Whatever Happened to Promotion?


Cars.com recently published their Guide To The 4Ps of Automotive Marketing with product, price, place, and person representing four primary pillars of successful auto dealer marketing. In times past, the last P would be “Promotion,” however the inclusion of “Person,” and the remaining 4 Ps still addresses the significance of advancement for dealers and their staff.

A lot has changed with the auto-buying journey that ends on the dealer’s lot. There was a time when motivating shoppers to visit the lot meant saturating the media with “look at me” promotion. Advertising still matters. But today, dealerships are beginning to understand that promotion needs to be an element of product, price, place, and person. And the nature of promotion is changing to focus more on providing meaningful content that meets the needs of research-savvy consumers. 

Three primary factors have influenced the traditionally held beliefs about promotion:

  •    The need for transparency: Consumers live in a world where they can access housing prices and mortgage estimates on their smartphones from companies like Zillow or Realtor.com, and check their stock investments at any time of day with E*TRADE. Information that was difficult to acquire is now readily available in the palm of their hands. In the car buying process, customers are looking to have as much access to a car’s history, pricing, and the overall F&I process before they arrive at the dealership.

  •    The influence of third-party content: According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 50 percent of adults under the age of 50 consult online reviews before purchasing an item. Consumers compare prices, product characteristics, and the experience of others when deciding to buy. This statistic directly translates to the automobile purchasing experience. Many times, consumers know what they want by the time they walk on the lot because of the significant amount of information they have consulted before arriving.

  •    The importance of trust: Consumers feel more comfortable purchasing items from people they feel familiar with. Purchasing a vehicle can be a significant life decision for a car buyer, and knowing a bit about the person that is guiding them through the car buying process can make the process a lot smoother. Regardless of how much information customers can gather on the dealership, car, and F&I process, the ultimate decision will occur with a sales representative at the dealership. A study by North American Hutrust, an employee engagement, and leadership consulting firm, found that 83 percent of consumers recommended companies they trusted to others. Therefore, it is essential for dealership staff to bridge the trust gap with car buyers.

The Importance of Providing Tools to Aid Employee Development

Dealers are becoming keen on these factors and providing more tools for salespeople to be in the driver’s seat regarding their development and the ability to optimize all 4 Ps for dealerships. Promotion is alive. Dealers are now figuring out a way to think about promotion differently with the needs of the customer in mind.

Creating connections between salespeople and consumers – whether it be through Vehicle Detail Pages (VDPs) or review platforms inspires trust. Car shoppers get to know prospective salespeople before they arrive at the dealership, a practice that not only potentially increases the performance and likelihood of a sell for staff, but it also dramatically improves utility. Additionally, this also empowers a dealer’s salesforce and can lead to improved employee retention.

Utility and Promotion Go Hand-In-Hand

Savvy dealers realize that utility and promotion go hand-in-hand, and goes right back to the 4Ps. Transparent pricing tools that acknowledge any consumer budget, highly engaging and relatable VDPs that provide reviews and profiles of salespeople increases consumer trust. An excellent and transparent dealership experience and trained and highly informed staff benefits the dealership and makes promotion a viable next step for employees who excel. If the 4Ps are the standard for the dealership team, then advancement will always be on the table.