Finish the Year Strong: Brilliant Ideas & Best Practices

By Desiree Homer

As you head into the fourth quarter, surely you have your eye on year-end objectives. Perhaps the year so far has been stellar, but you know the last leg will still be challenging. Here’s some ideas and suggestions – from the practical to the marketing savvy – for closing out 2019 in a positive direction.

Keep the Batteries Charged
Yes, having good coffee is important for both employees and customers, but sometimes new vehicles need some charging too.

One November morning, I had a nice couple out on the lot to test drive a new car. Nothing kills impulse faster than turning the key and hearing that ‘tick, tick, tick’. Fortunately, they were kind and understanding. Of course when I returned with the jump pack and popped the hood, we were all surprised to see a giant rabbit huddled next to the engine. The lot was surrounded by cornfields and the potential for warm engines presented a haven for wildlife. (We would sometimes have to replace chewed wires too.) Our trick for keeping them away was to disburse ears of field corn away from the vehicles and property.

If you anticipate freezing temperatures or inclement weather this fall and winter, your new cars might need a jump too. Consider having your sales teams regularly start your cars, used and new, to recharge.

Another option would be to avoid hiking your customers through the snow and cold to look at a vehicle. Instead, consider designating a clean service bay for indoor viewing. Call it your Test Drive Valet Service. Decorate accordingly and promote it to remind buyers they can shop for vehicles sheltered from the elements.

Embrace the Holiday Spirit
It’s essential to keep your lot tidy year-round. But, as the holiday shopping crowds begin to venture to the dealerships, it is even more imperative. Keep your sidewalks and pathways free of leaves and debris. Be mindful, too of smoking areas and keep them free of littering cigarette butts. Ultimately, your lot is your opportunity to make a good first impression. You may have an influx of first-time visitors who will decide whether or not they come in based on the ease of access and cleanliness of your lot.

Decorating for the holidays is always a great idea too. Avoid clutter or generic decor, but have fun with seasonal warm wishes, signage, and displays. Your potential customers are in the holiday spirit and will feel more at ease if they feel you’re sharing in the seasonal festivities.

Everyone loves the idea of creating the new car surprise with the giant bow on the hood. Having them in place on the showroom floor is a great way to visualize that for your customer. It’s also a subconscious way to convince your potential buyers that a new car for Christmas is a brilliant idea.

You don’t have to overindulge when offering freebies, but it is the holiday season after all. Your customers will have shopping lists of their own. They may choose to come to your dealership over another simply to take advantage of the gift card you’re offering. Consider smaller token gifts for test-drives and tablets or electronics upon purchase. 

Create Events
‘Tis the season of giving and your dealership can take advantage of charity-driven marketing efforts. For example, you could create a test-driving event. Invite the public to your dealership to try out one of your newest models. Agree to donate a dollar amount based on each test drive to a local charity or cause. You can promote the event with traditional advertising locally, via social media, and even invite local media to share the story or broadcast live. It’s optimum exposure for your dealership in terms of brand recognition. It can also bring crowds of new-to-you customers.

Consider hosting a drawing for a large, substantial item. Having a television giveaway, for example, can be a great way to get folks in your dealership. Enter them with test drives. Create a live video of the drawing to promote on social media.

kari shea VfWkdMue5Jc unsplash 1 | Finish the Year Strong: Brilliant Ideas & Best Practices
Photo by Kari Shea

Align your dealership with local events and sponsorships this holiday season. Offer to be a toy drop off point for a toy drive. Partner with neighboring businesses to volunteer at a local shelter. Doing the good deeds this time of year and properly marketing those efforts can increase brand awareness and promote your social responsibility as an organization.

Getting Folks in the Door
You can’t be open all the time. But during the holidays, extending hours for sales or service can mean being available for one more deal or a few more service appointments. 

Now is an excellent time of year to reach out to former customers. You can initiate calls and emails thanking them for their past purchases. Perhaps offer loyalty incentives and perks to prompt them to return and trade up before the end of the year.

If you have past customers, or maybe relationships with former ‘tire-kickers’ and ‘be-back bus’ riders, now is an ideal time to reach out. A call to check in and verify they’re still driving their old vehicles – along with an offer to get them back to the dealership – can be the personal touch needed to increase sales. It’s a numbers game. So while your sales staff may each make ten calls, only a handful will respond. But not making those calls at all means zero extra sales too.

Generating revenue for the dealership isn’t all about vehicle sales. Consider promoting seasonal maintenance reminders and offers. Consumers can be prompted for new tires before winter, or routine tune-ups and oil changes.

It’s Not Just A Sale; It’s A Car Buying Experience
When solidifying your advertising strategies this fall and winter, know the numbers and incentives are important. However, your specific dealership’s car-buying experience is what will make the difference. Tell a story. Feature testimonials and positive reviews. Be inviting and friendly at every level of engagement. Connecting with people means convincing them they’re not a number or a sale. They are dealership friends and worthy of a seamless purchasing experience.

You may have a posting schedule and strategic efforts in place for your dealership’s social media. To help drive additional audience engagement, don’t be afraid to post more frequently and to incorporate as many images and videos as possible. You can post about new 2020 arrivals. Show the vehicles down to the rims and handles. Share pictures of a dealership company party or holiday festivities. The additional volume will help demonstrate your enthusiasm for the seasons and ultimately will increase your reach and frequency.

Sometimes customers make purchasing decisions based on emotional engagement. Consider structuring your holiday marketing efforts in a way that taps into the five senses. Promote the feel of a leather heated seat. Mention the new car smell as an inviting lure. Engage enthusiasts by reminding them of the sound of a heavy-duty diesel revving. By promoting the sensory connection with a new or new-to-them, vehicle, you’re aligning with your customers’ emotional buying triggers. You’re also enforcing your car buying experience and not just a transaction.

The public is trained to assume that only the best financing is available at the end of the month or year. Don’t disappoint them. Be sure to connect with your lenders and outline any incentives that might be worth promoting.

Much like financing incentives, your manufacturers may also have year-end perks and deals. Don’t presume your customers know about them all. Use all of your marketing channels to advertise time-sensitive deals.

Smiling Salesman | Finish the Year Strong: Brilliant Ideas & Best PracticesCelebrate Your Staff
Consider promoting your current staff as an added layer of marketing. Celebrate milestones among your sales, service, and finance teams. Maybe share a spotlight employee of the week and offer introductions. You can use your social media or local advertising venues. Each member of your staff has a following of their own with personal and professional connections. By highlighting your appreciation for their work and loyalty, you’re boosting internal morale. You’re also branding your dealership and inviting those new-to-you connections to stop in.

To make sure you hit your year-end goals as a dealership, everyone needs to know how you’re pacing now. Collaborate with all your teams. Share the data and analytics with them as well. Inspire a team effort to end the year strong and share your vision with everyone.

Incentivize your sales teams and maybe implement spiffs and contests designed to help them reach their personal goals along with your dealership’s goals. You can offer monetary bonuses or create a healthy mix of items, surprise gift-wrapped presents, or gift cards as well. Have a refresher conversation with them to reinforce car sales best practices. Get them excited about bringing in customers in 4Q.

Tap into some of these suggestions to ensure you’re on track to finish the year strong. Make 2019 your best yet!