Thursday, November 13, 2008

Automotive Marketing during the Holidays

Who's ready for a big fight!? A lot of you may feel like you've been in a fight...all year long. However, that's not the one I'm talking about. I'm talking about the annual fight with Santa Clause. I started at Tri-Auto on June 1st. Throughout the summer months I got my feet wet and put together a couple of promotions for a few dealers. By October and November I was feeling good, like I was hitting my stride..that is-until HE came to town. Who decided Santa was the Abominable Snowman here to take away Holiday cheer and automotive sales? By mid November, all I heard was "call me after the 1st of the year." Part of it was probably just the newest excuse to get a rookie like me off the phone, but part of it is a real fear many dealers have about the holidays. If you are ready to put on your boxing gloves and go toe-to-toe with the big, bearded guy, read on. If not, go tell the sales department they might as well hibernate for the winter because you're doing the same thing you always do which means you should get the same results--an empty show room. Here's a few quick wins:

  • Send something to your customers! ALL of them. Don't forget about the service customers, or people that have recently bought. It's the holidays and it never hurts to give people that know you some warm fuzzies. A personal greeting card from their sales person is always nice, or a letter from the dealership with a legit incentive for service or their next vehicle will be appreciated by those in the market.
  • Capitalize on the fears of others. This doesn't sound very nice, but take advantage of the fact many dealers pull back during this time of the year. Add or replace a zip with one that your competition typically hits, people in their market will respond to a strong, timely hook...which brings us to...
  • KNOW WHAT PEOPLE WANT. It's the holidays, during an economic landslide, what's more important to most people than cash? Offer them cash for the holidays by giving them the manufacturers rebates in the green stuff, put some envelopes with different denominations of cash in them and let buyers pluck them off the Christmas tree as an added bonus, entice the public to stop by with gift cards to stores like Macy's, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and KB Toys, and most importantly, tell them how you can help (not sell!) them by lowering their monthly automotive payments.
  • Think about your timing--ahead of time. Those of you that do continue advertising right through December and January will probably agree that the "sweet spot" when it comes sale dates is the week between Christmas & New Year's. Lots of people are off work, they are generally pretty jolly, and they've been cooped up eating and sleeping for several days straight. They're ready to get out of the house and may even have some Christmas cash for a down payment. Another good time is the first two weekends in December. Start thinking about it now and map out what weeks are best for your market.

Even if your December marketing plan is getting the sales department together for some pizza and an afternoon of signing Christmas (yes I said Christmas, please no hate mail, I can't handle anymore generic "holiday" terms) cards at least you are not moping off into a cave waiting on the ground hog to appear and tell you when to start advertising. We're halfway through November, it's time to start your December planning!

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