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Gary May

Gary May President

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Whether or not the money lasts in the government's C.A.R.S./Cash For Clunkers program, one thing is clear: automotive retail still waits for someone or something outside of the dealer to drive the traffic. With few (and great) exceptions, people started hitting lots hard over the weekend.The question remains: what happens that's entirely up to you before and after programs?

A couple of OEMs started a little early by creating buzz around doubling or even advancing dealers money. Dealers even sent out email and direct marketing (along with radio and newspaper....aaaaarrggggh!) to promote the fact that they'd have the CARS program at their dealership! Folks, that's just not enough. Remember that people what to know what's in it for them! If they can get $3,500 or $4,500 (or more) for their car ANYWHERE, why are you yelling that you simply have the program? Is your banner bigger? Big (something) deal!

Why not detail how you understand the program's details, that you have a special team at the dealership to promptly handle customers, that you have a 'Clunkiest of Clunkers' competition for a prize or that your staff's outfits are "older than your trade!' and have them come in powder blue ruffled suits? Now, I'm not saying that you need to look like your favorite scene for The Wedding Singer or a bit part in one of my favorite industry guy's videos...what I am saying is that you have to get your head out of the "same place, same thing" mentality and start thinking about how YOU drive traffic.

No consumer typically wakes up in the morning and says "I've got to make it by some dealerships today and spend some time at each one!". That should not be news to anyone. What differentiates you (or doesn't) is the special events, programs and 'why-to-buy-here' calls to action that invite people in. Why continue to fight over the same piece of pie when you can make yours bigger? And with the current economic issues, simply take a bigger piece of a smaller pie! But your way of doing business can't stay in "wait and see", "hold on for 90 more days", "not going to do anything just now" or "watching how effective (fill in the blank)'s promotion goes before we do anything" mode.

Look at your numbers, especially your regional/area performance. Losing sales in your PMA? Why? Asked your customers why lately? How many times have you blind shopped the competition? Did you optimize your website in the last 30 days (or simply put up a C.A.R.S page and/or compete for the same keywords)?

To expect business you need to plan for business:

  • Listen to everyone (yes, your staff is part of everyone)
  • Understand trends and performance
  • Track and adjust in real time
  • Communicate and set expectations
  • Brand, brand, brand, brand, brand, brand, brand

And remember, you can't live on someone else's brand (including the government's). It is also important to be real. If you don't understand something, say so! Ask questions or your vendors, partners, consultants and industry resources (as long as you are actually using them). If they can't do something, ask them to it and if they can't/won't: drop 'em like they're hot.

See the traffic on the highway? They are all going somewhere. They either have to or want to go where they're going. You might just end up being more people's destination if you play your cards right, plan to be successful and don't reply on ANYTHING outside your place of business to bring in the business.

Be a 'traffic-generating' leader, not a 'take what's left' follower...

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

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