Marketing: Do Your Job and Let Manufacturers Do Theirs

Sell the car shopper on your dealership, not the manufacturer or other dealers in your area

We’re almost to the halfway point of 2018. How are you feeling about the marketing plan you have in place for this year? (This assumes you do have one in place.)

If you ask 10 automotive marketing professionals, you’ll get 10 different answers on what they think you should be doing. That’s because marketing and advertising are very complex, and strategies are simply opinions.

As a person who publishes a magazine on auto dealership marketing and as a 30-year owner of an ad agency, I too have many opinions. But since all dealerships have very unique situations—including local economy, population, income, and vehicle needs—let me simply give an opinion on what I think you should spend your money on.

Since we have a tiered system of manufacturers, regions, and dealers, let’s talk about who has what job in terms of marketing.

Tier One: Manufacturers

These folks are supposed to use marketing money to sell the public on buying the make and models of the vehicles that they manufacture.

In other words, Chevrolet’s Tier One job is to sell the public on buying a Chevy. That means it’s not your job. Once a potential customer starts shopping, they have normally decided what make they will buy.

Tier Two: The regional group

These are all the dealers in your area that sell Chevrolets (or whatever brand you sell).

They are supposed to advertise your manufacturer group, and usually will do some kind of deal on models of its vehicle line (like 0% financing, or a low monthly payment).

Tier Three: The dealer (you)

You’re supposed to use your marketing dollars to convince buyers in your area to buy from your dealership.


Now, manufacturers may say otherwise, but they don’t care if you or the other Chevy dealership in your region sells the car. But you should care.

Use your marketing budget to sell your dealership, not the manufacturer. Although you may use co-op and need to follow the manufacturer’s rules, you still must get your dealership’s branding out there.

If you’re using an advertising vehicle like television or radio, remember that it will stretch over a large area and reach other dealers’ territory, but this is your chance to lure a buyer to you instead of sell a car for the other guy.

Sell the car shopper on your dealership. If you try to sell the shopper on buying a Chevrolet, you are doing the manufacturer’s job and you’re selling cars for the other Chevy dealers in your market.


Although it may not be the philosophy the manufacturer wants you to have, I am a big believer in trying to sell the people in your territory, and also a few people in the other dealer’s area.

The most economically sensible approach is (1) Try to sell to every person shopping for your make of vehicle in your entire market, and (2) convince shoppers to buy from only your dealership.

Brett Stevenson

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