What Is the Modern Car Buyer Persona?

Written by Joe Glaser

November 30, 2019

There was a time in the car industry when selling a vehicle consisted of a discussion about features and benefits. Of course, a test drive was also part of the sales process. After completing these steps, you negotiated a price.

Those days are in the past.

Today, the modern car buyer is more sophisticated. Before they step foot on your lot, most buyers do hours of research to find the vehicle that fits their needs.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the modern car buyer persona. Once you have a thorough understanding of the buyer, you can target their buying points with ease.

1. What Is a Buyer Persona?

Decades ago, marketers used advertising as a way of canvassing the largest portion of the population possible. At that time, the primary options for advertising were television, radio, magazines, phone books and the newspaper.

An effective marketing campaign consisted of creating ad copy and blasting it all over these mediums.

Advertisers created buyer persona by exploiting the existing ideals of what media was already showing the consumer. Buyers conformed to these ideals because it appeared to be the societal norm.

Buyers had very little access to information during this time. A young housewife would see what another young housewife was buying on television. After seeing this, she’d assume that this was what everybody else was buying within her demographic.

The best advertisers knew how to amplify these ideals to trigger buying decisions.

Today’s Marketing Has Changed

In today’s market, a buyer has unlimited access to information and choices. This has shifted the advertising paradigm. Consumers, not advertisers, now define the groups they want to be a part of. Consumers also shift between buying groups on a constant basis.

This makes modern marketing a challenge.

That same young woman in today’s market could be a lawyer, a gamer, a stay-at-home mother, a world traveler or anything else under the sun.

Because of this, professional marketers have turned their focus toward buyer personas. It’s too cost-prohibitive to create and implement campaigns based on demographics alone. That strategy isn’t as effective as it once was. Although demographics are still an important piece of the marketing puzzle, it’s time to dig deeper.

Characterists of a Buyer Persona

A buyer persona consists of their personality, attitude, values, interests and lifestyle. It also defines a buyer’s concerns and goals as they relate to your product.

You can’t collect this kind of information on a contact card. Instead, marketers consolidate data by creating avatars for different groups of people based on common characteristics.

To collect this data, marketers use focus groups and one-on-one interviews with customers. If there’s a limited marketing budget, you can collect much of this data by interviewing your internal team.

It’s surprising how much knowledge your team has about customers.

2. What Are the Benefits of Personas?

First, understanding personas will help you improve ad targeting and content creation.

Most dealerships are working with a limited marketing budget. It’s crucial to maximize every dollar you spend.

Once you understand the importance of customer personas, you’ll be able to target advertising campaigns to specific personas in ways that trigger responses.

How to Leverage Personas

For example, the young female lawyer may not be in the market for an economy car. To market to her persona, create a social media ad that focuses on luxury. Target that ad so it’s only seen by this customer persona. Social media advertising platforms make this easy.

You can apply this concept to any persona.

Understanding personas also allows you to test the assumptions you make about your customers.

You might assume that the young gamer works in retail and doesn’t have much of a budget. Because of this, you run a targeted advertising campaign based on this assumption.

The campaign is a flop.

After testing several campaigns targeted toward this persona, you find out that she’s making more money than the lawyer. In fact, the gamer has a popular YouTube channel that generates a handsome income.

3. What Most Dealers Get Wrong About Customer Personas

The biggest mistake dealers make when marketing to personas is focusing only on demographics. They forget psychographics.

You’ll have to tie to the two together to create an effective campaign. Just remember that a persona is about the individual. Conversely, a demographic is about the group.

How Buying Decisions Are Made

Buyers make decisions with their emotions. They justify their buying decisions with logic, but their emotions are what trigger an initial decision.

When you dive into persona marketing, it’s easy to get sloppy and slip back into marketing by demographics. To avoid this trap, talk with your internal team on a regular basis. Ask them questions about your customers.

These questions should include:

  • What problems do your customers have in their lives?
  • What feelings do those problems give them?
  • What will be the consequences if they don’t find solutions to the problems?
  • How are they going to feel when they solve the problems?

The answers to these questions will help you remain focused on appealing to emotional trigger points.

The Buying Journey

Another mistake many dealers make is ignoring the journey of a customer. For most people, purchasing a vehicle is a longer journey than buying a television. No matter how good of a persona marketing campaign you’ve put together, the majority of buyers aren’t going to show up to the dealership and make a purchase right away. Teach your salespeople to respect that.

When a couple shows up to browse your lot for the first time, a trained salesperson should learn their trigger points. What brought them into the dealership? How much research have they already done? What type of vehicle excites them? How do they plan on using the vehicle?

A salesperson needs to remove all buying pressure and listen to every word the customer says.

Show customers that your dealership doesn’t want them driving off in anything that falls short of their needs. This practice will lead to more sales and a higher car buyer CSI.

4. The Modern Car Buyer Persona

Demand for new vehicles is declining at a rapid pace. Because of this, it’s never been more important to understand the persona of a buyer.

In general, a new car buyer:

  • Owns another vehicle 84% of the time
  • Has at least one child
  • Is 27% more likely to be in the top 25% income bracket than the average consumer
  • Enjoys exploring the world they live in
  • Surrounds themselves with different people and cultures
  • Is open to new ideas

They’re also savvy in the digital world. They’re a mobile-first generation that spends over 13 hours each day on different media platforms. During this time, they’re on social media for about three hours.

When looking for a vehicle, they spend a lot of time doing independent online research. They look for key purchase points in a new vehicle such as:

  • Free delivery
  • Free service of their new vehicle
  • Low monthly payments and interest
  • Solid exchange rate for their old vehicle
  • Extended warranty protection
  • A return period if they aren’t satisfied

While this is a broad picture of the car buyer persona, it gives you a good starting point.

Increase Sales by Understanding Persona

In the current marketing climate, understanding a car buyer’s persona is vital. With the information you now have at your fingertips, you can start building an efficient marketing strategy that will set your dealership apart from the competition.

Your sales will increase. The purchase journey of your customers will be more rewarding. Everyone will win.

Get ready to watch your car buyer CSI skyrocket.

<a href="https://www.automotivemarketing.com/author/joeglaser/" target="_self">Joe Glaser</a>

Joe Glaser

Joe Glaser is a marketing consultant and automotive industry expert. He writes for Automotive Marketing Magazine and is a regular contributor to Forbes and The Washington Post.

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