With five decades in the industry, it would be easy – tempting, even – for Dealer Principal David Kimmerle to implement his old ways from when he joined Sanderson Ford in 1961. Nothing could be further from Kimmerle’s reality.
“I don’t understand how, in this day and age, you can even think about doing things the old way,” Kimmerle said. Established by Don Sanderson in 1955, the dealership boasts two locations in Glendale, Arizona, just half an hour from Phoenix. Despite deep roots in the community, both stores continually strive to overcome unique challenges in the market.
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Within a 25-mile radius, Sanderson Ford faces stiff competition from 11 other Ford dealerships. “We’re a destination store,” Kimmerle said. “We’re not on the way to anywhere. We have to drive traffic and bring people in [to the dealership].” Aside from competing dealerships, Sanderson Ford is also the only Phoenix-area dealership closed one day a week. “’Never on Sunday’ has been our philosophy,” Kimmerle said.
Despite these challenges, Sanderson Ford continues to grow, consistently ranking among the top dealers in the region. How do they do it? Integrity and openness. “We are who we appear to be,” Kimmerle said. “We have a lot of great people who make up the nucleus of this company, and we have lot of longevity on our team. We also try to stay on top of all the latest trends, while staying true to who we are.”
Sanderson’s formula for success has garnered national recognition from Ford, earning them the President’s Award and the Triple Crown Award 15 times. Even more important to Kimmerle, however, is the way his dealership is viewed by its customers and community. “Our product is Ford; our business is people,” he said. “Our reviews are incredible, and our goal is to consistently respect our customers.”
While the basics of customer service remain consistent at Sanderson, the dealership is always on the forefront of new tools and technology to attract, sell, service and retain more customers at the dealership.
About four years ago, Sanderson partnered with Team Velocity Marketing™ to implement a progressive end-to-end marketing strategy with the power of the Apollo Technology Platform. Apollo® uses detailed data on Sanderson’s market to report on consumer buying trends and forecasts, generates dynamic, cross-media campaigns with payment-based offers and provides real-time reporting on marketing activity from a single dashboard.
“We were an early adopter of the Apollo platform,” said David Tedder, eCommerce director at Sanderson. “I can send emails [to my customers] with live-generated lease and payment offers based on the history of [the vehicles] an individual customer has been looking at on our Website. We can learn what [the customer] is trying to accomplish and deliver live quotes on every make and model in our inventory.”
Service is also part of the marketing efforts. “We also send [our customers] service coupons based on their needs, not ours,” Tedder said. “All these marketing initiatives manifest on our site as the Apollo platform.”
In addition to marketing to individual consumers through media such as email and direct mail, enabling the Apollo Platform® has boosted Sanderson’s digital presence. “The ability to generate compliant, payment-based ads on every vehicle in our inventory, not just our core vehicles, has opened up additional impression share unavailable with our previous vendor,” Tedder said. “Utilizing the Apollo landing pages, along with our main Website and the Ford Direct Website, we now cover searches on every vehicle we have in stock through paid search on Google and Bing. Since working with Team Velocity, we are capturing more than 50 percent of every Ford search in our market with payment-based ads that include all OEM and dealer Incentives.”
The Apollo Technology Platform has proven to be a success for Sanderson. “The greatest impact we’ve seen has been in the service department,” Tedder said. “We operate about 150 bays in service, and are running more than 3,000 ROs a month. Two thirds of that business is generated out of the Apollo platform, which we know because we see the coupons, the activity and the visitors here. We’re killing it. We’re happy.”
With Apollo®, Sanderson can track the effectiveness of each marketing campaign to understand which elements are performing best. “Email marketing is incredible,” Tedder said. “Looking at our November ROs, we matched 1,897 to our marketing. At about $350 each, the impact has been huge on the entire dealership.”
“The technology is just incredible,” Kimmerle said. “It’s amazing what you can do to make marketing more personal and yet not aggravate people; there’s a fine line there sometimes.”
Taking stock of the ways consumers have adopted new technology is a major focus of the dealership. “In the past five years, there has been a shift to a mobile environment, whether it’s a tablet or cell phone,” Tedder said. “We were ahead of the curve. Everything we have is mobile responsive.”
While testing the digital waters, the dealership found an interesting facet of mobile marketing.
“We recently switched our telephone number on our Google Maps page from one that rang straight though to our switchboard to a trackable 800 number,” Tedder said. “We didn’t anticipate a drastic change in call volume, but when we changed it, we went from 25 calls a day to 160 a day using the ‘click to call’ feature on Google. Everybody here was floored. If you don’t take advantage of dynamic call tracking, you’re missing a big part of your business.”
The team at Sanderson knows that, to connect with the community, they need to understand the community and how they buy cars. “You have to understand your customer base and where your opportunities lie,” said Mark Witthar, general manager of Sanderson. “We have a large Hispanic market here, 67 percent of which primarily use mobile to get online.”
With the Hispanic market on the rise, Sanderson has taken steps to make the car buying process as easy and comfortable as possible to better serve non-native English speakers. “We don’t just put ‘Se habla Español’ on our commercials,” Kimmerle said. “We have people in sales, service, parts and our other departments who can speak with customers in their native language.” According to Kimmerle, the dealership also strives to put female customers at ease. “We want to build relationships,” he said. “We want people to be comfortable here, and have a great experience.”
The dealership maintains its standing in the community by championing fundraisers and other projects aimed at helping children and military families in the Phoenix area. Sanderson recently donated a Roush Stage 3 Mustang to raise the funds needed to purchase prosthetic limbs and provide continued care for a local 7-year-old boy who was severely injured in a boating accident. “Our team raised $119,300 in three weeks,” Kimmerle said. The dealership has also partnered with a local television station for the past 15 years to promote “Operation Santa Claus,” which raises more than $1 million during the holidays for hundreds of needy families in the Phoenix area. “We have good people here,” Kimmerle said, “and I brag on them, because I’m proud of all of them.”
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
The future seems to be coming faster than ever before, and no one knows what the next “Big Tech” innovation will be, but Kimmerle knows that Sanderson Ford is prepared because of its team. “Surround yourself with savvy people,” he said. “It’s difficult to keep up with everything that goes on in our industry without people who care. Hire the right people and treat them right. Every time we decide to do something new here, we ask ‘Who’s going to be the champion of this?’ because it’s all about people. Everything we do is about building relationships.”
To learn more about Team Velocity Marketing and the strategies outlined in this article, email: email@example.com.
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