Advertising is one area in which dealers continue to get into hot water. Every dealer wants a competitive edge in the market, but offering unrealistic deals to attract customers can cause extensive monetary and legal troubles for a dealership. The key to effective advertising is to know your customers, and to offer realistic but tempting deals to get them onto your lot.

The things that worked in advertising 50 years ago continue to work today. Despite the changing of times and the onset of technology, people still react the same way to effective advertising. And with so few well-done dealer ads out there, an effective one will really stand out.

Creating the Right Image

When writing any type of advertisement, dealers should keep in mind two things:

1. Most people don’t make a buying decision based on logic; they buy based on their emotions.

2. People don’t want to feel like they’re being coerced or pushed into anything; they want to feel like they arrived at a buying decision completely of their own free will.

The second consideration is more difficult to accomplish than it sounds. There’s a very fine line between making customers believe they came to a decision on their own versus making them feel pressured to make a purchase. To achieve successful sales, you must learn that distinction and master the art of vehicle selection and re-selection.

What a dealer is doing with advertisements is creating an image that is desirable to consumers. Remember, a vehicle says a lot about a personality. Even though people need reliable transportation, they want image. Looking good and feeling good are important emotional draws when writing effective sales material in the car business.

Using the Right Formula

Writing an effective advertisement is actually quite simple. If you consistently apply the basic fundamentals outlined here, you will see your traffic count rise and hear your phone ring more often.


To be successful, write every single ad using the AIDA formula (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action):

ATTENTION: The very first thing your ad must do is get your prospects’ attention. The best way to achieve that is with an effective headline that answers the question: “What’s in it for me?” That’s all your prospects really care about.

What makes the title of this article an effective headline? First of all, I answered the “What’s in it for me?” question. Secondly, the headline made you read this article. And that is the whole point! You want your prospects to read your ads.

INTEREST: After you get your prospects’ attention, you want to get them interested in your dealership, your vehicles and your sales program. You do that by immediately telling them what your headline promises. Don’t waste their time with a bunch of fluff and garbage. Get to the point! Tell them what they want to know, starting with the very first word. If you keep them interested, they’ll keep reading and start building a desire to learn more about you.

Be careful to stay away from the gimmick perception. You can do this by using simple parameters that let the prospects qualify themselves. This will bring credibility to your offer. If you claim that everyone qualifies for a loan, regardless of their credit, it will come across as a gimmick and not believable. Too many car dealers overpromise and under deliver.

DESIRE: You have to make your prospects desire more information about your dealership and want your vehicles. The way to do that is with benefits. It’s all about image. Now that doesn’t mean listing options like power windows, power locks, tilt and cruise control. Those features don’t mean a thing to the customer and do not build desire. Instead, use powerful image words to describe the vehicles, such as “cobalt blue clearcoat finish” instead of “dark blue.” Describe the image of the driver instead of the options. For example, use “perfect for today’s busy family” for a mini-van, or “slide into the cockpit of this incredible machine, built for performance” for a sports car.

The No. 1 fear for customers who buy vehicles is getting a bad deal. Realize this and do everything you can to build value in your image and reputation. This alleviates fear and increases desire. Remember to keep telling them what your headline promised and push their emotional hot buttons. Let them imagine what they stand to lose if they don’t purchase. Use emotional impact words or power words, such as “new,” “save,” “amazing,” “free,” “guaranteed,” “security,” “no-risk,” “look younger,” “feel better,” “absolutely,” “just in,” and “enormous.”

ACTION: You want to close your ad with a call to action. In other words, ask customers to do something like “Call Today,” “Visit our Website,” “Apply now for your instant approval,” or “Don’t waste another minute!”

Follow this formula faithfully and it will not let you down.

The fuel that ignites an effective ad is the message contained in it. This message must get through to your prospects. Effective ads capture a prospect’s attention among the competition and create a desire for your product that leads prospects to act and become new customers.

Tom Herald is a professional consultant and national trainer with Benjamin Herald Associates. He has more than 20 years of experience in the automobile business and 10 years as a dealer principal. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at (859) 816-7990.

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