Cabo San Lucas is a sport fishing haven located at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. When I visited Los Cabos for a wedding this winter, I made sure to take part in a fishing expedition.
As we headed out early that morning, I sat with El Capitan and watched the crew busily prepare our fishing lines. It may have been cold and snowy back home in Boston, but it was warm and sunny on the Pacific. Work should have been the last thing on my mind – yet the more I watched the crew prepare, the more I thought about the similarities between sport fishing and retail automotive strategies. Auto shoppers aren’t fish, of course, but some parallels do exist.
Successful sport fishing depends on how you position your various baits. The goal is to emulate a school of fish. Rig your lines, with baits or lures, and then cast them to cover a wide area while keeping them staggered from one another. Their distance from the boat is important so they interact with the boat’s wake, which can be attractive to large game fish. The captain chooses a trolling speed to get all of the baits moving naturally together.
In auto sales, pricing is how you “bait” shoppers. Today’s buyers are better informed than ever: They spend hours researching and don’t like having to haggle on price. Retailers that understand this can attract more buyers by offering fair and transparent pricing upfront, which builds trust and reduces the need to haggle. If your store can demonstrate how your pricing stacks up in your market, you will “hook” more sales.
World-class fishermen often target big fish by initially using lighter tackle without hooks in the baits. Once fish surface and appear in your spread, they can be lured closer to the boat. New lines are then dropped with stronger gear, so the fish “switch” from pursuing teasers to hooked baits.
Dealerships can use multiple “baits” too, when they advertise with third-party sites. When you are having success with the audience at a specific website, go beyond your car listings and add display advertising or other forms of paid sponsorship. The goal is not only to get in front of more shoppers, but to stay in front of them throughout their multiple visits and hours of research. CarGurus.com shoppers return to the site an average of about eight times, and those that are targeted with display advertising are 70% more likely to convert.
Wouldn’t it be great if you hooked a 400-pound marlin on every trip? Unfortunately, that’s not how fishing works. You must be patient, trust the captain and crew, and keep your lines in the water. Remain positive and be ready. Your fish will strike soon.
Marketing cars on the web can feel similar: Sometimes shoppers just aren’t “biting” as much as you would like. You might start to doubt yourself or your pricing and advertising strategies. Relax. If your team has aligned to the ways that consumers actually behave in 2016, you can remain confident. Don’t make rash decisions or change course abruptly. Your “game fish” are in the water and they will bite soon.
Follow the Birds
When all else fails, you can resort to the oldest fishing advice: Watch birds overhead and follow them when they begin to congregate. Birds will flock when they see schools of fish. Follow those birds! It is one of the laziest but most effective ways to fish.
Auto dealers can follow the same advice with their marketing decisions. Are the sites where you list your inventory continuing to attract more visitors and grow? Focus your marketing dollars on sites that are seeing audiences “flock” to them.
Both fishing and sales operate within vast uncertainty, yet are surrounded by potential opportunity. Success in each discipline requires you to provide exactly what the targets want and then engage in a deliberate process that steers them toward a successful outcome. Whether you are more interested in catch rates or closing percentages, there are plenty of lessons to be learned.