Article by
Craig hooghiem in Strategy

For those of us in the automotive industry, March signals the true start of the selling season. 2018 saw a 6% jump for the month of March, compared to 2017 outpacing forecasts with a stronger showing for SUVs, Trucks and Crossovers 1. So, what’s in store for March 2019?

Now that it’s already March – you should be already selling. But what can you do to keep up momentum?

Every store will be the same. You’ll get your OEM incentives and dump money into media to get the deals out to the public as soon as possible. And in all that noise you’ll hope your promotions will be seen by a new customer. Maybe it will come down to the quality of national awareness…maybe to the strength of your ad adaptions…maybe down to the speed you get your promotion up and out before your competition gets their same ad out.

We all want to do conquest and yell “Deal! Deal! Deal!” the loudest.

But you may be forgetting the most important target for selling to – your current customers.

“Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products, and spend 31% more than new customers.” – Investp 2

Selling new metal to new people is attractive – it’s why many of you got into the business. However, you have databases full of opportunities who are in your service bays this month or have a lease coming up or a trade-in with equity. These should be your back up plan when the March Incentive isn’t delivering 100% of your numbers. And unlike conquest – the first-hand shake has already happened.

You can easily target your current customers with the latest incentive as long as you are able to filter out your database and give them a relevant offer. Whether you are using a product like Bumper or manually exporting your database into another product, that little bit of extra work will help you find incremental sales who you may forget about in the March Madness of blasting deals to everyone in sight. Which means at the end of the month you won’t be scrambling.

You should never feel limited by your OEM incentive. Rewrapping the offer by putting your logo on it is what every other store will do – you are asking to be ignored or confused with others. Instead, look for creative ways to adapt or add to your March push with supplemental campaigns and media that use your own creativity and help you stand out from the masses.

Here are 3 Creative thought starters to help steer you in the right direction:

  • Winter Thaw Deals. To the average consumer who lives in the northern hemisphere, March means April and Spring are coming. The snow will melt and driving will go from a nightmare to a joy. You can play to your customers emotions by offering them a chance to enjoy it in a new ride. And if they are not interested be sure to still include an upcoming service offer they can sign up for like a tire change discount if they book early or car spa detailing to get that salt and winter gunk off.
  • Don’t show snow. There is a tendency to scare people into buying by showing them negative things. A tried and true tactic in winter is to show the ice and snow and warn customers to prepare for it. But by March we’ve seen months of ads, images and experienced it first-hand. Show sun, spring and warmth or visuals that show the melt down is near. Set your customers into a positive head space when they read your offers.
  • Spring Break. For many families, March is also synonymous with family vacations and road trips. This is a perfect opportunity to target anyone in your data base in a potential position to buy, who own a family friendly vehicle, with an upgrade offer to a new SUV, Van, Crossover or 4 door sedan. Remind them that family trips are better in a new vehicle filled with the new tech and space their family will enjoy. Call out benefits like rear seat heaters, accessible USB plugs, cargo space, roof racks and fuel economy. (hint – if you are in Ontario, many will experience spring break for the 2nd week of the month this year…target consumers the week before or the week after – since they won’t see or respond while on vacation.)

Though March is often considered the start of the selling season, many consumers are also beginning to learn that shopping later in the year (October, November and December) will see better offers as dealerships start to get new models in and want to move inventory as well as get their yearly totals up. Edmunds even lists the first 4 months as the least discounted months to go car shopping 3 – so finding customers who already know and trust you can be a key difference maker to closing more deals.

Being a bit more creative and insightful could make all the difference.