Jack Lintol is the Chief Operating Officer for Auto Credit Express (ACE), which consists of subprime experts who help dealers through their training, traffic and technology product, satisfy the needs of subprime consumers. ACE has helped dealers across the country get into the subprime business or improve their existing subprime business. Jack can be reached at 248.370.6658.

4 Critical Steps to Investing in Marketing and Advertising

Do you want a successful subprime department in your dealership? Are you willing to do what it takes to get there? This is easy to answer, but not as easy to carry out each and every day. Why? Because it takes consistent execution, which is tough when you are running a complex and ever-changing business. There are many important points to executing a successful subprime department, so let’s hit on one key item – ensuring your marketing and advertising investment is giving you the return you want. That’s right; I said investment. To make your marketing and advertising dollars work, you need to treat it as an investment, not an expense. Let’s take a close look at four critical steps to investing when it comes to marketing and advertising.

1. Know what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to brand the dealership, or are you trying to sell more cars? Most dealers will say both, but then focus on selling more cars. If you are really striving for brand and name recognition, then you have to consider the entire dealership’s plan for branding. This is very complex and includes more than just spending money on the Internet, newspaper, television and radio. It includes how your dealership looks, how it operates, how your salespeople handle customers, whether you can help every customer that walks through your door, whether you answer your phone in three rings or less, just to name a few areas. You will want to coordinate the message and action plan in all the things you do at the dealership. Also, branding and name recognition is much harder to track and is never ending. For this article, we will focus on selling more cars.

Selling more cars is easier to track and you know very quickly whether your advertising investment is working or not. Each time you approach a new marketing or advertising campaign, you need to clearly determine what you are trying to accomplish, write it down and track it. To state a goal and then just see if it happens by the end of the month without tracking it daily will result in missed goals and disappointing results. Tracking is as important as the process you have in place to sell cars.

2. Check out your advertising source. Do your homework. With special finance Internet leads, you really need to check out whether the company you do business with is a lead “generator” or a lead “supplier.” What is the difference? A generator actually generates the leads they sell you. They will be able to show you where they are positioned on the search engines, directories and other places on the Internet. You should be able to go online, type in keywords and find their sites.

Also, check out their main site. Is it a five liner, or does the customer have to invest a lot of their time to get through the generator’s process? The longer the process and credit application, the better quality customer they will send you. When people spend a lot of time filling out applications, they are more committed to the process. Look at sites like www.ranking.com and www.alexa.com to get the generator’s site ranking. The site ranking shows how much traffic they get to their site (remember the lower the number of the ranking the better).

Suppliers, on the other hand, will just buy leads from other lead generators and sell them to you. They don’t control their own traffic and therefore have less control over their quality. They will not be able to show you how their leads are generated.

The quality of the leads from the generator will be higher and will probably cost more, but when you consider the amount of time wasted on poorer-quality leads, the extra expense is worth it.

3. Include relevant team members in the goal-setting process. Are you more motivated to hit a number when the boss is busting your chops or when you have been included in setting the goals and process? Of course it’s the latter because  you know what the expectations are. The people helping you achieve your goals for this advertising investment need to be involved in setting them. This will ensure they are aware of your objectives and eliminate any excuses like, “You set the process and goals, not me.”

Let’s focus on subprime Internet leads as our advertising investment. Most folks track closing percentages to judge whether the leads are working. That’s fine, but does it tell you the whole story? No. You need to track all the critical steps in the process for all who are performing them. You have to ask yourself, who is involved in the process and what are they responsible for?

If you are handling the whole process yourself, you should still do this. You may be handing out leads to your salespeople and expecting them to make calls, set appointments, ensure those appointments show and close the deals. If that is your process, they need to know how many leads you will hand them.

Then, the salespeople need to commit to the number of appointments they will set, show, and sell from those leads. If you are responsible for calling all the leads, then you need to commit to the number of appointments you will set and how many will show. Then the salesperson needs to commit to how many cars they will sell from your appointments that show.

4. Track accomplishments
Once you have determined the individual roles of your process, you have to set a method to track whether everyone hits their individual goals and the team’s goal.

The tracking should be posted where everyone can see it—on a whiteboard, that gets updated everyday. In our business, we have a daily meeting that lasts between 10 and 15 minutes where all the salespeople come to update the board. This meeting is affectionately called the “2:10” because we have it at 2:10 everyday, come hell or high water. Our salespeople set their goals at the beginning of the month and we report daily on where they are with their sales numbers. Since we have been doing this, our sales have gone up; no surprise in that is there? We measure it and we manage it. This is exactly what you need to do to ensure your marketing and advertising investment pays off.

Let’s take a look at how you could do this at your dealership:


   Subprime MGR  
 Salesperson 1
 Salesperson  2
 Salesperson 3
   Goal  Actual  Goal  Actual  Goal  Actual  Goal  Actual
 Dials & E-mails                
 First Response


Put this where everyone can see it and have a meeting daily to update the board. You will be amazed how it gets people to focus on where the problems are, as opposed to just thinking that the leads aren’t working. You will be able to clearly diagnose what needs to be adjusted.

Ultimately, after you have done your homework, you need to make the investment and take the risk. Track it daily and you will know where to invest more of your advertising dollars and where to stop wasting your money.

Consistency and commitment to the process is the key to the whole thing. Tracking how your investment pays off, as it will teach you what works and what doesn’t. You don’t need to do exactly what I have laid out in this article, as it is just an example of what has worked for us. The key points are to know what you want out of your advertising investment, set goals related to how many cars you want to sell, set goals for each step and person in the process and report progress (or lack thereof) in a manner so everyone can see it. Lastly, you need to make adjustments during the month when things aren’t tracking the way they should be to ensure you sell more cars. Good luck!



Special Finance Insider Vol. 2, Issue 1