Through a vision of commitment to their team, a strategized marketing plan and a deep focus on data, Lithia Hyundai of Reno unveiled an innovative plan to profitability.
Dylan Clunie had some work to do when he stepped into the role of general manager of Lithia Hyundai of Reno in Nevada in 2009. In the aftermath of the economic downturn, the store was running on a skeleton staff, selling about 35 cars a month. “When I came in, my No. 1 objective was to start hiring people,” Clunie said. “Instead of bringing more customers in, we focused on building a team.” The next step was to increase inventory and establish processes to turn the dealership around and get back into the black. “The dealership really looked like it was going to be closing in a few months,” said Clunie.
TURNING THINGS AROUND
Starting in the auto sales business in 1996, Clunie worked his way up in sales from closer to new car manager to general sales manager and finally to general manager. His familiarity with
the different functions of a dealership served him well as he restructured and expanded the business. Under his leadership, he was able to put together an “A” team and restore Lithia Hyundai of Reno to profitability, turning the focus to the service department and establishing a business development center (BDC).
“When I came in, the store was losing about $500,000 a year,” Clunie said. After the first year of his leadership, the store broke even. The next year, the dealership was in the black $600,000 and has climbed ever since, selling an average of 160 cars per month in 2016 and earning around $2 million a year. Still, Clunie doesn’t want to rest on past successes. “There’s still work to do,” he said, “and opportunities for growth we need to take advantage of.”
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Once the fundamentals of the dealership were in place, Clunie shifted his focus to overhauling the store’s marketing strategy. Over the last two years, Lithia Hyundai of Reno has completely revised its marketing efforts. “Most of what we do is digital advertising centered around the BDC,” Clunie said. “We really don’t do any newspaper or television advertising.” Clunie knows that future success is based on present action. Honing in on the dealership’s BDC and focusing on customer retention through impactful marketing and service is key.
“The market has been really hot for the past couple of years, but now there’s talk about it plateauing,” he said. “That was inevitable, really; people aren’t going to buy cars at record numbers endlessly.” Growing the business requires harnessing the opportunities that the service department brings in, both for keeping the customer active in the dealership and bringing in future sales opportunities. “Most of the emails we do, even for sales, will have a service message included on them,” Clunie said.
“The service advertising budget isn’t as big as sales, but they do get that extra boost. It’s important to have a service message on everything you do.” Lithia Hyundai of Reno has also had great success with selling directly out of the service department. “We have a dedicated staff for equity mining and do a lot of sales out of service — about 30 to 35 deals a month,” Clunie said. “Some of these might have been deals for us in the future, but a lot of them would have gone somewhere else if we weren’t working them. There’s no better time to talk to someone than when they’re already here at the car lot.”
To have an effective marketing program, Clunie knows that it is crucial to understand your audience. Marketing to the correct consumers in the proper manner can make or break your marketing strategy. Hyundai and the Lithia family always had a great relationship with AutoPoint’s Red Rocket program — until they began to notice that the provided data was extremely outdated. Clunie discovered they were marketing to people who had traded their car two and sometimes three times already, and in some cases, customers who no longer lived in the market. These were not active customers at all and the data Lithia Hyundai of Reno was using was completely inaccurate.
The search was on to find a marketing vendor who could provide innovative solutions to reach their customers and complemented Lithia’s culture. Clunie and his team decided that Team Velocity Marketing was the strategic partner that fit best. “The proof is in the results,” he said. “We are way ahead because Team Velocity Marketing showed us how important and necessary it is to have good, pure, accurate data. It allowed us to clean up our active customer base, and identify lost customers and start to remarket to those people as well.”
To build for the future, Clunie and his team needed to determine why customers defected from Lithia’s sales and service departments in the past. “Did they leave because of a bad experience? Did their warranty run out? Were they receiving old information? Finding the right strategic partner who can help us figure out why a customer is no longer servicing with the dealership is a very important piece of this puzzle. We rely on having the most up-todate information and data to help move the dealership forward,” Clunie said.
“It is an honor to work with the team at Lithia Hyundai of Reno. Dylan Clunie and his team have not only implemented our data cleansing technology and marketing recommendations but have also taken the work upon themselves to install best practices in the dealership, ultimately taking their store to the next level,” said Justin Byrd, president of Team Velocity Marketing.
Together, Lithia Hyundai of Reno and Team Velocity drove down on the data, removed the outdated information, and started to push forward. Once the data was clean and accurate, they were able to implement a highly targeted digital marketing plan. “Team Velocity has allowed us to reach the customer with a consistent message that is clear cut and to the point,” Clunie said. What makes Team Velocity’s data so unique is their Upgrade Matrix Technology™. With this technology, Lithia Hyundai of Reno is able to create customized marketing messages based on consumer behavior and car-buying patterns. This type of targeted marketing is allowing Lithia Hyundai of Reno to grow. In fact, Clune and his team stand out from the competition in the geographically isolated area of Reno. They rise above and think about the future growth.
KEEPING UP WITH THE FUTURE
Lithia Hyundai of Reno strives to be amongst the most progressive of dealerships. Knowing that sales both locally and nationwide might start to slow, being on the cutting edge will to be key in future years. “Technologically, wewant to be on top of the game,” Clunie said. “Some of the competition is still in the darkages. You have to be on top of these things, and look at where the market is headed and the technology involved in getting there. You have to do it yourself or bring in a partner with the expertise to help take your dealership to the next level.”
To learn more about Lithia Hyundai of Reno and the strategies outlined in this article email: [email protected]