Last week I discussed the importance of planning outside of your month-to-month goals.
It takes time to put together a marketing plan or campaign and often these measures are reactive rather than proactive. It can put unnecessary pressure on you and your sales team.
The good news is, this can be easily avoided by simply focusing on both long and short-term plans rather than one or the other!
By planning in advance, you’ll be able to boost the slow months and be better prepared for the busy ones so your team is busy and happy regardless of the month or season.
Check out the following ideas for establishing a marketing plan that works for you and your dealership!
Get a Base Plan
If you’ve ever had a major injury or surgery you’ll know that, on occasion, medication is prescribed to be layered – a longer-acting pain reliever along with short-acting pain relievers to relieve unpredictable spikes in pain, for example. They’re combined for a more consistent, relatively pain-free recovery.
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This is what I recommend for your automotive marketing.
If you have a base plan that is active month-after-month, then you’ll have a base level of marketing that’s consistently being sent out in and around your community - which will drive a consistent flow of leads into your dealership regardless of the season.
Make Sure You Pick a Base Plan that Works for You
There’s more than a few options out there for dealers like you to choose from. The biggest issue is choosing one that will work best for your dealership.
As you work to find an option that works best, it's important to remember your goals. For many dealers, this is increased brand awareness, higher website engagement, more leads, higher quality traffic, and (ultimately) more vehicles sold.
Consider how each base plan can help you achieve both your long-term and short-term goals.
If you’re not happy with your current plan or you don't currently have a base marketing plan, the beginning of the year is a great time to reevaluate your marketing structure and find a plan that works.
I’ve seen a lot of solutions come up over the years for the automotive industry. Because there are so many options out there, I put together a few of my favorites for you to consider as you begin looking for a long-term/monthly marketing strategy.
1. Digital marketing
Digital marketing is a key marketing strategy that every dealer should be incorporating at this point. If you’re not, then you’ve found your first step.
Under the umbrella of digital marketing are many proven strategies. My current favorite is VIN-specific advertising.
This can be in the form of a paid search ad – like when you search for something on Google and see an ad relating to your search.
I, personally, like these a lot. The ads that are shown are tied to a specific vehicle on your lot. When the ad is clicked, visitors are sent directly to the vehicle details page on your website. This type of marketing generates leads and if you’re having trouble getting traffic from online to your dealership, this is the way to go. 1
This can also be done with remarketing – which is what happens when you shop on Amazon or other major retail websites and later see ads for the items you viewed following you around online.
I currently have a Tennessee Titans t-shirt tracking my every move.
Another way I’ve noticed to increase leads from website traffic is to use banner ads on your website. Get the right offer and call-to-action and you can seriously increase your website leads and, ultimately, showroom traffic.
Wherever you choose to utilize digital marketing, it’s important to understand one thing. These advertisements are two-fold. While you will definitely see more website engagement and more leads from your digital marketing efforts, the biggest impact of digital marketing is oftentimes simply that your information is available and helpful to vehicle shoppers.2
You might not sell a car for every search made or advertisement served, but every interaction a shopper has with your dealership, whether it’s on Facebook, or Google, or your website (or another digital channel), is an important aspect of their ultimate decision to visit your dealership.
And that’s why I consider digital marketing to be a great on-going marketing plan for dealers.
2. Monthly Multi-Channel Marketing Campaign
This is another great base plan. It’s a marketing tactic that’s both consistent and efficient.
As a dealer, you know that having a sale every month can negate the significance of the sale if you are continually marketing to the same people again and again. It’s just like Bed Bath & Beyond. They send out 20 percent off coupons once a month, every month. If you throw yours away for that month, you can always get a new one online. This means that no one pays full price at Bed Bath & Beyond and most of their marketing ends up in the trash.
When I suggest a monthly multi-channel marketing campaign, you might be thinking this is a bad idea. But let me clarify – this will only work if you’re strategic.
Data will come into play a lot with a campaign like this. You will want to fluctuate your marketing to different recipients each month, so that it’s not going to the same people on a regular basis. This will take some careful data analysis and segmentation. Find a good data analysist or ask a qualified marketing agency to help you.
Additionally, you’ll need to make sure you have a solid offer. Give them a reason to visit your dealership. Why should they come now, instead of next week or next month?
The reason I think this type of marketing is important is because of how the vehicle buying journey is changing. Shoppers are no longer visiting dealerships to find the information they need – they’re searching online. But they’re doing this for months before actually visiting a dealership and making a purchase.3
This is important because, if you send carefully targeted, monthly advertising, with strategic offers, you’ll have a greater chance of influencing those shoppers at a point in their buying journey when they’re most likely to choose a dealership and make a purchase!
The reason I suggest using a multi-channel marketing campaign is because you want to reach these shoppers where they’re at – whether they’re browsing online or checking the mail. By sending messaging that interacts with them in a helpful and informative way, you’ll have a better chance of influencing them into your dealership. Just like digital marketing, the more of a presence you have, the more of a chance you’ll get to reach the right people at the right time.
3. Easy Car Buy
To my knowledge, there isn’t another program like this – so you could actually get a step up on the competition by utilizing this strategy.
Easy Car Buy is an online conversion tool that’s designed specifically for dealers.
It’s a website that works with you to display real-time inventory on your lot, along with offers and incentives. The difference between Easy Car Buy and your website is that it can actually allow shoppers to input their credit tier, payment preference, trade-in, equity, and more – and see prices drop based on the information they share.
So, your shoppers can compare vehicles, find a price that works for them, and schedule an appointment at your dealership all in one place.
It’s the ultimate customer experience.
Plus, it’s set up so that you can see shoppers interact with your inventory. This way, when they arrive on your lot, you’ll know exactly what they’re looking for, what their price range is, and any equity they might have in their current vehicle!
Get a Spike Plan
I call it a spike plan because it’s a marketing plan that will spike your showroom traffic and/or sales when needed. While not all spike plans can be prepared in advance, it's always helpful to have a few prepared and in place when possible..
The reason that I recommend planning these “spike” marketing campaigns is simple:
Opportunities can be missed when they’re not planned ahead of time.
Anniversaries, service opportunities, Presidents’ Day sales, and more can all be missed if not planned accordingly.
As you probably know, private sale events are a great way to increase traffic and sales on a slow month or capitalize on holiday shopping mentalities.
Service clinics are a great way to bring in current, former, and even new customers who wouldn’t otherwise visit your dealership. The thing is, these campaigns tend to perform better during certain times of the year – like spring, as people have their vehicles checked after rough winter weather and before summer vacations. You’ll want to strategically determine what the best time for your dealership would be to host a service clinic. That way you can maximize your results.
By planning in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to put together a solid private sale or service clinic campaign and you’ll give you and your team the chance to meet your goals each and every month.
Put It All Together
If you’re able to find a successful combination of these strategies, you’ll love the results. Even on the slow months, you’ll know you’ve done everything possible to set you and your team up for success. And, on the busy months, you can jumpstart sales for the next month by having a constant stream of leads coming from one of your base methods.
If you really want to go all in, it’s not a bad idea to try it all. Each additional method can only help your reach and responses.
There are always things in the automotive world that are unexpected and unplanned (like the impact of Hurricane Harvey), but preparation and planning is helpful even during the most difficult months.4