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When I introduced this column a few months ago, I deliberately started by taking an outside-in approach to OEM-dealer alignment. I focused first on the importance of independent research sites, followed by the power of enterprise solutions. Today, I’m taking a different tack—one of alignment across OEM’s, dealer associations, and individual dealers themselves—alignment across Tiers 1, 2, and 3 in go-to-market efforts.
Aligning media across brand-building to brand-selling tactics and multiple stakeholders can be challenging for any OEM. The greater the number of agencies, dealer associations, and individual dealers involved the more daunting the task. Yet, alignment can - and does - happen.
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Chris Leggio, co-owner of Mark Christopher Auto Center in Ontario, California, and Mike Cagey, General Sales Manager. We talked about the importance of aligning a consistent message between dealers and OEM’s and the tangible results that can be achieved with a cohesive, coordinated go-to-market plan.
Linda: In a general sense, describe your view of the current state of alignment between dealers and OEM’s as you plan your go-to-market efforts.
Chris: Over the years, we’ve gotten better by leaps and bounds. We piggy-back with the OEM’s; we pick up where the OEM leaves off. We can do many other things when the OEM covers off on the basics for us.
Linda: Can you give me an example of how piggy-backing and coordination plays out with the brands you represent?
Chris: A typical example involves aligning around an event, such as a year-end event or truck month, or a new product launch. Through meetings in advance, we align our plans with Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. We have a sense for the media plan, which is often supported by the manufacturer with television, digital, and our web site provider, which is Cobalt. The LMA’s coordinate support, and we come in as dealers with newspaper, radio, and any supplemental digital that makes sense. They key is planning in advance, everybody walking in lockstep, and aligning in messaging to better communicate with the consumer.
Linda: Customers today have access to more information than ever, especially as they research and shop online. How does that impact you as a dealer in the context of your go-to-market planning?
Chris: We welcome a well-educated customer. The more educated the customer is, the more we can sell our dealership, how we do business, and how we take care of customers. It all comes down to customer service.
Mike: There is greater price transparency today than there’s even been. That’s where reputation management comes into play and the “why buy here” message. A customer will go to a dealership that has a strong reputation, and services and respects the community in which they serve.
Chris: That’s the beauty of online content. Not every customer attends our community events. They don’t have to in order to know we’re actively involved. Today, we can show people our community service through our web site content and reputation management efforts. They see that when they learn about us online. Our actions in the community reflect our core values, which are supported by our online content.
Linda: You run the play with your OEM while at the same time supporting a strong and consistent “why buy here” message. If the overall alignment brings a more cohesive message to consumers, then how do you measure success overall? What results have you seen?
Chris: It shows in our sales. We gain share, we deliver a consistent message, and we take care of customers. And at the end of the day, the customer is the reason we’re in business.
The path customers take to research and shop for a new vehicle is often a complex one; a path that starts months in advance of a sale. Along the way, they are exposed to a variety of messages, in a variety of channels. Messages come from OEM’s at a brand level, dealer associations, and individual dealers. The customer doesn’t necessarily make the same distinction across “tiers” of advertising—they simply go about their business and make their way through the shopper journey.
Rather than planning this area of the business separately, we’ve seen here a deliberate effort to align and unite OEM’s, dealer groups, and dealers in a cohesive go-to-market strategy. Advanced planning creates the coordinated messaging that drives real, tangible results. This careful effort enables an improved shopping experience for customers and can help OEM’s and dealers win in the market.
Now it’s your turn. What is your experience with coordinated messaging? What are your thoughts on aligning all parties in a cohesive go-to-market strategy? Share your thoughts and let’s continue the conversation.