What visual pops into your head when someone says, “car dealer”? Is it a greasy haired, tooth pick sucking, and, worst of all, plaid suited shyster? Why is that? Why does the phrase “car dealer” conjure such a repulsive image? Why do car buyers associate car buying with a feeling of overwhelming dread and distrust? Why does the car buying populous hold such distain for this particular Industry? Why do we enter a local car dealership as if we were John Rambo gearing up to take on a forest full of sheriff’s deputies and national guardsman.
Over the last few years, I have worked with auto dealerships to help them improve their Internet marketing, customer communication, and perception. I have helped over fifty dealerships break a vicious and ineffective marketing cycle. The reason I’ve been chosen by dealerships to tackle this particular problem is simple, if a little unconventional: I had no prior car dealership experience. I have a different and new perspective than the companies they usually work with; I’m a car buyer. I look at everything from that point of view—the point of view of the buyer. This is Marketing 101. You should always look at your business’s marketing and sales processes from your customer’s point of view.
Car dealer marketing, both online and off is, well, not good. It’s loud, obnoxious, disruptive, aggressive, and, not to mention, forgettable. Every ad, whether in print, radio, or television, is the same. “We’ll beat any deal,” “We’ve got the best price,” “We crush the competition.” The online experience is no different. Every car dealer website is a variation of the last: template-based and homogenized. There is no unique information and no value. At the end of the day, they’re all just terribly annoying. If the goal was to see how many popup windows, video greeters, and chat boxes you could throw at a potential customer, then mission accomplished.
The bottom line is, car dealer marketing is aggressive.
One of my automotive clients recently said to me, “No one haggles with Home Depot over the price of a toilet, why do they haggle with us?” Then he added, “And there is more margin in a toilet!” It’s a valid question with an interesting answer.
We aggressively haggle when buying a car because that is the sales process car dealer marketing created. The buyer didn’t bring the fight to the dealership the dealership brought the fight to the buyer. In the words of John Rambo, “They drew first blood, not me!” Aggressive, price-driven messages have conditioned consumers to haggle over price. When you treat every potential buyer (of anything) as an aggressive buyer, the only possible outcome is the creation of aggressive buyers. Pavlov could not have done it better himself.
With all of the incentives, rebates, price beating and matching, and overall wheeling and dealing of car dealer marketing, car buyers can never trust that they know what the price is. They’re confused by the whole process, so they haggle. If you applied this type of baffling marketing to a toilet purchase, they’d haggle at Home Depot, too. Hmm, what would it look like if we marketed toilets like a cars? I imagine something like this:
We’ve got the largest inventory of new and pre-owned toilets in the tri-state-area. You have to go, and so do they! We’ll beat any price, and now, this weekend only, we’ll give you $500.00 over the value of your trade no matter what condition! Push it in, drag it in, we don’t care! If you’re peeing in a bucket, we’ll give you $500.00 more than your bucket’s worth – we don’t care, we just want to see you in our toilets! And for a limited time we’ll pay for your first 12 rolls of toilet paper!
That’s not the way toilets are sold; it’s not the way most things are sold. When you apply car dealer marketing to other products, you really begin to see how absurd and woefully outdated the model is. Some degree of farcicality and disconnection can be found in almost any industry’s marketing. Using our car-dealer-toilet model, we see an extreme example, which helps to illustrate the effect of disconnected marketing on information rich, on-demand, and socially connected consumers.
Today’s customer is in perpetual beta mode—they evolve and adapt minute by minute. Bombarded by information, increased access to data, and socially linked to one and other, customers are in complete control, and yes, price is a factor in almost anything they buy. However, it is not the only factor.
Consumers are naturally attracted to products and services that provide the greatest value, and value goes beyond price. If your marketing puts price front-and-center in your value proposition, be prepared to battle. Instead of going to war, go back to basics. Sales 101 advises creating value before discussing price and showcasing benefits over features. Low price is a feature, not a benefit. Demonstrate that your product has unique value above the competition and beyond the price. Soon enough, you’ll regain control of the conversation and begin the process of changing aggressive shoppers into better customers, forming more referrals for your business, which will, in turn, result in a significant increase in sales.
Analyze your marketing, your messaging, and your sales process to determine what behavior you are likely evoking from your customers before your business gets flushed away.
Article written by best-selling author, motivational business speaker and Single Throw Internet Markeitng CEO, Larry Bailin