At a recent BHPH 20 Group meeting this past month, one of the topics selected for our "round table" discussion was "advertising and promotion to drive more traffic to your lot." The discussion focused on a variety of advertising and promotions used by members in the group that resulted in increased phone calls and lot traffic. The forms of advertising in the discussion ranged from radio, television, direct mail, print, social media (such as Facebook), and dealer websites.
Identifying your marketing message
What do you want your advertising message to communicate, and is that message loud and clear? In other words, how does that message resonate with the potential customers that are reading it? Simply advertising that you have "easy finance terms" or "low down payments" does not communicate to potential customers why they should consider going to your BHPH store instead of another.
A discussion of several of the advertising ideas presented at this meeting revealed that some of the advertising messages were clear but many were not. One dealer demonstrated that the "theme" of his marketing message was the phrase "we care about your future, not your past." Although the theme may not be original or unique, it works because it is specific and consistent in every advertising format they use.
Therefore, potential customers develop a mental image of that BHPH store based on the message in the advertising. A potential customer reading that advertising is more likely to connect with the advertising message by saying "I used to have good credit, but I need help getting my credit reestablished. This dealership sounds like they could help me."
The second hot topic during the discussion was measuring the return on investment (ROI) for the advertising dollars spent. One member quoted a famous retailer who once said, "half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; and the trouble is I don't know which half."
There are several key components to measure before assessing ROI. The first is the responses to your advertising, which must be accurately tracked. In most cases, your advertising will trigger phone call, emails, website visits, online loan applications, text messages, increased lot traffic or any combination of these. The critical step is to identify and track where each customer heard your message and how they responded.
One member at this meeting shared his experience with what he called the "evolution of the call tracking technology." He described how providers of call tracking systems have evolved the technology to track and report more comprehensive demographics on responses to the advertising, as well as to incorporate web based and text based responses. The net result is a significantly more accurate assessment of the cost-per-lead of your advertising dollars spent.
Handling a lead
The third hot topic during the discussion was tracking how a lead is handled when the prospective customer contacts your business. Whether the inquiry is a phone call, an email, a text message, an in-person visit or any of the other response formats available, the critical question is: how well equipped is your staff to handle the responses and turn those inquiries into new business?
Formal training is the best solution for that dilemma.
It would be unfair to expect that anyone on your staff could effectively handle any inquiry without formal training. It should also be pointed out that the skill sets required to handle a potential customer on the lot are very different than those required for handling a customer by email, text or other media based inquiries. Therefore, formal training should also incorporate the specific type of interaction your staff will likely have with your prospective customers. Anything less and you might just as well pour your advertising dollars down the drain.
The meeting also featured a discussion on whether members of the group had any experience purchasing leads from third-party providers. With a wide variety of lead sources to choose from and a range of lead types from low credit scores to bankruptcy filings, the success rate of turning leads into new business varied greatly between the members.
The cost-per-lead is a significant part of the equation, and in the end it appears that "you get what you pay for" when it comes to third-party leads. That doesn't mean that the more you pay the better the lead. What the discussion determined is that with properly trained staff and an effective tracking system to record responses and sales results, the cost per sale of those leads becomes a more important measurement than simply the cost of the lead.
In summary, the key to advertising is being able to track your responses and measure the return on investment. Unless you are able to determine the ROI on advertising dollars spent, it's difficult to know whether your money is being spent wisely or foolishly.