11 Dealership Marketing Tips to Drive Sales

A road with cars and a smartphone illusion.

It’s a good time to assess your current dealership marketing tactics. Before the pandemic, consumers across the globe purchased 63.8 million vehicles. This increased by 2.9 million to reach 66.7 million vehicles in 2021 according to data by Statistica

What does this mean for car dealerships? 

Millions of people across the globe are interested in buying a car and are most likely looking for one to purchase. However, that doesn’t mean that dealership marketing is any less important. Every dealership wants a piece of this coveted buying pool. How do you stand out? 

If you’re familiar with the current way things work, then you know the most popular way people find cars or any product these days is online.

By having a strong dealership marketing strategy, you can meet customers where they are. Here are some tips to elevate your dealership marketing and increase car sales. 

What is dealership marketing?

Dealership marketing is the process of promoting your dealership brand to your target market. Typically, brands promote and market their products through social media, search engines like Google, and forums or auto online communities. 

As an auto dealership, you have unique marketing considerations. You may work with one or several auto manufacturers. As a result, you may have specific brand guidelines to meet or an auto co-op advertising fund that you want to use in your dealership marketing. 

At the same time, you need to connect with buyers at all stages of their car buying journey. We’ll look at the role dealership marketing plays in each stage below. We’ll also share actionable tips you can use in your marketing. 

How do you market dealerships effectively?

A successful dealership marketing campaign is all about understanding your customers. Once you know your audience, you can create marketing and promotional content that aligns with their needs. To do this, consider the entire customer funnel. 

The customer funnel is also commonly known as the buyer’s journey. It represents four stages potential customers go through from the moment they discover their problem (needing a car) to when they solve it by purchasing a solution (buying a car).

Let’s break down the four stages and the type of marketing that does well in each. 

Awareness 

In the first stage–awareness–the prospect experiences the symptoms of a situation or opportunity. For instance, a prospect discovers they need a new car to get to work easily. Naturally, the prospect will start looking for information on what they need (money, credit, or other qualifications) to purchase the car. 

Hence, the type of marketing collateral that does well in the awareness stage is explainer videos, how-to blog posts, and infographics. 

Consideration

At this stage, the prospect knows their problem or opportunity by name. Most of their research in this stage will revolve around different types of car brands. Car feature videos, listicle posts, and comparison posts will do well in this stage. The main goal of marketing your dealership in the consideration stage is to educate the prospect as they weigh their options.

They are considering dealerships. Therefore testimonials, demos, and reviews will also be super helpful to warm prospects up to make a purchase.  

Conversion or Purchase 

At this point, prospects are aware of their options. They’ve made comparisons and have zeroed in on a few items that they’d like to purchase. In car buying, the conversion usually happens when someone visits your dealership, test drives a car, and makes a purchase. However, you may also look at key metrics—vehicle inventory page views or dealership visits scheduled—to determine how close a prospect is to purchase. 

Loyalty

Finally, the prospect has converted into a customer. The goal of marketing at this stage is to build loyalty and turn your customers into brand ambassadors. Marketing at the loyalty stage should be consistent and scheduled. You may foster loyalty by creating email drip campaigns and blog posts on car care and servicing. 

Since vehicle inventory is constrained by high demand and low vehicle supply, more loyalty programs are focusing on auto repair and maintenance service programs. 

You also have to think of your customers and prospects in segments. For instance, your target audience may consist of luxury customers who drive Teslas, while others are more sporty and prefer a Chevy.

Segmenting ensures you get the right message to the right person. In turn, this grants your dealership better leads and conversion.

Sometimes, segmenting your customers may mean running different campaigns. And that’s okay because getting the right message across is more important and profitable in the long term. 

11 Tips for Dealership Marketing

Now that you have a clear picture of how potential customers move through your marketing funnel to make a purchase, you can start thinking about specific tactics. To get started, here are 11 dealership marketing tips.

1. Outline your metrics for success

What will you measure to determine success in your dealership marketing campaigns?

Most marketers rely on marketing KPIs to determine the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Unfortunately, there are loads of metrics you could measure. If you’re not careful, you could end up with vanity metrics–statistics that may sound good but don’t actually provide insights on what works and what doesn’t. 

The solution is to choose SMART KPIs. These are specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic, with timeframes.

Here are the most important metrics you should focus on in your campaigns. 

  • Click-through rate – How many people clicked through your ads? 
  • Leads – How many people interacted with your ads? How many prospects are worth pursuing? (Examples include people who filled out forms, placed a call, or schedule a test drive.)
  • Sales – How many people became customers from your marketing efforts? This is the most important KPI and should receive your utmost focus. 
  • Return buyers – How many of your buyers return for services or purchases? Of course, people don’t just buy cars every day, but you can track repeat customers for your accompanying auto accessories and services. 

With your KPIs in mind, you can dig into the specific tactics. Test out a few and use your metrics to determine if it’s worth investing more time and resources. 

2. Provide a great website experience

Your dealership website is usually the first point of contact customers have with your business. Hence, the experience customers have with your website needs to be seamless and personalized. 

For instance, ensure that your site loads fast and use lots of quality images to showcase your inventory. Prospects should be able to get price information, car make, fuel efficiency, car performance, and other pertinent features about the car. 

In addition, have a search and filter function on your site to make searching for a car easy for prospects. Most importantly, optimize your website for mobile since most auto shoppers use smartphones to research cars and prices. 

Finally, you need to put some effort into local search optimization. According to research by Go Gulf, 46% of all Google searches are geared towards finding local information. In most cases, customers searching online are looking for local dealerships near them.

Optimizing your business for local search helps customers easily find you online. To start, ensure you have a fully optimized Google My Business Profile. Also, invest in a local keyword strategy to win over local traffic. 

4. Include Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic search ads are the easiest way to reach customers searching for exactly what your dealership offers. Dynamic ads are most effective when you have a large inventory. 

Basically, dynamic search ads use your website content to create the ad. For instance, the ad headlines and keywords will come from your website. When your prospects click on the ads, they are led to one of your landing pages or another page on your website, as you’ve stipulated. 

These ads help you get ads out fast without experiencing delays in writing ads for new inventory. In addition, you avoid missing out on relevant search keywords. 

How exactly do dynamic search ads work? 

For example, if you own a car dealership in Pinal County, a prospect searching on Google for a sports car dealership in Pinal County may see your ad with the same headline. Once they click on it, they are led to your website’s landing page with information on Sports Car in Pinal County. 

You don’t have to create landing pages or ads from scratch. Google Ads uses your existing website content to create these dynamic search ads. 

5. Use programmatic advertising

By using programmatic advertising, you ensure your ads appear on multiple channels such as social channels, search, mobile, dealership review sites, TV, and out-of-home media. Programmatic advertising offers you more exposure and a bigger chance to reach users on multiple devices.

6. Try the Facebook marketplace for auto

The Facebook marketplace has blossomed into one of the top platforms dealerships use to market their cars. According to Facebook, car target audiences come in two forms–auto intenders and auto enthusiasts. 

Auto-intenders plan on purchasing a car. They are typically looking for information on different brands and prices. As the name suggests, auto enthusiasts are just really passionate about cars. They are not looking to buy a vehicle presently. 

Knowing your target audience is the first step to having a successful marketing campaign. For instance, you can create sales-focused marketing content for auto intenders and education-focused content for auto enthusiasts. 

Here are some other Facebook marketing tips for your auto dealership. 

  • Use Facebook Messenger to create a personal engagement with prospects. From Facebook’s research, 81% of auto consumers want to receive personalized messages about their favorite car brands. 
  • Optimize your ads for mobile since 56% of US auto shoppers do their shopping on mobile devices.
  • Use automotive inventory ads to reach customers who are actively shopping for cars. These ads use VIN-specific inventory advertising resulting in more conversion and better quality leads. 
  • Provide more personalization by using your CRM database to deliver personalized and relevant messages to prospects and customers.
  • Finally, promote your events and promotions through Facebook’s event-based ads

7. Use retargeting 

Since cars are a large purchase, potential customers are not likely to instantly make a purchase from the first ad. Here’s where retargeting comes in–you can catch the eye of interested shoppers again. 

In fact, one report found that only 2% of website visitors convert on their first visit. On the other hand, those that view retargeting ads are 70% more likely to make a purchase. 

Once you get a new lead through marketing, you don’t want to lose them. You can use retargeting to remind your leads about your brand and the special deals you’re offering them. Set up a retargeting audience to move customers closer to the purchase stage of the funnel. 

8. Win your competitor’s foot traffic with geo-conquesting

Geo-conquesting is a marketing technique that uses geofencing location data to set parameters around your competitor’s location. 

When prospects enter that location, you serve them ads through social channels, messages, or online search engines. This way, you also manage to attract your competitor’s audience and let them know about your brand. 

9. Stay ahead with reputation management and reviews  

When customers reach out to your dealership through social media comments, they expect your dealership to respond. It’s the same as a customer asking a question in person at your auto shop. You wouldn’t leave them hanging, would you? 

The same courtesy applies to reviews and customer comments online. If customers leave a positive review, offer a response. If they leave a negative one, offer a response too. 

Of course, how you respond to positive reviews will differ from how you react to negative reviews. For negative reviews, offer to solve the issue and give the customer a way to contact you directly. In cases of positive reviews, appreciate the customer. 

Responding to reviews and comments makes your customers and target audience feel valued and heard. 

10. Leverage the brand or auto manufacturer 

People often buy products because they are authentic, original, and highly valued. Many auto manufacturers have existed for decades, and have already built brand awareness and loyalty.

By leveraging an auto manufacturer’s prominence, you can get more customers on board. Feature the car brand logo in your ads. You can also use various reviews and testimonials about the car brand to promote your inventory. As long as you make sure your ads follow the manufacturer’s brand guidelines, you can use its brand awareness in your ads. 

11. Highlight sales promotions and events

Sales promotions and events are also a great way to get more eyeballs to your dealership business. You can host giveaways with gift cards as prizes. You could also offer discounts on services or go as big as providing free oil change for a year for the winners. The important thing is to align your promotions to what your audience needs. 

How much does advertising your dealership cost?

As per data by the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), dealerships spent $602 for each vehicle in 2021. That was a little higher than in 2020 but still considerably lower than the average of $640 in 2019. Most dealerships spent the majority of their advertising budget on online advertising at 63.6%. The rest of the ad budget was distributed to local television at 12%, local newspapers at 5%, and the rest to radio. 

Digital dealership marketing can help you catch customers’ eyes and drive brand awareness. But most importantly, digital dealership marketing can help you reach your sales goals faster and more conveniently. However, there are too many cogs and parts to marketing your dealership alone. If things have become a little overwhelming, get the help of an auto marketing agency to drive more sales.