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Should Dealers Target Everybody or a Selection of Buyers with their Advertising?

Casting the Net

At first glance, it's an easy question with an instant answer. Car dealers want to target everyone within driving distance with their message. As Ripley said in Aliens, "It's the only way to be sure."

Upon closer examination, problems start to pop up. Even if we assume that "everybody" is actually a large portion of the audience (since you can't reach everybody from a literal sense), there are still holes in the strategy. Those who have extremely large marketing budgets could do it, but even then they really shouldn't. Here's why:

  • At any given moment at most 3% of the adult driving population is in or near the market for buying one of your vehicles and that's if you have a very popular brand. For many brands it's under 1%.
  • Reaching all of them requires large mass-media buys and a shotgun approach. Based upon diminishing returns, the second $10,000 can be less effective than the first, the third $10,000 will be less effective than the second... etc.
  • Targeting is getting much, much easier today than it was even 2 years ago. This trend is only going to continue.
  • Targeted messaging isn't just about being smart with your money. It allows (forces?) a dealership to be more focused on getting the right messages out to specific targets and through individual venues rather than a bulk message or singular slogan approach.
  • Most dealers and nearly all vendors confuse marketing with advertising. More importantly, they confuse marketing with branding, PR, and buzz. There are big differences and diverse approaches to achieving a brand expansion. It should not be the only focus in true marketing.

These really are just the tip of the iceberg when discussing the merits of targeting versus mass messaging. I talked about it in much more detail on our blog.

The best part about working in the car business today is that every dealership, big or small, has tools through which to hit the right people with the right message. It comes down to proper targeting which is getting better all the time.

Chris K Leslie
The only way I can think of that a targeted approach can really work is if within that 3% market. The demographics of that 3% remain the same month after month. The problem I face in Las Vegas is that it does not, whatsoever. In short our buyer persona's vary each month solely because the groups of people that make up the 3% aren't the same. This month we could win big with young families. Next month it could be baby boomers. So if I take the traditional marketers approach and analyze the data to better inform my decisions tomorrow I could potentially be wasting all of my budget on a section of the market that is no longer in the market this month. It reminds me of when you scream out someones name cause you think they're in the other room but they're standing right next to you.
DJ Snyder
Great article JD. I like to use L’Oréal as an example. L’Oréal as a group advertises to everyone. However the brands they own like Kiehls and Armani target to a more specific client. in other words our Dealer Group targets everyone, while out Land Rover store sends out the right message at the right time to the right people...

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