One well-kept secret of this industry is that Radio Ink is not the only magazine I write for. Though I write for other magazines I own, I also write for one magazine I do not own. I write marketing columns for Dealer magazine, which goes to most of the car dealers in America.

I began my relationship with this publication when I encountered Jim Ziglar while waiting for my luggage in the lobby of our Roy Williams show in Atlantic City. Ziglar is the top sales consultant for the car-dealer industry, and he is Dealer magazine’s top writer. As we chatted, I told him that automotive advertising is radio’s biggest local advertising category and that, though dealers and dealer groups spend a lot of money, most are doing it wrong. I explained that they could be getting more sales and more customers with the money they spend — and that got his attention. Next thing I knew, I was a columnist for that publication.

Car buyers fall into one of two categories: relational (those who relate to or look for something that satisfies a need or dream) or transactional (those who look for best price and check out multiple dealers). Though there are more transactional buyers, relational buyers pay higher prices. Therefore, dealers who focus on relational business make higher profits and get the lion’s share of business.

Unfortunately, only a few dealers in America understand this concept and practice it. For instance, the biggest BMW dealer in the world is in Los Angeles. It’s not the biggest just because it’s in Los Angeles (which has many dealers); it’s the biggest because it is focused on relationships, instead of transactions. You won’t hear screaming car ads shouting prices and deals. Instead, you hear relationship building.

When people in L.A. are in the market for a luxury car or specifically a BMW, they always go to this dealer first, because they are focused on an experience that satisfies their needs or dreams, rather than on price. Though this is an over-simplification of a complex selling situation, dealers who follow this practice will outsell those who shout and scream about price. Transactional buyers are harder to get and harder to sell, and they are less desirable to a business. I am able to show dealers how to increase their business dramatically by simply altering their focus.

We’ve all heard Detroit Radio Advertising Group President/COO Bill Burton’s line: “A car is a radio with four wheels.” In today’s environment, the match between cars and radio is growing. Traffic in most metropolitan areas has exploded almost exponentially over the last 10 years, and the trend promises to continue. Time spent in the car is increasing, which means that radio listening in cars will also increase. Is it any wonder that car dealerships are radio’s biggest spenders? They know that, when people need a new car, the dealership can talk to them while they are still driving the old car. Radio and car dealers match perfectly.

This issue of Radio Ink is a first — it’s intended not only as information for you, our readers, but also as a piece that you can hand to a local car dealer to inform him or her about radio. We’ve highlighted some of Detroit’s biggest automotive players who are big fans of radio. We hope you enjoy it.

3/22/04 Radio Ink Magazine. By B. Eric Rhoads