“ Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. Trouble is, I don't know which half.”  —John Wanamaker

The quote has been copied, repeated and misquoted countless times in its 135 year life. It has been used by business owners and marketers alike to “justify” the fact that not all advertising is effective. It has also been used as an excuse to maintain the existence of bad marketers since the day Mr. Wanamaker (not Mr. Penney as I recently heard he was mis-credited for this quote) said it back in 1880. Automotive Dealers and Marketers have also used (or utilized, depending on how you look at it) this quote as much as any other industry. But the time for excuses and misquoting has come to an end.

As of this May, NADA reports that auto dealers across our country are averaging an investment or spend (once again depending on who is quoting the statistic) of $619 per new vehicle retailed towards advertising. This combined with the currently steadily rising costs of digital marketing and we are once again faced with the question “What Works?” But at $619 a car—there had better be more than half of the cylinders in your marketing engine firing.

Analytics from our own websites and those supplied by third party vendors will give us an idea of traffic behavior, but it’s growing more and more obvious that what happens after the click is what counts the most. This brings us to the question—Be the lowest price, or be the place to shop? My answer… be both!

Every day, potential customers visit dealership websites looking for the vehicle they desire at the lowest price. But most importantly, the people who are looking to sign on the bottom line are hoping for a buying experience better than the one they just had at their dentist during a recent root canal. They are searching (literally searching) for their place— the place that gives them the price and experience they are going to be happy to tell their friends and neighbors about. 

A recent study revealed that less than 1% of recent shoppers and buyers chose the current buying process as their ideal experience— a stat that we all knew to be true, but really haven't wanted to do anything about. While most dealers are currently “letting it ride,” the smart money will be going “all in” on a new marketing initiative built around a preferred customer experience. 

“Yea Bob, I got her at XYZ Motors… those guys are great!” Those are the words customers want to be able to say. And who doesn't want a customer talking about them like that? It’s much better than the alternative.

What is that elusive Holy Grail of a customer experience that future buyers and authors of 5-Star Google reviews are looking for?  Potential customers are right there sitting at their keyboards or with iPhone in hand, looking to start the process on their own terms. That’s why they all start on your website in the first place. This is the chance describe the benefits of your buying process. How you are going to save them time by having your vehicles prepped and ready to go. You’re going to tell them about your extensive staff that is ready to leap into action the moment they say “OK I’ll take it” to get them on the road in their new vehicle in “90 minutes or less.”

Your website is going to be littered with custom quotes taken from reviews left by recent customers (30 days or less) that when clicked on will bring the customer to the actual review site whether it be on Google, Dealer Rater or any other popular review website (in a new window of course) where they can verify the review was left by the customer. It’s one thing when you say buying a car is quick and easy… its another when a previous customer says it on their own in their own words.

Then you are going to show them the tangible benefits customers receive after the sale. You have no idea how appealing complimentary oil changes, tire rotations, loaner cars and car washes are to a customer who doesn't get them now. They are even more appealing to the potential buyer who recently forked over a significant amount of money to another dealerships service department only to find their vehicle dirty-er than when they dropped it off. And a loaner car… 

“What?… dealers give out loaners??”  Yes Virginia, some dealers give loaner cars… just not the dealer you bought from. And keep in mind customers who currently enjoy these benefits have no intention of giving them up! 

“So change my marketing and stop being the “Low Price Leader” or the “We Beat Any Deal Guy?”   YES- PLEASE YES!!!! Being the “Low Price Guy” makes you nothing more than the low price guy! Customers are going to shop price- It’s going to happen and to be honest, they should! When you move from the “Place to shop” to the “Place to BUY,” the sale becomes yours. Being the “Place to Buy” will get you more opportunities to beat a competitors price. Being the “Place To Buy” moves you farther away from being a competitor and closer to dominance.

The choice is yours- Be The Price or Be The Price AND The Place. I promise you this- Choose “Be The Price” and the only business with rising profits will be the ones that sell you leads and the one that sells you Sharpie markers because all you are going to be doing is working customers that force you to race to the bottom on the four square faster than you can get their paperwork done or car cleaned for delivery.