Does Your Dealer Network Need to Gear Up Its Marketing Program?

The frank Agency Branding
Summer 2017

At the core of every relationship, whether personal or business, is the mutual benefit of those involved. We see this exemplified in the corporate world in the form of partnerships: two or more entities working together to the advantage of all.

corporate-brandAs a corporate brand, you’re in a unique position to develop and foster partnerships with your local dealers. They are the hands and feet of the brand – the ones keeping the inventory moving.

The dealer role is even more pivotal when you consider they are the representatives of your brand. They are the face that the consumer links, for better or worse, to the corporation.

Thus, when it comes to brand marketing, corporate needs to have a solid partnership with dealers to bridge the gap between brand consistent marketing and locally relevant messages. This balance can be hard to strike, which is why many national brands have implemented dealer marketing programs.

A Program for National and Local Alike

On the most basic level, a dealer marketing program is a support and resource system that gives dealers the means to develop impactful campaigns, while simultaneously promoting and preserving brand identity.

Let’s look at this in a bit more detail.

A corporate headquarters typically has a large marketing budget to work with. This enables them to invest in materials and content that are consistent with their brand. However, corporate can’t be in all places at once.
They don’t have feet on the ground in each local market to discover which promotions are needed and where, so they may not have a clear understanding of how to deliver messages that are relevant in each region.

On the other side of the coin, local dealerships don’t have the extensive marketing budgets that their headquarters does, which can prevent them from effectively penetrating their local market. Their keen understanding of what types of tactics are most useful in their area is a definite advantage, but the limitations of their marketing funds often hold them back from achieving the growth they desire.

A dealer marketing program solves both of these problems in one pass: it gives corporate a way to disseminate relevant material to its dealers that never conflicts with brand standards, and it provides local dealerships (especially those restricted by their budgets) the marketing tools and strategies they need to reach their targets.

The Fundamentals of a Successful Marketing Program

But how exactly does a marketing program perform all of these functions?

The ideal program will consist of a number of features that streamline the process for corporate and dealer alike.

These elements create a turnkey system that ensures you and your dealers get the most marketing mileage from your campaigns. To give a clearer picture, we’ll explore each feature in depth.

The Support

First, and perhaps most importantly, comes the support system. Your marketing program should come with a solid support system of dedicated representatives who will work one-on-one with dealers to help them put together campaigns.

Dealers should not be forced to split their attention between the day-to-day operations of the dealership and initiating marketing strategies. With a marketing program in place and support staff to assist them, dealers can discuss their needs with their account reps, who can then assist in actual campaign implementation. Support staff is also instrumental in helping dealers use the online platform that houses their marketing assets (more on that in the next point). With this type of ongoing assistance, dealers can focus more energy where it’s needed most, confident that their campaigns are being handled by experts.

The Platform

Think of all the marketing assets that your corporate headquarters has developed to keep the brand intact. Rather than disseminating each of these materials to your dealers one at a time, a marketing program offers an online platform to house all of your brand assets so that dealers have access to them on-demand, and can personalize them to fit their locale.

Within the platform, a digital library includes every type of marketing material that your dealers will need: digital assets such as emails, display ads, and social media content, along with traditional assets like direct mail, parts flyers, catalogs, and point-of- sale materials. This gives the dealers ready-made marketing that they can pull as they need it, without having to develop their own material from the ground up.

The Strategies

Even when dealers have access to support and marketing materials, they may not necessarily know how to take full advantage of these benefits. Thus, it is essential that a marketing program should feature detailed plan development.

When reps proactively develop strategies based on dealer input, they can eliminate much of the guesswork for dealers. Dealers generally know their long- and short-term marketing goals, but knowing how to achieve those goals is not always apparent. Team members with experience in marketing development are available to strategize and set up plans that will meet dealers’ expectations and pave the way for future campaigns – all of which will be specific to the dealers’ regions and points of need. This includes paying specific attention to digital channels and optimizing them for locally-driven campaigns.

Marketing is more complicated than ever, and dealers are bombarded with options for how to distribute their material. Paid and organic strategies, social media, and search engine optimization that focuses on local markets must all be seamlessly integrated and play off of one another to form a holistic campaign.


With a designated team to develop these channel strategies, the program becomes essentially turnkey for the dealer – and this ease of use translates into more frequent and efficient use.

The Supplemental Marketing

Once over-arching campaigns are set up, there’s still opportunity for supplemental marketing. Dealers can access their platform to create on-demand campaigns by choosing their marketing asset, having a rep personalize the material, and then sending the message to a designated list.

Dealers can also set up triggered marketing that automatically sends messages to current and potential customers. The dealer marketing platform regularly files through its database and segments out equipment or products that are ready for service, based on their maintenance schedule, age or last visit. If a dealer chooses to send triggered marketing, the program will prompt relevant offers to be sent to these customers or prospects. The end result is tailored messaging that improves the lifetime value of the customer by promoting regular scheduled maintenance – and the dealership sees a boost in their after-sales revenue and average customer pay.

This type of automation isn’t just useful for driving after-sales – it can also be used to assist in conquests. As the system collects info from other databases, it identifies opportunities in other equipment owners who may be ready to trade in their equipment or acquire more for their business. The marketing platform then sends a relevant discount or financing offer to draw these business owners in to the dealership, and the dealer then has the opportunity to convert a lead into a lifelong customer.

An Open Door to Growth and Profitability

You’re only as successful as your dealers. With a marketing program in place, each dealer receives equal opportunity for advancement, resulting in higher average customer pay and longer lifetime value. In turn, corporate sees a protected brand that is reinforced through each dealer and every marketing channel – and with more relevant, effective marketing comes greater return on investment. Your marketing program can be the unifying instrument that makes this mutual benefit possible – by forging solid partnerships with your local representatives, boosting profitability, and ensuring the future of your brand.

Collaborative Marketing Helps Boost Local Impact

Not every national brand employs a dealer marketing program. Those dealers that are flying solo can quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer cost of high-quality, high-impact marketing and settle for what they can afford. This shouldn’t be the case.

Rather than skimping on campaigns and running the risk of losing viable leads, one way to increase your marketing buying power is by combining forces with other local dealerships.

Though not commonly used within the dealership world, this model could be the key to solving small dealers’ marketing budget crunch.

Furthering Sales for All

As a dealer, your marketing is usually capped at what you can afford. Your first instinct in down times may be to slash the marketing budget in order to trim expenses. But this strategy will only set you back in the long run, as less marketing means lower visibility and fewer sales.

Instead, dealers within the same brand and geographic region (typically an area large enough to ensure there’s enough business to go around, yet small enough that the messaging is still relevant to each dealer’s area) should consider joining together and pooling a portion of their marketing funds. This combined fund can then go toward a common campaign to be decided upon by the whole group.

As a result, even during a severe sales slump, your marketing doesn’t take a hit – rather, the quality and impact are increased to drive sales for all dealers within the region.

Big-Picture Benefits

unlimited-resourceWhen using this method, a world of opportunities opens up. Perhaps the biggest advantage of a pooled fund is the ability to hire a professional marketing agency to handle your campaign.

Due to cost constraints, many dealerships partner with small agencies or even freelancers to work on their campaigns. But, when it comes to large-scale marketing operations, a highly experienced agency is better able to deliver the quality that’s called for.

According to Entrepreneur, quality in marketing conveys product quality. Your target audience notices, sometimes unconsciously, when an ad is poor quality, and they make judgments on your product accordingly. A sleek, well-produced TV spot is far more likely to bring in leads than a locally produced, yet obviously low-budget, campaign.

A pooled fund also means the opportunity to reach more of your local target audience. You can afford to send direct mail to a larger list. You can increase the reach and frequency of a TV ad. You can perform more advanced data analysis to find the most opportune areas for sales. The more marketing funds you have, the more potential you have to drive traffic and generate revenue.

One advantage to dealership collaboration is not just the sharing of funds, but of ideas. Fresh insight is a must for developing stand-out campaigns, and gathering perspectives from multiple dealers can enhance the creativity of your campaigns and help you anticipate potential snags before they arise.

Unlimited Opportunities with Limited Resources

Dealers, even within the same brand umbrella, tend to function in isolation. But when you’re all facing similar challenges, why not find a common solution? Starting a joint marketing fund with other regional dealers solves a universal problem, while still allowing each dealer to reap the benefits of a far-reaching, high-impact campaign. And, with boosted brand visibility for dealers and corporate alike, everyone wins.

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