To say that auto dealership marketing is competitive is an understatement. In today’s digital marketplace, every dealership needs to be agile, responsive, and customer-centered.
There are few car shoppers today who are not methodical buyers. The internet opened an era of transformative car shopping research; studies show that the majority of car shoppers use their mobile phones to comparison shop while physically on the lot. Clearly, car shoppers are better informed about the make, model, and price they’re interested in before they talk to a salesperson.
At the same time, the influence of salespeople remains considerable. Likewise, in many markets, dealers continue to find value in traditional advertising such as radio spots, newspaper ads, and TV commercials.
Here are 7 marketing ideas for dealerships, with tips and strategies on how to make the most of them. Put all this together, and your sales will be consistent, year after year.
Dealership Marketing Tip #1: Develop an Awesome Website
One fact today is undeniable: the vast majority of leads will visit your website before they interact in any other way with your dealership. Your website is your business front, and it makes your first impression.
Your website must be functional so leads can research your inventory. And it must be mobile responsive so they can navigate it on their phones.
Beyond that, you want clean, professional design that creates a sense of trust in your brand. Here is an example from Marketing 360’s UXI® template:
Important Idea: Use Online Chat
When a lead comes on to your website, they are showing considerable buying intent. Use online chat to engage with them and answer any questions they have about your inventory.
Important Idea: Have A Designated Online Salesperson
The best practice is to have one person who’s responsible for online sales. If you try to do this by committee or just have the person who’s “free” monitoring online inquiries, your service will be inconsistent. You need someone who’s prepared to respond to online questions and quote requests and who will manage your website to keep inventory updated.
At the same time, train multiple people to use your digital marketing. Your staff is behind the times if you don’t have several people anxious to use these tools.
Important Idea: Use an Infographic
Many people grasp info better when it’s presented visually. If you have some information for buyers you’d like to present on your website, try putting into an infographic. These are also great to share on social media. For example:
Dealer Marketing Tip #2: Use a CRM
Today every auto dealership needs customer relationship management (CRM) software. It’s indispensable.
CRMs do two main things. They keep your staff on the same page as leads move through the sales cycle, and they automate follow-up tasks so you can maintain consistent touches.
CRMs today usually function in the cloud, so they’re easy to access from any device. They do the job of funneling leads from every source, including showroom, online, service, email, and phone.
CRM software like the small business CRM by Marketing 360® lets you personalize follow-ups based on the vehicles leads showed interest in. It simply lets you manage contacts in a professional way:
When you look into CRM software take note of what training resources are available. The biggest problem dealerships have implementing CRMs is a lack of consistent use from all staff. You want something robust, but also something new salespeople can pick up quickly. A complicated system with features you don’t need will hinder use.
Dealer Marketing Tip #3: Create a Video Commercial
Auto dealerships have long known the benefits of creating a quirky TV commercial. Virtually no other industry matches all the memorable, funny, oddball commercials that car salespeople come up with.
The goal of these commercials is generally to create a memorable brand image. You want car shoppers to remember you before they walk onto your lot. For example:
If this isn’t your speed, you can just do a traditional introduction:
You can also communicate your value proposition quickly with video to give people a sense of what it’s like to work with your business.
Assume that there is another dealership with the same car and the same price as you. What reasons do you give leads to choose you? That is what your video should communicate.
Dealer Marketing Tip #4: Manage Your Reputation
Car salesmen – the sleazy, pushy type – are a cliche. Today, most sales professional are nothing like this, and you have to make sure your online reputation matches it.
Today online consumers evaluate what it’s like to work with dealerships based on comments from previous customers. They find these on review sites like Top Rated Local, Google My Business, Yelp, and BBB. They also use dealership specific sites like Dealer Rater and Cars.com. If you activate it, you can let customers leave reviews on your Facebook page:
If someone searches on for your dealership by name, they’ll see your Google listing, with reviews being highly visible:
What this comes down to is that every time you really treat a customer well, it helps your marketing. Every time you go into the “pushy” or “slippery” mode, it hurts your marketing.
Because a car is a major purchase for most people, many are motivated to leave reviews. The star ratings stand out on search results so much they’ll create an impression before anyone even visits your website.
Of course, many dealerships also get rated at the corporate level, so there is a lot of motivation to give buyers a positive experience.
Beyond that, you need to monitor your reviews across all these platforms. It’s part of your digital marketing manager’s job. Respond to any reviews you see fit, but especially the negative ones. Explain your side and offer to rectify the situation. Many buyers will change their review when they see you value their opinion.
However, don’t obsess over every bad review. You’ll never satisfy everyone, and the anonymous nature of making online comments leads some people to be unfair (services like Top Rated Local let you mitigate this to a certain extent).
If your overall review profile is poor, it’s time to call a sales meeting. Being slick just isn’t worth it today.
Dealership Marketing Tip #5: Master Search Marketing
When someone goes online to search for a certain make or model of car, they are showing buying intent. You need to get them into your sales funnel.
This is where the tactics of pay per click advertising (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) are necessary.
With PPC, you can set up campaigns so that if some searches for make of car you sell (Honda SUVs, Ford Trucks, etc.) it will trigger your ad.
You can then use the keyword insertion feature so the exact model they searched for appears in the headline of your ad.
For example, I was looking for a 2016 Honda CRV and got served this ad:
Optimize your campaigns as specifically as you can for makes, models, and years. The more you have in inventory, the more aggressively you want to run the ads.
For organic search, you’ll want to rank for more general terms of care makes, models, and your location. When I do a search for “buy Honda CRV Boulder CO” I get:
Notice several things. The large online brokers are dominating the top spots. Two local dealerships show, one that has cleverly gotten their Kia listing to also show for this search.
The content on your website, social media signals, inbound links, and overall site authority impact your SEO rankings. Be sure to put location keywords into your page title tags and mention your location in descriptions of your services.
Important Idea: Use Retargeting
Car shoppers do a lot of research, so many will visit your website and leave without taking action. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay with them.
You can use retargeting banner ads to show up as people browse online or visit social media sites. This happens because the PPC system places a piece code on their browser (called a cookie or pixel) that allows you display ads at whatever interval you choose.
You can have a general branded ad like this:
Or you can even have a specific ad based on the page/models the person looked at.
Retargeting helps your brand stay in front of leads as they move through the buying cycle. The ads bias them towards you, so they’re more likely to look you up when they are ready to buy.
Dealership Marketing Tip #6: Target Your Audience with the Right Media
Some dealership owners read through articles like this with skepticism. Ya, the world is going digital, but the commercial I run on the local TV station is still my most effective marketing.
That may very well be true. Auto dealership marketing covers wide demographics, and not all them respond to the same media.
For example, this article from Automotive News talks about how dealerships in areas of the South still do very well using the traditional media of radio, print, and TV. They develop a local name for themselves, build their reputation, and work off referrals. Many of their leads don’t do extensive online research. They know and trust their “friendly” local dealership.
On the other hand, reports on millennial car buyers suggest that virtually all their car shopping starts online, before walking into a showroom. If you’re not online, you’ll likely miss these buyers.
The best thing you can do is track your marketing campaigns with as much data as possible. Use surveys to find out if people found you through traditional media. Online marketing has the advantage of being much easier to track, so you can gather data on your website and social media traffic to see what’s resulting in conversions.
When you have solid data, do more of what works and less of what does not. Your goal is to sell more cars, not follow marketing trends.
Dealership Marketing Tip #7: Get Some Professional Help
One last, important consideration. As a small dealership, you probably won’t have the resources to manage all the tactics involved with online marketing. Facebook marketing alone now has dozens of complex tactics, with new ones showing up almost daily.
You want your online sales associate spending their time selling, not trying to figure out what Google wants. So talk to one of our dealership marketing consultants today and see if Marketing 360® is a fit for you. Our all-in-one marketing system provides marketing software, an integrated CRM, design/media support, social media marketing, and a designated marketing exec to keep everything organized. You won’t find a more effective solution.