NEW YORK — The ways of marketing to consumers today are vast and encompass a wide array of mediums from Internet to direct mailing to TV to radio and more. Not to mention the ever-growing need to reach out successfully to the Hispanic population.

Is there one successful method to encompass all these avenues? No. However, SubPrime Auto Finance News recently talked with several marketing executives to offer a bit of insight, or tricks of their trade.

Getting Wired

In today's society the need to have a Web site is paramount, with the majority of consumers owning a computer at home. As various studies and industry experts have reported over the years, when it comes to buying a vehicle, the Web is generally the first place consumers go for their research.

As for Latino Internet usage, it has easily tripled over the last two years, according to Efrain Morales, president of Larry John Wright Morales. His marketing firm boasts the tagline "We don't Just Translate. We are Hispanics Reaching Hispanics!"

"English or Spanish, a Web page has always been informative," Morales explained. "These days to be competitive, the Web page not only should be informative, but should sell at the same time."

Moreover, he pointed out, "The dealer that takes the time to translate, change offers and promotions on a specific site solely geared to the Hispanic population is ahead of the game."

Well, what if you have a good Web site but need to get it in front of potential local buyers?

For that, Modern Consumer's Allen Payne recommends Google. More specifically, to better get sites in front of consumers, dealers should turn to Google's AdWords.

"Google offers a service called AdWords, which allows the dealership to target their advertising to a certain population. This can be done by regions, cities or you can customize the targeted area by radius," he said.

"If you know what area you are specifically trying to target, you can market just to those customers to come into your dealership," Payne continued.

Multi-Mediums Galore

However, as important as the Internet may seem, other marketing avenues should not be left to fall by the wayside.

"All mediums, whether it is radio, television, print advertisements or mailings, bring their own risks," Payne explained. "The only way to know which medium works best for your dealership is to track each specific piece of advertisement to find out your return on investment."

This bodes true as well for Latino advertising.

"All advertising should base its foundation on television, combined with radio promotions," Morales suggested. "The message should promote the Web page, with mailers reinforcing ongoing promotions."

Don't be afraid you need to know everything about television to target a specific ethnic population of Latinos who are most common in your locale.

"When it comes to advertising on television in Spanish, all major networks have approached this issue and have overcome any challenge by combining entertaining programs that reach all these various ethnic groups," Morales explained.

"Univision is a good example of variety shows, like "Despierta America,' ‘Don Francisco Presenta,' ‘Telemundo's al Rojo Vivo' or ‘Laura en America.' Also, there is Azteca America ‘la Academia,' news magazine programs covering all cultures from Mexico, South and Central American countries, game shows, musical events that showcase regional Mexican music to the salsa and merengue performers," he said.

Radio, however, can be more targeted to a specific demographic, gender or ethnic group, he noted. So he recommended that dealers be aware of who radio stations and certain programs target.

The biggest point Morales stressed is to advertise in Spanish. While English television shows may be tempting, many Spanish channels will translate popular shows, such as "Desperate Housewives" ("Amas de Casa Desesperadas") or "Dancing with the Stars" ("Bailando por un Sueno").

"You may reach Hispanics through English, but it will not be the same quality reach," he said. "Commercials in Spanish are five times more effective in message comprehension and three times more persuasive, according to the Roslow study."

And above all, he said dealers should not categorize Latinos in common stereotypes.

"There is a myth about Hispanic consumers. Younger Hispanics, adults 18 to 49, are more educated in today's business corporations," Morales indicated. "Young Hispanics are also leaders. Some Hispanics are no different than blue collar consumers who do not have a perfect FICO scores."

About a year and a half ago it was popular to advertise the fact if a dealer had a relationship with a lender willing to finance a consumer without a FICO score. This trend is not so common today, Morales said.

Why? He explained, "Not having a FICO score or a non-traditional form of identification is subject to lenders' approval. A year and a half ago, secondary lenders were approving almost any person who could prove income. At that time it was popular to advertise to these prospective buyers."

However, with the credit market tightening up, this type of lender may be harder to find.

Modern Consumer's Payne cautioned that even if a dealer thinks he's found the best way to reach an audience, don't beat that drum too much.

"Just make sure that you do not overuse one medium because your customers might become immune to the advertisement and it will not work as effectively as it used to," he said.

"It is best to switch things up from time to time to attract your target market on different levels. Remember no matter what mediums you find work best for you, unless your sales team knows how to handle the customers when they walk through the door it was a waste of money," Payne continued.

Also, it is better to be safe than sorry. Modern Consumer recommends checking with your state's attorney general before running an advertisement to avoid "any legal hassle and have to pull the ad before you were able to attract consumers."

Community Connections

What if you're a small-town dealer or one located in a more rural community? In this case, local community involvement may be the best way to attract and retain customers, according to Robert Davies with Direct Marketing Associates.

"About 12 years ago, we began a relationship with a single-point Chevrolet franchise," he recalled. "This midsize dealer in a midsize town was looking to increase his sales volume through direct mail advertising. While composing the mailer, the dealer requested to have his logo on the outside of the envelope.

"We usually advise against this because if the dealership has a questionable reputation in the market, a mail recipient may discard the mailer prior to viewing the offer. However, in this case, the dealer was adamant so we proceeded and produced the desirable results," Davies remembered.

After a few months, Davies said he visited the store, arriving late in the evening and checking into a hotel. In the lobby, he said he noticed photos of the local youth baseball, football and basketball teams.

"Each of these teams had been sponsored by our client," he pointed out. "The next morning, as I ate at the local diner, I noticed the dealer logo on several other youth program photos. When I read the local morning paper, I must have seen the logo another dozen times.

"That morning, when I met our client face-to-face for the first time, I applauded him on his community involvement," Davies said. "He responded by saying, ‘Our dealership would not be here today without our community, and we owe it to them to be involved.'"

The dealer highlighted his formula for success:

—Sponsor as many youth programs as possible.

—Volunteer in the local community.

—Donate to local charities.

—Purchase goods and services for the dealership from local businesses.

—Treat every customer with dignity and respect.

—Provide customer loyalty programs like Tires for Service.

—Offer a lucrative bird dog program.

"To this day, we mail with his logo on the outside of the envelope, and I am convinced we could send an empty envelope with his logo and he would still sell cars," Davies highlighted.

Loyal Customers Equal Success 

All stores should have ways to gain their customers' loyalty to drive sales and word-of-mouth buyers.

"Striving to achieve a high level of customer loyalty should be at the forefront of all that you do as an organization," Christine Follett, of Direct Marketing Associates, stressed. "You are in the advantageous position of having a larger amount of customer information gathered at the time of initial purchase, use it.

"My suggestion would be to use this information to stay in front of the customer in the following ways. Mail ‘thank you' cards after purchase, free oil changes on birthdays, holiday greetings and satisfaction surveys, along with parts and services coupons," she noted.

A successful loyalty campaign ultimately leads to more sales. Not only from the customer the program is targeting, but that person's friends, families and coworkers.

"A loyal customer is much more likely to recommend your dealership, and we all know that there are few better prospects that that," Follett indicated. "Remember that although making the initial sale is very important, turning that client into a repeat buyer is critical to continued success."

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