Say Yes to the Plan, or Plan to Fail

Say Yes to the Plan, or Plan to Fail

The most successful dealers are partnering with specialized companies, and this doesn’t have to take as much of your time as you think. 

In 2020, the world and the car business got turned upside down. In 2021, the landscape changed again as we dealt with too much inventory at the beginning of the year and not enough by the end. Then 2022 was one big inventory shortage, and while most of the year was easy profit, we forgot how to sell cars. 

For the last three years, the only constant has been change, and we’re all ready for a more predictable year in 2023. Unfortunately, that’s just not in the cards. This year will be another challenging one, with fresh and different hurdles than the ones we faced in 2020, 2021 or 2022. Do you have a specific plan for navigating them?

The Landscape

This year is shaping up to give us a couple more rate hikes, at least a mild recession in the first half and definitely continuing issues with the supply chain. Whatever brand you sell, wherever you’re located, this year will be another frustrating one. Yet, you look around, and in 2022, I’m sure you noticed a dealer in your 20 Group or a dealer in your area who just seems to keep on winning more than everyone else. How are they managing that?

They did it by executing on a plan, but moreover, they did it by trusting dedicated employees and vendors who can craft and stick to a plan. I see too many GMs and dealer principals trying to dictate every step of the play when they — you — are best served to define the goals and the broad strokes. This is what you’re good at! At the same time, I’ve watched a rapid increase in the number of dealers whose vendors keep asking them, “What would you like to do this month?” Huh?? You pay the vendor to have the answers, and this is a symptom of bloated vendors hiring anyone who can fog a mirror. It’s only getting worse. 

Try, Fail, Repeat

How many plans or solutions have you tried since Covid started? A dozen? Two dozen? Digital retailing blew up in 2020 on the promise of penciling or even desking deals remotely. Some have stuck around, but all of them fell short of the promise. Chat tools, trade tools, radio, OTT, paid search, social media… You’ve tried it all, and few, if any, have really shown through as effective, sustainable solutions. If it sounds like I know a weird amount about your situation, it’s because you’re far from the only one in this boat.

So now it’s 2023, and you’re working on your next set of things to try. Maybe you saw something shiny at NADA, or maybe you’re carrying over solutions from 2022. Probably a combination of both. One thing we’ve noticed for sure is that dealers are in the thick of adapting to the 2023 sales landscape and have quickly stopped working on a complete plan for the year. I get that those new and significantly different solutions seem like they take too much time to put in place, but this is exactly the thinking that stopped you from being the envy of your 20 Group or your PMA in 2022. It’s time for something substantively different, and it doesn’t need to be hard if you focus on quality.

The Plan

Planning for success this year should have the same underpinnings as a plan for success in any year. The difference is that you need to change where you’re sourcing the plan. It starts with someone who knows what they’re doing and requires a focus on steady, consistent growth rather than quick fixes to yesterday’s problem. The “someone” (probably more than one of them) can be a marketing director at your store or group, or it may be an expert vendor that’s focused on your success more than their own.

If you already have a talented marketing director, give them more decision-making power. With or without a great marketing personality at your store or group, it’s near impossible for them to execute on every marketing specialty alone. This is where specialized vendors come into play. Specialized means they’re focused, not a one-stop shop, and if they’re OEM approved, it’s a cookie-cutter solution. The most successful dealers are partnering with specialized companies, and this doesn’t have to take as much of your time as you think. 

Ask how their service will translate to success over the course of 2023 and specifically ask how that will play out in cars sold and increased market share. The answers should be straightforward, and the services shouldn’t look like the rest. 

Ultimately the person or vendor you entrust should be focused on tangible results, and they should also be capable of crafting the play and running the play on their own, with little input from you. Stop hiring one-stop shops, OEM solutions and shiny things, thinking you will succeed. It’s time to put more trust in capable hands, with a marketing director and quality specialist vendors, so they can do the real thing in 2023. Do a little homework, invest in a solution with a plan and grow your market share in 2023 while freeing up time to focus on running the dealership.

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