Customers are searching for vehicles and researching car dealerships online more than ever before. Key aspects of automotive marketing within the automotive industry of today include both effective digital marketing to generate qualified leads and maintaining engagement with those leads throughout their customer journey from discovery to purchase.
Having effective automotive marketing strategies for both aspects of the customer journey can make or break one dealership vs. their competition across the street.
How important is online marketing in the automotive industry? More than you think. According to Wordstream, search is the first place people go to begin their buyer’s journey despite the fact that 95% of car sales are made physically at the dealership.
Because of this, it is imperative to have an effective SEO strategy in place, active marketing efforts online, and a website to draw customers in. However, there are many more parts to an automotive marketing strategy to consider besides this.
What Defines Automotive Marketing
Automotive marketing involves marketing efforts related to the sale of motor vehicles. This is often done by car dealerships, although the brands or original equipment manufacturers of vehicles are also involved in their own form of automotive marketing.
The very first car advertisement is said to have appeared in 1898. Its headline was, “Dispense with a horse,” because horse and carriage was the popular transportation method of the day. A vehicle could obviously replace such a form of transportation or the need for a horse.
As you see, automotive marketing has greatly evolved over the years. Today, most automotive marketing strategies involve digital or online pathways to success.
How to Promote Your Car Dealership
Car dealerships use an array of marketing techniques and tactics to promote their brands. While not all of them are effective, there are several promotion strategies you can use to boost your dealership’s marketing efforts. These include:
Use Customer Reviews to Your Advantage
If you are shopping for a vehicle or anything that costs a decent amount of funds to acquire, chances are you are going online to read some reviews about the product or brand it comes from. This holds especially true amongst those looking to purchase a vehicle.
Potential buyers or those shopping around for a car become suspicious when they see a business website with no legitimate reviews from actual customers that shopped at that dealership. Modern customers rely heavily on reviews in their research before deciding on the right dealership to purchase from and leave them more often than not.
To boost your dealership’s chances of being chosen as the best dealership for their needs, encourage your happy customers to leave positive reviews and have a strategy in place to respond to negative reviews the right ways. Nor should you try to get reviews removed that are illegitimate or from actual customers and not say bots or the competition trying to drive your business down.
Having an effective review strategy in place can build the trustworthiness for your dealership and the services you offer, as well as boost your dealership’s reputation and legitimacy in your market. The more positive reviews your dealership has talking about the customer experience of working with your sales teams or your dealership as a whole, the more your dealership will be seen as a good fit for car buyers in your market.
Customers that purchase vehicles in today’s digital age rarely do so by randomly stopping by a dealership they saw driving by on their way home or to work. Sometimes a customer may not even care to take a car for a test drive as they have already made up their minds on what vehicle they need based on what they have discovered online through their discovery stage of the customer journey about your dealership and their vehicle of choice through reviews and research.
Have a Good SEO Strategy in Place
A good search engine optimization strategy, or SEO strategy, can make all the difference in the world between your dealership and your competition. This is especially true within your local market where you want leads to become customers – or better yet, long-term service customers and repeat buyers. A strategic SEO strategy in place can make your dealership show up on top of SERP results on search engines like Google, which are more often than not the first place users look when searching for local dealerships within their areas.
Google is the number 1 search engine in the world by far, with over 80% market share today, and because of that it is the search engine that your SEO strategy should focus on first. Increasing organic traffic to a website involves having good SEO and relevance or trustworthiness from Google’s web crawler to rank well on search engine result pages (SERP).
Relevance can be built by regularly publishing strong content marketing content , such as blog posts related to the automotive industry niche that include good sources of inbound links referring to your website. Various strategies exist to ensure this content adds value to your dealership’s website online and helps to build trustworthiness over time so your dealership’s website will rank higher on a SERP over time.
Having the right keywords in your marketing content is also important. When you are optimizing content for local area searches, prioritize long-tail keywords and keywords used to try to predict and answer the kinds of questions local leads will input into Google when searching for an auto dealership in their area.
Showing up on the first results page and as close to the top of search results is the goal your dealership’s SEO strategy should have.
When a person looking to purchase a vehicle searches on a search engine – again Google being the most relevant – for either a business, a product, a service, or an industry they want to learn about, they most likely will not go look beyond the first page of the result.
A study or analysis of 4 million Google search results was able to prove that just 0.63% of people click on the second page of a search result. That study also was able to show that the number one result within a search, the result of having the right keywords in place, gets around 27.6% of all clicks on a SERP.
These clicks from potential leads or buyers interested in searching for local car dealerships drive traffic to the dealership’s website which can result in visitors coming in to talk to a sales rep. This is why SEO is so important, and having good rankings can go such a long way in driving sales or making car dealerships have an ongoing customer base of new buyers.
Another good SEO strategy for the automotive industry and car dealerships, in particular, involve bidding on competitor keywords within your Google ads strategy and constantly analysing what competitors are doing to see what keywords work for them well. Also, having a negative keyword list in place and simply working with the right agency that has a good track record of giving car dealerships good SERP results is also highly recommended.
Adjust Campaign Budgets to Trends
Instead of solely relying on traditional marketing strategies like TV and radio ads or billboards and signs by the road, dedicate your marketing dollars to digital marketing wherever possible. If your budget allows for it, traditional mass marketing and advertising are powerful tools to add alongside online or digital marketing, but knowing where potential buyers are and how to target them will always be the most effective marketing strategy.
Tailor your messaging to the perfect audience for the types of vehicles you sell. If you sell sports cars, you will likely need to market to a younger crowd. Cadillacs are most appealing to older buyers, whereas trucks are usually bought by blue-collar workers or people between the ages of 25 to 50.
Of course, these are only examples, but being able to recognize trends and adapt to them is vital for any digital marketing strategy, including for companies in the automotive industry. These may just be stereotypes, but for marketing purposes, stereotypes often work as they target the most likely individuals who are looking for such a dealership as what yours offers.
Your marketing efforts and budget will be different depending on the type of vehicles you sell as well – new vehicles will need a different marketing strategy that used vehicles may The same holds true if your dealership sells very high-end vehicles, such as Ferraris, vs domestic or imported sedans that have a much lower price point. A single purchase of a high-end and expensive vehicle may occur way less often but make a dealership more money than ones occurring at a franchise location or used car dealership.
Using online and digital marketing trends to your advantage may mean leveraging organic and paid social media to drive sales. It can also mean having an active and engaging YouTube channel or consistently creating video content showcasing your dealership that target relevant keywords for your local area your customers will most likely hail from.
Be open-minded to new trends and plan to adapt quickly to the trends of the market to draw these customers to your business.
Play the long game and allow for experimentation in your marketing strategy as your brand will likely benefit, even if not every tactic you use immediately shows fruitful. For instance, you may determine that the YouTube visitors to your videos are not old enough to drive but later realize the strategy paid off in the long term because, in a couple of years, they will be and want to visit your lot.
Use Unique Offers and Forms of Advertising to Drive Business Engagement
Unique marketing campaigns can drive interest to your dealership’s brand and drive potential car buyers to your dealership. A strong marketing campaign needs to be relevant to the customer and stand out from your competition’s campaigns. When potential buyers see your dealership showcasing outdated marketing or vehicles no longer sold at the lot, they will quickly lose interest.
The same holds true when you are bragging about dealership reviews that customers may not trust are legitimate or a review score on Yelp that only had around five reviews in total. Ensure you have unique marketing efforts and find ways to keep your customers engaged or interested in going to your dealership before they even need a new vehicle.
Online raffles, showcasing new vehicle features on social media, or driving engagement through gaming are a few ways to accomplish this. An offer tailored to your vehicle’s specific market is more likely to convert, and that is further proof that you need to know what trends are for the type of customer you want to attract or age group and what sort of advertising works for that audience.
Having a consistent influx of fresh and exciting offers with the ability to market them online via social media channels is also a good way to attract new buyers.
You want customers who cannot wait to try out the vehicle on your lot that they have been dreaming about driving for months. You do not want them to just find a random dealership nearby and make a quick purchase without much deliberation – these customers are neither guaranteed nor long-lasting.
To make your dealership stand out, you need fresh, exciting offers. Don’t use the same stale automotive marketing sales strategy as everyone else. Working limited-time offers into your marketing is a great way to encourage new customers to act fast.
The vehicle buyer customer journey begins online. Customers will search for particular cars or types of cars they are interested in or like the look of. They will then narrow this list down to vehicle brands they trust, like, or can afford. Finally, they will pick a car or a few different cars they are interested in. Then, they will look for a dealership within their local area offering such brands.
Sometimes, however, customers begin their vehicle search by looking for honest dealerships from the get-go. A strong online presence, relevant advertising to the right target audience, and being searchable on the first page of SERP are all digital strategies you should have in place to keep your dealership competitive in your area. Using various marketing efforts will depend on your budget, but running unique digital advertising and marketing campaigns will put you a step ahead of your competition and drive your dealership to close more deals.