Dealerships need to continuously invest in their marketing presence (budgeting), remain consistent with their brand messaging and consistently stay on edge with the competition. It’s not enough for dealerships to simply market their new vehicle models; consistent messaging throughout the year helps a business stay in front of audiences and remain competitive.
To remain on the consumer’s mind, stay on the consumer’s mind.
Marketing can mean different things to each dealership. And the budget could impact how those marketing dollars are spent during the year. Most dealerships, though, have a social media presence. Some may even have a dedicated marketing team to handle these accounts.
Even if there isn’t a dedicated staff or individual to update social media, the owner or leadership team could handle the updates and posts. Having an online social media presence is a great marketing outreach strategy, as the social world is how many consumers keep up with the brands and companies they like. Dealerships can use social media accounts to post information about deals and special events. Some dealerships may even offer fun polls to engage their audience.
What are the top social media apps? LinkedIn is primarily for reaching out to potential new employees and recruits and also is used for business networking. Facebook is a great space for posting updates, photos and even streaming live events. Twitter provides a quick way to share updates…character count is limited, though. And Instagram is primarily visual—photos and video. Some dealerships may even venture into TikTok, as this platform is very popular with younger consumers.
To stay on top of ensuring that social media accounts remain current and updated, the leadership team may want to create an editorial calendar that outlines content and post ideas for the month. For dealerships that have marketing dollars to spare and even those who have tighter budgets, find a way to keep in front of consumers throughout the year. Even if it’s just on social media.
What’s the Dealership’s Brand?
Adopting a dealership brand also is important to helping consumers identify the name and presence of that dealership. Think about all the brands we see everyday, and how each is identified. Nike has a swoosh, for example.
Does the dealership have a recognizable logo or slogan? Why or why not? Branding makes it easy for customers to recognize a business. Companies know that a sleek logo, symbol or slogan stays in the mind of potential customers. Many of us might have even had a catchy jingle stuck in our heads…and we know that it’s related to a business and its advertising.
Hiring a graphic designer or marketing pro to create a brand for the dealership may be money well spent…if the dealership has those dollars to spend. Logo prices, however, can vary wildly. Dealerships might wish to consider researching graphic designers and their rates.
Maybe the dealership has a particular spokesperson that always features prominently in radio ads or even on videos via social media. Branding can include an individual, too, who becomes identifiable with the dealership. Perhaps the dealership adopts a mascot…it might even be the owner’s pet!
Branding doesn’t have to be slick and expensive to be effective. Again, even the cat of the dealership’s owner could come to be identified with the dealership and the dealership’s brand.
Get creative…but stay consistent. If the dealership constantly switches between spokespersons or mixes up the messages too much, the audience (aka the potential customers!) might not relate an image, person or idea to the dealership. Successful branding is all about consistency in messaging.
…Versus the Competition!
The race to win customers—and buyers—among dealerships may be difficult. Depending on the market, there may be many dealerships in competition. If the competition is in front of the customer consistently, they may win the sale…versus a competing dealership who slacks in marketing.
Keep the customer engaged. And keep an ongoing marketing presence. Again, this may simply be about staying active on social media channels. Dealerships may need to brainstorm ways to get potential customers responding to posts and paying attention to the dealership’s updates and posts.
Dealerships might even post photos of new car models in different colors and offer a poll asking which color customers like best. Even posts about the weather can be engaging; the first warm spring day of the season can inspire a dealership to ask about favorite outdoor activities. Holidays like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day may include patriotic posts.
Stay consistent…and stay present! Otherwise the competition may have the edge.
Other Ways to Boost the Brand
Consistency is key, but getting the edge over the competition also may mean offering customers unique experiences that the competition doesn’t offer. This isn’t about a free trip to a sunny locale or some grand contest, however.
Is the Website Engaging?
While it’s important to stay visible online via social media channels, the dealership’s web site is its virtual home. For this reason, the website has to be conducive to a positive customer experience. And during the pandemic, many car shoppers are looking online and doing research online for their new car. Some even want to complete the entire shopping experience virtually (if they are able to do so).
Does the dealership’s website invite customers to explore content? Is it user-friendly or is it clunky and difficult to navigate? Again, there may be many dealerships vying for the attention of local buyers. If the dealership’s website isn’t user friendly, the customer may look elsewhere…both online and in-person (if the dealerships are open).
The content on the site also may be important for customers who are researching their vehicle options. Dealerships may include their current promotions, rebates and other sales. While price information and sales details are typically of interest, customers also may want to be able to see all the cars that are available on the lot.
Does the dealership offer new and used cars? The dealership may want to include photos and even a virtual showroom of the used inventory. Dealerships also could feature a separate showroom of new models, too. If dealerships don’t have the capability to offer a virtual showroom online, sites like RelayCars can be used by buyers to see different makes and models online in a virtual environment.
Virtual experiences can be incredibly immersive. Virtual showrooms can allow customers to swap out paint colors on vehicles, explore the interior of the car and even turn the car around to see it from a different vantage point. Dealerships may even be able to offer an augmented reality showroom!
Virtual Sales Help
Branding and marketing consistency applies to online, too! Does the dealership offer the same quality of customer service online that if offered in-person at the physical location? When a customer visits the dealership, a salesperson will assist them and answer any questions. The salesperson is a customer’s main resource and can help schedule test drives and work out financing.
Customers shopping online or simply researching new cars online also may need assistance. Again, this may be something that competing dealerships offer. Dealerships can provide an online customer service professional who serves as a virtual assistant for customers visiting the website. This would be the person who answers questions related to current sales/promotions, available used cars (if the dealership sells used cars) and other sales queries or customer questions.
For customers, access to a virtual customer service representative online provides a simple and accessible resource for any question or concern that they may have during the car shopping process. Virtual assistants are usually set up to allow site visitors to type in a question or request.
It’s Never Too Late…Get Consistent!
Dealerships that feel that they have let the ball drop on their marketing efforts can get back in the game. Focusing on consistent messaging and embracing brand identification can help the dealership zero in on a marketing strategy. The competition in the automotive industry can be extremely competitive between dealerships, and a unique brand may help customers differentiate a dealership from the competition.
To keep a competitive edge, dealerships may review their online content and social media directives. Posting consistently and engaging followers can help the dealership stay in front of potential customers. Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, but dealerships should remain consistent. In addition, the dealership’s website may be its online home. The site should engage customers and enhance the user experience.
During the pandemic, those shopping for a new car may begin their shopping journey online. To simplify their search, dealerships also can provide virtual showrooms that allow site visitors to view and explore the dealership’s current inventory of vehicles. In addition, offering a designated online customer service assistant can help frustrated shoppers receive quick answers to questions and concerns. Marketing the dealership may need to be a multimodal approach, and many dealerships during this unique time may need to examine their marketing efforts in-store and online…and make changes to meet customer demands.