Running out of innovative car dealership marketing ideas? Frustrated that the tactics you’re using aren’t helping you grow your business? Invoca has you covered. Read on to learn about eight automotive advertising and marketing strategies you might not have considered — and why you should be adapting your approach to reaching target audiences in a rapidly changing marketplace.
Automotive industry ad spending in the first seven months of 2022 was around $4.8 billion, according to Reuters. That’s actually 13% less than the industry spent in the same period in 2021. However, that’s not because companies were short on marketing strategies. There just wasn’t a need to ramp up automotive advertising when overall new car inventory was at an all-time low, prices for new and used cars were skyrocketing, and car dealers were experiencing record profits.
Still, even in a tight automotive market where demand is strong, but supply is low due to post-pandemic supply chain issues, the automotive industry has spent a hefty sum on ads. Now, imagine how many more ads we’ll see on TV screens, in newspapers, on billboards, on the internet, in apps, and elsewhere when demand softens, and vehicle inventory starts to grow faster.
That wave will come sooner than you think, so the question is, are you ready for it? If not, take steps now to help ensure your auto dealership can stand out in an even more competitive marketplace.
Here are eight car dealership advertising ideas that can keep your digital marketing fresh and effective, and your ad strategy ROI headed in the right direction.
There’s a very good reason that more than a quarter of all automotive industry ads use video. Videos move cars! Over 75% of auto buyers responding to a Google/Ipsos survey said that online video influenced their shopping and buying habits. In a separate survey by Google/Ipsos, 60% of respondents reported that they visited a dealership or dealer website after watching a vehicle video. Also, consider that twice as many test drives are taken virtually via YouTube videos than in actual cars at dealerships.
If you want to be viewed as an innovative car dealership, you’ll want to do more than post a clever video on YouTube. You can expand your reach and set your brand apart by partnering with a YouTube creator (aka influencer) with an established and loyal audience. These experts in YouTube programming can help you tailor the right messages for your target audience. For automotive marketing, choose a partner with an auto-focused channel. There are plenty of them out there, and many have channels with an extensive and growing list of subscribers.
A Google/comScore survey found that a whopping 95% of car buyers conduct at least some of their research online before buying a vehicle. That impressive figure underscores why pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns should be an integral part of digital marketing for the automotive industry (and digital marketing for car dealerships, more specifically).
It’s not enough to just create a PPC ad to promote your dealership, though. PPC campaign success hinges on using the right keywords. So, do your keyword research to choose relevant terms. You may even want to check out your competitors’ ads to identify which keywords are working for them.
For more tips on using PPC in automotive marketing strategies, check out Invoca’s blog, The Definitive Guide to Automotive PPC.
Seventy-one percent of car buyers rely on social media channels to help them at some point during their car buying journey, according to CarGuru, an automotive research and shopping website. That’s a lot of people: Research shows over half the world’s population (3.96 billion people) use social media today. Many of those users are millennials and GenZers.
While the average vehicle buyer in the U.S. is around 50 years old, your automotive digital marketing plan should include outreach to millennial and Gen Z consumers. They are, at the very least, your future buyers, if many of them aren’t already previous car buyers. After all, the oldest millennials are now in their 40s, and the oldest Gen Zers are now 25.
As is the basic rule for all marketing strategies, you need to meet your consumers where they are. So, take the time to create a memorable brand persona for your dealership in social channels relevant to your target users. That might be TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, or another platform. The sky is the limit for what you can do creatively in these channels — from brand storytelling to sharing user-generated content to holding contests. Just make sure your efforts are relevant, timely, and authentic.
If you want to stand out in a crowded field, you can’t be a follower. The most innovative car dealerships constantly think outside the box to create compelling automotive advertising that sets them apart. This doesn’t necessarily mean creating edgy ads (though they should be creative).
“Zigging” might just mean deploying a strategy that is completely different from what your competitors are doing. For example, maybe they haven’t yet thought of using hyper-local websites like Nextdoor as a channel for their car dealership advertising.
Programmatic advertising can also help you stand out. Simply put, it involves using algorithmic software to buy display ads online. It’s automation of the media buying process, and it allows marketers to focus more of their time on creating ads that can deliver better results.
Programmatic advertising is different from paid search tactics for dealerships, but both strategies can deliver results. Paid search advertising will help you get in front of customers searching for your dealership on sites like Google and Bing. Programmatic advertising will help you keep them engaged, and you can use it for advertising across the web instead of just search engine sites.
For example, say a customer initially finds your car dealership via a search on Google. You can continue targeting them with banner ads across other sites they visit online and through video ads on YouTube. This can help your car dealership to stay top of mind with consumers, providing you with more opportunities to build brand awareness and eventually, make a sale.
Yelp, Amazon, Facebook, and Google’s Business Profile — to name just four of the many websites that feature business reviews — attract millions of eyeballs per month. In fact, Google’s Business Profile reviews see average monthly traffic of more than 150 million in the United States.
It stands to reason that having a positive review on sites like these can be a powerful tool in the quest for automotive lead generation. (Note: Apple Maps doesn’t have a third-party review function for businesses yet. However, you can, and should, list your business on Apple Maps because anyone using Siri to find a car dealership, for instance, will only receive listings claimed on Apple Maps.)
If you want to make the best use of review sites, claim the business listing for your auto dealership — or create one if it’s not yet listed. Make sure all the information is accurate and encourage satisfied customers to give you a review.
Another car dealership marketing idea is to feature positive reviews from actual customers in your campaigns. However, first, you’ll need to collect that feedback.
You can fast-track customer reviews in two simple ways:
Consider asking for a review as soon as a sale is finalized and send a follow-up email with a subject line like: “We’d love others to know how you feel about our dealership. If you’ll spend a few minutes telling us and others how we did, we’ll give you ___ .”
The incentive is up to you. Popular choices are gift cards, especially for coffee shops, restaurants or popular e-commerce sites. But your dealership may want to get creative and offer discounts on service appointments or merchandise. Partnering with a local charity to make a donation for each review (or allowing reviewers to name their charity) is another option.
In addition to asking for customer reviews at the point-of-sale, consider using Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) surveys to get more comprehensive feedback about the customer experience your car dealership is providing. The CSI survey should cover all aspects of the buying experience related to your dealership, from your website experience to your sales team’s responsiveness.
Remember, for many consumers today, the car-buying journey is an omnichannel experience. They might start their research online, call the dealership to get pricing information or schedule a test drive, and then visit the dealership in person. So, it’s important to connect all pieces of the customer journey and ensure a consistent experience throughout, including making your website easy to navigate, routing customers appropriately when they call, providing a great in-person experience once they stop by the dealership, and more.
The insights you gain about the customer experience through CSI surveys will allow you to make targeted improvements that can, in turn, help you boost your dealership CSI score. And a strong score is something you’ll want to feature in your automotive marketing efforts because it’s a testament to how you run your dealership. A solid CSI score demonstrates that you understand your customers’ needs and that the likelihood a car buyer will be satisfied working with you is high.
While a boost in sales may indicate your ad strategies are working, you’ll need metrics to confirm that your ads are truly effective. Here are some tips:
A key performance indicator (KPI) is quantifiable. It’s a measure of performance — in this case, for an ad program. Determine how you want to measure your dealership marketing program’s performance. Automotive lead generation is one option.
If you choose that option, you’ll also want to calculate your dealership’s cost per lead (CPL) to see how much each lead costs so you can budget for future campaigns. You’ll also want to benchmark CPL, as well. That will help you understand how to optimize your dealership marketing program to make it more efficient, helping you lower your CPL—and increase your marketing ROI.
Call tracking can be tricky (and even impossible, at scale) when it’s not handled digitally. Remember that phone calls carry important data that your marketing and sales teams can use to improve the automotive customer experience and boost sales outcomes. So, invest in technology that can help you surface those critical insights from calls.
Expanding your use of tracking and measurement software can enhance your measurement of campaign success and free valuable time for your marketing team to focus on promoting your dealership brand. So, if you don’t have a robust tech stack currently, consider making strategic investments to fortify it. The long-term payoff for your business will be well worth it.
You’re armed with new ideas, and you know what to do to measure advertising success. Next, you need to understand a few dynamics in the current marketplace likely to shape your dealership’s marketing strategies for some time to come.
When retail stores and auto dealerships were closed during the pandemic, sometimes for months, buying certain products online, like cars, became a necessity. But through this experience, many people also discovered they really liked the convenience and immediacy of buying things online, and they don’t intend to return to their traditional shopping practices.
That said, many consumers are coming back to car dealership lots to check out vehicles in person and give them a test drive. So, your ad strategy must straddle both worlds, with advertising that will appeal to consumers who would prefer to engage with your business primarily online (or exclusively, if possible), and advertising targeting those who are likely to come to your dealership’s location at some point in their customer journey.
More car buyers want to purchase hybrid or all-electric vehicles. This trend is being spurred to some extent by government mandates on gas emissions but also by higher gas prices and a growing desire, especially among younger buyers, for sustainable transportation options.
Consider this when developing your ad strategy. If you have hybrid or electric vehicle inventory, emphasize that availability in ads, especially if you have a dealership in or near a major city.
Tesla has supercharged the direct-to-customer sales model for the automotive industry, and its goal of circumventing the middleman (i.e., you, the car dealer) is likely here to stay. Tesla’s model is based on price certainty and providing a better customer experience than many buyers believe they can get at a typical dealership. The upshot: Dealerships will have to work harder to provide a better all-around customer experience than direct-to-consumer automotive sellers provide.
Invoca can help you optimize your marketing spend by allowing you to attribute which automotive marketing campaigns are driving phone call conversions. Many companies can only track online conversations. Bring Invoca into the mix, and you can see your full ROI, including phone call conversions. The result: You can make smarter spending decisions that can help increase total revenue — both online and over the phone.
Invoca also integrates with marketing tools like Google Ads and Search Ads 360, so automotive marketing teams can use the call attribution data to improve their bidding strategy. This helps increase ROI, too, since marketers can see the total picture of online and phone call conversions — and optimize their efforts accordingly. (Plus, they can effectively prove their results to leadership.)
Also, if you have a multi-location dealership network, you can ensure you’re sending callers to the nearest location and the next available salesperson, by using Invoca’s intelligent call routing.
You also need insight into the customer journey — to understand exactly how the online experience leads to a phone conversation, a visit to your dealership, and ultimately, a vehicle sale. Invoca’s automotive call tracking solution can provide those insights, allowing you to adapt your marketing tactics swiftly to stay in tune with customers’ needs and interests.
These strategic moves, informed by Invoca’s call tracking and conversational intelligence software, can help you grow your business by turning a potential car buyer who is “just looking” into the proud owner of a car from your dealership.
No matter which car dealership marketing ideas you decide will work best for your business in the near term, one outcome of these efforts should be increased opportunity to forge relationships with consumers that will last for the long term. Today’s car buyer may also be a future car buyer, so you’ll want to keep nurturing that relationship so you can earn their business again when the time comes.
Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you improve your automotive marketing strategy? Check out these resources: