Imagine a national media rep said they could get your dealership millions of impressions for free. The only thing you have to do allow is a broadcast crew unlimited access to your staff and the inner-workings of your dealership. This includes price negotiations, office gossip, service writers pricing out costs, etc. You’re probably not so keen on that offer anymore, right? What about if this press could bring you some sales?
In October of last year Town & Country Jeep Chrysler Dodge Ram of Levittown, New York took that risk. The owner, Marc Brodlieb, granted full access to the producers of This American Life, a weekly hour-long radio program produced by WBEZ and hosted by Ira Glass.
The broadcast aired in mid-December and provided an uncensored window into dealership life, chronicling the ups-and-downs experienced by the Town & Country staff as they worked to hit their October quota of 129 new cars. You can access the story here and despite the foul language and overt sales tactics, the broadcast portrays the dealership staff as lovable underdogs who just want to provide for their families.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the Town & Country dealership. After dropping a box of donuts at the sales desk, my colleague Steve and I sat down with Tara Schwartz, Marketing Director for T & C. Steve, a top Mojo sales rep, originally reached out to Tara after the broadcast had made its way around our office.
We wanted to do whatever we could to help the dealership and we were thrilled to help them sell a few cars for the dealership over the course of a free trial. As a result, Tara agreed to join Mojo as a Premium dealer. This gave Steve and me a good excuse to visit the dealership and ask Tara some questions about how the show had come about and how it had affected the dealership.
According to Tara, the radio crew would have been turned around at the door if it weren’t for the fact that Mr. Brodlieb is a big fan of Ira Glass. “He’s been listening to This American Life for years,” she told us. “If it had been anyone else, Marc would have said no way. He knew Ira’s style and he knew that he would do right by the dealership ”
When I asked Tara about how the radio broadcast had affected the dealership, she answered, website traffic went up 1000%.” She was exaggerating a bit there, but check out the numbers below and you’ll see why she was so enthusiastic.
Town & Country Web Traffic:
- November: 7,000 Unique Visitors
- December: 16,500 Unique Visitors
- January: 10,000 Unique Visitors
The broadcast originally aired on December 13 and referral traffic from the website for This American Life in December accounted for 7,000 visitors. The next highest referral source, Jeep.com, represented 450 visitors. The above-average web traffic in January is attributed to the broadcast, too.
The bounce rate was quite high, however, with visitors checking out the dealership website because they were fans of the story, not because they were in the market to buy a car. Listener proximity is another issue. This American Life has listeners across the country and beyond. I doubt that even the biggest fan is going to drive across country to buy a Jeep in Levittown.
Web traffic went up, so what? I worked as an inside sales rep for long enough to know what most dealers really care about. They want to sell cars! Tara links story to two sales, but she’s certain there are others out there. For months after the story, Tara says the sales staff heard a lot of customers say things like, “My friend told me you guys were on the radio.”
Marc took a chance because he trusted Ira Glass and his dealership benefited. After the story aired, other media entities and production companies came calling. The dealership was courted for everything from documentaries to reality-TV shows.
Though Tara would have liked to pursue something, Marc declined the offers. He just didn’t trust those other guys like he trusted Ira. I asked Tara, if she recommends that other dealerships embrace such opportunities that open the door and shine a light on dealerships and she said, “Yes, absolutely. People appreciated what we did and applauded our willingness to be candid and open. It gave people a reason to find out even more about us, and in some cases buy a car from us.”