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Joey Little

Joey Little Vice President of Social Strategy

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Discover Your Market

De-Mystifying Your Consumer One Demographic at a Time

The modern dealership faces most of the same challenges of other brands in a competitive marketplace. And although it might sound daunting to figure out how to connect with every consumer, discovering your market is critical to helping your dealership market more effectively.  Knowledge isn’t just power, it has the potential to sell more cars, so let’s dive in and discover your market!

You already know you offer a great product, and you’ve got an outstanding sales team, and a fully-staffed service center that boasts highly-trained professionals. So now what do you do? How do you effectively spread the word about what makes your dealership great in a way that impacts your bottom line?

Discover Your Market to Win

If a store in the Midwest were to try to sell hurricane shutters, chances are, they wouldn’t fare very well simply due to geographic considerations. This is a simple example of how knowing your market can impact your sales. Buyer personas are helpful as you discover your consumer and the experience they seek when shopping for a vehicle. Developing buyer personas will help you focus your marketing efforts on every channel, and help avoid wasting marketing dollars on strategies that will never reach your consumer. Some of the consumer traits you’ll want to discover for each buyer persona in your market will include the following:

Geographic region. Do you live somewhere that requires drivers to use 4-wheel drive vehicles often? Are there close-by rural areas or work sites that would necessitate trucks or heavy-duty vehicles? Create a buyer persona for this customer. Imagine a day in the life of this consumer, and see if you are doing all you can to connect with this market segment.

Demographic growth and/or shifts. Is your dealership in an area where a change in demographics is impacting your market? Demographics shift as families grow, when certain businesses come and go, ethnic groups shift, and communities change. Consider whether you have a strategy for meeting the needs of bi-lingual consumers in your area. Is there a need for that? Or, is your dealership in a city with lots of commuters? Do the consumers in your area lean toward luxury or high-performance vehicles?

Shopper attitudes. By looking at consumers’ overall views regarding life, work, and purchases like homes and vehicles, you’ll be able to understand more about what’s driving their purchasing decisions. Do your consumers tend to be outdoorsy? Maybe a 4-wheel-drive is in their future. Are you in an eco-conscious city? Your shoppers may be looking for hybrids.

Shopper behavior. The way shoppers make the rest of their buying decisions can tell you a lot about what they will do when it comes time for their next vehicle purchase. Does your dealership engage consumers online via social media or a blog? Are you answering questions consumers as on your website? Do your homework to find out if shoppers tend to be brand-loyal or if they are adopters of new products when benefits or perks are offered.

Personas: The First Step to Discovering Your Market

After you’ve done your initial homework and discovered the various broad consumer groups that surround your dealership, it’s time to take your efforts a step further and evaluate how your products and services meet the specific needs of your customers.  The best way to do this is to develop buyer personas.  A persona is a detailed customer archetype, created by doing interviews with real customers, using research and drawing from your experience to better understand their process and decision points on the way to purchase.

A buyer persona is an incredibly powerful tool for many reasons.  Well-developed personas reveal the secrets to connecting with consumers as they evaluate your products, services and approach to doing business, on their own terms.  Personas tell you what your consumer wants, values and needs…and knowing this will help you deliver information about your dealership and services more effectively.

Below is a very simple buyer persona to use as a jumping off point as you begin to discover and define your market.  There are many more useful questions to ask and answer when you’re developing personas, and you might even want to include a quote to sum up the key traits of this consumer.


Sample Buyer Persona #1 – 

Customer: Sam Smith

Demographic: Young, urban male professional [age 25-35]

What does a day in the life of this persona look like? Sam works full-time at a bank downtown. He has a 30-45 minute commute from the suburbs every day. He takes his lunch from home and only eats out now and then. He is married with two children and spends as much time with his family as he can. On the weekends they like to take day trips or go to soccer games and other kid-focused activities.

What does this persona value above all else? Time. Sam wants to spend more time with his family. His weekends are very important to him, so he does a lot of research online before he makes any kind of purchase. Sam has bought everything from a wrench to a ladder on Amazon just to save time and avoid a trip to the store.

What are this persona’s pain points? Sam doesn’t like to negotiate. He is not a salesperson and doesn’t like dealing with them because he always worries he is not getting the best deal possible. He dreads having to shop for a car, so he wants his automotive shopping experience to be quick and painless. He doesn’t want to spend all day at the dealership. He will go where he is sure he’ll get a good deal, but he demands a certain customer experience and will defect to the brand that understands his priorities.

How does this persona get information for making a purchase? Sam does a lot of research online, particularly on his phone during his lunch break or at the kids’ soccer practices. He is active on social media and will likely post about his upcoming purchase or message his friends to ask for a recommendation before he buys. He knows the makes and models that fit his lifestyle. He doesn’t listen to TV or radio commercials. Sam has a DVR and streams his music or podcasts on his commute, so word of mouth and targeted digital interactions are the only way to reach him.


After the Personas, Evaluate

By now you’re probably beginning to see how helpful it can be to create personas.  Taking the time to discover and organize what you know about your customers will help you be more effective in capturing and keeping their business.

After you’ve developed at least 3 key personas, take an honest look at your marketing strategy and determine the best ways to reach each one of them to see if your current marketing spend makes sense. Are you effectively sharing the things about your dealership/brand that matter to your personas, or are you just blasting ads and hoping they stick? In a customer-centric economy you can’t afford not to continually re-evaluate what makes your brand fit into the story of your customer.

By defining your personas, and how your dealership solves their problems, you are setting your dealership firmly on the path to success and long-term growth. The days of the one-size-fits-all marketing plan are gone, but the good news is, the digital marketplace allows you the opportunity to continually put a human face to your dealership by sharing what you are doing in the community and demonstrating your understanding of your customer and what matters to them.

Every business, including automotive dealerships, can learn from brands like Adobe, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Zappos, Dell, IBM and many others who have discovered the powerful reach of their employees and the benefits of strategy aimed at authentic moments of connection.



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