Dealership Marketing

Are Internet Specials like Pulling Teeth?

Hello, my name is Alex and I’ve been handling Internet specials my automotive group since 2001.

Every month there are 10 or more franchises I have to create sets of specials for, and I really enjoy it! However, I really can’t stand how hard it is to extract information from the stores who I make these specials for. You see, I don’t actually come-up with the prices, payments, or rates; I lend a hand in those things, but I create the art and messages. Usually, I get these things done within the first week of a new month, but today is July 16th and I finally got all July ads completely posted yesterday. This was a particularly bad month for stores getting information to me, and it blows my mind because this just helps them sell more cars.

Am I the only one with this frustration?

It is as if the stores know they have a bad tooth, and want it out, but just don’t want to go through the pain of having that bad tooth pulled.  Once the tooth is out, everything is better and the pain is gone.

What have I done in the past to make this process better?

  • Created a form that I emailed out on the 1st of each month with a due date
  • Made every sales manager accept a calendar event in his/her Outlook/Exchange account
  • Sent email reminders every other day until I had all specials
  • Visited and called the stores to push them
  • Sent an email showing who the good stores were and the bad stores, CC’ing their bosses…this was actually the most effective
  • Among other things

I know we are structured differently than most dealerships, and I also know this is more of a “people problem”, but I’m curious if anyone has a decent process for getting things done in this area?

On a side note, we have some stores that are excellent at getting information to me (our BMW store is incredible and Toyota does a great job), but I think it is because those stores have people who enjoy flexing their creative brain-muscles.

It goes back to the left-brain/right-brain theory.  So, this is a “people-problem” based on a struggle for creativity, but it certainly doesn’t mean people need replacing.

Or does it?

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
Blog about them until they give in Alex!
I feel your pain and I have to give you credit for coming up with some very compelling specials.
Alex, I think you're suffering from a popular illness known as "Every Sales Manager in this industry is a lazy idiot". I think that's how it's pronounced.

You're not alone, and furthermore, think about how frustrating it is for Dealer Principals when they realize that all the ad meetings they went to at the beginning of the month with their agency - all the budgeting, positioning, brainstorming - goes out the window when the agency faxes over the form requesting the week's ad cars.

You think the SM does any research? Visits a competitor's website to see what they're offering? Analyzes their recent store traffic to see which cars are driving people away due to payment? Do you think they would ever think of asking the agency what the other dealers' ads are running? Nope. They spend about 5 minutes intentionally putting together an ad that doesn't take risks or go beyond the norm (you wouldn't want the DP to find out you dared to be adventurous, right?).

The Dealer spends huge sums of money on empty advertising templates (websites, print ads, etc). By the time the opportunity gets to the desk, it's free advertising. Free opportunities. You are asking the desk what they want to do with their free opportunities, and their response across the entire nation is "I don't have time for that... I got cars to sell." Then they go back to eating their sandwich.

All I can say is keep learning, stay optimistic, and eventually people like you will be putting SM's out on the street where the only job they'll be qualified for is door-to-door cutlery sales.
  • S
    Scott at TAV
  • July 16, 2008
I would give them the form the last week of the month. At the risk of sounding harsh, I wouldn't pay them the month's commission until they submit the form. I would present the idea to management as if the company paid $4000 for a full page ad and when you opened the paper it said...Sorry, nothing this week-check back soon! There is no reason your company should be paying money for your salary and the website AND still pay those people-use their money instead if they can't get the job done in time.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • July 17, 2008
"I don't have time for that... I got cars to sell." Then they go back to eating their sandwich.

LOVE IT!! So true So True.
I have a used car manager that is on top of specials every week, he is always in my office asking what can we do to drive more traffic, if I ask him for specials he finds the cars, has the lot porter line them up outside so we can take pictures if need be. He is the best, Now, new car manager is another story, he says he is going to do it and ,,,,,,,,,well I guess he just forgets
Do not forget about the sales manager that uses the old idea of invoice less holdback less all rebates less everything else. Great job of cutting our throats.
  • J
    Jeff Larsen
  • July 18, 2008
Kudos Alex on your past efforts of communication with management to speed-up the internet advertising process to help them sell more cars and put more money in their pocket through your knowledge and hard work.

How about putting past results in front of them from your previous efforts? I think we can all agree that management is all about ROI from any money or time spent towards advertising in the dealership, correct?


"Based on this last incentive you created, here is the traffic/sales/profit the store generated from that. With a few minutes of your time..." OR

"Great, understanding you will contact me with this information in the next day, just sign (or read receipt) that we had this conversation to cover myself. The owner/GM has been questioning why his customers were not notified of this special via email/website specials..."

I recently showed the results from some free ATC new vehicle special ads and my manager was happy to oblige.

And Kershner... be nice! Sales managers get hungry too!
Back-in-the-day I was a Yellow Pages sales rep, a once a year sales call. There is no sense of urgency; Decision makers would drag their feet.

YP management creates false deadlines before the real deadline to force advertisers to set appointments and make commitments because everyone would wait till the final hour. It works.

Many of us do this with our service depts. "I need it by 8am Tuesday" when the delivery is on Wednesday.

I say, get aggressive with your slackers and set early deadlines, create a sense of urgency and become a pain in the a**. This is the world they live in, so you might as well turn up the heat and toss them into the fire.

  • A
  • July 18, 2008
HI. (incentives & rebates tab) is a great resource to find the regional new car offers....the info is usually posted by the 5th....I often go there instead of waiting on my dealers when i am putting their vehicle specials online. Its not a perfect solutuion but it does work in getting info to consumers. has great new vehicle specials that you can plug into your website. they are easy to manage and look great. just a thought....

I never have problems getting the new car specials up for our site unless the month end on a weekend and we have to wait for the manufacturer to come out with their specials. Service specials are a different story. I always have to wait a week or two and most of the time I just keep last months specials active.

For the pre-owned specials, we actually involve the Internet Managers to update those so they are more exited about the specials and know what is on the website. We started this about 6 months ago and it really seems to work for the pre-owned specials.
  • P
    Pat in Chesapeake
  • July 19, 2008
Hi Alex,

I'm right across town from you and I have similar issues. Except my 18 locations are spread out all over the country. It is difficult. To me there are 2 solutions:

1) Escalate the issue up your latter so the proper managment can be educated by their superiors (basically they don't believe in it or they wouldn't screw around getting you the info. XXXX rolls down hill, let the owners/upper management drive it home)

2) Come up with your own specials. I am in the mix of things just like the sales managers. Often times I'll post my own things. If they call to complain I educate them on the fact that I'm going to put something there, if they would like it different, get with the program. (I'm sure this doesn't necessarily make it better but sales managers do have to buy into your process. Otherwise, it is like a football team with 3 guys who are always sitting on the ground. You're going to lose until you make them change or the coach fires them). I find that when I post a few things and then that leads to a conversation with them, I make it known that I'm on their side and trying to get them the business. Help me help you! A couple of months like that and usually they are calling me after that.

my 2 cents!

Thanks for the comments everyone. There are some excellent replies!

Hello Pat - glad to see some local folks are finding Dealer Refresh. How did you discover this site?
If I'm feeling particularly sassy that day, I'll pick a bunch of sold cars as vehicle specials. That usually prompts phone calls from the sales managers about how I don't know what I am doing. In which I can reply, please email me stock #s of your weekly specials! Lol.

I've been visiting the site for quite some time. I forgot when I joined. Just usually a silent reader. :)
  • G
    Gerald Hand
  • July 26, 2008

This is a classic example of using punishment/reward which should work well. The first thing that must happen is for the Principal and each GM must be on board in supporting you. Next, I would sit down with each manager and set a time where you can receive the specials in person if possible, or by email so you can go over them together. Get this time placed on the calendar.

After that, thank the early adopters publicly, and reiterate your need for the help of those not already doing it.

Last resort might be to use a little more aggressive discount than they would want, so when a customer comes in and they feel the pain on a loss-leader they may put you a little higher up on their to-do list.
You find the same problem in tracking down information for mass media advertising, only there generally are substantial dollars at stake. When you think in terms of these guys who are too lazy to get the offers in time for a schedule that can sometimes exceed $100k in media you have to develop a system that doesnt slow down your work flow to compensate for theirs. A "Weekly Advertising Traffic Report" is a simple one sheet document that list the previous offer, disclaimer, stock number etc. that gets emailed to the sales manager and the GM gets cc'd on. We created this because rather than all these guys having to be called or emailed multiple times, the offers are taken from an in person meeting (where the GM is present)and dont get changed unless the there are updates or sold vehicles that have to be corrrected. You only take the GM's time once a month, but the salesmanagers are all informed as to what products and offers are being run. You use the words "Advertising" & "Traffic" in the title of the report because anyone who works a desk or sales floor is very aware of the power these words have. If you have no response or any updates to your status report - it is easy to forward to the GM and ask what you can do to help create more traffic, because from the fact that nobody updated the offers, they obviously arent selling any cars.

  • J
  • October 28, 2008
I have had the same problem. I believe a sucessful Internet department has two sides Sales-- Marketing. Most dealers think approximately 30 days out with marketing. I believe the parameters should be at least six months. Review of year over year sales show push months,and can be modified with manufacturers specials as thry occur. If you drive them in and have good internal process the rest takes care of itself. JMHO