It's no secret that automobile dealers have made an enormous shift into online advertising in recent years, most notably through Google AdWords and Facebook.
But in Canada’s unique sales environment, where small towns can be geographically distant and cover a broad range of demographics, the key to a dealer’s success remains in knowing the local market.
While online advertising often delivers higher returns at a lower cost in urban settings, some small-town dealers report that maintaining a presence in traditional print and broadcast is still important for reaching their local communities.
“We’re still doing some print and some radio just to keep ourselves in the door,” says Mike Ball, General Manager of North Island Nissan in Campbell River, B.C., a small town on Vancouver Island.
Ball estimates that 60 per cent of his advertising budget is currently going online while roughly 30 per cent remains in print and 10 per cent in radio.
From the east coast, the picture paints similarly.
“We’re definitely spending the bulk of our money in radio and print,” says Todd Clements, General Manager at Cape Breton Hyundai in Sydney, Nova Scotia. “I think our customers largely look in the newspapers for our ads because they do mention it pretty often.”
Dylan Gage, General Sales Manager at Grande Prairie Mitsubishi in Northern Alberta, says that maintaining relationships in radio keeps the potential open for occasional remotes at his dealership, which helps to bring prospective buyers through his front door.
“Once a month or so we do that,” he explains. “It drives lots of attention.”
Dave Sambrook, Vice-President of Operations for Pfaff Automotive Partners, sees the situation from many sides in his role overseeing dealerships spanning mainstream and
ultra-luxury brands in urban and suburban areas across Southern Ontario.
He said that even within Pfaff’s sphere a variety of approaches are required.
“The only place we would do (traditional advertising) is in the outlying areas,” he says. “We have a Toyota dealership in Orangeville and we have an Audi and Volkswagen dealership in Newmarket. We would do a little bit of traditional advertising in those smaller communities.”
EVENTS TRANSLATE INTO SALES
On the other hand, high-end luxury buyers are a far-flung community unto themselves, and Sambrook says that Pfaff approaches them differently.
“We do a lot of events,” he explains. “If it’s a McLaren event or a Porsche event, we’re very conscious to make sure that it’s held at an appropriate venue that would be fitting for that type of clientele. Smaller, more focused events really seem to work well, where you invite your customers and then you tell your customers to bring one or two of their friends. It helps us get into that market because it’s a very hard group to tap into.
“If you have 100 people it becomes 100 customers with 100 prospects. That seems to be very effective,” said Sambrook.