It’s Not Spying. It’s Advertising Research!

Every auto dealer wants to be number one in their market. While you can still be profitable being in second or third place in the sales race, there’s definitely something special about having that top spot bragging right. If your dealership is tired of being the first loser, there are ways you can narrow the gap or even pass the top dog. One of the most effective ways to gain ground is to look at you competitor’s advertising.


Aside from location and convenience, not much differentiates your dealership from any other. Customers will have good and bad shopping experiences at every dealership, and every dealership will have amazing and lousy salespeople. Many times, however, it is the marketing message that is delivered to the potential customers that takes them to one places versus the other.


Take a good look at your competition’s advertising messages across all marketing medium, including TV, print, radio and online. There’s a good chance that the messages in all of these ads are consistent with each other, with a similar look, message and incentive across the board. What are they saying that your dealership is not? What are they promising that appeals to more people than your ads? What incentives or offers to they promote, and how do they promote them? Really sit down and look at every aspect of the ad, down to the verbiage and images they use. When you have a side-by-side comparison of a successful ad versus a not-so-successful ad, sometimes the difference will become quite apparent.


Now that you’ve seen what the other guy is doing, it’s time to beat them at their own game. One easy trap you can fall into is by simply copying the message verbatim and sticking your logo on the ad instead of theirs. While this is not a terrible strategy, you may be pulling the chute a little too early. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but you don’t want to flatter your competition, you want to flatten them! Use their successful strategy and turn it against them. If they are offering $500 off MSRP for a specific vehicle, you should offer $1000 off MSRP. If they are advertising a free oil change with every test drive, you should give away a free iPod. This “anything you can do, I can do better” strategy will help draw more attention to your dealership and take those leads away from the competition. This tactic is especially effective on your search engine marketing campaigns, where you can instantly change your ad copy to beat any other advertised price on the search engine results page. Imagine how powerful it could be to post the lowest price on a search term in a matter of seconds, and sending more clicks to your website.


Keep an eye on your competition. You don’t have to send undercover employees over to their dealership or set up phone taps in order to find out their sales secrets. All you have to do is keep a close eye on their advertising messages, and use your tools to beat them at their own game.


Tom Knoop is director of search engine marketing for Stevenson Advertising. If you need help starting your own pay-per-click campaigns, feel free to contact him at 800-643-8584 or email





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