Your automotive dealership may provide an excellent sales experience and highly effective work in your service department, but if your marketing efforts are not effective, you’re not going to draw and retain as many customers as you should. It may seem like a secondary factor at best, but in reality, the work you do in marketing your dealership makes a tremendous difference when it comes to improving your valuation.
At DCG Acquisitions, we take a wide-spectrum view of our clients’ businesses, from operational, sales, and many other standpoints. Our team’s decades of experience in every aspect of the automotive industry is key to getting our clients the best results when they sell one or more dealership locations. Our expertise extends to analyzing the effectiveness of marketing as part of the entire picture of a dealership’s sales potential.
Improve your marketing efficiency
While sales and profits have never been better for most dealerships, this situation may not last forever, particularly with the current supply-chain issues the industry is experiencing. With this in mind, the efficiency of your marketing efforts can be directly reflected in the robustness of your bottom line. Your marketing efforts and outlays must be cost-effective, coherent, and produce the desired ROI. This area of your operations is well worth paying close attention to.
Let’s take an overflight of the current marketing landscape from the 30,000-foot level and identify some strategies to produce increased marketing efficiencies in your dealership.
Digital marketing is the name of the game
Of course, the big marketing news since the start of the pandemic has been the move by your customers into deeper levels of the digital realm. The entire sales process has moved online, where research, inventory selection, test drive, pricing, financing, and delivery can all be done without entering your showroom, locality permitting. In a world where millions of Amazon customers are used to one-click ordering, automotive retailing needs to keep up.
McKinsey has estimated that the percentages of consumers willing to make their entire new car purchases online will soon reach 25%, with up to 50% of all used car buyers ultimately buying their vehicles completely online. The current success of Carvana and Vroom provide solid evidence of this trend.
While there is still a sizable portion of the buying public who may be willing to consummate their purchase in your store, more and more of the process has gone digital. In fact, statistics show that about half of all car buyers do their research on third-party websites – not yours! How can you develop more of a following for your own digital storefront?
Make your dealership website into a serious marketing machine
This is the place where prospective buyers will come to meet and interact with your business. Today’s consumers have already done a considerable volume of research across a wide variety of automotive sites, often making their make and model choices before they investigate the local dealers who supply those vehicles. These informed consumers want to find the information they need, quickly and easily.
Your website is the place where these shoppers can become solid leads. You want your site to be able to fulfill their shopping needs and bring them closer to you and your organization.
Make it easy to explore your inventory
Different buyers search in different ways. Your vehicles should be searchable by year, make, model – even color. Make sure that your site is highly responsive, across all browsers and mobile devices. Clunky and slow-reacting sites will be quickly abandoned by shoppers.
Use video to bring your site to life
A vehicle is a big-ticket purchase, so the more information you can provide in an engaging way, the better. Video is the ideal medium for presenting vehicles and services to buyers. You can show current inventory, styling features, interior details, test drives, even service procedures. Video is also a great way to showcase your staff and start to build personal relationships with shoppers. Remember that every staff member’s smartphone has a high-quality video camera built right into it, so the equipment you need for this is ready to go! For even higher levels of marketing efficiency, your website videos can also be easily ported over to your social media posts and your YouTube channel (more on those later).
Interact with website visitors, whenever they show up
While your store probably has fixed hours, the internet is always open. Equip your website with chatbots that can ask whether shoppers would like additional information or a call from a representative. Offer an invitation to subscribe to your e-newsletter that comes with engaging content and service discounts to capture their email addresses for follow up marketing. Let shoppers set up an appointment for a test drive during store hours. Offer texting as a communication option. Make it easy for them to get to know you better!
Benefit from the tremendous reach of the Google ecosystem
Even though Google is the 800-pound gorilla as far as search engines go, and so much about Google’s processes are way out of your control, you can definitely use how Google works to your dealership’s advantage:
- Google My Business (GMB) page: Properly set up, your GMB page can help you to show up better when shoppers search for you. It also makes it easy for them to locate you, call you, read reviews, view photos, connect to your website, and generally get a good sense of who you are – before they ever leave the Google results!
- Google Pay per click (PPC) ads: This is the generic name for a variety of advertising options on Google. You bid on various keywords, then get charged when anyone clicks on your ad linked to the keyword, which sends them to your website. PPC can cost you, but PPC lets you build traffic to your site quickly and also run targeted campaigns for specific parts of your business. Google also provides you with a dashboard which lets you clearly see the costs and the results of your paid ad campaigns.
- YouTube (YT) videos: Creating a separate YT channel for your website videos (which costs you nothing) will bring those videos up in the search results when someone searches for you on Google. If enough people subscribe to your channel and watch your videos, you can even generate some revenue from them. It’s a nice added benefit! You can also pay to advertise on other peoples’ related YT videos (as a pre-roll) to get some extra reach.
Improve your search marketing
In view of the fact that Google handles around four million search inquiries every minute and has a market share of close to 90%, it is generally agreed that your marketing needs to show up well in Google searches, ideally on the first page. There are two ways to attempt this, with unpaid and paid search. Yes, there are other search engines, but Google dwarfs them all and should be your first go-to.
The unpaid part (also known as organic search) involves the way your website is seen and analyzed by the Google bots that do this for every single website on the internet. Google uses a complex algorithm (which no one knows and constantly changes) to rate your site’s pages for items like length, readability, relevant keywords, recently added content, and backlinks.
The way that your site appears to these Google bots and the page ranking that results can be improved through a process known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO “optimizes” your site so that it shows up in a better position when consumers do a search. Due to the mysterious nature of the Google algorithm, SEO tends to feel like a combination of computer science and black magic, but its basic principles can improve your search results. Digital agencies can usually provide you with SEO services.
Paid search is the PPC that was mentioned in the Google section above. As a supplement to your SEO, PPC ads can generate additional traffic to your site more quickly than SEO alone typically can. Your PPC budget can be tailored to your needs and can be monitored in fine detail. Taken together, unpaid and paid search can supplement each other and produce more robust results. Again, a digital agency can provide you with guidance on setting up and running your PPC program.
Be savvy with your social media
Social media channels offer many advantages to auto retailers who know how to use them:
- Build your dealership’s brand
- Reach consumers fast with relevant messaging
- Build relationships with interesting content
Much like Google, many social media channels offer both organic and paid content. Organic content is what you post from your accounts, which goes directly to your followers. It should always be relevant and engaging to capture their interest and keep them connected to you. Ongoing interaction is the essence of a positive organic social media marketing presence.
Paid content goes to anyone you wish to target. Because these social media channels know so much about their users, you can target them very precisely – by age, income, neighborhood, marital status, family size. Even better, you can track the ROI of your paid social media campaigns very easily.
Another option is to engage the services of a prominent local social media influencer, who can alert their already large following to the benefits of your store’s products and services.
If you already have someone on staff to manage your social media, that’s a good start. If not, there are social media agencies that can help you to get your efforts off the ground and maintain them on an ongoing basis.
Manage your online reputation
Have you ever checked the Yelp reviews of a new restaurant before you made a reservation? What about the Amazon reviews of a product you were about to purchase? Today’s consumers are used to checking online reviews before they commit to doing business – and your dealership is no different. Positive reviews are a barometer of how well a business treats its customers and attracts new ones. Whenever you get one, be sure to thank the customer online.
Let’s face it – dealing with customers has its ups and downs. We’d all like to have nothing but great reviews, but that’s not reality. No one’s perfect. The secret to dealing with a less-than-ideal customer service situation is to respond to every angry or disillusioned customer online, in whatever forum it appears, and try to resolve the situation to the customer’s ultimate benefit. Consumers understand that there will be problems, but it is the way you respond to them that defines your image in their minds.
Use email marketing
Email can be a powerful marketing tool with very low costs. You can use email to generate leads for the sales department, offer discounts to boost your service department, or promote used cars that just hit your lot. A quarterly e-newsletter with new car updates and service specials is another great way to promote your dealership to customers. You can also drill down and segment your customer lists in many different ways, such as targeting owners of cars with over 100,000 miles for a high-mileage vehicle service special. The list goes on – see what you can come up with!
One important tip to remember with email marketing: You must respond promptly to any inquiries, ideally within an hour. Making customers wait any longer will be interpreted by them as a lack of concern on your part.
Track your results across all media
An online marketing strategy can get pretty complicated, between website activity, SEO, PPC, social media (both organic and ads), reputation management, email marketing, and anything else you have going on. It is essential to regularly monitor the effectiveness of all of these areas. They will not all work equally well. Once you see which initiatives are consistently producing the best results, you can increase the budgets for those and reduce or eliminate spending on the poorer performing media.
Get the most from your CRM system
Whichever CRM system your dealership uses, you can be sure that it has some great automated features that will make your marketing efforts much more efficient. You can benefit by taking advantage of what your CRM system has to offer.
This process starts by compiling all of your internal customer and marketing data sources, as well as external sources such as US census data and national motor vehicle title information. Next comes analysis of this large body of data, guided by your primary goal of increased profitability in as many operational areas as possible. This will let you clearly see your current level of performance, where the sales and service opportunities are, and what needs to be done to reach your goals.
This approach should also significantly improve not only the efficiency of your marketing, but also the quality of the customer experience. If you do not have staff in-house with the appropriate data management skills, an outside vendor may be able to assist you with this.
You can trust the DCG Acquisitions team’s analysis
At DCG Acquisitions, our goal is to support you in every way possible as we represent your dealership or group on the buyer or seller side of a transaction. As one of the leading automotive M&A firms in the country, and one of the fastest-growing, our services are backed with the wide-ranging expertise of our elite team. Contact us today to speak with one of our automotive M&A professionals and learn more about how DCG Acquisitions can help secure your legacy.