It is hard not to start this article with a comment about the economy. My problem is I cannot think of a positive way to spin it and I am certain because this article is the last in the magazine, someone else has already mentioned it. Therefore, the only thing I want to say about it is now that sales have slowed a little, we all have a little more free time on our hands.
I propose if you are not exceeding last year’s sales now is the time to do a little evaluating. Start from the inside and work your way out. Look at your dealership through your customers’ eyes. Even if things have slowed down a little for your dealership, it should never show to the public. If your roadside sign is pealing, take the time to get an estimate on a new one. If the building looks a little grungy, paint it. I helped my father-in-law, Bill Allen of www.AllensAuto.com paint our dealership twice. I was amazed how every time I got to the top of that ladder a customer would drive up and I would have to climb back down!
Once you have the grass cut, the trash picked up and the cars all lined up, start spring-cleaning in the office. You live in it every day, but your client later today will be seeing it for the first time. Don’t think for a second your client is not aware of today’s current economic condition. Because it is tougher for them to make a living they are more conscious about how and where they spend their money. You should give them every reason possible to feel comfortable about spending it with you.
Once you have completed the dealership walk through, tackle your advertising next. If you have no advertising now you should create a wish list of advertising methods you have considered in the past. It costs you nothing to pick up the phone and find out how much a radio campaign might cost or what it takes to have a website of your own or what it takes to get your inventory listed on other sites through out the Internet. It might not be the right time for you now to get started with one of these advertising campaigns, but when things turn around (and they always do) you will be better prepared by already having all your homework knocked out. The only thing it costs you to ask is your time. While talking to some of these other vendors and maybe while following up on references they leave behind, you might just find another avenue or idea that will work for you and can be implemented right away.
If you already have a website, be sure to spring clean it just like you did your office. When we are busy selling cars we often do not have time to handle these mundane chores but it is important to remember there is no time like the present. If you put more of this type of effort into your website now, your efforts will pay off as more and more people get into the car buying mood and this work will be out of the way once you get that sales machine cranked up, freeing you and your staff up to do what you do best, SELL CARS!
Advertising is looked at by some as one of the first things to get cut in a down market. However, there are others who feel this is the best time to advertise. I had a dealer tell me the other day things were terrible for him and that he had cut all advertising. I asked him one question, “What type of advertising did he do before things slowed up?” He paused a second and said none. I then asked, “How is that working for you?” I do not think he got it as I did not earn his business. My point was if what you are doing now is not working for you, isn’t it time to try something different?
The problem with advertising is that it has two costs: time and money. Usually. No matter what type of advertising you do it is important to monitor it, update it and maintain it. If you put a billboard up, you will probably take the time to be sure it reads the way you want and might even drive by occasionally. If you put a newspaper ad together detailing a half dozen cars it will probably take an hour or more of your time to prepare. Even owning a website comes with a little work. Now that some of us have a little more free time, the only thing to hold us back might be money. If that is your situation, don’t throw your hands up in the air and give up! Instead, look for free ways to advertise.
One such way is through a website known as Craigslist.org. Over the last few months we have had many dealers tell us of the success they have had with this free website. After helping the new car manager at Pembroke Suzuki (www.PembrokeAutoSales.com) with getting started using VUCD’s Craigslist listing tool, he called me and thanked me for the help my office gave him. He told me he managed to get most of his inventory on this site the day before and already he had received more leads from it than he had received all month from Auto Trader! All it took was a little of his time.
Last month’s issue of The Virginia Independent News has a really neat item on page 36. It includes a small logo for each of the members participating in VUCD (www.VirginiaUsedCarDealers.com) and I encourage you all to see it. Each of these dealers pony up $35 to $45 a month to be a part of this site. What do they get in return? A number of things. First, they get an affordable means of advertising and exposure to tens of thousands of car buyers every month. Next, they get help managing their online listings at over 90 other online advertisers including Cars.com and Trader. Finally, they help promote VIADA to the public and instill buyer awareness and buyer confidence in VIADA’s Symbol of Quality.
I have a hundred clichés which come to mind in closing this article like, “If the going gets tough” and “the tougher the climb the better the reward” but again, I want to shy away from that. The only thing I want to ask is that you invest what you have into your business. If all you have is time, that is often going to be enough, if invested wisely. What will you get in return? Sometimes, it might only be a little peace of mind knowing you are formulating a plan. Sometimes you may not see your return right away. However, those who work hardest on their plan will always wind up on top, regardless of the economic climate.
If JTZ Enterprise can help you formulate a plan to the top, call us today!