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Ed Brooks

Ed Brooks Automotive Digital Marketer

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The Four Hidden, Magical SECRETS to Automotive Marketing

The Four Hidden, Magical SECRETS to Automotive Marketing

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Place
  4. Promotion

Product: Pretty simple, what cars you choose to sell

Price: How you price those cars

Place: Where you locate your dealership

Promotion: How you talk about your cars, how you promote them and how you sell them.

If all this looks familiar, it should; The Four P’s of Marketing have been around for 50 years in print (and was discussed in some college classrooms for about a decade before that). Some have argued recently that 3 more P’s should be added; People, Process, and Physical Evidence. It’s hard to argue that the added 3 P’s aren’t vital to car sales, but I do like the simplicity of the original Four.

Let’s start with some obvious limitations.

 If you are a franchise dealer, you have little control of what new cars you stock. The Product decision was made years ago in most cases. But you have a choice when it comes to used cars. Your franchise will certainly influence your used car stocking decisions, but it no longer has to control them. The Internet has become the consumers’ tool of choice for locating a car they want, and if you have that car, they will find you. Make no mistake; the cars you choose to stock are a basic marketing decision.

When it comes to Price, most successful dealers today find that the old Cost-Plus model no longer works. The Internet is the reason, pure and simple. Informed people won’t overpay – and today’s customer has an abundance of information at their fingertips. The days of making a mistake by overpaying for a car and then passing that mistake on to the consumer are behind us. I would add that buying a car with only wholesale information is also a mistake; today you need to know how you will retail your way out of a car. You need to know the retail side of the equation at acquisition, not just the wholesale side.

Place is another decision that was made years ago. The good news is the Internet has made your physical location much less relevant today.

For many automotive marketers, Promotion is their total focus. I’ll submit to you this is a mistake. If you don’t have a car the customer wants, at a price they are willing to pay, no amount of advertising or promotion will help you much. You can have multiple Inflatable Gorillas on the roof and an army of Wavy Arm Guys at every entrance and you will still struggle to get traffic. Today’s customer shops online and buys in person. The fundamental rule of promoting cars today – especially pre-owned cars – is getting the right car, at the right price with great pictures and compelling comments in front of as many prospects as possible.

If all this 50 year old Four P talk sounds Old School it is and it isn’t. The Four P’s haven’t changed, but the market has. The most progressive dealers in the country are applying these fundamentals to new reality and changing the way they are selling cars. Go back to the blackboard (OK, the whiteboard, or maybe your iPad) and take a hard look at how the Four P’s apply to today’s market. And keep in mind, the Internet isn’t your enemy, it’s your friend - don't fight it!

 

Jeremy Alicandri
Hey Ed, I'm taking a marketing class right now for my MBA. Thanks for applying the 4 P's to automotive retail ;-)
Ed Brooks
The way I look at it Jeremy, the Four P's aren't the strategy, they are the questions you ask to DEVELOP your strategy. When you ask yourself those same questions today, you get a very different strategy than you did 50, or even 15, years ago. But these are the absolute fundamental - the most basic, elemental - questions that you need to develop your marketing strategy.
Chris Costner
Great points Ed and thank you for sharing. I definitely like how you highlight that this isn't the strategy but a way to develop the strategy. Many times the decisions we make for one of these elements will help influence decisions in the others.
Larry Bruce
Nice auto adaptation of the 4 P’s Ed, and your right People Process and “Physical / Digital Evidence” needs to be added. P- Product & People – Bottom line “Your dealership is a service company with a product offering” so these are equal, don't believe me try being an A##hole and selling a car see how far you get. Watch what happens on eBay when you get above 100 positive ratings. Your people and the service you give are at least as important as the cars you sell & have in stock; I would even go as far as to say they are more important because more people still DON'T end up buying the car they looked at online than do. P- Price – This is NOT your only way out of a car! Case in point if you’re a dealer reading this post and you want to test me… go find a car 100 days plus (if you have one) if not get your oldest car, clean it up well and recon it right (the way it should be) place it up front price it at a $500 profit and to cover a $1500 mini and see how long you keep it (less than 30 more days count on it). That’s why we call them salespeople…that’s their job! If all we needed were the right cars at the right price then we wouldn't have them Some have tried no salespeople… they’re no longer with us. P – Place, you’re right…no longer relevant P – Promotion, AND HERE YOU TOTALLY MISS IT! If you think that Gorilla’s on the roof and Wavy Arm guys are promotion you have no idea what promotion is. PROMOTION = what sets your dealership, your people and your offering apart from everyone else on the web and in your market. “No matter what car you have… someone else has it. No matter what price you have it for… someone else will sell it cheaper. “Anyone can find cheap, cheaper somewhere else”. Not every dealership has YOU but you have to give the customer several things for them to want to experience YOU: •Yes you need the car I want, but you also need choice. •You need an offer: what do I get & why should I choose you •You need a call to action how do I get it (is it easy…Don't make me have to think) That is the essence of PROMOTION and it has NOTHING to do with a Gorilla, although I would argue that the Dynamite Monkey does AutoMarketing better than anyone, so you may need The Monkey, but not a Gorilla or Wavy Arm Man :-)
Ed Brooks
Larry, I said "The fundamental rule of promoting cars today – especially pre-owned cars – is getting the right car, at the right price with great pictures and compelling comments in front of as many prospects as possible." Today that means online VDPs. The Gorilla was a bit of sarcasm buddy. As far as spiffing the crap out of a 100 day car, that still does work, BUT you would have been better off to identify the dog well before 100 days. With the right data, you would have known on day 1 and made a decision to wholesale it away (assuming it was a trade, again with the right data, the acquisition never would have been made at the auction.)

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