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Get Into the Mind of a small to midsize car dealer in the USA

Put yourself in the shoes of a local automotive dealer. Chances are, this GM is also handling the marketing, or has the final say in the marketing. Chances are this GM is approached multiple times per week with people trying to sell them something or trying to tell them what they are currently spending isn’t working. All the while, he is making car deals, answering salespeople’s questions, valuing trades, and putting out fires with a customer in the service department that needs to “talk to a manager”.

So how do you sell to someone who has 10 other jobs and 20 other people telling him what he “needs to be doing” for his marketing?


  1. Don’t overcomplicate the sale. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

  2. Don’t go in thinking you will get a sizable portion of their marketing budget day 1. EARN that budget. Better yet, if you can swing it, give them unsold space (yes, you read that right, give them space for FREE). I bet it would be the first time they have been offered advertising for free. It doesn’t have to be much. Even a few thousand plays. They will remember it and they will remember you.

  3. NEVER trash talk other advertising mediums to sell your product or to prove a point. Always stick to your product and why you think it would be HELPFUL to the dealer. This dealer maybe has some personal ties to his radio rep and that’s why he buys it. Or maybe he truly feels like his radio ads work well for him. He made that choice and no one likes to be told they’ve made a bad choice.

  4. Attribution is based on so much more than technical capabilities, targeting, and reporting. You may not know that Mike is their top salesman month after month, but the GM knows this. Imagine that you come in to visit that dealer and say, “you can attribute the sale of this vehicle and this vehicle and that vehicle to the ads you are running with us…..” and the GM knows that Mike sold each of those. Was it Mike, the top salesman selling them? Or his monthly ad spend with you? Maybe a combination of both…. But be mindful of that.

  5. Their biggest margins are on used vehicles, specifically fresh trades. This can be difficult to navigate for marketing dollars because car dealers want to promote used but get CO-OP dollars on new. Make a thoughtful plan for handling that for them.

  6. Don’t forget about the body shop and service dept. These are often overlooked when pitching marketing options to the dealer but these are also money makers for the dealership.


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