Digital marketing encompasses outreach activities within the online (or digital) space. Online ads, blogs, social media, and optimization efforts all are part of digital marketing strategies for dealerships.
When utilizing digital marketing, dealerships on a tighter budget can take advantage of a few free strategies to expand outreach and visibility. While ad spend can influence online placement, frequency and even bids related to pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, dealerships don’t have to pull from their budget for these five effective digital marketing activities:
- Google Business Profile
- Social media communications
- Online webinars
- Social media contests
- Email marketing
Digital Marketing: Car Dealers Need to Claim and Update Their Google Business Profile
The Google Business Profile is among the results that a Google user sees via their search if they query for a specific business. Car dealerships should claim their profile and maintain it regularly, as this information can be useful for customers.
A Google Business Profile includes the company’s general information (address, phone number, etc.), and it also includes links to customer reviews, company updates, pictures and more. On a mobile device, the profile appears at the top of a search. When searching via a PC, the Google profile will appear on the right hand side of the search.
Dealerships should optimize their profile by reviewing the information about their business and checking that it matches the information listed on social media accounts and the dealership’s website. For example, if the address on the website spells out “Street,” don’t abbreviate it on the Google profile or elsewhere.
Dealerships also can ask customers to leave reviews on the Google profile. Reviews can help other customers learn more about the business and its reputation. Businesses should respond to reviews in a positive and professional manner.
Car Dealer Digital Marketing: Utilize Social Media and Stay Connected
Most social media platforms allow users to create an account for free; however, additional features could correlate to an additional fee. When car dealerships create a social media account, they should provide a link of their account on the dealership website. This link will take the form of social media ‘buttons.’ Facebook is represented by a blue “F,” for example.
Social media enables dealerships to connect with current and potential customers. Use the account to post updates about new car models, dealership sales/promotions, special events and to keep the public updated about holiday hours or even snow days.
Social media is designed for engagement, and not all content has to relate to the dealership. Post polls asking followers about their favorite summer activity, create posts to celebrate a holiday, or simply post something fun to add some joy.
When using social media, dealerships also should remember to jump in the comments and respond. Remember that social media is all about conversations, engagement and being social in the digital space.
Digital Marketing for Dealerships: Host an Online Webinar or Create a Video Series
An online webinar can allow the dealership to market their expertise. Create a webinar that helps buyers understand the process of leasing or buying a new car. Host a webinar that explains a new electric vehicle to potential buyers. Brainstorm topics that intrigue and interest customers.
Dealerships also could create a video series for their YouTube channel. Videos could focus on car care tips, basic maintenance needs for cars or even explain how to change a tire.
Another Digital Marketing Idea? Host a Social Media Contest
Dealerships can generate excitement and interest via social media by hosting a social media contest or sweepstakes. This type of contest might require followers to find clues or answer questions. They also might leave a comment to be entered into the contest.
Social media contests can help dealerships gain more activity on their accounts. A contest might even be tied to one specific social media platform like Twitter and help boost follower counts in the process.
Before hosting a contest, dealerships need to consider what they will provide for a prize. Maybe winners can earn a free oil change for a year.
Email Marketing is Effective and Free
Dealerships could generate an email marketing campaign to keep in contact with customers. However, they need to ask if customers want to sign up for these messages.
Through email marketing communiqués, dealerships can distribute information related to sales/promotions or upcoming events. In addition, dealerships also could distribute coupons related to a particular service to those on their email list.
Is Blogging Free?
Dealerships might consider hosting a blog that links to their website. While businesses could find free platforms, blogging isn’t necessarily always free. Hosting fees for the blog could be applicable. However, Forbes included a list of the best free blogging platforms.
Optimizing blog or website content could be free if the dealership knows how to optimize. Programs like Semrush that help businesses with keyword research and other SEO activities add to the cost of optimization, as these programs charge a fee or require a subscription.
What to Budget for Digital Marketing
Every dealership has its own budget for how much it can allocate for marketing. There isn’t one magic amount, and not every dealership has the financial means to ‘go big’ on ad spend.
When a dealership is planning out digital marketing strategies and budgeting for the year, leveraging free opportunities can certainly help maximize the budget. There also are several marketing expenditures in which dealerships choose to invest their dollars online. These paid digital marketing opportunities include:
- PPC campaigns
- Online ads (carousel ads)
- Website resources for customers (like augmented reality tools)
- Car stock photography
What are PPC Campaigns?
Pay-per-click campaigns allow businesses to ‘bid’ on keywords that are used to optimize their business via paid advertising. However, the top bid doesn’t always win; Google, for example, also looks at the quality of the website and its content. The keywords will show the ad when a user enters them as a query; if the ad is clicked, the business pays the site.
Dealerships interested in these ads need to set an appropriate budget that works for their bottom line and meets their goals, too.
Are Online Ads the Same as PPC?
Online ads don’t have to be associated with the pay-per-click design. Instead these ads also could be targeted based on specific demographics or even a geographic range.
Online ads can include a carousel design. These ads allow users to scroll through a slideshow of products (or vehicles). Each image in the ad might offer a unique URL destination when clicked. Some carousel ads also could link to a page that allows a customer to enter their information.
Facebook, Google and other companies all offer advertising opportunities. Dealerships can research their options and find an ad campaign that works for their needs and their budget.
Website Resources for Customers
Another digital marketing effort in which dealerships could invest is the creation of high-end digital resources for customers. These resources could include an augmented reality experience that allows customers to explore a vehicle from home.
Many businesses now offer augmented reality experiences to help customers ‘try on’ or preview products. For car dealerships, these experiences allow customers to view and explore a full-scale digital representation of the car they like. The car will appear in any environment the user chooses; the camera of a smartphone or tablet navigates the experience. Some augmented reality experiences even let customers look inside a car and explore.
While virtual reality isn’t as accessible as augmented reality, a dealership might decide to create an immersive virtual reality experience via an app for customers with a headset. Virtual reality transports the user to a virtual space; dealerships can create a virtual reality depiction of their showroom to invite customers to explore a futuristic ‘walkaround’ car preview experience.
Upgrade the Website with High-Quality Stock Photos
Vehicle marketing is most impactful when customers can visualize the vehicle. Customers want to see the vehicle; they want to learn what it offers, how the interior looks and maybe even what is under the hood.
Effective digital marketing activities often feature high-resolution car stock photography. These images can be incorporated into social media posts, ad campaigns and on the dealership’s website. Imagery is integral to the car shopping experience, and dealerships can offer expansive image slideshows and immersive spin photos, too.
While a comprehensive slideshow helps customers see and understand the exterior and interior design and features, 360 spin photos offer a call-to-action and invite customers to interact with the image. A spin photo is designed as a 3D graphic depiction of the vehicle; customers can user a fingertip or a mouse to rotate it in all directions.
Panorama spin photos showcase the interior of the car. These images give customers the feeling that they are sitting in the car and looking all around. With a mouse or a fingertip, customers can peer in the back seat or look up at a moonroof.
While professional stock photos are an additional investment, these resources add to the impact and effectiveness of ad campaigns, blog content and the dealership’s website. Customers need and demand visual data when they research; these images offer a look at the interior and exterior of vehicle models to help customers decide which model is best for their needs.
Dealerships with a tighter marketing budget need to decide how to allocate each dollar. However, there are many digital marketing strategies that are free. Save money and free up the budget by utilizing these strategies.