In today’s ultra-connected world, where consumers weigh in by the masses on their brand preferences and whose purchasing decisions are often influenced by what they find on a computer screen or mobile device, reaching them through traditional advertising is a bit too, well, traditional. Consumers want to be engaged prior to purchase, and a direct mail piece, newspaper ad or broadcast commercial touting your select brands and service earns only cursory glances from would-be buyers.

So many brands advertise in the same ways, and it is important to break through the clutter. Outspending the competition is not the answer, nor is it possible when you combine the budgets of all competitive brands. Dealerships need to outsmart their competitors and maximize the results of marketing spends.

There are now all sorts of intriguing initiatives for dealerships to take advantage of that can create more robust consumer interest. With people shopping online or making purchase decisions about their future automobile before even getting to a dealership, it is essential to increase consideration for the brand. Experiential marketing can do that for your dealership.

What is Experiential?
When done correctly, experiential marketing is the positive, interactive experience between a brand and the consumer. Experiential offers consumers the ability to experience a brand prior to purchase. It is one of the strongest, truly trackable methodologies a business has to work with, but it is also one of the least understood. Too often confused with the single-tactical tool of event marketing, experiential marketing is sometimes thought of as merely tents, giveaways and handouts. That’s an unfortunate misconception, costing businesses like dealerships the opportunity to connect with consumers. Experiential introduces brands to their customers in an emotional and personal way.

Why Experiential Works
Visiting a dealership does not rank overly high on the preferred to-do list of potential customers. So, your marketing efforts need to bring what is best about your brand to the customer outside showroom walls to the places where would-be buyers go in their everyday lives. In the import-rich Washington, D.C., metro area, Chevy dealers hosted over 350 turnkey events to show the Chevrolet brand is more innovative and forward-thinking than many may have previously thought.

With a Cruze onsite, the D.C.-area Chevrolet Local Marketing Association (LMA) can be found intercepting people on their way for a bagel or latte. In a non-intrusive approach, people are asked to learn more about the Cruze, and in exchange for their time, they receive items like free gift cards.

Marketing efforts should start by ensuring that the brand is placed on a customer’s consideration menu. By bringing vehicles to would-be customers in unique, unexpected locations, allowing them to discover the vehicles themselves, your dealership can pique positive interest. Once they have a positive perception about the brand, it is the dealership’s job to bring the customer back to the lot where they can interact with staff and test-drive a vehicle.

Nielsen recently conducted a report on consumer trust level based on the medium through which they were receiving the message. Ninety-two percent of consumers said that word-of-mouth (WOM) reviews from friends are the most trusted form of communication. Seventy percent of consumers trust third-party online consumer reviews, proving that social media recommendations/reviews are extremely valuable. Compare this to television advertisements, down to a modest 47 percent.

With so much emphasis on WOM, referrals and social media, it’s clear that the best way to obtain a new customer is through existing customers. Today, more than ever, amplifying a purchaser’s good feelings about a brand or dealership is essential to growing business. Where a customer once only told a handful of family and friends about their experience, they can now post their thoughts on social media, reaching their personal networks and the networks of friends who engage with the post.

The D.C.-area Chevrolet LMA hosts parties at restaurants for new Cruze owners and 20 of their friends. The goal is to get people talking about the Cruze. The fun party photos have been shared with more than 120,000 of the owners’ friends on Facebook.
Build the Relationship
Experiential marketing is all about relationships and how they extend out pre-sale, during the sale, and the all-important post-sale service. It can focus on individual interests, individual care and individual selling, yet it also opens the floodgates for the masses to be involved. Few other disciplines offer such customized one-on-one interaction, especially when utilizing buzz-generating technology and social media.

Vol. 9, Issue 5