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Wait, what? It's still 2010.
Next week is, for those who are strategically minded and who understand how marketing works realize that next week is the last full week that we can dedicate completely to putting together our plans for 2011. The following week is Thanksgiving, the beginning of the crazy season we know as "The Holidays".
What normally happens in our industry is this: we know that we as Internet Managers, General Managers, and Dealer Principals must make some decisions about our marketing budgets for 2011. We think, "It's mid-November, so I have to get on that soon."
Then, every year, so many go through knowing that with over a month until 2011, they will be able to sit down and make it happen in an hour, maybe two. Others think they can put a full-day effort in sometime in December.
For most, it doesn't happen, at least not the right way. Thanksgiving happens, then the end-of-the-month push, then the beginning-of-the-month push, then the end-of-the-year push, then Christmas, then the end-of-the-month push, and all of a sudden it's 2011.
Next week (this week if you're reading this on Monday), spend time every day evaluating and planning. If you don't, there's a strong chance you will go into 2011 with a poorly laid plan (or no plan at all). Here's what you should do:
Call Every Vendor You Have
Find out what's coming down the pipe. Have a conversation and discuss contract dates, new things in 2011, pricing changes... anything that will influence your decision about whether to keep them, spend less with them, or spend more with them. Estimate how much you'll be spending with them on a monthly basis (even if you don't pay them monthly) and put it on a spreadsheet.
Call Every Vendor You're Considering
Starting social media in 2011? What about mobile marketing? Expanding your budget? Need more lead providers? Make a list of everything that you are considering for 2011 and call them. You don't have to make decisions next week, but if you have an idea that you will be expanding your classified listings beyond Autotrader.com and Cars.com, for example, then make a list and start calling the options. Get a proposal. You may not have time to take a pitch this week, but at least get a proposal and have an understanding of them as an option. Be sure to let them know that you're looking at them for the following year so expectations are set up front.
Read. A Lot.
After next week, you will have limited time until 2011 to start reading about the different marketing options out there. You're on Driving Sales now - we can assume that here and in other places you will be able to find information, testimonials, and peer opinions about different tactics, vendors, and styles.
Ask. A Lot.
You have access to forums and social networks that have other dealers and vendors willing to answer questions. Get the opinion on this vendor, that marketing venue, and other emerging strategies that you may want to consider.
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This process takes a couple of hours a day, but if you don't do it this week, there's a good chance that you won't be able to do it in one continuous motion the rest of the year. Marketing technologies are emerging while others are dying. Techniques that worked in 2010 won't work next year, while others that were blips in 2010 will be huge in 2011.
We will be posting more about a 2011 Automotive Internet Marketing Strategy in the days and weeks to come, but don't wait for us. Start your research now. It may not happen at all if you don't.