Photo by Wandering Magpie via Flickr

Photo by Wandering Magpie via Flickr

If you are a dealer, I am pretty sure you have heard about the need to offer a unique value proposition. But not all value propositions are created equal. I see many dealership value propositions that some could say are tried and true, yet others might say they are beaten to death.

Phrases like “low price leader” or “best prices, guaranteed” may describe what your dealership offers, but most car shoppers are probably skeptical of these claims because so many dealers make them.

So how do you come up with a value proposition that really resonates with car shoppers? First, understand what a value proposition is. A value proposition answers the following questions:

  • How does your product or service solve a customer’s problem?
  • Why should a car shopper buy from your dealership rather than your competitor?
  • What does your dealership do better than any other dealership in the area?

Once you have these questions answered, follow these steps to come up with your own unique value proposition.

1. Research the Competition.

Depending on the size of your market, list your top five to 10 competitors. You should be able to find their value propositions on their websites. Keep in mind that a value proposition is not the same as a slogan or tagline underneath a logo.

One example, I pulled up on a random Toyota dealership’s home page that actually displays this question: “Why shop with us?” The answer, in a nutshell, is because they provide “an exceptional vehicle shopping experience throughout the entire process ... We are committed to providing a comfortable, hassle-free and no-pressure experience.”

That is a pretty compelling value proposition. Just make sure that, if you choose to go this route, you deliver on the promise. If a car buyer shows up at your dealership expecting a hassle-free experience and then is immediately accosted by an aggressive salesperson who follows them around the whole time, that customer will not be happy.

Once you have listed all your competitions’ value propositions, review them to see which value propositions you find catchy and which ones are “blah.” Finally, don’t be tempted to copy. You want your value proposition to be unique.

2. Define Customer Problems.

Who knows your customers best? Hopefully, your salespeople! As part of the qualification process, sales reps are trained to ask car shoppers if there are any problems or obstacles they’re dealing with. Sit down with your best salespeople and ask the following:

  • Think of the easiest deals you have closed lately. What message or offer did the customer respond to?
  • Think of recent deals that didn’t close. What problem is the customer having?
  • Is there a common problem that a lot of your customers mention?

Next, interview your dealership’s last five to 10 lost prospects. Send a quick email and ask them to spend a few minutes of their time to help you understand why they made a decision to purchase elsewhere. If they are reluctant, offer a $20 gift card.

Once you’ve got them on the phone, the goal is to understand what problems these people were looking to solve, what drove their decision, who was involved in their buying process, and what was the main dealbreaker.

Next, do the same thing with the last five to 10 customers you won. Ask the same questions.

At the end of this process, you should have a pretty good list of your customers’ problems and “wants.” Are there one to three items that were mentioned by all your interviewees, including salespeople, lost prospects and recently won customers?

Your list might look something like this:

  • Affordability: Customers cannot afford a big down payment or want low monthly payments.
  • Size: Customers want a vehicle with a lot of space for their kids, dogs and gear.
  • Trust: Customers are skeptical of dealership claims or afraid of being taken advantage of.

Now it’s time to come up with a compelling message that solves their problems.

3. Create Your Value Proposition.

Don’t just tell your customer that you will solve their problem. Tell them how you will solve their problem. Here are a few statements that address the problems listed above:

  • We aren’t satisfied until you get the monthly payment you’re looking for.
  • No down payment? No problem! Our low-interest financing makes affordability a breeze.
  • We stock the largest selection of large SUVs and trucks!
  • Our family knows that your family needs room to expand, so we stock vehicles with loads of cargo space.
  • We know that trust is earned; give us a chance to earn yours.
  • We train our employees to honor promises to our customers the same way they would to their families and friends.

Now, build your value propositions using the following framework. First, come up with a headline that states the most important problem that your customers have. The headline should be short and direct.

Next, write a paragraph to accompany the headline that includes the following elements:

“For car shoppers who are (list problem or problems), we offer a (tell them how you will solve the problem). Our (solution) is better than any other dealership in the area because (tell them what only your dealership can offer).”

List an additional three benefits that your customers will receive if they buy from you. If a prospect is leaning your way, these benefits will help to reinforce their decision.

Select or choose a visual to accompany your value proposition. Visuals amplify the power of every message. A video that features your dealership’s general manager or spokesperson talking about your value proposition is even better. If you go the video route, include a couple of customer testimonials.

You may want to create a separate value proposition for your sales and service departments. Your customers will likely have different problems related to each.

At the end of the day, you should have a killer value proposition that you can post on your website home page, use in email marketing and other advertising campaigns. Don’t forget to share with your salespeople and encourage them to use the messaging with customers. They should be able to provide you with immediate feedback as to whether it’s working or not. The nice thing is, a value proposition is not written in stone and can be modified based on market conditions and other factors as needed.

Bill Wittenmyer is a partner with ELEAD1ONE and a 20-year automotive industry veteran with expertise in sales, marketing, OEM relationships and large-client accounts.