Your Marketing Message: Let Customers Know Your Name Is Not “$199 a Month”

It’s happened to everyone. I can guarantee it’s happened to you within the last 24 hours.

What happened? You were exposed to some type of advertisement—and when it was over, the message of who ran the ad was gone. Maybe you remember the offer. You may even remember the funny line or catch phrase the announcer said. But the company that ran the advertisement escaped your mind within seconds of its completion.



We could talk about the reasons this happens in ads: production quality, copywriting, or even what media is used, and all would be valid points, but the area that matters in terms of advertising is your message.

For example, the name of your business is not “$199 a month,” so it should not be the root of your message. Would you introduce yourself to someone you’re meeting for the first time by saying, “Hi! My name is $199 a month”?

No—of course you wouldn’t.

So why then do so many dealers still use price as their marketing message? Because they don’t have a message other than their price.

I’m not proclaiming that price is meaningless. Showing prices is an important element of an advertising strategy and should be exercised. Customers need a point of reference for the cost of each model. But the price of the vehicle should only be one element of the ad—not the entire pitch.

You may argue that because you advertise big discounts, customers think you have the cheapest prices and best selection. And they probably do think you have a great selection, which may get them onto your website to view it. But when your message is only price, the perception you give is one of desperation. Your dealership has no value to the customer except for your price.

Consider this scenario. Let’s just say you’re the “$199 a month” guy. Suddenly, ABC Motors down the street becomes the “$189 a month” guy. After that, 123 Autos in the next town over becomes the “$179 a month” guy. Next thing you know, Mega Auto Mall, 20 miles away, becomes the “$99 a month” guy. Get my point? All four of you are in a heated race to the bottom, all getting ready to crash into the wall right after you cross the finish line.

We all know that there are going to be some customers who shop only for price. The key to effective selling is to build a value in the product—and in this case the product is not the vehicle, it’s the dealership—that is greater than the price. The price of the vehicle is just that—the price of the vehicle. It shouldn’t be the only reason the customer should buy from you, especially the customer who comes in with another dealer’s price.

In today’s world of e-pricing and TrueCar, if you go in with just price, customers will eventually grind you down to either taking a super-short deal, or even worse, you will just pass on these customers, sending them across to ABC Motors or Mega Auto Mall, either of which will likely switch them to a lease, bump them to F&I for a warranty, and write them up. Customers leave happy that they got the car, but may be disgusted with the process they went through to get it, and the cycle continues.

Your message needs to contain elements that make you valuable and unique. Instead of price, emphasize your full-disclosure selling process, service loaner cars, complimentary oil changes, shuttle service, and other value-added items that ABC Motors and 123 Autos don’t offer, and Mega Auto Mall couldn’t afford to offer if it wanted to. And even if they do offer similar services, are they talking about them? Probably not, and that in itself makes you unique.

Car buyers’ biggest complaint is now the amount of time it takes to complete the buying process. People hate spending hours or even an entire day at a car dealership trying to buy a car. Develop and market a process that gets their paperwork done quickly. Promote the fact that they can drive any vehicle home today. Push the fact that you save them time. Time is everyone’s most valuable asset.

The bottom line: Building a marketing message that stresses your value as a dealership is the key to success. Who you are, what you do, and the way you do it should be the foundation upon which your message is built.

What makes you different from the guy down the street is what’s is going to get you leads, and is what is going to give you the weapons you need to dominate any other dealer’s price. The benefits you deliver will cement your value in the minds and hearts of your customers, and that is your “name”—not $199/month.

Frank J. Lopes is vice president of Forrest & Blake Marketing/Advertising. His nearly 20 years of marketing experience is focused on automotive dealership and retail marketing.

Frank J. Lopes

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