Branding is important to the continued success of not only vehicle manufacturers, but the dealerships that sell their products. Currently, automotive manufacturers own some of the strongest brands in the entire marketplace – but unfortunately, the same can’t be said for dealerships. Many dealerships struggle with creating a cohesive brand of their own across marketing channels, and end up completely relying on the brand image associated with the vehicles that they sell.
For dealerships to forge their own path and remain relevant to customers, they must focus on constructing a strong brand across both online and offline channels. Creating a unique image that sets you apart from your contemporaries won’t just help with attracting customers and closing sales – it helps your dealership sell aftermarket services, retain customers, and makes you more conspicuous in the marketplace. Let’s look at a few ways that car dealerships can create an effective brand strategy.
How Should I Construct a Branding Campaign?
When constructing a branding campaign, consistency is key. First, have all upper-level members of your organization meet to determine how your dealership would like to assert themselves. Are they honest salespeople who always try to cut the best deal? Or, do you always put the shopper’s experience first, making the car buying process as pleasant as possible? This will be central to your branding campaign’s messaging.
Before launching the marketing campaign, ensure that you have the right tools to measure your progress. Dealerships need to be able to capture data and measure the strength of their branding campaigns over both online and offline channels. Then, they need to analyze those insights to craft upcoming branded campaigns that are proven to resonate with consumers. These tools also need to give recommendations on which channels their target audience is more likely to engage with. By ensuring that your team is marketing on the right channel with the right message, your dealership will be set up for future successes.
6 Tips for a Successful Car Dealership Marketing Campaign
One of the leading challenges for car dealerships today is the ability to bring new people through the door. Although the majority of car sales occur in-store, search and social media are often one of the first places that people will turn to when buying a car. Car dealerships should think of digital marketing strategies they can implement to meet these potential customers where they are, rather than waiting for people to come to them. Here are 6 tips for building a successful car dealership campaign:
1. Understand Your Target Audience
One of the most important things for car dealerships to consider are the differences between their various target audiences. The interests, wants, needs, concerns, and even questions of a prospective luxury car buyer and one looking for a more affordable option are going to vary greatly. Dealerships must take this into account when building out their marketing plans, as factors like messaging, timing, and media channel will need to be optimized for each segment.
2. Build the Brand of Your Salespeople
A big part of branding for dealership is the in-person experience. Tune into a few car dealership commercials, and you’ll notice many of them tout the expertise of their friendly staff. Yet, the staff are nowhere to be found during these commercials, making this claim rather empty. In addition to this, traits like “knowledgeable” and “friendly” are so cliché that they make your sales team look like it was created with a cookie cutter.
Many salespeople aren’t given a chance to create an identity within the dealership – and this is a huge missed opportunity. Encourage your representatives to not only let their personalities shine through, but also to broadcast it to the world. For example, have salespeople create work-sponsored Instagram accounts, and ask them to update it with photos of their favorite cars at the dealership, or pictures of happy customers. Then, cross-post their photographs using the dealership’s social media account. This won’t just strengthen relationships with customers and put a face to your brand – it will help your salespeople feel recognized.
3. Update Your Online Presence
As previously mentioned, customers are apt to conduct some cursory research on a new dealership before visiting it – and when customers research, they often turn to the internet. If your dealership has a website from 2007 and a Twitter that hasn’t been touched in six years, this will be off-putting for potential customers. For this reason, dealerships need to ensure that they are regularly updating their website and social media pages.
Make sure your online presence is polite and professional, as well. While it’s okay to occasionally post pictures of the owner’s dog hanging out at dealership, your posts should relate to the business’s interesting happenings, or star products. Did your service center have to make a shocking repair? Share the story on Instagram or Facebook! Did a shipment of this year’s new model come in? Post some glamor shots on social media, and be sure to update when that car found its new family!
Additionally, be sure to use a marketing performance tool to see how your social media and digital campaigns tie into your broader marketing efforts. Digital should be one component of a broader campaign strategy that includes online and offline touchpoints. By building an omnichannel approach with an attribution model that can tie social media, digital, and offline advertising to sales, your team will place their efforts where it matters most.
4. Media Spend Should Flexibly Adapt to Industry Trends
When planning your media spend, you should consider how various internal and external factors such as seasonality or the release of a new car model will impact overall ROI. In order to effectively plan for changes ahead, it’s very important to have an understanding of the common trends happening in the automotive industry.
Across many industries, adaptability is key. The world is rapidly changing, and unforeseen events such as COVID-19 highlight the need for flexible marketing analytics that can offer a more comprehensive view of the efficacy of your marketing efforts. Marketers in the automotive industry should consider tools that can help them achieve this - solutions that leverage intelligent frameworks like Bayesian Learning and Forgetting allow marketers to create a data-driven marketing plan that can offer a more nuanced understanding of your team’s marketing success
5. Watch Your Online Reviews
When customers are looking for a new car, they’ll likely check the reviews of local dealerships, and skip over dealerships with especially low ratings. If your dealership’s reviews are hovering at about three stars, your foot-traffic may already be suffering. However, do not combat low reviews by creating fake reviews, or closing down your account on a review website. Instead, take a constructive approach.
If a customer writes a five star review, then write a follow-up comment expressing your gratitude. If you or the salesperson remembers talking to them, call out a specific aspect of their experience to make the interaction more authentic. This will reinforce your rapport with that customer while projecting a positive image to potential shoppers.
Now, look at your one-star and two-star reviews. They might be painful to read – but as a consumer-facing business, it is absolutely in your best interest to accept all criticism with grace. Failing to respond to negative reviews makes customers perceive a dealership as untrustworthy, which is never a desirable trait. Do not dismiss any part of their experience. Instead, express empathy and a desire to make things right. Even if that customer never reads your response, thousands of onlookers will – and when they do, it’s vital that they only see honesty and professionalism.
6. Gauge the Quality of Customer Interaction
Dealerships need to pay attention to how every customer interaction affects branding. For example, imagine the moment that a customer enters your dealership. Does the receptionist immediately ask if they have an appointment? Or, do they help them get settled with some coffee or tea before getting down to business? While the former seems to push sales on customers, the latter is an effort to improve the customer’s experience.
A purely sales and volume-based approach won’t pay off in the automotive industry. Instead, each customer needs to be treated like an asset to the company, and their behaviors and attitudes need to be considered across both online and offline touchpoints. To get these insights, automotive dealerships should invest in brand tracking software. This will help you discover the best way to develop your future branding and marketing strategies.
There are a lot of great ways to build your car dealership's brand across both online and offline channels. However, it’s not easy to track and understand these brand-related insights. After all, customers are engaging with your dealership’s brand through online channels like social media and later engaging with your dealership offline in the waiting room. These online and offline touchpoints must be weaved together to derive insights that will build a strong relationship.
Keep in mind that your brand reputation precedes you. Investing in building a brand image that stands out from the competition will always be worth it. Once a special, trademark brand experience has been created for your dealership, you’ll create an environment and set of attitudes that keeps customers coming back.