Couple in car dealership looking at brochure with salesman

Dealership Marketing 101

Everyone who has a television or radio and doesn’t skip commercials has, at some point in his life, undoubtedly heard or seen a commercial for a car dealership. Some are understated, some are clever, some are self-effacing, some are boisterous. But all exist for one reason: to get you to buy a vehicle. This inundation of advertising is not just restricted to Ford, GMC or Buick dealerships, in can be local dealerships and anyplace that generally wants to make money on selling you a vehicle. Companies large and small, in every corner of the retail and wholesale markets spend trillions of dollars every year in the hopes of convincing you to buy their products. They have several ways of doing it. The best and most clever get awards for it. So, why is it that sometimes car dealerships seem to have the most annoying ads? We pass by them every day. We know where they are. If you spend enough time in your own car listening to the radio or listening to the radio in your office or workplace, you’ve probably had a dealership’s jingle stuck in your head at some point.

We are well aware of their existence. Why do we feel overwhelmed by their need to incessantly advertise on radio and television? The answer is quite simple. Cars and trucks are rather large purchases. A new car or truck is an investment worth quite a bit of money to the average American, significantly more so than daily purchases. Local dealerships know this. Detroit’s major automakers know this. They all know that when it comes time to make this purchase, they want you to be able to recall a name, a brand, a catchphrase, maybe even that jingle.

Automobiles are becoming more and more necessary for the working class. As this country expands within itself, commutes get longer and longer. Public transportation is not available everywhere. Towns are getting bigger and becoming cities faster than the infrastructure can support. Reliable transportation is becoming more important than ever.

Of course, everyone in the automotive industry, from Detroit’s Big Three to Dave’s Discount Drives, knows the value of getting from point A to point B. So, they fill ad space with a million reasons to come buy their cars. Honestly, they’re not wrong. And they know it.

What the average consumer doesn’t realize is just how important car dealerships are to the industry. They are the grocery store of vehicle manufacturing. However, unlike grocery stores, the sales and support staff must be very educated on the products they sell. They can’t just say “Buick Encore? That’s aisle 21, next to the avocados.”

Modern vehicles are intricate pieces of engineering that require a great deal of intimate knowledge. A salesman at a dealership, whether a mega-chain or a mom-and-pop outfit, must know everything down to the minor details. If they don’t know it, they’d better have a quick way of finding it out.

This is what these men and women get paid to do. The vast majority of the car-buying public doesn’t know what these people train to know. They may do their homework on a particular model or two, but these trained professionals know the ins and outs of dozens of different cars and trucks. And it is people like these, trained, courteous and friendly, that make a car-buying experience. If it were not for these men and women, who help guide the buyer through a vehicle from grill to license plate, there would probably be millions of dissatisfied car drivers in this country.

Then, there is the finance department. Financing any large purchase is an incredibly arduous process. Unless you walk around with tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket, you are going to need someone to walk you through this process. Much like the sales staff, these people know the ins and outs of the finance process. They know how to help you find the right options for your budget, your credit and your needs.

For one thing, financiers at car dealerships have gotten an unfair and misrepresented reputation from television and movies. Far too often, these people (and salesmen) are portrayed as unscrupulous shysters who will rip off the car buyer at any given opportunity. While there are some less than ethical people out there, the vast majority want to get you into a new vehicle. Their jobs are to get you into a new vehicle now and later on when it’s time for another car purchase. They rely on the positive testimonial of happy customers, because selling more cars keeps them in business. If they were really as bad as pop culture would have you believe they wouldn’t have those jobs for long. Not to mention, they would never have repeat business.

Online tutorials are fine for some people. Some people have the gift of understanding numbers and can plan a large purchase just through the help of a computer. For the rest of us, and I do mean “us”, we need a person to help guide us. We need a person that can go over every option and every scenario of purchasing such a large investment.

These finance professionals bring an invaluable asset to the car-buying process. What gaps you don’t know, they will fill in. And, more than likely, what you don’t know is comparatively larger than what you do know when talking to a sales professional. It is easy to look up the specs of a brand new Buick Encore and memorize the fuel economy, MSRP and whether or not the gas tank is on the right or left. There is so much more that goes into the buying/leasing aspect that the average consumer does not know. If you don’t know what you are doing when financing a vehicle, you may very likely put yourself in a difficult financial position down the road.

Detail of an auto mechanic at work on a car in garage

It is very much the same with parts and service. As we said before, modern vehicles are very intricate pieces of machinery, with some of the most progressive engineering on the planet. The service professionals on these vehicles, particularly those less than ten years old, must know very advanced machinery for a variety of makes and models. Part of the advent of modern automotive technology is the available safety, entertainment and information features in the interior. If these were to ever malfunction, most people without knowledge of the inner workings of this automation would not know how to repair it. This is just another dimension of what service professionals need to be able to provide.

We put the safety of ourselves and our families in these very capable, very well-educated hands. It takes a special mind to understand the complex workings of a car engine. Not all of us possess that left-brain dexterity. And if you think messing up your financing was bad, trying to fix your car without knowing what you’re doing is worse. You may not only injure yourself, but you may also ruin your car AND your investment.

In short, we do need these dealerships. These smart, dedicated men and women know things about this critical purchase that most of us do not. Most of us do not know the details of any one step of the car-buying process, much less have a deep understanding of all three.

Annoying as some of their ads and jingles may be, they are just as vital to a car owner as a grocery store is to a grocery buyer. Perhaps even more so. I don’t know anyone who can grow a Buick dealership in his vegetable garden.