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What car dealers keep missing in their marketing messaging

The auto industry is changing. Gone are the days of luring excited car shoppers to the lot with an almost guarantee that if you have the right car and a good salesperson, the deal is done. Things are completely different now.

In order to understand how to attract customers to the dealership, first we have to ask the simple question: what has changed? Well, a lot.

If you're a dealer principal, general manager, or general sales manager, you have some big responsibilities. It's your job to understand who your customer is- and this goes beyond just demographics. You should know what sorts of things they like to do, so then you can understand what they might use a vehicle you sell them for in their everyday life. You should know why they buy what they buy- if you're selling a luxury brand, like Lexus, Cadillac or Porsche, you know your customer places high stock in brand equity. That's your selling point: putting your product in an environment. One that resonates with your customers.

Back to what has changed, wow, there's a lot. For one, we know that car shoppers are MUCH more educated than they've ever been before. They know your inventory, the other dealer across town's inventory, and likely every other competitor's inventory within a 100-mile radius of your store. They know the incentives and they know what their trade is worth. And they're going to come to your dealership prepared.

I get this all the time- "what about loyalty?" Is that gone, too? Well, no, I think it's still there, but your customers are changing. The Baby Boomers are a very brand-loyal generation. For years, they've been the bread and butter of most car dealerships. But as the Boomers stop driving and thus, stop buying cars, dealers are increasingly looking for new blood, found in the Generation X and Millennial generations. Some studies have shown, thanks to social media, that Millennials are the most brand-loyal generation. This presents a BIG opportunity for dealers.

When it comes to messaging, dealers are still stuck in the 80s and 90s. Why? They don't understand that their customer HAS changed - not IS changing. They need to stop focusing on Boomers, and realize that they need to reach GenX and Millennials. These generations are looking for something different than their parents and grandparents. They're more cautious with their money. They're focused more on utility as a differentiator (what they actually get from something) versus perceived value, with the latter being more exclusive of older generations. They're looking for the best value for their dollar. They don't want to pay more if they don't have to. And for many Millennials, less is more.

There's no guarantee, though, that when you lure in a Millennial, they'll stay loyal to your dealership, even though they have a higher propensity to be brand loyal. Below are some steps you can take at your dealership to attract a fresh, younger audience and retain them.

1. Meet your audience where they are. Invest in social media, digital marketing and your website. Reduce your spend on traditional media, like TV and radio.

2. Show people in the Gen X and Millennial age group in your ads. If you're doing YouTube pre-roll, this is a great opportunity. It makes the ad relatable to the audience.

3. Get creative with your messaging. Don't just blast an offer and expect it to stick. Younger people are looking for something creative to catch their attention. Consider making a Tik-Tok type video. It doesn't mean you have to degrade your brand with stupidity- just think outside the box.

4. Sell on utility, not the intrinsic benefits. If you're marketing a vehicle that has won awards for safety and reliability, brag about it. If the SUV you're selling has seating for up to seven, say it. Remember, these generations are more concerned with the reliability and utility of products than previous generations.

5. Find points of difference from your competitors and capitalize! Has your dealership won customer satisfaction awards, or been recognized by your manufacturer for high customer satisfaction scores? Let your customers know! Is your dealership the low-price, no haggle leader, or are you celebrating a big anniversary soon? Say it! These are all major differences you have over the competition.

6. Get ahold of me today to get this process implemented. We have over 15 years experience in marketing for pre-owned and franchised dealers across the United States.