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March 2013 Automotive Advertising Newsletter


My visits to dealerships over the past month have felt like déjà vu. The same questions came up time and again in every meeting with dealers and managers, so I addressed each question separately in several blog posts last month. All are critical for driving traffic, closing sales and most importantly, fostering accountability within the dealership. Here’s a brief recap of what we’ve been talking about:

QUESTION #1: “What is working to sell more used cars?”

The answer to this is simple, with two major points:

1) Online inventory has to be priced right.

To answer this question, first look at your used inventory and ensure that you have a good stock available. Next, look at your prices and make sure that the offer matches your specific markets value, rather than you dealership’s value.

2) A steady stream of promotions must accompany the right pricing.

Accountability for promoting your inventory falls on your used vehicle managers, and if done properly you can survive on the web alone with used car sales. But to grow into a monster used car operation, you must combine online operations with mass media promotions. Good dealers send the message, “Our used inventory is both better priced, and better maintained than the competition.” This plan will absolutely help you sell more used cars!

QUESTION #2: “What is working in Special Finance?”

Tax refund checks are in the mail to those buyers who need special finance, as is my answer for what works best. Highly-targeted direct mail allows customers to see an offer that could guarantee them a substantial loan, for less. This generates a response, and this mail is even more effective when coming from a third-party source.

We have had success with TV infomercials, especially Hispanic, as well as a daytime network television message that targets the part-time or unemployed. One obstacle with special finance promotions, including direct mail, is the number of bodies generated in a short span that may or may not have the actual ability to buy. Patience on the part of an experienced staff is required, but when worked right the added gross profit can really rock a store.

QUESTION #3: “What is the best method to attract sales people?”


This question is always prefaced by the dealer saying, “If we only had more salespeople we could sell more cars!” The profit loss from not having proper and qualified staff is immeasurable! The solution though, is simple. Just like when want to hire the best people to manage service, used cars and your advertising, you need to hire the best recruiter in the industry to find you the proper sales people.

What I have seen work best is a third-party recruiter who operates off of your set parameters for hiring new talent. Whether you want seasoned pros, green peas, or product specialists/greeters, a recruiter takes the burden off you to find them. The pool of driven people who want a career selling cars is dwindling, so to find more exceptional talent, utilize the services of a firm that recruits day in and day out.

QUESTION #4: “How are other dealers best handling Internet leads?”

There is no uniform way that works for every dealership in America, just as there is no right or wrong way. Some stores are too small to devote enough manpower to build and maintain a true BDC, while some have an Internet stud in need of an assistant. The necessary and most fundamental part is to have accountability within the lead-handling process, which leads to our final question.

QUESTION #5: “What should the Internet Manager’s role be?”

The role depends on the setup within the individual store. Without fail ,the most important thing is the constant monitoring of incoming leads and non-buyer follow-up. I have seen stores where the number of online inquiries creates a pick-and-choose mentality, with only the perceived “best-bet” leads getting consideration. This is a huge mistake. These customers are eventually only going to visit 1.4 dealerships in person, and to me that defines the Internet Manger’s role:  manage the process to know what is coming in daily and where his people are following-up.


Each one of these questions merits its own newsletter, but what stood out to me was the importance of accountability. To make more bucks you need to promote an attitude of, “The buck stops here, and if I don’t know what is right, I will find out and either get back with you or get it done!”

John Paul Strong

John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 150 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.

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