Fifteen years ago, the shopping radius of your customers was smaller. More of your sales came from people in your local area who used the same cable system, read the same paper, and listened to the same local radio stations. You thought you had a pretty good gut feel for the market, any you probably did. Besides, you didn't have much choice. Good marketing data was scarce.
Today, new customers are considering your inventory from further away and your local customers are looking at inventory from dealers they never considered before. Shoppers are bouncing from site to site like they were in a pinball machine. You have no idea who sees and hears your ads and who strips your commercials from your content. In short, the changes in consumer behavior have given your gut feel a gastric bypass.
I keep asking myself why thousands of dealers subscribing to J.D. Power's PIN product don't use the free PowerDealer tool, or why more dealers haven't signed up for Dataium's free VisiCogn Insite product. Why don't more dealers subscribing to vAuto and FirstLook take full advantage of the tools they subscribe to? These products, and others, provide good useful data that can facilitate sound decision making. I'm beginning to think it's not these analytical tools that are being dismissed as much as it is the process of using them.
Decision makers of my generation need to face up to the fact that marketing is more complicated than it used to be, and our gut feel is less equipped for the job. In fact, some of our experience from 30 years ago is working against us when we make decisions in a vastly different landscape. Networking with other dealers isn't enough either, because media penetration is much different in one community than it is another. You've got to make sense of the numbers in your DMA and base your decision making on the clearer picture they can provide.
We used to say that the homecoming king would make more money than the class nerd. The social skills involved in selling were more valuable than analytical skills. Today, if you don't have enough nerd power going for you there won't be enough store traffic to keep the homecoming king in business. Getting the data is cheap and often free. Start there and begin putting the data to work for better decision making about advertising buys, vehicle acquisitions, pricing, merchandising decisions, and store operations.