How to Give Your Dealership an End of the Year Marketing Boost


On today’s show, we’re pleased to welcome back Eric Mercado, President of WeDrive Automotive, a progressive automotive marketing company headquartered right here in Atlanta, CBT’s hometown. We talk to Eric today about how to close out the year strong. We’re now in the fourth quarter of 2020, and some dealers are hitting high fives and congratulating themselves on a great year while others might be trying to pick up the pace a little bit and close the year out strong. What should dealers be focused on? What should they be checking out? How do you hold your vendors accountable to make sure they’re doing their job? Find out now.


Jim Fitzpatrick: And so Eric, thank you so much for joining us on CBT News.

Eric Mercado: Thanks for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, and great. So last time that you were in, we got a lot of great positive comments about what you had pushed out there and the content that you brought to the table for dealers. So let’s talk about as we close the year out, we’re going into December now. This is late November that we’re shooting this. From your perspective, I know you work with hundreds of dealers all over the country, right? In fact, outside of the country in Canada and such.

Eric Mercado: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Talk to us about what’s working, what’s not, what dealers should focus on in their marketing area for the last six weeks or so of 2019.

Eric Mercado: So what we’re finding is the majority of the accounts that we are talking to that are still planning, it’s incremental. They’re trying to figure out how do I get an incremental lift for December. Maybe I’m behind pace on this unit goal for the year. If I hit this, I may have some kind of rebate. There’s some kind of incentive that they’re trying to hit. Some of them just say, “Hey listen, I had a marketing budget. I’m trying to make sure I meet that expectation.” So for the most part, December’s already planned. But if you’re looking for an incremental lift, there’s a lot of different things you can play off of and take advantage of.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, sure. That’s right. If a dealer is listening to you speak right now and they are a little bit behind for the year or for the month, is it something that takes 30 days or are you pretty nimble? Can you say, “Look, I’ll give you 10 grand now. Eric, how fast can we be in front of a consumer?”

Eric Mercado: Forty eight hours.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Really?

Eric Mercado: Yeah, and I’m not overshooting, right? So we’re not just talking the tangible mail, email. We can run through compliance with an OEM or a co-op and compliance with an OEM in 24 hours. We can get creative approved, coded HTML, fire ready, responsive and in inboxes in 48 hours. We have a BDC center in our building here in Atlanta with 15 experts that literally can start reaching out to a specific hit list of prospects and scheduling appointments for you. We have the ability to get Facebook ads live in 48 hours with co-op and compliance approval. We’re working with some of the largest organizations nationwide, so we have to have that kind of turn time, right? Because we do get a lot of those calls that say, “Listen, I need something still for November and it’s November 20th.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: I think a lot of dealers think in terms of, “I probably already missed it. Let’s start talking about January or February because my agency or our vendor’s going to need that four week period of time to get it compliant, design it, lay it out, make sure it’s got the different programs in there that the OEM’s putting out.” You know what I mean?

Eric Mercado: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: But 48 hours is incredible.

Eric Mercado: Yeah. I mean, the good news is we have 350 different campaigns we’ve already done that are proven. They’re kind of built out, they’re creatively aligned, and really it’s kind of plug and play, right? It’s identify the audience, identify the campaign for the timeline, send it to print, let it rock.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. One of those things that you mentioned is mail. Mail is still alive and well. I just picked up my mail.

Eric Mercado: Yeah. It’s fully revived. It’s not your grandma’s mail. I mean, we’re not doing mail like we used to where it’s like send it to everybody in this 10 mile radius and see what happens, right. We’re laser focused on this thing. It’s shooting a sniper rifle versus a shotgun. We’re not trying to hit everybody.

Jim Fitzpatrick: For the most part are you using dealers’ data that they give you or are you providing them with data that says these people have a propensity to buy a car in the next 30 days? Or how is that working?

Eric Mercado: I’m so glad you asked that question. It’s both. It’s all. Really, a dealer comes to us and says, “Here’s my goal. I need 25 new units, Highlanders. I have 40 Highlanders in my inventory right now. I can’t sell them.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: Why you got to hate on Toyota? I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

Eric Mercado: I’m using it because it’s a real reference I just got from a Toyota client of mine who said, “Dude. Look at my inventory. I have 38 Highlanders I got to sell.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. I’ve been there myself.

Eric Mercado: We have a $3000 incentive on Highlanders right now and I can’t give these things away. So can we put together a campaign? So yeah, there’s a way we can do that. Let’s look in your database and identify Highlander owners that are three years outside of doing any business with you, and let’s see if we can reactivate those customers. And then let’s go and see if we have captive Highlander owners in the market, in your PMA zips, that we can get and get them to upgrade, maybe lower their payment, better rates.

Eric Mercado: And then let’s find online Highlander opt in emails of customers that are exhibiting intent for SUVs or imports or even Toyota as a brand, and just get them to the dealership and let your team kind of do what they do.

Eric Mercado: So yes, the answer is we do database when it comes to retention, reactivation, re-acquisition, but we can also give new acquisition right, and we can do that through customers exhibiting intent online or through customers that have vehicles registered to their address that meet the need of what your top trades might be or your captive owners.

Eric Mercado: So yes and yes, and a majority of our clients are actually doing hybrid campaigns. They’re not just saying, “Hey, I want to do my database.” They’re going, “Listen, look at the next three months for me. Look at my database. Look at my perspective market. Identify how many people in my database are in trade cycle. Identify how many leases are coming to term. Identify how many service customers have never purchased with me there are. How many people have purchased with me but never serviced there?” And then design campaigns that speak to those people based off of exactly which audience they fall into. And then on top of that, mimic it from a conquest perspective in the same zip codes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So you guys are doing all this behind the scenes, because everything you just rattled off, if I’m a GM and I’m listening to this, I’m like, “Yeah, okay. I’m keeping up with half of it.” You know what I mean? But for the most part, I want to know that the vendor is taking care of all that so that it’s a set it and forget it.

Eric Mercado: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: If you give me a dollar number each month and go, “Here’s what we need for you to spend in order for this thing to have its greatest impact,” and I don’t have to revisit this thing every week. Right?

Eric Mercado: Yeah. No.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You got it from there.

Eric Mercado: So just to give you some insight, you referenced hundreds of dealers that we work with. We have dozens of those hundreds of dealers that have already committed to all of 2020. They’ve said, “Listen, that plan’s great. The data’s there. You’ve shown me how you’ve mapped it out. I know which campaigns are going to hit, when they’re going to hit, what my expectations are and now that they’ve treated it like any other medium. The problem with our industry is it goes in… it sways back and forth, and really a lot of it’s dictated by the factory. I think you would agree, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh yeah.

Eric Mercado: Toyota comes down and says, “Hey. You need to spend more on digital, more on digital, more on digital, more on digital, more on digital.” Digital, as somebody who’s sold digital for 13 years, I still believe it’s important and impactful, and it’s still part of a lot of what we do, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, of course.

Eric Mercado: A lot of our campaigns integrate with social media, YouTube.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You want to be there when they pick up the phone and go, okay, I’m setting out to buy a car. Boom. It’s got to be there.

Eric Mercado: Exactly. But just like any other product or any other channel, the cost actually goes up as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, of course.

Eric Mercado: And you start to get somewhat of a diminished return. And a lot of the problems that you’ll see right now are dealers are starting to recognize that, but they still look at direct marketing or email marketing as campaign or transactional versus it should be just part of your regular budget. If you have a $60,000 budget, why would you treat something that’s tangible, fully measurable, and provides a fully integrated response to your CRM, your DMS, where you can go back and say, “I spent X and I got Y,” why would you treat that any differently?

Eric Mercado: In fact, it should just be a part of your budget every month and ebb and flow with your budget increases or decreases.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Eric Mercado: When intent’s higher, spend a little bit more. Capture more intent.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure.

Eric Mercado: We’re going into a year where everything’s going to be more expensive for dealers and I don’t want to scare them.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

Eric Mercado: But you have political campaigns.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh yeah, for sure. That’s a game changer out there.

Eric Mercado: Your cable just went up.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Eric Mercado: You’re going to get bumped. You know it, right. You’ve been in the business.

Jim Fitzpatrick: There’s no question about it.

Eric Mercado: And then on top of that-

Jim Fitzpatrick: The local TV channels, everybody’s going up.

Eric Mercado: Yeah. You have an Olympic year.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, there you go.

Eric Mercado: Yeah. That’s another one that’s going to hit you. And by the way, they’re doing the same things we’re doing. They’ve gone from traditional TV to digital. So they’re spending more now on social media, and Trump won his whole campaign on Twitter, right? They’re spending more now on social media, more now on connected TV and over the top TV, more now on streaming audio than they’ve ever spent before. So those lifts are going to somewhat bring up the costs online. So you have to kind of be smart, play a strategic game.

Eric Mercado: Now go offline. How do I create demand by targeting those people, and then push them into my digital funnel? So when they’re searching, they’re searching for me. We all know how that works. Once they go to the website, immediately you’ve caught that attention, now you can retarget that customer and push them down to funnel from consideration to ready to buy overnight almost.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, for sure.

Eric Mercado: With the technology and the data that we have. But a lot of it’s about how do you go create demand. If you have a plan to have a 2020 year be a growth year for your business, you have to create demand.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Eric Mercado: You can’t sit back on your heels and wait for people to find you, because that cost of doing business is going to go up online.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, I was just thinking if I’m a Highlander owner right now, and I have a three year old Highlander. But I don’t know about this $3000, obviously back to the dealer on this or that there’s a big push from Toyota to get rid of Highlanders that are sitting on lots across America. But all of a sudden an offer comes across from my local Toyota dealer that says, “Hey, did you know that you could get into a brand new one for the same price?”

Eric Mercado: Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Whatever the case might be. Whatever the offer is, I’m going to listen to that. I’m going to look at that offer. You know what I mean? I’m not necessarily in the market for one until an offer like that puts me in the market for one, right.

Eric Mercado: So some of my sales team, my greener sales team, they’ll come to me and say, “Hey man, I had this conversation with this guy and he said I don’t really even pay attention to direct mail.” And I said, “What’d you say back?” He’s, “Oh, well. I told him, well listen, these are the results we’re getting with other clients in similar markets to you, similar franchises, similar inventory sets, right. Here’s our average use case for these products. Well, I still just don’t know. I don’t personally…” Okay, until you need it. That’s the difference. Because at the same time you’re not paying attention to that, your wife is packing away Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons for when she needs it. And that comes in the form of direct marketing.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You guys handle some of the biggest auto groups in the country, which is very impressive.

Eric Mercado: We do.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And they wouldn’t be coming to you unless of course you’re not going to cover off the ball.

Eric Mercado: Yeah, of course. And it’s been a great 2019, we’re looking forward to a great 2020. The commitments we’ve already received from dozens of our accounts for 2020 game plans is exciting. It’s refreshing. It’s also something that I would encourage, whether it be with a company like WeDrive or whether it be with any other omni channel marketing partners that you have, that you have your 2020 game plan ironed out with that channel, with that channel provider. You know why? Because churn in our industry is churn in our industry, right. Churn in every industry is there, but our industry is a little bit higher.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Our industry is a little bit unique.

Eric Mercado: Yeah. So you’d referenced earlier my commitment to the rep and my friendships and this and that. Well, your rep might not be there in three months.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, that’s true too.

Eric Mercado: So who’s picking up your account with that provider is not going to have the institutional knowledge of your relationship that says, “Hey-“.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And I think when you’re with a partner like WeDrive, what you get is that first of all you get the automotive background, because you guys know automotive and you have for years. But you also get… the dealer is able to hold you accountable and you’re okay with that. A lot of vendors out there, dealers will tell us I’ve got a terrible vendor, I’ve been to a number of vendors. When you do that, you’re hitting the restart button all over again. Right, Mr. Dealer? And you know what I’m talking about. Every person that comes in, we have the answer, we have the answer, we have the answer.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I think what’s cool about WeDrive is the fact that your dealers and your clients have been with you for a long period of time. The only reason they are is because you’re getting the job done. As you know, dealers are, “Oh, didn’t work. Get them out of here.”

Eric Mercado: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I was that way when I was a dealer. So I think it’s a testament to the job that you guys are doing.

Eric Mercado: Yeah. And like I said, it’s been refreshing to see the amount of commitments we’ve received for 2020 to say, “Listen, you’ve been a good vendor this year, you’ve done a great job. We either hit goal or we’re up a tremendous amount in profitability and we can measure the ROI. It’s been fantastic and we’re looking at it from a 2020 frame, right, and you’re in the budget for X every month. It’s going to go up with your recommendations.” Or a lot of even more refreshing is, “Hey, come to me with a 2020 game plan and let’s make sure that we’re capitalizing on intent around the Memorial Days, the Labor Days, the Black Friday’s, the year ends, and we’re picking it up just like any other channel.”

Eric Mercado: You know, it’s a different day. Things are going to change. We’re getting more leases back into the market than we’ve ever gotten before. Dealers are selling more used cars and profitability is at an all time high. The cost of a new car has gone up.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Eric Mercado: What is it, $32,000 now?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thirty seven thousand.

Eric Mercado: Costs after… $37,000 for a new car.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thirty seven thousand, right.

Eric Mercado: So now dealers are making more profitability on bigger cars selling less, right? So for me it’s all those things factored in with the cost of certain mediums going up. Make sure you have to be really strategic in 2020 to succeed and to get your fair share, or more than your fair share, which is every dealer’s goal is to grow, right.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Eric Mercado: No one comes into next year, and if they do in the automotive industry, probably wouldn’t be around very long, and say, “Hey man. I just want to do what I did last year.” Right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s exactly right.

Eric Mercado: No one. I’ve never had a dealer say that. So as long as that’s the narrative, I think we’ll be okay.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. Well thanks for coming in. You heard it right from the man that knows, Mr. Eric Mercado, president of WeDrive Automotive. And Eric, if anybody wants to give you a call, just give you a shout and you’ll take a look at their marketing plan for 2020.

Eric Mercado: Yeah. If you’re looking for a no obligation.

Jim Fitzpatrick: No obligation, right, I was going to say.

Eric Mercado: A no obligation consultation, we are wide open.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You really mean that? Can a dealer really call you or are you going to hound them?

Eric Mercado: One hundred percent. You can put my cell phone on the number, I’m fine. You can call me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: There we go.

Eric Mercado: We’ll make sure you get taken care of. We always appreciate the platform. It’s great. As you receive some good feedback, I also always receive good feedback on this platform. I have had multiple dealers, “Hey man, your interview was great. I see things on LinkedIn and social media. Hey, that was cool man. Great content.” And I think that that’s a testament to what you’ve done here, so I appreciate the time.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well thank you. Thank you. We try hard.

Eric Mercado: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: All right folks. Thanks so much.

Eric Mercado: Take care.

CBT Automotive Network, the number one most-watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media production.