In politics, just as in life, the devil is in the details.
When it comes to winning elections, the difference between victory and failure can come down to a figurative – and sometimes literal – handful of votes. Advertising strategies usually revolve around big spending on attack ads through traditional media, with local TV blanketed throughout the weeks and months before Election Day. We all count the days until the election is over; when things return to normal!
TV advertising can influence elections, but big spending doesn’t always equal a big win: See, last month’s North Carolina senate race, where both sides shelled out historic amounts, but the incumbent lost despite outspending her opponent.
Car dealers approach their local markets no differently, except that, unlike in politics where elections only happen periodically, dealers live in a world where de facto elections occur every 30 days! Every month brings different nuances in a dealer’s local market: New goals, new incentives, new inventory, new competitive tactics, requiring constant reaction and adjustment. While it’s a comfortable, go-to tactic, blanket spending on ads to drive sales often quickly reach a point of diminishing ROI.
Ultimately, winning elections in politics, and winning the month in automotive, comes down to capturing the attention of voters and shoppers who are undecided, and who will sway the outcome to one side or another. For that, you need a good, focused, and dedicated ground game.
The Ground Game
You’ve probably heard the term “ground game” during the last few elections. It’s the opposite of carpet-bombing markets with TV advertising; instead of blasting an area with one message, you hone in on focused pockets of people who have the “right” characteristics to favor your point of view. The Democrats applied data science to their ground game to great effect in past elections, including during 2012’s presidential election. Of course, after 2014’s midterms, it looks like the Republicans’ work honing their ground game paid off. Reince Priebus, Chairman of the RNC, even stated, “We made a commitment to mechanics and data and digital operations first and foremost.”
A tightly focused strategy applied to pockets of voters or, in automotive terms, “in-market shoppers”, will help you convert those who aren’t yet swayed to one vehicle/dealership or another. The executive team of a large dealer group I recently visited hit the nail right on the head: “It’s not our loyal customers we need to win over, since they’re already in the our corner. It’s the people in the middle that are the key.”
So, how do you begin drawing up a blueprint for a strategy to win the ground game? You start with a few key data-driven inputs: Product, target, and message.