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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Does The Food Match Your Menu? Developing a Go-To-Market Strategy

I am often asked by General Managers to review their marketing plans and website effectiveness. Before I dive in, I always inquire about the results they are hoping to attain. 99% of the time it is to improve the quantity or quality of their leads. With more ad dollars being spent on digital, we can now track impression shares, click-through-rates, leads, VDP views, time on site, bounce rates, etc. This level of visibility is super valuable, but are these the holy grail metrics? Should we be asking ourselves whether or not we are selling more cars? Selling cars more efficiently?

Just because you generate more leads, doesn’t mean you will sell more cars.

We are in such a repetitive, 30-day cycle business that we spend almost all of our time and effort blasting the market to find the next batch of in-market shoppers, hoping they come into the store or complete a form submission. While this hunting process plays a key role in marketing efforts, to really improve return on ad spend, a more comprehensive approach is required.

This is where a go-to-market strategy becomes critical to maximize your ROI and overall profitability. A go-to-market strategy goes beyond just a marketing message and where you spend your ad dollars, it fuels everything you do — the value proposition to your customers, how you treat your employees, how you are seen in the community — and it touches every part of your business, from how you set your pricing, to how you use your CRM, greet your customers, and use your service scheduler.


The first step in creating your go-to-market strategy is determining who your target market actually is. You may be saying to yourself, “everyone is in the market for a car!“ That’s not really the truth. If your agency promised to provide as many ready to transact opportunities as you could handle, I am sure you would be all in. But, if they told you each of these opportunities would drive by four to five of your competitors on the way to your store and then enter with price in hand, I’m sure they would lose most, if not all of you.  We pass on deals we don’t want every day, and even try to send many of those customers to our competitors! Defining the customers you want to reach will help you focus on the steps necessary to message to them and ultimately convert them to sales.

The best way to identify your target market is to study your repeat & referral business. Ask yourself what makes them different than the others?  Is it a certain neighborhood, age range or income level? Are they penny pinchers or do they value time over price? Getting to the core of what they both valued about their experience with you and value as it relates to retail, in general, will provide you with the insights you need to go to market. This will help you to truly own your backyard and lock in your existing client base. It will also help you expand your reach into other PMAs, gaining market share by truly understanding your customer base and serving them the way they want to be served.

This leads to the next step in creating your plan—defining your unique value proposition. Developing your value proposition starts with creating your dealership’s mission statement. Perhaps you haven’t considered your mission statement as a part of your marketing strategy. Well, you should. To quote Jack Welch, your mission statement is “how you intend to win in your business.” It plays a critical role in your strategy by providing employees with a direct roadmap and energizing them around a mutual goal. Your go-to-market strategy should read like a good book. Once you pick it up, you can’t put it down. This story may begin in your promotional copy, but when done right, it is reinforced throughout your employee base and shows up consistently across the customer’s entire experience with your store.

If you want to reach the largest part of the market segment, then you need to focus on building value at every touchpoint.

Creating your mission statement and defining your unique value proposition starts with understanding your target market. What resonates with your target customers? A transparent process that saves them time? Are they super focused on getting the best deal? Are they family oriented with kids in tow?

Once your mission and supporting value props are identified and communicated, they will take on a life of their own; changing the culture within your store and making you the dealership of choice in your market. Effectively using all of your resources to communicate your value proposition is what will allow you to create a competitive advantage. But remember, it is more than words. You have to personally live them each and every day.

Someone (now a very good friend) once asked me the following question about my dealership:

Does the food match your menu? Is what the consumer is going to experience in-store going to match what you advertised?

The ultimate sniff test for your go-to-market strategy is making sure that the experience you offer matches what you promise in your advertising. Imagine if you experienced this as a consumer — You go to Amazon, find the item you want, click the “Buy Now with 1 Click” button, and then Amazon proceeds to ask you several more questions. You endure, answering the questions, and after Amazon says, “Congratulations! You have successfully added the item. Now, go to the Amazon fulfillment center to pick up your item.” Isn’t this similar to what we are doing when a lead comes in from that “click for instant savings” button on your VDP? The consumer asks a specific question and we avoid it altogether.

When was the last time you looked at your website from the consumer’s perspective? Most of the dealer sites I have visited have a call-to-action (CTA) like: unlock your savings, get your ePrice, get instant savings, or even make an offer.  What happens when the customer clicks a CTA like “get instant savings” on your site? Do they receive the price instantly, or do you respond with some generic templated message asking the consumer to provide more info, so you can give them what you’ve already offered? Automotive is the only remaining industry behaving in this manner, mainly because for a long time we could. We forced the consumer down our process because it generated more sales and there wasn’t a viable alternative.

Fast forward to 2018 — Dealership profitability is down, margins are being squeezed, inventory levels have spiked, and interest rates are up across the board. All the while, store visits are down and online reviews are dramatically influencing where the consumer chooses to frequent.

Your value proposition needs to focus on what consumers currently see value in, not what you as a dealer value.

I see some dealers trying to create value, but they lack consistency and steadfastness with either staff or customers. Long-term benefits are often sacrificed for short-term goals or compromises.  Staying true to your brand promise is key, even through tough months. Remember, consumers, do not care about how many cars you have in stock. Your auto mall is no longer a driving factor, as consumers have stopped behaving in the “find a dealer-find a car” manner. Today they are finding the car online and then finding the dealer they want to purchase from. Having a set of value props that resonate with consumers is how you get your car and dealership into the consumer’s consideration set.


What are today’s consumers looking for? Time savings, great service, ease of doing business, product knowledge, and transparency are a few good places to start. Choose strong reasons why a consumer should buy from your dealership and make sure to convey them in a clear and concise manner. Then, make sure you deliver on that message at every turn.

There are many technology solutions that can help you roll out your go-to-market plan.  For instance, digital retailing solutions help dealerships signal ease, time savings, and transparency. But it isn’t good enough to just plug a solution into your website. If you are promising ease, time savings, and transparency, then you need to make sure you deliver that at every touchpoint; that is why I am such a fan of omnichannel solutions that connect the online and in-store experiences, so what the consumer feels is seamless. Dealers have made a lot of technological advances over the past decade, and DR/omnichannel marketing is the next evolution. This technology should be used in dealerships to align with how consumers want to shop, to differentiate your store, and to help create a new culture with your team.

Many people want to know if digital retailing is hype or innovation. It’s a fair question and I think a lot of dealers, (even ones with a DR platform) may be asking themselves. The answer is yes! Digital Retailing is hyped up innovation.

If you ask a dealer why they have a CRM, there isn’t a struggle to come up with an answer; it is to improve marketing efforts, communication, follow-up, help send a relevant message to the consumer, and ultimately to sell more cars (the list goes on). Digital retailing can impact all of these areas as well, and when it is used as an omnichannel solution (both online and in-store) it becomes even more impactful by enhancing the consumer experience, creating efficiency for both your sales staff and the consumer, and reducing the time for both follow-up and sale completion.

These platforms, like your CRM, are tools for you to incorporate into your go-to-market strategy. They are not a silver bullet on their own. The important thing is to think through what differentiates you and have a game plan. Get clear on who your target customer is and what resonates most with them — then anchor your messaging and in-store process to it.

Consistency is the most powerful tool you have in your toolbox. So, take the time to develop your go-to-market strategy and then incorporate it into everything you do. It will make your operation far more effective, including turning those in-market shoppers you are hunting into loyal customers.

-Mike Christian
GM, Dealer Services

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