One of the most difficult challenges you face as a dealership is standing out in a crowded market. The odds are good that you are one of many dealerships operating in a small geographic area. This can make it hard to differentiate your dealership from the one just up the block or around the corner.
But differentiation is key. In a market where consumers rely on online research and price shopping to make their purchasing decisions, it is imperative to build a loyal customer base that provides you with repeat business and becomes brand ambassadors by sharing your brand with others.
Today, we’ll take a look at seven easy ways you can improve your dealership’s brand image, leading to loyal customers who recognize your brand and trust what you deliver.
1. Define Your Brand Internally
Before you can market your brand and build a name for yourself in the local market, you need to understand your brand internally. If you have yet to identify a clear brand image for your dealership, now is the time to get started.
A brand identity should answer these questions:
- What is your dealership’s unique value that you deliver?
- What is your dealership’s core vision?
- What is your dealership’s core message?
If you can’t clearly answer these questions, you need to spend some time digging into your brand identity. Defining your brand should be a cross-team effort. You want to ensure that you are receiving feedback from your sales team, service center, customer service representatives, marketing team members, and C-suite.
Together, develop an agreed-upon brand identity you will use as the foundation for your brand marketing efforts.
2. Create Brand Guidelines
Once you have created a brand identity, it is time to build your brand guidelines. These guidelines will ensure that all marketing and sales activities adhere to the same brand standards. This will be imperative in building a brand image with both new and repeat customers.
Your guidelines should include:
- Your dealership’s logo and name
- A color palette and list of approved fonts
- Your dealership’s slogan
- Key brand messages
- Approved dealership imagery
Regardless of the size of your dealership, brand guidelines are a must. Taking the time to define these guidelines will help your brand stand out from others.
Not sure how to design your brand guidelines? Consider hiring a marketing agency for help. Marketing agencies specialize in building brand guidelines and can even help you develop key brand messages to utilize across future marketing endeavors.
3. Commit to Clear, Consistent Messaging
For your dealership to establish a recognized brand in your market, you need to remain consistent in your brand messaging. It takes time for customers to build awareness around a brand and to build trust in that brand.
Take a look at the messaging you created as you identified your brand.
- How can you communicate that message to your target audience?
- What channels will work best for the demographic you are hoping to reach?
For example, if you are hoping to boost sales with first-time car buyers, you will want to invest heavily in digital channels as younger generations prefer to text or chat online with sales representatives rather than phoning in or visiting a physical location.
Next, make sure every single team is on the same page. Your brand message needs to come across consistently throughout every interaction with your dealership. This means sales teams, service teams, management, and anyone at all who will interact with customers, need to be on the same page when it comes to your brand image.
4. Engage With the Local Community
One of the best ways to make a name for your dealership is by engaging your community on an ongoing basis. There are countless ways to get involved and help drive your brand image, but the following are good places to start:
- Host a charity: At your next sales event, consider inviting a local charity to attend the event to raise money for their cause. For example, if you have a local food pantry, host a food drive at your sales event.
- Start an employee volunteer day: Once a quarter, sponsor an employee volunteer day where sales team members and other staff volunteer time at a local charity. Snap some pictures and share them on social media, in your newsletter, and on your blog.
- Sponsor a sports team: Find a local sports team and provide a sponsorship. This is a wonderful way to support a local cause and to get your brand out there.
Remember, when you look for ways to engage with your local community, keep it authentic. Customers can see through gimmicky community participation, and seeming inauthentic can do more damage than good.
5. Encourage Social Media Interactions
When you think of some of the most iconic brands out there, the majority have a killer social media presence. From the witty banter of Wendy’s on Twitter to the incredible curation of lifestyle content by Red Bull, these brands are promoting their own name and image simply by engaging with their target audience via social media.
While your dealership might not garner the attention of these multi-national greats, there is a lot you can learn from their consistent engagement.
- Be authentic. People love engaging with brands online that are personable and relatable. Go back to your brand identity and work on weaving that into your social media interactions.
- Be consistent. The more often you post, the faster you respond to a message, and the more you engage with other brands in the community, the greater your reach will become. Whether you assign an in-house social media manager or outsource this task to an agency, make sure you are consistent in your presence.
- Be strategic. Odds are good that you only have so much time in a day to dedicate to social media management. Make sure that the time you spend is focused on the best channels to reach your target audience.
6. Gather Feedback Quarterly
No one understands your brand image like your customers. In fact, your customers are a wealth of information for measuring your success at improving your dealership’s brand image.
Every quarter, take time to gather feedback from your existing customer base around your brand’s effectiveness. You can do this through surveys that you email out, through focus groups you host in person, or even through one-on-one interview calls.
Regardless of the method you use, the following are some key areas to focus on when asking for feedback:
The first place to begin when establishing your dealership’s brand is building awareness of your brand and working on brand recognition. Determining whether your brand is recognizable with customers is one of the building blocks for the rest of your brand strategy. When a customer sees your brand, do they recognize it? If not, you need to start with this foundational piece before moving on to the rest of your strategy.
If your customers do recognize your brand, the next thing you’ll want to understand is what they associate with your brand. This could be positive, and this could be negative. The goal as you gather feedback is to understand how your messaging is landing with your customers and how much of their own associations they are building. For example, if one of your key messages is that you are a family-owned, community-focused dealership, but no one you survey associates your brand with those ideals, it might be worth revisiting how you communicate your brand image.
Finally, the ultimate goal of all brand marketing is to build trust between your brand and your customers. Measure how much people trust your dealership’s brand. This will be a critical final stage of your brand strategy.
7. Focus on Building Long-Term Trust
Once you have outlined a brand identity, communicated that with your local community, and built brand recognition, your goal should be to ensure that you are building long-term trust with your customers.
After all, it does zero good to have a recognized brand that people distrust. This can hurt your dealership more than help it.
How do you build trust between your brand and your customers?
- Deliver. Talk is cheap. To establish your brand, you need to ensure that the service you deliver matches your identity. If you notice a trend in negative feedback, address it and improve. The more consistently you deliver on your promises as a brand, the easier it is to establish your brand image.
- Reinforce. Trust takes time. One positive experience is not enough to create long-term loyalty. Reinforce your brand’s image by consistently reinforcing your value with customers.
- Follow up. You build trust through relationships. Follow up with customers whether they purchased a vehicle at your dealership or not. Make sure that you are following up with a personal touch. Remember birthdays, anniversaries, and the next interval for their vehicle’s oil change.
Long-term trust is one of the most valuable tools for brands to possess. Once a customer trusts you, they are far more likely to turn to you for their next purchase or to recommend your business to a loved one. But remember, trust can be lost. Continue to connect with your repeat customers.
Improve Your Dealership’s Brand Image With J&L Marketing
Do you want to improve your dealership’s brand image in the local community? By building a recognizable and trusted brand, you can help your dealership stand out from the competition. But building a brand image that is trusted is no simple task.
At J&L Marketing, we specialize in assisting dealerships with defining and marketing their brand. We can help you create a detailed brand identity, brand guidelines, brand messaging, and a tactic for communicating that brand to your target audience.
We use a combined strategy of digital and traditional marketing methods to help dealerships reach a larger segment of their audience. Our years of experience have allowed us to hone in on what tactics work best based on your dealership’s size and location.
If you are interested in learning more, reach out for a consultation with our team. We look forward to helping you establish your brand and drive more leads through your doors.