Surrounded by bigger competitors with deeper pockets, Allison Musante made a gutsy move last year. She directed all of Smithtown Acura's ad budget to digital advertising and targeted marketing, staying out of TV and newspaper.
"We're on a much smaller budget. I need to target my marketing," said Musante, 33, general manager of Smithtown Acura, a stand-alone Acura store on Long Island.
"I can't be on TV enough for it to make much of a difference," she said. Instead, the dealership puts its marketing dollars into online advertising, email, social media, direct mail and other targeted media. "We do direct mailers. That's the only paper that comes out of the store," she said.
Her move paid off. The dealership's new-vehicle sales increased 22 percent in 2015 to 895 units.
"It's a very competitive market," Musante said. Within 30 miles of the dealership are seven same-brand competitors, including two of Acura's top-10 volume stores nationwide, she said.
Working with a marketing agency, Smithtown Acura discovered that 80 percent of its business came from only about half of the ZIP codes within that 30-mile radius. So trying to blanket everyone within that radius with a traditional marketing approach would have been wasteful, Musante said.
Musante got her start in 2002 as a receptionist at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership. She worked her way up to bookkeeper and then office manager. She volunteered to start selling nights and weekends, and filled in for service advisers when they were out sick or on vacation. She joined Smithtown Acura in 2008 as a controller, and was promoted to general manager in 2009.
Musante is an active member of the Women's Automotive Association International and helps promote the association's efforts to attract, recruit and retain women in the industry.
"My personal goal is to become a mentor, leader and voice for women in automotive," Musante said. "We as an industry could be doing a better job of letting young women know that there are these great careers in automotive."