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Strategies For Success In The Pre-Owned Marketplace

I’ve previously outlined expectations and accountability issues for your advertising agency. I said that this year “would demand a marketing plan that is strong enough to lead, yet flexible enough to react to the unknown.” I’d like to share some strategies for the challenging year that faces us all.

As I write this article, the President and Congress have just agreed to $150 billion of tax rebates to help stimulate the economy…sound familiar? This summer, the Treasury Department will be sending out checks to 117 million families; three out of every four families will be receiving checks from Uncle Sam. The intent is to loosen up cash, encourage Americans to spend, and jump-start our sluggish economy. What does this basic economic strategy have to do with advertising? Short answer: Everything!

The prognosticators are already forecasting only 15 to 15.5 million new unit sales in 2008, which is not good news. However, unemployment stands at around 5 percent, meaning that just about everyone who wants a job has one. This means that every two weeks, 95 percent of the current work force is going to work and getting a check. 

In 2007, franchised dealers, independent dealers and private individuals sold roughly 45 million used cars. Using the experts’ projections for 08 new sales, 10 percent, or roughly 1.5 million, of lost sales, are going to show up on used car lots to produce one of the strongest used car markets in history.

This brings us back to having a plan: a 12-month, well conceived media execution and creative strategy, which should be determined by inventory, coupled with the measurement tools needed to create your success.

This year, you have an opportunity to generate a tremendous used car yield and create far
greater profitability. Understanding how to mine this used vehicle niche and deliver it to the market is what you need to be doing right now.

In the used market today, price point is the brand, not the product. Last year, two-thirds of all used vehicles sold fell into the $8,500 to $13,500 category. This should be the target range of your used car department. Keep fresh trades that fall into this range, wholesale your junk and work by the numbers, not the names, at auctions.

Once you have your used inventory properly aligned, which should be accomplished relatively quickly at auctions, you have to let the market know that you have what they want to buy.

Establish your used car branding via television, creating a specific value to people in the market right now. What form of television? The short answer: Broadcast cable. Here’s why:

• Americans watch an average four hours of TV/cable per day, which equates to 28 hours per week, or a total of 2 months per year. (according to A.C. Nielson)

• 99 percent of all households possess at least one television, and the average is 2.4 TV sets per household. (according to A.C. Nielson)

• 66 percent of Americans watch TV while eating dinner.

• 85 percent of Americans find TV advertising to have the most impact on their buying habits.

The late Lee Galles, who many consider the godfather of retail automotive advertising, dubbed TV the “magic medium.” Mr. Galles believed that television was the very best way to reach new customers who are in the market to hear what you have to say today.

Always remember that buying broadcast/cable for automotive retail advertising is different from Burger King or Miller Lite cable buys. Our message is targeted to a transient existing market. Non-automotive ad people fail to realize that we are dealing with an existing market that is going to buy ‘this week’ who then exit the “now” market for a minimum of two years to four years on average.

Therefore, TV buys need to be compressed into shorter periods with six to 10 spots per night. In larger markets, this practice can be cost prohibitive on network television. This is where broadcast/cable comes into play. A vertical buy of six spots per night becomes an attractive and affordable option in any market because of broadcast/cable’s flexibility of allowing you to buy in zones.

Now, let’s get back to your message. The average person’s attention span these days is a maximum of 12 seconds. You had better make your message memorable. Combine that with the 2,700 to 3,400 messages that person sees each day for competing products and you have a recipe for clutter. Your message must be made with attention to clarity, not confusion. It is what you say, multiplied by the number of times you say it that makes a broadcast/cable message effective. The more distinct and memorable the message, the better it will cut through the clutter.

Broadcast cable and your used car marketing will be the key to successful automotive retail advertising in 2008. Here’s to your success, and I’ll see you on TV.

Vol 5, Issue 3