Industry News

When You Don’t Even Get To Make A First Impression

During the journey of today’s car shoppers, some dealers will have the opportunity to make far more sales to far more car shoppers than others. The simple difference between the two is that the dealer not making the sale isn’t making it because they probably got beat to the opportunity.


The basic marketing/sales funnel model hasn’t changed in years. The start to a sale begins at a vague level of insight called the awareness stage; a car shopper knows they want a new vehicle and they know that dealerships exist but they’re not yet ready to care about where to purchase. They’ll eventually choose a dealership but not until later in their journey. The key is to make sure once they’re ready, they choose your dealership first.

Historically, caring about where to purchase started to come into play when car shoppers reached the interest stage. During this stage, they began visiting dealerships to gather information about vehicles. And, it was with this stage in mind dealerships established their marketing and sales models. The model worked fairly well as long as dealerships were the conduit between interest and information.

As shoppers arrived, they were handed off to a sales team member who helped move them through the remaining steps: consideration, intent, evaluation, and finally, the actual purchase. It was up to the salesperson to separate the specific dealership from all the others in the market.

Now, internet shopping patterns have become the norm. The original marketing/sales model isn’t just old. It’s extremely antiquated. Roughly half of car shoppers test drive only one vehicle before a purchase because they have access to every piece of information they need. Salespeople don’t have an opportunity to exercise their skills until a prospect has essentially already made a decision. The opportunity to earn their business has become a matter of where in the process car shoppers meet your dealership and message. Today, sooner is definitely better. And, being first is key to earning an opportunity.

The marketing versus sales influence model has drastically shifted. Many salespeople have already recognized it. They see customers everyday who have done their research, made up their minds down to the accessory package, and arrive already in the “evaluation” phase ready to test drive. It provides a different challenge for the salesperson, but it provides an even greater challenge for managers who have to allocate marketing funds to put shoppers in front of their salespeople before any other dealership has an opportunity.

Most broadcast, direct mail, and even digital media are stuck in an old marketing model mindset. They can stick a dealership’s name in a car shopper’s head. Done right, they can even give car shoppers a reason to pay attention. But in the day of the educated consumer, the one that makes up his or her mind before meeting a salesperson, that’s no longer enough. A customer-specific message delivered quickly, efficiently, frequently, and much earlier in the shopping process is what’s needed to win an opportunity.

It’s not a matter of better late than never. It’s now a matter of, if your message is late, it’s never.

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