survive on crumbs. On the other, you have those who increase their ad spend without testing how the message resonates with their audience in the new context.
In my humble opinion, both will get you broke or in trouble. What used to work might not work anymore. Platforms that use to yield a substantial ROI might not perform as well as before.
Assume nothing, test everything; mainly when it comes to the messaging of your communications.
The best way to protect your available budget is to use the organic portion of your social media channels as a sandbox.
Here’s the rule: don’t ever spend a dime on an ad you haven’t tested organically for engagement and conversions.
First, make sure you and your sales team are using the connection features of the four big social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube) to grow your network daily with local connections.
Second, start curating relevant, educational, and useful content that will bring value to your audience and help them enjoy a better ownership experience, no matter what vehicle they are driving now.
Executing on this simply 2-step tactic will be like having your fingers on the pulse of the market. It will also provide you with valuable feedback that will allow you to fine-tune to perfection your messaging and identify the audiences the most responsive to your communications.
When you find a winning message and audience, develop five angles to communicate it and four images for each angle. This will give you a variation of 20 posts you will be able to test for free on the platform.
Use the post that will generate the most engagement as your ad and amplify it with a decent budget.
While your competitors will be burning through their available cash, trying to get something to work, you will be spending money on proven winning ad content, angles and images.
Dan Kennedy, a veteran direct-response marketer who helped sell billions of dollars of products and services, said: “The company who can pay the most to acquire a customer wins, in any niche, in any market, in any economy.”
The problem is most of your competitors don’t know their numbers. They don’t know their cost per lead, their cost per appointment, and their cost to acquire a customer by traffic source. Because they are driving blind, they don’t know how much they can spend for a click.
You should, and because you know your numbers, you’ll be able to outbid them all day without ever spending a penny over your cost of acquiring a new customer.
Remember what Dan said, and I’m paraphrasing: The dealership who can pay the most to acquire a car buyer wins, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, in any area in the country, even in troubled times.
Beware Of The Tactical Charlatans: Develop Strategic Thinking
One of the things I urge you to do is to avoid falling in the trap of chasing silver bullets and one-off tactics in the hope these will carry you through the crisis.
Vendors will come out of the woodworks with silver bullets and magical solutions promising to solve all your problems. But short term thinking will not solve the long term effect this global crisis will have on the sales of your dealership.
I’m not saying this to be cynical about the future—quite the opposite. If you know anything about me, you know I’m an eternal optimist.
But I want to advocate prudence.
I take very seriously the fact that you're trusting me enough with your time to consume this content. Although I usually love to test new ideas and concepts, in dark times, I prefer to focus on fundamentals.
Fundamentals will provide you with consistent and predictable sales that will allow you to protect your business and even thrive and grow amidst the chaos and uncertainty.
Here are the three fundamental pillars of business survival and growth:
A Well Documented Customer Acquisition System (the steps and the sequences you use to turn total strangers into paying customers and raving fans);
Actionable Metrics (metrics that allow you to make decisions as to the effectiveness of your customer acquisition system);
Powerful Tools And Tactics (discovering the tools and tactics that are the best suited to support your overall strategy)
A well-documented customer acquisition system will provide you with the roadmap and blueprint to execute daily. You will have an exact idea of your customer avatar, how to make them aware of your brand, how to engage them, get them to subscribe, convert, get excited, buy your vehicles and back-end products, and even advocate and promote your dealership.
Actional metrics will provide you with valuable insights as to how you’re executing your customer value journey and how well your tactics and tools are performing. Contrary to vanity metrics like followers, VDP views and other empty metrics, these will allow you to know which step of the customer value journey needs your attention and what action you need to take.
It’s easy to identify the right tools and tactics once you have the well-documented customer acquisition system in place and the right metrics to measure the effectiveness of your execution.
But without a well-documented journey, tactics will make you feel like a one-hit-wonder with a few sporadical wins here and there and zero consistency and predictability. Without actionable metrics, you’ll feel like a bull in a china shop, making mistakes and causing damages in situations that would have required careful thinking or behaviour.
If you would like to get an automotive marketing audit and validate your dealership’s readiness to face the current crisis and develop the blueprint and roadmap you will need to protect your dealership today, survive the financial aftermath, and thrive and grow amidst the chaos and uncertainty; use this link.
Participating in the economy is a choice.
You can sit back and wait to see how things pan out – most of your competitors will do just that. Or take the survival and growth of your dealership in your hands.
Be proactive, take the position of leadership, position yourself as the automotive authority and the only choice for prospects in your market.
Tell a better story, remove the fear, and they will buy.
If you want more educational content to help you navigate the crisis, check out my training on the three mindset shifts required to sell cars amidst the chaos and uncertainty.
But if you’re ready to audit your dealership’s readiness for the crisis, click here.
No matter what the economy and the circumstances, I got your back.
Let’s sell some cars!!
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.