One of the biggest challenges for those who operate a dealership is differentiating yourself in today’s crowded market. Customers are increasingly reliant upon a quick internet search to decide about vehicle purchases and scheduling maintenance services.
This can make it extremely difficult to compete and to ensure that customers choose your dealership. It’s an ongoing problem. Just because customers visit you once does not in any way guarantee they will return. Instead, they are more likely to continue to use the internet to price shop.
So how do you stand out and make certain that customers pick your dealership time and time again? By implementing a few key tactics, you can start to test out strategies that can help your dealership differentiate itself no matter how crowded the space.
1. Improve Your Digital Marketing Game
The internet has forever changed how customers shop for cars. Gone are the days when a first-time car buyer stops into your dealership to learn about what makes and models are on the market and to inquire about pricing.
Instead, customers begin their car-buying journey with a quick Google search. And, with the digital-savvy generations of millennials and Gen Z becoming the bulk of purchasing power, this trend is here to stay.
The good news is that the internet makes it possible for you to reach any customer at any time. You are no longer restricted by the constraints of business hours and staffing.
The not-so-good news is that the internet is a massively competitive space. Countless pages of search results show up for any single query, and the average consumer only pays attention to the first page.
Without your name being displayed prominently on the first page of the search results, reaching new customers can be nearly impossible.
In addition to the fact that it is no easy task to reach the front page of Google, even if you do — whether through organic results or a targeted ad campaign — you still have to stand out from all the other listings on the page.
The key is improving your digital marketing game by improving your placement in search results and crafting the right messaging for when your website or ad is seen.
Differentiate yourself by ensuring that customers know why buying with you will:
- Save them time
- Save them effort
- Save them money
Doing this takes time. It requires patience as you build up your online presence. And it involves using A/B testing and other tactics to determine what messaging is landing best with your audience.
2. Use a Combined Marketing Approach
While digital marketing is a must-have, it doesn’t need to stand alone. Marketing might not look the same as it did 20 years ago, but some of the age-old strategies used back then have stuck.
When creating a marketing strategy for your dealership, don’t waste time on siloed efforts. Instead, build a robust plan that ties an entire campaign together.
A quality campaign should use a combination of social media, email, direct mail, and banner ads. You might even consider tapping into SMS messaging and direct phone calls.
Whatever the case, be sure that each part of your marketing campaign informs the others. So, for example, if you are marketing an upcoming sales event, create consistent messaging that differentiates your brand across each channel. If you advertise a special discount through a banner ad, highlight that same discount through your direct mailer. And if someone RSVPs to your event via a landing page on your website, make sure that future marketing ads delivered to that customer are follow-ups — not repeat ads.
3. Recognize the Trend to “Payment Shop”
We live in a world where nine out of 10 people “payment shop.” Customers are rarely loyal to a single brand and instead spend time researching where they can get the best deal.
This is where your dealership can stand out and reach consumers.
Try out a few creative tactics for reaching these deal shoppers:
- Allow customers to customize their monthly loan or lease payment using real rates and incentives through your online showroom.
- Make it easy for customers to factor in their trade-in value and equity position into a potential purchase.
- Advertise claims that your dealership is the only one able to offer.
- Bundle offers to provide an incentive to purchase a vehicle through your dealership, such as a year of oil changes or other service-related incentives.
With customers turning to the internet to price shop, you have to learn to think outside the box. If not, you will lose out to competitors who beat your pricing structure. While undercutting pricing isn’t always the right answer, you have to find an angle that will differentiate your dealership from the rest.
4. Learn More About Your Customers
Throughout the years, one of the strongest tactics any dealership could take was to walk the lot with a customer. During this interaction, a sales member could glean important information about the potential buyer. This made it easier to reach back out with personalized offers and give customers exactly what they wanted.
With customers starting their buying journey online, walking the lot is no longer the most effective strategy for reaching a customer early on.
That is not to say, however, that you don’t still need to know your customers personally. The forum has simply changed.
Now, it is important to learn every detail possible about your customer’s online activities and buying intentions in real-time. This can help you stay informed before you begin any communication with them.
If you aren’t gathering the data now, ask your marketing team or agency to provide you all of the following information per individual shopper:
- The exact vehicles they viewed most and for how long they viewed each vehicle
- Their desired payment range
- The amount of money they can put down on a vehicle
- Their vehicle’s trade-in value, if any
- Their payoff and equity amount
- Their credit tier
- Whether they are looking to loan or to lease
The good news is that as technology is advancing, the ability to glean detailed data on your customers as they interact with your dealership online is increasing. This data is invaluable as it allows you to take a personalized approach to your marketing strategies.
This also allows you to feed that information into your customer relationship management. From here, sales team members can tap into this data and effectively reach out to clients in a more meaningful manner.
5. Harness the Power of Service to Sales
Too often, dealerships overlook one of their most powerful differentiators — their service department.
Your service team can produce a steady stream of sales if you use this department correctly.
So how do you create a steady stream of service to sales?
It all starts by creating a targeted campaign that drives customers to your service center. There are a few different ways you can go about this. You can use a standard ad campaign that offers a promotion to people in your area searching for a specific service. Or, you can consider a larger campaign, such as a recall event that drives new customers to your service center for the recall service.
Regardless of how you first drive service traffic into your dealership, the next step is to glean information from this interaction. Learn everything possible about each client, from the year, make, and model vehicle they drive to any potential interest they have in eventually upgrading.
Next, use this data to create a follow-up campaign. If you know that you have a new segment of customers interested in trading in vehicles, start advertising your trade-in deals to this new customer segment. If you know you have a set of service customers who are thinking about leasing a car, begin a campaign advertising leasing deals.
It is important to also ensure that your service team is ready for an influx of new customers and prepared to provide outstanding customer service. This is your first chance to impress a new customer and to start to build trust with your brand.
Bonus Tip: Talk to the Team at J&L
In today’s competitive market, it is no easy feat to ensure that a customer will choose your dealership. However, at J&L Marketing, we have had an immense amount of success in helping our clients differentiate their dealerships, even in a crowded space.
How do we do it? First off, our team works tirelessly to stay on top of the latest industry trends. We provide our clients with access to cutting-edge technology and tools. Second, we begin any project with a new client with a deep dive into the market, and then we provide a complete competitive analysis. This sets the right foundation for our work, ensuring that we aren’t missing out on any important tactics your competitors are using.
Finally, we get creative. We are experts at thinking outside of the box. We can help you test out new tactics that you might never have imagined. From virtual sales events to recall events, we will help you implement new strategies aimed at creating a loyal customer base while winning over new leads.
If you are interested in learning more about working with our team, reach out today. We’d love to learn more about your dealership and your specific marketing needs. Whether you opt to work with us or not, our goal is to help you uncover the tactics you need to become the leader in your space.