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There are a lot of new ideas out there about how to connect with consumers, everything from using Twitter and Facebook to closed circuit TV channels for your waiting room. Many of these are good ideas, and in a world where everyone is searching for the latest thing to help them market to consumers, sales events might seem boring and old-fashioned. Sometimes, however, boring and old-fashioned means tried, tested and proven.
The Benefits of Off-Site Sales Events
One of the most important things that off-site sales events do that cannot be done by simply advertising the lowest price in town is to tap into consumers’ emotions. Perhaps someone is considering buying a car, but is putting it off due to the economy or the notion that the price will be even lower next week. If you’re having an off-site event this weekend, it can help convince a consumer that now is the time to buy.
Research shows that the simple act of putting an expiration date on a coupon will increase its redemption rate by 30 to 40 percent. Limited time, off-site sales events do the same thing for auto sales. By giving customers a definite buying window, with a definite end date and temporary space, it forces them to quit thinking rationally and start acting emotionally...out of fear that they might lose out on a good deal.
Planning your Event
The first step to planning an off-site event is to pick the theme. Whether you call your sales event a Red Tag sale, a Super Sale, or a Year End Inventory Clearance sale may be the least important decision you'll make, but it does have to be the first so that all the subsequent important decisions are working together. All of your marketing for the event has to follow the same theme so that all of your marketing helps to promote the event. If you are going to have a giant inflatable leprechaun and his pot of gold on your off-site lot, you need to have that same image in your marketing.
Once you’ve decided on the theme to your event, the next step is to pick a reputable vendor to help. Deciding on which vendor to partner with is one of the most important decisions when planning an event. Be sure to work with a vendor that is credible, has a good reputation, has been around for a while, and check out their references. Make sure that they have references and call two or three of them
It's hard to have too many off-site sales events because only one percent of the population is in the market for a car at any given time. The good news is that next week, you've got a whole different one percent in the market and they don't care what you did last week; they're looking for a giant, deal of a lifetime buying opportunity right now. A good off-site sales event gives them what they're looking for.
The most important ingredient to a profitable event is making sure that your staff is prepared when the customers start showing up on the temporary lot of the off-site sale. . All off-site sales events must have the entire staff in full synch. If customers show up expecting a big event and your sales people aren’t aware of the promotion you’re advertising, you are throwing money away. Another mistake is not being prepared for the event. Who is going to register the guests, whose job it is to lead the sales process, where are the used cars going to be, who is going to run F&I, etc. Consider hiring professional event teams for running the sale. They are great solution for coordinating profitable events.
Promoting your Event
After deciding on a date, location, and preparing your staff for your event, now you need to promote your event. In general, try not to think of off-site sales events as a different budget category. The latest NADA stats show that dealers spend about $610 per vehicle retailed on advertising. Take that $610 that you're already spending and use it to advertise an off-site sales event instead of your routine advertising. There is a time and a reason to use almost every medium: print, radio, TV, car shopper's guides, web, direct mail, but the important thing is that everything you do be in synch. From the radio, TV and the newspaper to the receptionist answering the phones and the banners hanging on the walls of the tent — they should all be saying the same thing. All of your marketing efforts should work together, but for off-site sales direct marketing is generally the best way, because of its measurability. TV and radio are not 100 percent measurable; the only thing that is 100 percent measurable is mail.
Keys to Event Success
Off-Site Sales Events are one of the best ways to move your inventory in a hurry, but in order to make sure that you maximize sales and profits from your event, you need be sure that you properly “structure” the event. The three keys to a successful off-site sale: inventory, salespeople, and ad campaign/expenditures.
If you hold a four to five day off-site sale, you should expect to sell about one-third to nearly one-half of the display capacity (refilling sold units throughout) and your “sellable” inventory (pieces in a good relationship to both ACV and book value).
Very simply, you need to have one salesperson for every eight to ten vehicles displayed; if you don’t, you will lose sales. The average sales person sells three (2.7-3.8) vehicles during an off-site sale; that means if you want to sell 30-35 cars during your event, you will need 10-12 sales people or about one to every eight to ten vehicles on display (about 100 vehicles).
It is essential to have the right ad campaign and the right budget, media mix, and creative execution for you event. Pick a firm that has experience with automotive and has ran successful campaigns…and especially for sales events before, then let them do their work. Remember it’s not important that you like the ad campaign, what is important is that it brings customers to your event.
You will also need to set a budget for your event. You don’t want to waste your money; on the other hand, if you don’t spend enough you won’t have the traffic you need to make your event profitable. Using the latest NADA stats, be prepared to spend about $610 per vehicle retailed on advertising. That means if you want to sell 30 vehicles, you would need to invest $18,300 ($610 x 30) . Now that is serious money, but if you spend less you will not see the traffic you need to sell those 30 units.
Properly “structuring”, planning, and executing a sales event is essential to its profitability. Consider hiring a company to do it for you, but whatever you do be sure that you invest the time and money needed to make your event the maximum profit. Otherwise you’re wasting your money.
Generating that emotional excitement can help you move inventory that is sitting on your lot costing you money in insurance and floor plan costs. Clearly, turning your excess inventory into revenue benefits your dealership, but there are benefits that last beyond the end of your sales event. One of the biggest benefits for a dealership of holding an event is bringing a lot of new customers that have never been to that store before and gives the sales staff fresh prospects to work. So it gives the dealership fresh inventory, sales staff fresh prospects and a higher amount of residual sales after the event.
The Bottom Line
The economy is different today, and consumers are feeling the crunch too, so you need to work harder than ever to bring them in and get them sold. The bottom line is consumers need a better, motivated and exciting reason to go to the dealership. They need the perception, because of the state of the economy, that your dealership has an offer that’s unbeatable, that this is the time. You sell the customers on that perception of what’s going on around us and use it to your advantage
The economy will improve, but it won’t be overnight, so right now we have to work with the situation as it is. Yes it’s a cliché, but every cloud has a silver lining. Have an off-site event to let your customers know you are here to stay, and this could be the best time buy a car in the last 20 years, and it won’t last forever.