What do annual car sales at your store have in common with a football team? Games are won or lost in the fourth quarter.

Dealers typically describe the week between Dec. 25 and Dec. 31 as the biggest “month” of the year. Particularly with year-end factory specials and incentives, promoting your store during that week allows you to reach car shoppers and rescue a bad year or make a good year even better. While it may be tempting to trim your marketing budget during the other eleven weeks of the fourth quarter, the most successful dealers maintain a solid advertising presence throughout the final months of the sales season to ensure they’re reaching the available in-market car shoppers.

It’s a fact that there are fewer car shoppers in the market during the fourth quarter, so dealers need to work smart by using the most cost-effective advertising medium — the Internet — to reach them. Not only will you position yourself to win more than your fair share of business, but you’ll also be working to build your store’s brand and merchandise your inventory for the last week of the year and the opening weeks of 2007. No football team would wait until the 2-minute warning to “start playing” before the end of the quarter.

 Go where the buyers are

When car buyers are closest to making a purchase, they turn to the Internet and newspapers, according to CNW Marketing Research1. Will these car buyers find their way to your store — or a competitor who maintained fourth-quarter advertising?

Build on your foundation
Since dealers sell cars, and car shoppers go to the Internet just before buying cars, online advertising should be the foundation of every dealer’s advertising plan. Internet advertising is the most efficient way to advertise because it costs less than traditional media. J.D. Power and Associates2, for example, reports that, on average, Internet advertising costs less than half of the $457 NADA says dealers spend on all media to sell a new car. Other types of advertising can supplement online advertising for other purposes.

Work with all the tools
Take full advantage of all online advertising tools:

  • Your store’s website
  • Online classifieds
  • Online display ads
  • Dealer specials
  • Online dealer locator tools
  • Lead generation

Hit them with a one-two punch
Don’t forget print! The CNW Marketing Research study showed that both online advertising and newspaper classifieds were the two primary sources of information for shoppers who are closest to buying. Be sure to supplement your online advertising by advertising your deals and specials in newspaper classifieds.

 Plan now for 2007

Advertising online promises the highest return on investment and the most direct link with customers and prospects. In the October issue of DealerADvantage, we asked dealers about their online advertising plans in 2007. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they would increase their Internet spend in the new year.

At the J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Internet Roundtable earlier this month in Las Vegas, dealers — without exception — spoke of the effectiveness of their Internet investment. Several of them spoke of reducing the money they spent on radio, outdoor and direct mail advertising and routing the funds for new or expanded online initiatives. Web advertising, they said, yields the biggest bang for the buck. Not only can it be measured, but dealers can hold third-party providers accountable for results.

1 CNW Marketing Research, Annual Purchase Process Study, 2005
2 J.D. Power and Associates, Dealer Satisfaction with Online Buying Services, 2006