Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Seven Keys to Profitable Car Remotes

Radio remains the strongest local ad medium to steer people into dealerships

Automotive should be one of your most lucrative categories for station revenue. With a sour economy and full lots, it may be time to consider the good old-fashioned car remote.

Before you balk, consider off-hours and a unique plan outlined below.


“It’s not going to work,” I say to the account executive. “Nobody is stopping at a car dealership remote on a Sunday night! People have to get up in the morning. Who shops for a car after 7 p.m., when most dealerships are closed?”

I thought that rhetorical question would put an end to the discussion but the sales rep remains adamant, explaining that if we don’t play ball, we’ll lose the remote fee — about a grand — plus we’ll miss a $10,000 spot buy that goes with the deal.

End of argument.

As I pull into the dealership Sunday night, it starts to rain — and what little hope I had of trying to get a few people to come vanishes.

During the first break, I do my best to pretend I’m having a great time as I rattle off reasons for people to come visit: free food, prizes and unbelievably low prices on cars.

The next thing I know, there are five listeners walking in, saying hello. Then 10 … then 12 … and I can’t quite believe it, but everyone seems to be having a good time.

More people come. By the end, the dealership has sold two new cars and a used one.


I mulled it over many times and came to a few conclusions that helped me succeed in similar circumstances. Perhaps you’ll be as lucky if you put these items on your remote check-list:

Free Food! Reasonable quality is as important as quantity. Fresh subs cut into sandwiches; hot slices of pizza; hot dogs with ketchup, mustard and pickles; and lots of soda.

Keep the food warm, the drinks cold, and do not run out of anything.

Smart account execs can trade this out for on-air mentions; but if they can’t, the dealership should purchase the food.

It never ceases to amaze me just how obligated customers will feel to listen to a sales pitch if you simply feed them. Eating also means they can’t run in, grab a prize and exit quickly.

Attention-Getting Prizes! On my special night, I had a pair of NFL tickets to give away. I milked that for two hours, drawing the winner at the end.

Sure, I had a few T-shirts, CDs and lots of key chains; but it was the tickets people wanted.

Another prize that works consistently is lottery tickets with a huge payout. There’s something special about mentioning large sums of money, even when nobody wins.

State lotteries are almost always willing to give you tickets for the promos; if they won’t, you can score them for just a few bucks.

There’s money to be made here. Image courtesy iStockphoto/Joerg Reimann Private Invitations! I discovered that the dealership had sent private invitations to the remote from their list. They hyped the NFL ticket giveaway, the free food and pricing that was good only for that evening.

A Sales Staff That Knows the Game! I could tell by watching the auto sales staff that the manager had prepared them for the type of traffic he knew would be walking in the door. They didn’t pounce on people. They warmed each person up before steering the conversation to cars.

Short On-Air Breaks! Because frequency with radio works, it’s better for you to do short breaks with lots of music during your time there. If you are also able to make the stop-sets shorter during a remote, do it. Each live break should at least take the place of a unit.

Park Something Visible Outside! Make certain your station truck is parked, lit and visible from the road. If you don’t have a truck, have some sort of signage created.

Listeners may feel uneasy about pulling in unless they can find you easily.

Go Social! Consider how Facebook and Twitter may be used at least to advertise the prize incentive you’re using as a hook at the remote.

While you won’t necessarily sell cars at every event, it’s important that dealership owners realize remotes help build their brand and can move product for them over the following few weeks.

So let’s hear it for radio; it’s been selling cars for more than 70 years and remains the strongest local advertising medium available to steer people into dealerships.

Find years of great radio promotion, sales and programming ideas by reading past Promo Power columns. Visit under Columns.

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. Reach him at [email protected]