Cars.com doesn't quite see itself as a dating site, but it is hoping to hook up dealers and consumers earlier in the buying process with a new print and digital effort.
In the first part of its "before it's too late" campaign, Cars.com and its agency gyro unveiled targeted print ads to inform dealers that they can show off their expertise and inventory right when consumers are beginning to research a potential buy. A larger marketing push is planned for the second half of this year, with digital and mobile ads, as well as more sales materials for dealers.
Print ads were launched in automotive trade publications last month. Cars.com also had gyro redesigned its dealer site http:// dealers.cars.com and is engaging dealers more on LinkedIn.
Cars.com Chief Marketing Officer Linda Bartman hopes the new effort will help change dealer marketing behavior, among other things. She claims there are approximately 33 million visitors per month to Cars.com and 90% are unsure of what to buy or where, yet dealers have not quite taken advantage.
"The way consumers buy cars has changed drastically and dealers don't really understand how to adapt to that as well. Despite the fact that the vast majority of shoppers are digital, dealers are still spending ad dollars in traditional media," said Ms. Bartman. "With 'before it's too late' we are trying to build some immediacy. [A dealer's] main job is just to sell cars, but marketing isn't something they spend a lot of time on. We're saying you are losing a big opportunity when you are not advertising digitally or using digital resources correctly."
She said Cars.com also wants to showcase to dealers its ability to track how consumers use mobile and how they search. The company has tools and data that can do that for dealers.
Cars.com became a gyro client last summer. The agency recognized that the company had engaged dealers with sales programs, but it could be doing more.
"Cars.com had been trying to sell leads to dealers, but digital has leveled that playing field so that by the time a lead exists the customer already knows all they need to know," said Doug Camp, executive creative director, gyro Chicago. "We are trying to get dealers way in front of that conversation and interact with the customer. Lots of dealers had inertia in how they were reaching out to their customers, part of our effort is to shift the mindset from just getting leads to a way that's more relevant to ways consumers are buying cars."