Stuck In Traffic: Why Quick Fixes Are Stalling Your Store’s Growth in a Competitive Market

Stuck In Traffic: Why Quick Fixes Are Stalling Your Store’s Growth in a Competitive Market

Dealers should look closely at their long-term branding, tools and market share. They should be balancing short-term lead generation with long-term investment while, critically, avoiding shiny things.

Imagine you’re stuck in traffic on your way to something important. Maybe it is your kid’s game, date night with your spouse or an important financial meeting. Traffic has slowed way down, and you’re itching to get moving. You can feel your blood pressure is up, and if your lane comes to a dead stop one more time, you might just break the steering wheel off. Around you is a sea of cars, four lanes wide and a straight stretch two miles to the horizon. Relief is not yet in sight.

You’re eyeing the brake lights ahead of you with frustration when the lane to your right moves a bit, and a small gap opens up. You gun it and jump over a lane, getting you ahead of that slowpoke you’ve been stuck behind for the last 20 minutes. Then, seconds after changing lanes, your new lane predictably slows to a halt, and you watch the lane you just departed as it passes you by. You’ve lost 10 car lengths before you can merge back to the left, and you’re pissed at yourself for the lost ground. We’ve all been here. 

Decoding the Metaphor

This stretch of road is the next year or so of your market reality. Depending on your specific situation, the slowed traffic could be slowed sales volumes or decreased gross. The lane you pick is your decisions, from hiring and firing to process to website and tools to marketing solutions. The fact that the road is straight is the fact that you can see far ahead of this month to plan which lane you should be in. 

What am I getting at here? In automotive, we are back to a competitive, “pre-COVID” market state where many people shop, but sales are far from guaranteed. We’re jockeying for position, and getting ahead means more consumer eyeballs and more sales. Unfortunately, the vast majority of dealers are also falling into the trap of tailgating the car in front and only focusing on the cars and the gaps immediately around them.

Slow month? “Cut the marketing budget; it’s not working.” Another slow month? “We need leads; increase the budget.” Increase it where? “Anywhere that gets us leads now.” Many of us are reacting, not acting, with a long-term plan based on the information available to us. Worse, we’re making decisions with long-term impacts in reaction to the last 45 to 90 days of business.

Getting There Faster

Frantically changing lanes and varying speed is not the way to get where you’re going faster when things slow down. The most successful dealers in today’s market are the ones who have consistently taken stock of their surroundings and stuck with a long-term plan. Extending the metaphor, they’re looking two miles ahead and looking at which lane is moving most quickly. They’re also keeping their eyes far down the road, looking for strings of brake lights that might signal it’s time to think about a proactive lane change. What they’re not doing is looking for quick fixes in the form of open gaps around them.

Long-term plans can come in many forms. Investing in your people through training, a consistent process and a well-considered compensation plan are each part of a long-term plan. Investing in sales training is something that most of the stores we work with could benefit from right now. Adding a chat or digital retailing solution to your site? Does your team know how to use it? Do they even know what it looks like? Did they even know it exists? Modern methods for consumers to convert on your website are definitely part of a plan, but making it a smart long-term plan is integrating it into your store from top to bottom so customers have a smooth experience.

How about your marketing? Did you just crank up the Facebook budget or the Paid Search budget to buy your way out of a few slow months? Worse, did you just slash your budget and forego long-term market share? Dealers should look closely at their long-term branding, tools and market share, such as custom SEO. They should be balancing short-term lead generation with long-term investment while, critically, avoiding shiny things and abrupt lane changes. Vehicle demand is headed toward all-time highs in 2024, but customers are shopping more carefully now. You need to make a plan if you’re going to be ahead and in the correct lane when the traffic breaks or an exit ramp appears.

GPS not working? That’s OK. We offer no-obligation marketing consultation to any dealer principal, GM or CMO, and we can help look over your budget and determine where you have wasted and where your plan appears shortsighted. Reach out, and we’ll ask some questions and guide you to the lane that’s moving the fastest.

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