Here at Two Rivers Marketing, we work with a lot of dealers and distributors throughout North America who sell and service the products our clients make. When it comes to dealer marketing efforts, we’ve seen a lot of seasoned pros building solid plans that not only help them sell products but also build brand affinity and loyalty in the process.
On the flip side, we also know that some dealer marketers are either new to their job or could simply use some tips to get the process going. These seven steps are designed to help ensure you’re on the right track to building a winning marketing plan.
1. Plan early
Any time is a good time to plan, but start in early fall for the coming year if your company conducts annual planning. This allows time in Q4 for plan refinements, final buy-in from leadership, and initial tactical executions. That will help you get ready by January, even with end-of-year holidays and vacation time. For a typical calendar year, set a goal to have your marketing plan approved by the first week in December. If your fiscal year begins and ends outside of that, try to have your plan approved a month or two prior to the end of your fiscal year.
2. Notify and involve key stakeholders
Gather objectives from the different divisions of your company that you’ll need to include in your planning process. Do the companies whose products your dealership sells have particular models or services they want to promote? What are the sales team’s objectives? Are there other dealer initiatives to consider? Do you have any personal goals that you should factor in?
Understanding your key stakeholders’ objectives and priorities will help you build a solid foundation for your plan.
3. Define your budget
Some companies set their marketing budgets based on the prior year’s sales numbers, while others set them based on the dollars spent in the current year's marketing activities. Either is a great place to start. Once you have a baseline, it's a good practice to adjust your budget based on what's working well or any updates to your sales and marketing goals.
Ask the companies you sell for if you can get co-op dollars added to your budget to address any of their specific objectives. Co-op dollars are a great way to expand your marketing budget and extend your reach in the marketplace. Dealers that actively use their co-op dollars often get bonus points for being engaged and proactive partners.
4. Prioritize key objectives
Be sure your internal stakeholders are included in a marketing planning meeting to talk through your gathered objectives and help determine priorities. Marketing objectives should be based on your overall business objectives.
In this process, objectives get moved up and down. If someone’s objectives are moved to the bottom, don’t think of it as ignoring any one department. You’re simply determining which objectives are top priorities, which ones are secondary, and so on. This will ultimately help you determine the level of effort for each or which ones to put on hold to align with your budget.
5. Brainstorm tactics and/or campaigns to build a formal plan
With your objectives prioritized, determine how many you think you can realistically achieve with the budget. Then identify a channel marketing strategy with tactics you can execute to reach them. You can make the process a bit easier if you first allocate money from the budget to each of your objectives. From there, determine if any are mandatory. These could include designing a website landing page, developing a sales brochure, promoting a new dealer location, launching a new product, or creating graphics for an upcoming trade show. Deduct any must-haves from your budget first and then allocate dollars to other tactics.
In this step, you’ll also want to set key performance indicators (or KPIs) to measure performance over time for each objective. How will you measure success? How will you know you’ve reached your objectives? Establishing KPIs is an important step in marketing planning. Check out these ideas and metrics to increase your dealer marketing success.
Tip: In this step of the process, keep both your budget and available staffing resources in mind. Do you have an adequate team to execute this? Does your company offer marketing support (e.g., co-op dollars, marketing packages, agency support) for your objectives? It’s always good to ask your company what support they can offer you to help make the execution process easier. For example, this dealer marketing planning guide is a tool that can help get you started.
6. Get final buy-in
Regroup with your initial kickoff team to review the plan you’ve put together. You’ll want to restate the prioritized objectives, then talk through how you plan to achieve them with your marketing tactics. This is the time to refine and get final approval of your plan so you can start executing your first tactics.
7. Execute, measure, and optimize
Begin working on the tactics with the earliest due dates. Again, keep in mind that your company may have resources to help you complete some of these tactics faster.
Set milestones at least quarterly. Obtain key metrics so you can adjust and optimize your tactics and/or messaging throughout the year to improve performance. If any of the priorities change, be sure to take that into consideration for your marketing plan as well. A marketing plan is really never set in stone — you should expect to revise and enhance it throughout the year.
We know dealer marketers wear a lot of hats. Setting up a solid plan at the beginning of the year should decrease the amount of time you spend on marketing throughout the year. The work up front will be worth it.
While these steps are high level, they can help set you on the right path. One of the most challenging parts of the process can be determining which tactics are ideal to reach certain objectives. That’s where your company and agency partners, like Two Rivers Marketing, can assist. Contact us to learn more.