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7 Best Auto Dealership Marketing Tips, Ideas & Strategies

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I help drive more leads and customers to car dealerships and reduce their advertising cost.

It’s not surprising that car dealership marketing is hyper-competitive.

In today’s digital marketplace, every dealership needs to be agile, responsive, and customer-focused.

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 Amazing 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 a clean, professional design that creates a sense of trust in your brand.  Here is an example from Singer Marketing V12 template:

car dealership marketing tips - website sample

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.

It works best when you have a designated online salesperson (next tip) that is responsible for chat.   This person can also be responsible for Facebook messenger, which can be an excellent lead source.

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.

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 Singer Marketing 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 in 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:

 
Optimize your video so you show up for searches on YouTube in your area. Few dealerships do this, so it’s low-hanging fruit.
 

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 professionals are nothing like this, and you have to make sure your online reputation matches it.

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:

 

[Facebook page image]

 

If someone searches on for your dealership by name, they’ll see your Google listing, with reviews being highly visible:

 

[google review image]

 

 

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:

 

[google ad image]

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:

 

[google banner ad]

 

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:  Set-Up Your Facebook Business Page

Most of your potential car buyers are on Facebook, so it’s important for your dealership to have a presence there.

Set-up a business page for your dealership.  Be sure to include all info about your location, contacts, and personal.  You can create organic posts about new inventory and keep people up to date on industry trends.

Like we mentioned, set up messaging and have your digital sales consultant handle responses.  These are hot leads so be responsive.

You can also run paid retargeting campaigns to show ads on Facebook and Instagram to people who previously visited your website or interacted with your Facebook content.  Virtually all these people are in the market for a car, so these make targeted ads.

Dealership Marketing Tip #8:  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 Singer Marketing 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.

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YouTube for Car Dealers

In this decade, by the time a potential buyer walks in the doors of your dealership, he or she has probably searched online for feature information, reviews, and deals. The buyer has compared models and knows what paint options exist for the vehicle he wants. And, most likely, the car shopper has visited YouTube more than once to check out the automobiles in the running. Yes, she wants to come in and test drive a model or two and kick the tires, so to speak, but she has a head start.

Per a DMEAutomotive study, the average car purchaser today makes less than two visits to physical dealerships.

Before he arrives, the shopper has made numerous digital and mobile visits to check out both you and the cars. And among these virtual experiences, YouTube holds an important key.

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and third most visited site after Google and Facebook. The channel gets over 30 million visitors per day, which translates to about 1 billion active users per month. That’s a giant chunk of internet users consuming video.

David Mogensen, Google’s Head of YouTube Ads Product Marketing, issued a report in which it was reported that 70% of people who used YouTube as part of their car buying process were influenced by what they watched.

Further, views on YouTube of test drives, features, options, and walk-throughs have doubled in the past year; mobile searches from dealership lots increased 46% in the last year.

What this means is this: before buyers grace your showroom, they’re making decisions and forming opinions via online research. And here’s the question: where do you want your buyers to get their information: from your dealership or from someone else’s?

Per Google, car review videos on YouTube were watched for more than 3 million hours in the first 9 months of 2015, of which more than 1.2 million were on mobile, more than twice as many as the previous year. In general, research shows that people generally tend to search for 3 types of car video:

  • Test drives
  • Comparison videos showing features of different makes and models
  • Interior and exterior car walk-throughs

This is a great opportunity for your dealership to use video marketing on YouTube to reach potential buyers. How can you maximize your time and money investment in this channel?

Conduct an online audit.  Pretend you are buying a new car yourself, or hire a consultant to audit your online presence. Are you covering the channels that could be most advantageous to you? Is your brand consistent and professional?  Are you using all the right key words to attract the most hits?

Build your video library: Remember that customers are impatient and they want concise and informative video content. Respect their time and yours and create video that reflects your personality in a way that will bring customers to your door.

Be responsive: Modern society is impatient and expects to find answers very quickly. If you aren’t there with the right answer, the moment shoppers are looking, chances are someone else will be.

Dive in! If you’re not already creating content for YouTube and tying that to your other marketing and sales channels, you could be missing a critical outreach opportunity.

Singer Marketing is a social media advertising agency and video production company for the retail car industry.

WHY REVIEWS ARE A VALUABLE PROMOTIONAL TOOL

Online reviews can have a major impact on your business. When it comes to selling cars, dealership online reviews have never been more important. Reviews can be a critical factor for consumers to choose your dealership over another.

HERE’S WHY:

  • 92% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision.
  • 80% of buyers are more likely to purchase from a local business with good reviews.
  • A one-star increase in review rating can lead up to a 10% increase in revenues.

WHAT ABOUT MILLENNIALS?

  • Millennials spend more than 17 hours shopping for cars online, with 82% of them visiting review sites first of all.

Online reviews give your dealership a way to speak to a new generation of car buyers! I think you understood it all. Asking your clients for reviews is becoming more and more important today!

TIPS AND TRICKS TO START USING REVIEWS IN YOUR FAVOR:

  1. Build up Google My Business: As Google dominates online search, it makes complete sense to put all your efforts into getting reviews on your Google My Business page.
  2. Include reviews on your website: You can use online reviews to help your customers make purchasing decisions — and it’s a great way to grow both traffic and sales.
  3. Monitor your reviews and respond to both negative and positive ones: For successful businesses, online review monitoring is an integral and constant part of customer acquisition. Consumers that notice your respond to your reviews will see that you care.
  4. Ask buyers to post a review after you make a sale: Make this part of your sales process and ask your customers to leave you a review based off of their experience.

    Singer Marketing is offering new features that allow you to ask your customers for reviews once you’ve sold them a car with the possibility to incorporate those reviews to your website.

Car buyers today trust and are highly influenced by online reviews. Having an indication of the quality of your services on your website can be a powerful way to stand out from the crowd and sell more cars!