6 Ways To Solve Common Automotive Marketing Problems

March 28, 2018 Carol Forden

Every business has seasonal sales slumps each year, and they can be frustrating. From talking with auto dealerships, we identified 6 common auto dealership marketing problem.

If you are reselling another company’s product line, as every auto dealership is, you find yourself feeling like you are too heavily focused on the manufacturer brand and not building your dealership brand.

Or maybe you are sick of the price wars that competitors pressured you into.  If this is the case, Outsell Digital is here to help you solve these problems.

There are common marketing problems that our auto dealership clients and prospective clients have discussed with us and as some insight on best practices to solve them.

1. Not ranking on page one on Google and other search engines

The number 1 problem that we hear from dealerships is not ranking on page 1 position on Google and other search engines for keywords that relate to their products and services.

Search ranking is the first point of contact and exposure for many consumers ready to make buying decisions.

When your potential customers go online and type keywords and phrases that relate to your business, you need to be visible to be discovered.

You need to be found when and where people are looking for you; it’s as simple as that.

The Solution

SEO is not about being in the number one place on search results of every possible search result; it’s about being present in search for the right longtail keyword phrases.

For example, with a client, we worked on developing a robust keywords list that included longtail keywords such as  ‘BMW Z series Gulf Coast dealership’ to ensure they had the top position when people searched with these keywords on Google or other search engines.

From our research, we knew these terms were popular in search rankings, so it made sense to focus on this longtail keyword phrase.

To address this problem, you will need to focus on four things.

The four will have a positive impact on your search engine ranking.  With an action plan, now it was just a matter of prioritizing and focusing on each one individually.

  1. Invest resources in SEO
  2. Develop a robust keyword list
  3. Mobile-optimize the website (Google is moving to a mobile-first index this year)
  4. Create consistent and valuable content that uses the keywords

1. SEO covers a range of techniques such as on-page, off-page, social and technical.

You can read more about SEO here, for the sake of time, we are not going to into all the details of each in this article.

If SEO sounds greek to you, don’t worry.  If you are interested, we can run an SEO audit on your website, and generate a report to show you exactly what improvements can be made to enhance your search results.

The objective of any SEO project is to establish a robust organic presence to drive quality traffic to your website which drives conversions. Local SEO is another aspect of SEO to consider; it helps prospective local customers find your dealership easily.

2.  Keyword research is critical for ranking on any search engine.  There is no universal or standard approach to executing keyword research.

It will vary based on the following:

  • Your website (domain authority, number of pages, quality of content, and so on)
  • Your goals and objectives (branding, exposure, traffic, leads, sales)
  • Your budget, resources, and deadline
  • Your industry and competitive landscape

You should start with seed keywords. These are the foundation of keyword research. They define the niche and help you identify competitors.

With an existing product or business that you want to promote online, coming up with seed keywords is as easy as describing the product in your own words or brainstorming how others might search for your product.

The goal is to start by exploring available monetization methods. Pick a product or a service then think of search queries that people might be using to find it on Google.

Start with a super broad keyword and niche down until you see an interesting opportunity. The goal is to “niche down,” to do so, you need to focus on longer and more specific keywords that have your main keyword in it.

Then you need to filter to narrow down that huge list of keyword ideas to those that are exactly a four-word phrase.

Now that you have your seed keywords figured out. The next step is to generate a giant list of relevant keyword ideas; this will give you a good understanding of what people in your niche are searching for on Google.  There are at least four good ways to do this.

  • What keywords you already rank for
  • What keywords your competitors are ranking for
  • Use a keyword research tool
  • Study your niche

Now you want to understand the keyword metrics.  This includes search volume, clicks, traffic potential, keyword difficulty and cost per click of the keywords with a PPC campaign.

Once you have done this analysis, now you want to group your keywords.  Keywords can be arranged by:

  • Parent topic
  • Intent
  • Business value
  • Priority

A good keyword research reference is the Ahrefs’ Guide:  How To Do Keyword Research for SEO

3.  Welcome to 2018, Google is now moving to a mobile-first ranking, this was first announced in 2015 ‘Google mobile-friendly update.’  Therefore, your website must be mobile-friendly for your dealership to be found online.

Mobile-friendly enhance the online user experience and over 50% of all web searches today are completed on mobile.  So, if you want to be found, you have to have a mobile responsive website.

4. A website goes stagnant when there is no new content or updates of any kind; search engines may view these sites as dead.

In the graphic below we offer a few insights into why you always want to have a fresh website with new engaging content added on a consistent basis.  Want to learn about the benefits of Content Marketing? Click here.

Website Content

2. Seasonal Slow Down In Sales

Every car dealerships have periods in which they struggle with a seasonal slow down.

If you analyze your sales performance year over year, you will often see the same troughs and peaks.

Being proactive means planning for the dips with a digital marketing plan to overcome the decline.

Digital marketing campaigns are an effective way to overcome a slow seasonal period, a little creativity tied to a few initiatives designed to engage your target audiences and customers online in some excitement to drive in sales.  There is no reason why you cannot shake things up and alter the predictable sales slumps this year.

The Solution

1.  You need to identify when sales dips occur, what if any patterns there are.  What is the competition doing?  Do they see the same sales dip at the same time? How do they handle it?

2. Analyze the competitions social media channels during the dips, are they doing anything different?  Talk with your customers, is there anything that you learn from the conversations that explain the slowdown?

Never assume you know why sales dips occur.  You may have been in the industry for over 20 years, however talking with customers may bring ideas raise issues and reasons you never even considered.

3. Consider running an event that drives customers on to your lot.  This can be as simple as a blood drive with a ‘prize’  (free battery check ) for donating blood.  You want to minimize the cost of an event while contributing to the overall community.  Events can be expensive to run and a drain on resource. And you can only do so many events each year before it gets stale.

4.  Use digital marketing to engage your target audience.  An investment in a digital marketing campaign which is relatively fast to set up cost less and often bring a higher ROI while being creative to drive customer engagement and traffic to the dealer showroom.

An excellent example of dealing with this problem was a client who wanted to increase service department sales.  We launched a Rich SMS campaign this was something they had never considered before.  The campaign generated over $81,000 in sales over the first few weeks of the promotion.

This campaign was a new,  engaging way for our customer to communicate a special offer to their lapsed service department customers. It was memorable, mobile-based, generating conversions with clear calls to action including “Book an appointment now.” See the case study here.

3. Differentiating your brand from the manufacturer

Car dealerships rely too heavily on the manufacturer brand for their marketing strategy and less on their brand identity.

Dealers need to recognize the need to build their own brand identity and discover a balance between the two.

Knowing that you are not the only dealership in the area to be selling that brand of car, its wise to remind your customers and prospects why your company is the one they should be purchasing their new car from.

Differentiating your branding from the manufacturer’s is more powerful and compelling for both you and your customers.

The goal is to build a customer relationship with brand familiarity between you and the customer, not between the manufacturer and the customer.

The Solution

Content marketing is a way to build your own valuable content that showcases your brand in a way that creates trusts with customers and online target audience.

Content marketing is an interesting area because the possibilities are endless.

Content marketing is not just about news stories and blog articles; you can use video to engage your audience, develop a social media campaign that drives your brand through a social contest and fun competitions, use the power of user-generated content, or engaging visuals and infographics.

Promoting customer reviews of your dealership is another avenue for differentiation.

Reviews allow you to show that your customers come to you for great customer experience and exceptional customer service, not just for the brand or price.

85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

According to Search Engine Land.  There should be no doubt that this is an area that should have your focus and effort.

Have you ever taken a photo of the delivery of a new car to a customer? Then used the picture, adding a quote from the customer and posted it on Facebook or Instagram?

You could gather several picture and quotes into one graphic brand it with your logo and upload it to Instagram or Twitter. Then create a short video as a celebration of all your customer reviews for the month.  Don’t you think potential customers would notice this?

If someone takes the time to write a review about your dealership, you need to take the time to, respond and thank them.  If you solved the customer’s problem or provided a resolution to a problem, even if the feedback is not as positive as you would like, you still should respond and be positive.

Resolving and responding quickly to unhappy customers is as critical and reflects on the quality of customer service you provide.

4. Local Competition Price wars

Price wars are a common problem for car dealerships.

Price wars are a lose-lose for both your dealership and the competition.  Price wars squeeze margins, and you both feel the pressure match or beat a competing offer.

What many dealerships do not realize is the price is important, but it isn’t the most critical attribute of a sales.  It’s not the one consumers value most. So our advice is to stop making price a focal point.

A study from Autotrader says: 

54% of consumers do not buy on price, its the experience

The Solution

Focus on improving the customer experience, and not only in-store today, as the customer journey starts online.

You need to be responsive online, starting with your social media channels, providing valuable content that educates, solves customers’ problems and entertains. You need to be adding value in other ways rather than just cutting price.

Customers want their questions and concerns answered. Customer service and the customer experience is worth more to most consumers than shopping for a low price.

Your competitor around the corner may sell the same car for $300 less, however, did they give the same responsive and helpful customer experience when the customers landed on their website?

Do they provide educational content that aids the customer on their site and in social media channels?

Do they spotlight customers as they take delivery of new vehicles?

If the answer is no, I’m willing to bet that you can bank on the fact that you will rank higher in their mind.

5. Low or minimal ROI from previous digital marketing efforts

how often have you heard car dealers say that they have dabbled in digital marketing but didn’t get compelling results, or a negative ROI?

The campaign was run by the in-house marketing team or with a cheap agency that a buddy recommended.

The campaign failed, and there was no analysis to see what went wrong or where it went wrong.

No insight was discovered to drive the understanding of how to move forward. Things just stopped.

Would you expect a team of digital marketing experts to be able to stand in your store and sell cars successfully, deal with the administration or other, without training, previous experience or knowledge about the product, would you?

The Solution

If you have invested in a digital marketing campaign and it wasn’t a success, stop and do the analysis of what and why it went wrong.

This insight will aid future efforts; to insure you don’t make the same mistakes twice.

If you need assistance with analyzing a previous campaign that has been run, drawing out the insightful conclusions and suggesting action steps to avoid a repeat of past failed efforts, we are more than happy to help.

Would you expect outstanding results without investing in training, expertise, skills, and knowledge in the digital marketing or content marketing world? Probably not, right?

There is no cheap, easy or fast solution to digital marketing and if this is what you have been lead to expect then we need to address what goes into a plan and strategy, followed by execution.

Why should you partner with an agency when it comes to proving an ROI with digital and/or content marketing? It saves you from wasting money on strategies that we know don’t work.

6. Thinking outside of the physical store

How do you impress the consumer at every stage of the customer experience and customer journey?

It’s not an easy feat; it takes a concerted effort and planning.

This is critical to your ability to drive conversions online, ongoing sales success and overall customer loyalty.

The customer journey today is far more complex and varied than it was just a few short years ago, and it starts online.

Every car dealership needs to remember that the customer experience starts outside the showroom and it’s not driven by television commercials.

The Solution

Each customer journey is unique and not all start at the same place, most start online, on a mobile phone today.

Start by mapping out the customer journey from start to finish, once you have this you can plan where you need to focus your efforts.

80 Percent of Buyers Likely to Begin Car Buying Process Online, Still 78 Percent Value In-Store Dealer Experience

New research from CDK Global found that 80 percent of buyers are likely to begin the car buying process online; still, 78 percent said they value the in-store dealership experience.

While the automotive industry is racing to provide the next online app, this study showed that shoppers expect the dealership to enable them to do more online from home, the majority don’t want to buy their vehicle entirely online.

Today, customer in the car buying process spend 60% – 5 hours and 12 minutes – using third-party sites or apps to research and shop online, a study by Autotrader discovered.

This study found that 88% of shoppers used the Internet for vehicle shopping and 78% use third-party sites or apps during the car buying process.

These studies illustrate why it is critical that auto dealerships communicate on the customer experience in addition to price and product.

Today, auto dealers have less than a 30% chance of changing the customer purchase decision once the customer is on the car lot.

It is imperative that dealers communicate a differentiator that represents their unique value propisition to consumers allowing the customer to identify the dealers that offer the specific car shopping experience the customer desires.

Look at the table below to see where you are today.

On the left-hand-side are the four stages that need to be managed as part of a digital marketing strategy, focusing on the interaction you have with consumers online.

Digital Marketing Strategy

We can run a manual digital audit to help you with all the above, allowing your dealership to n focus on what you do best.

If you are interested in finding out more about how we can help your dealership, please contact us