Pick Your Lane & Drive More Traffic

When it comes to developing a traffic-driving ad campaign, you must differentiate yourself from your competitors.  You must pick a lane, preferably one that is not occupied by someone else.

While there are many lanes to choose from and ways to add distinction between you and your competitors, consumers often see three lanes:  The top, middle and bottom.

Top level companies are those who offer exceptional products, services and unprecedented customer satisfaction.  Nordstrom immediately comes to mind.  Bottom level companies are those who offer their goods and services cheaper than anyone else.  Think Wal-Mart.

The middle is where most companies reside.  Products and services are of comparable quality, customer service is acceptable and competitive pricing is loudly proclaimed.

In his book, “Selling the Invisible,” Harry Beckwith calls the middle lane dangerous and possible fatal to long term viability if you can’t distinguish yourself.  Unless you create a brand awareness that sets your apart, consumers have no more reason to choose you than they do your competitor.  This holds true for new car, used car and tire dealerships alike.

There are ways to set yourself apart and distinguish yourself from your competitors.  Consider Target as an example.  Their business model is very similar Wal-Mart yet they present themselves in a very different light.

A few years ago, Target ran a campaign “Brand New Day” and inspired people to have fun while saving money.  It tied in perfectly to their overall positioning of “Expect More, Pay Less at Target”.  You can buy the same stuff at Wal-Mart, Costco or any number of other discounters, but you’ll have a lot more fun shopping at Target.

Finding that unique position that will set you apart from your competition is hard work.  You need to be honest with yourself when assessing how good you really are at whatever it is you think you’re good at.  You’ll also need to commit yourself and your staff to this position.

Before you call your friendly media sales rep and buy a single ad, spend time picking your lane and developing your message.  Consumers don’t care how many ads you run, they only care about how your goods and services will benefit them.

Here are four steps that will help you pick your lane and create a unique message:

(1): Decide which niche or service you are capable of fulfilling.  What are you really good at?  What product line or service can you provide and be the very best at?

Analyze if this market is important to consumers.  You may be the best widget maker on the planet, but if no one wants your widgets, you’re wasting your time and money.

(2):  Demonstrate your superior position from the executional, operational and marketing standpoint.

Pretend you want to be the truck-king.  You might need to offer, stock and display more trucks than anyone else.  You’ll also have to provide faster delivery than anyone else.  Your advertising strategy will need a budget large enough to cut through the clutter and cause consumers to take note.  You can’t just say it; you have to prove it.

(3):  If you can’t find a unique position, attack a larger players’ strength.

Why attack their strength?  Because attacking a weaker area impresses no one.  If you do this, be ready to go the distance.  Larger players are bigger for a reason.  Be prepared to strike harder with each response the king makes.

Sticking to the truck-king example:  If the king claims the largest selection and showcases 15 trucks inside the showroom;  you should show 30.   If the king offers next-day prep & delivery; you should provide same day.

As a smaller dealership, take full advantage of being able to act quickly.  The current king is probably bigger, more bureaucratic and slower to respond.

(4): Put together a quick-response marketing team that will build an on-going assault.   Empower your team with the ability to make quick decisions.  Make your smallness and quick response time your competitive advantage.

Car and tire dealerships navigating the middle lane can reach new customers by doing things better.  More than anything, realize you cannot be all things to all people.  Your long-term viability as a company depends upon you choosing your own lane.

Ronald A. Heider is a 25+ year veteran of the advertising community and owner of HMA – Heider Marketing & Advertising, a Hampton Roads based agency that serves automotive marketers exclusively.  Heider can be reached at www.hmaads.com or via email at rheider@hmaads.com.