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Following the Trends Means Picking When, Where, and How to Jump

Jumping to Conclusions

It's hard to run a successful dealership in the 21st century. Things aren't as simple as they used to be, but there's one major advantage that we didn't have a couple of decades ago. The trend data when it comes to sales, customer interaction, and advertising choices is far beyond anything we've had in the past.

This strength can turn into a weakness. We see it every day when dealers make decisions about trends they see in their numbers or information they receive from vendors, OEMs, and the huge number of "expert" sources out there that often contradict. When do we make the jump and when is it better to avoid the precipice altogether?

A good example of this stems from the data that dealers get from the various sources that point to sales trends for different areas. While it's important to stay on top of these trends and allocate your advertising dollars in the areas with the greatest potential, it's equally important to position the messages the right ways and at the right times.

Let's say that your data tells you that mid-sized sedans are selling like hotcakes in a particular zip code. Conventional wisdom would say that you should position your pay-per-click, television, radio, direct mail, and email marketing in that area with a message about the type of vehicle that matches the sales trends. However, it goes much deeper than that. A properly researched strategy might call for a strategy that isn't simply, "fire all weapons at the target!"

A proper strategy might include staggering the message, testing one advertising venue before trying another, or hitting your customer database first before going for conquest sales. These are decisions that can be made based upon a combination of the data and some sound market research to help you formulate a plan to hit the targets rather than blasting the zip code with everything you've got all at once.

It's a subtle distinction but one that can make a world of difference when it comes to the success of the initiative.

In the situation above, the combination of the data plus a little market research could reveal that an email and direct mail blast should go out initially to get the awareness rolling. That research could then reveal that television is not as effective for reaching the target audience, so rather than a costly television commercial, you could follow it up with a newspaper campaign that coincides with a temporary boost to your pay-per-click campaign. Lastly, you shoot out one more email blast with a more urgent message and the result is a sustained grouping of mid-sized sedan sales from that zip code as well as the nice carryover of used car sales that would be generated as a result.

It's more complicated than a paragraph, but I think you get the picture. There's nothing wrong with making leaps and getting aggressive, but don't let the raw trend data guide your actions. Make it work by examining the data and devising a proper strategy.

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