A marketing plan outlines the initiatives and tactics for a business related to social media, advertising, events, sales promotions and online content (including website copy). Marketing campaigns help businesses reach their targeted customer demographics to boost potential leads and increase sales, too.
While marketing tactics often are aimed to appeal to a larger audience or buyer segment, the individual customer also is important for the message to have optimal impact. Digital communications has allowed marketing initiatives to be tailored to each customer, and this approach enables the message to be personalized and more individualized. Here’s how dealerships can personalize marketing to create a dynamic experience for each customer.
Personalizing Email Marketing
Email marketing lets customers who sign up to the dealership’s mailing list receive communication about promotions, sales and other information. The easiest ways for dealerships to personalize their email messaging to customers and clients is through:
- Service updates and reminders
- Trade-in offers
- Anniversary and other congratulatory messages
- Annual check-ins
Send Service Updates and Reminders
The dealership could offer an email list that buyers who purchased a new or used car could join to receive service reminders and updates for their specific vehicle. These emails would remind customers when their car is due for an oil change, tire rotation or other service needs related to mileage on the odometer. These emails also could remind customers about an upcoming appointment, too.
Not all car owners know what they need to check or replace on their vehicle or what maintenance needs are recommended at certain mileage milestones. These emails could be an informative communication tool that allows car owners to ensure their vehicle is scheduled for the recommended service check-ups.
The dealership should have a running list of customers and their purchases. This list can be useful if the dealership is low on inventory of a specific model. Dealerships can target a trade-in offer email to those who purchased vehicles that are now in-demand. While not all car owners might be ready to trade-in their vehicle, some might be interested in offering their vehicle as a trade-in.
Dealerships can provide customers with details about how to get an estimate for their vehicle. Dealerships could host a trade-in event and invite car owners to bring in their vehicle for a trade-in valuation and shop for a new model.
Anniversary and Congratulatory Messages
The anniversary of a car purchase could be an exciting milestone, especially if the vehicle was the first new car the individual purchased. Celebrate the anniversary of a car purchase by sending a personalized email to the owner; the email also could include a coupon for a free service like an oil change.
Dealerships also could send a greeting on a customer’s birthday, too. These personalized messages show customers that they are valued and remembered by the dealership long after the car purchase.
Encourage the sales team to check in on customers even if those emails are just sent once a year. The team can reach out on the anniversary of the purchase. The sales team also could send customers updates about sales, special promotions or other events.
Personalize the Purchase
Buying a car is not the same process for every buyer. Some prefer to handle all their car research online and they only visit the dealership when they are ready to finalize the purchase. Other buyers might like the in-person dealership experience. Preferences can vary by generation, and cultural traditions could impact preferences, too.
For example, many Hispanic women who are buying a vehicle have strong feelings about dealerships that are bilingual. Some are willing to travel further if they know that the dealership is bilingual.
Age also impacts buying preferences and buying habits. Gen Z is known for preferring luxury automobiles and they like to negotiate. Gen Z doesn’t really want to buy a vehicle online.
Dealerships must take into account different buying preferences for each potential customer. They need to adapt the sales approach to meet the needs of these buyers, too. Again, Gen Z likes to negotiate, but these younger buyers also don’t like their time wasted. The drawn out technique that sales team members use to lengthen the in-person experience (and perhaps break down the buyer) might be effective for Gen Z. Instead, these buyers might just leave the dealership and move on.
Personalize the Online Experience
The dealership’s website now needs to evolve into a research resource for buyers. According to Cox Automotive’s 2022 Car Buyer Journey Study, the vast majority of buyers (69 percent) perceive themselves using the dealership’s website to complete the entire purchase in the next few years.
If car buyers plan to use the dealership’s website as their primary tool for buying a car, dealerships need to provide resources that aid this journey. Can buyers explore the car virtually? Are there enough photos of the vehicle to help buyers understand the vehicle’s features and design?
Personalize the online experience by incorporating immersive and interactive tools for the buyer. Augmented reality experiences are designed to use the camera of a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet to let customers explore products from home or anywhere. Individuals can capture their environment via the device camera and then drop in a 3D digital image of a vehicle to preview it in their selected space. Some augmented reality experiences let the consumer walk around a car, look inside or even change the paint color.
Not all dealerships are able to offer an augmented reality experience online. However, an expansive photo slideshow for vehicle models can be incorporated online to help customers research their favorite vehicles. EVOX Images offers interactive 360 degree spin photos that provide a virtual exploration experience for website visitors.
A 360 degree spin photo does not require any special tools or apps. The individual can use a fingertip or a mouse to interact with a 3D image of a vehicle. These photos can show the exterior or interior of the vehicle and customers can use a fingertip (for mobile devices) or a mouse to rotate the photo in 360 degrees and see it from all angles. Panorama photos showcase the interior of the car, and these photos give customers the feeling that they are sitting in the front seat and looking around the car.
Dealerships also can and should include expansive vehicle image slideshows that provide customers with all the data they want about the car’s interior and exterior features and details. EVOX Images offers a library of images for most vehicle models; these images show up-close looks at the engine, tires, infotainment screen and more.
Personalize the Social Media Experience
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok let businesses connect with customers and serve as a marketing tool, too. Each platform has its own content focus, but each one lets businesses interact with their customers and start conversations.
Personalizing the social media experience requires businesses to stay active on these platforms. Ask customers to participate in polls to better understand their opinions and preferences. Respond to comments, and be proactive about responding to reviews, too.
Some businesses use social media to host contests, too. A contest on social media can help a business increase their followers or simply boost their social media activity.
Personalize the Sales Approach
Some customers will visit a dealership only to realize that they don’t really identify with the brand at that specific dealership. An article in Entrepreneur noted that dealership groups that have a branded dealership that focuses on a different manufacturer might steer that customer to this dealership location. Some dealership groups are aligned with different manufacturers; they might have a location focused on Toyota, while another location offers Mercedes-Benz.
Dealerships should be able to determine if another branded location might better suit the customer. In addition, the dealership’s sales team member could contact the other location to set up an appointment for the customer. Take the service to the next level to ensure that the visit to the other location is seamless and simple.
Dealerships that don’t identify a customer’s preferences might simply lose the sale to a competitor. Think about all the brands associated with the dealership family. Don’t limit the customer; consider the customer’s individual needs and make recommendations accordingly.
Understand that Every Buyer is Unique
Every buyer that walks into a dealership is unique and so are their needs and buying preferences. However, personalizing communications to buyers isn’t just an in-person concern. The internet and the power of digital marketing now makes it easier than ever to better meet the individualized needs of buyers for a more personalized experience.
Send email communications to customers that celebrate a purchase anniversary, to remind them that their car is due for a specific service or send them a message to help them understand the potential trade-in value of their current car. Emails also can be a simple touch-base message from the sales team.
Dealerships also should understand that every generation might have unique buying and shopping preferences. Gen Z likes to negotiate, but they might not love buying a car online.
Even social media experiences can be personalized. Use social media to connect with customers; respond to their comments, create polls that help them feel seen and heard and respond proactively to their reviews. Social media is a marketing tool but it’s also a tool that aids communication and relationships.
Dealerships also should remember that the dealership family is sometimes a large network. While one location might not carry the brand the buyer wants, another location might focus on a manufacturer (or car brand) that is a better option. Help the buyer find what they want even if that means guiding them to a sales team member at another dealership within the family.