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Outreach to foreigners can give dealers the edge

Newcomers shop before they arrive, expert says

Bourgon: "A real eye-opener"

Dealers operating near university towns and those that keep up with world affairs can boost sales by marketing to foreigners preparing to move to North America, says a Canadian marketing pro with roots in Hong Kong.

Students from countries such as China often have money for cars, and they frequently arrange to buy or lease them before they arrive, said Justin Poy, president of a multicultural advertising agency in suburban Toronto.

Poy, 45, says savvy dealers are reaching out to university admission programs to learn about students arriving from abroad. And, he says, economic development offices are another source of prospects because they seek local investments from foreign companies and then support those companies after they come with their executives.

Dealers anticipating the arrival of foreign students and managers can get a jump on competitors, Poy said.

"We're trying to get dealers to think globally," he said. "They tend to think locally."

Poy, who was born in Canada to parents from Hong Kong, founded the Justin Poy Agency in 1997. One springboard was to advise businesses on serving new immigrants to Canada from Hong Kong after the 1997 handover of control of Hong Kong to mainland China.

He was a keynote speaker last week at the Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition in Atlantic City, N.J.

Universities won't share student admission lists, but dealers can be creative about getting their messages in front of incoming students.

For example, they can request to have promotional literature included with orientation materials or made available during student visits, he said.

Canada, with a population slightly smaller than California's, issues about 30,000 student visas.

If students are coming from China, they are frequently from families wealthy enough to pay cash for housing and a vehicle, Poy said.

And, he said, the students are likely to be repeat car buyers or lessees, even during their college days.

Poy's message resonated with dealers at a February conference near Toronto put on by the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, which represents 1,192 franchise dealers throughout Ontario.

Todd Bourgon, Trillium's executive director, said Poy came armed with Canadian immigration trends and detailed research on the purchasing habits and demographics of newcomers to the country -- information dealers can use to tap those prospects.

"It was a real eye-opener for people," Bourgon said.

Poy said dealers who pay attention to world events, especially stories about political unrest or social trends, can anticipate where new immigrants may come from.

For example, wealthy families in China often want their children to go to U.S. universities because the families are interested in investing abroad or simply improving the student's chances for advancement when they return, Poy said.

He said dealers who want to reach those prospects need to become conversant with social media channels in China.

He said Weibo is the Chinese version of Facebook and Youku of YouTube. Foreign students from China use those sites just as surely as U.S. students use Facebook and YouTube, Poy said.

He said: "You go to any state university, and the Chinese students belong to those." c

You can reach David Barkholz at -- Follow David on Twitter: @barkholzatan

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