The world of marketing is constantly changing. In the auto sales industry, the automotive digital marketing trends 2023 has to offer are vitally important to you and the success of your dealership. A few years ago, a bit of radio and print advertising would have been sufficient car dealership marketing strategies to bring potential car buyers through the door. However, today’s consumers are having their car buying process, and sales cycle influenced by other forms of media — most notably digital marketing content online. If you’re not taking advantage of digital marketing for car dealerships to reach buyers online and on their mobile devices, you are losing business to your competitors who are certainly looking at a digital marketing strategy as a way to gain an edge and generate leads.
Because digital marketing in the automotive industry has changed so dramatically, we decided to put together what we call the Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing for Car Dealerships. This guide will show you what marketing trends are most important for auto dealers to embrace and how each of these can work together to help you attract and retain today’s connected car buyers.
Pay Per Click (PPC) For Car Dealership Digital Marketing
Pay per click (also known as PPC) advertising is an excellent online advertising tool in any car dealership’s digital marketing arsenal. With PPC, it is possible for your company’s links to show at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) direct in front of the right customers within days or even hours of the campaign beginning. PPC advertising takes the form of sponsored listings on the search engines, and they can also appear as a banner or other ads on websites, apps, videos and on social media. Ads can include videos, images, logos or be fully text-based.
It is important to understand that even though you are essentially paying for ad space, there is still a lot to think about if you want the best results from your ads. Good PPC marketing isn’t just “set it and forget it,” instead you will need to scope out the competition, learn what your customers are searching for and understand how to market cars online and create ads that resonate with consumers. Plus, there are options like “retargeting” available today that can be highly effective when they are properly utilized. Putting together a PPC marketing program is one of the best ways to drive customers to your website and in turn your dealership, from day one.
Additionally, it is important to properly structure your PPC campaigns. For car dealerships, you should be running separate campaigns for new car digital marketing, used car digital marketing and service. You should also incorporate dynamic search ads so if a customer is searching for a particular make and model, they will see highly relevant ads for that exact model. When the customer clicks the ad, they can be connected with the available inventory at the dealership for that particular make and model.
Car buyers, and consumers, in general, spend hours each week on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you’re not taking advantage of how easy and affordable it is to market through social media accounts you are missing out on a great way to connect with your target audience.
First, make sure you have a business page or account for each of the major social media networks. Setting this up should only take a few moments and simply requires you to provide some basic business information and add a profile photo. After you have an account, you’ll want to share the information with your current customers and link to these accounts on your main website.
Gaining followers may take a little time, but it will pick up once your current customers and interested consumers realize you’re active. At this point, you’ll want to post regularly and provide useful, interesting content. If you use social media as a full-time platform for advertising, you will not gain that following you desire. Instead, share useful, quality content and watch these accounts grow. Social media is a must-use tool for any company hoping to gain digital traction today.
That being said, you will also want to share any special deals, sales or events your dealership may have too. You’ll find that you won’t just reach your own fans, but that the deals may get shared “virally.”
You can also run ads on social media for new or used cars. One of the best ways to capture leads is with lead form ads. Lead form ads have inquiry forms and allow users to complete a form directly from Facebook. Even better, their information pre-populates, allowing them to easily inquire and continue scrolling in their feed. Other ads allow customers to message the dealership’s page, directly connecting them to a salesperson. Ads can also be shown in Facebook marketplace and allow Facebook users to reach out to the staff through messages.
Custom lists can also be uploaded into Facebook to create audiences. Your ads can then be targeted specifically to those customers. If you do not have an established audience, rented lists are available for purchase. A data provider will rent email addresses to identify people in the market for new or used cars.
For car dealerships specifically, it is dire to stay within the Primary Market Area (PMA). There is a lot of competition in Northern New Jersey, so we keep ads within a 10-15 mile radius around the dealership and do not target customers outside of those areas.
When it comes to reputation management, online reviews are everything. With platforms like Podium, you can send customers a link via email or text message to review your dealership on Facebook or Google. Be sure to respond to online reviews (both positive and negative reviews), post and promote offers and service specials on your Google My Business profile listing. We recommend updating them about once a week.
Automotive Digital Marketing Videos
The old adage states “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” That should help you understand how valuable a video can be for automotive digital marketing. In the automotive industry, video offers you a great way to connect with potential buyers and show them exactly what you have to offer. Creating videos of some of your new arrivals or showcasing your showroom as a whole is a great way to build interest and bring in new potential customers. Pairing your video marketing efforts with social media will allow your videos to be shared far and wide–giving you additional recognition throughout the community.
With today’s high-powered smartphones and tablets, it doesn’t take a ton of equipment to create a basic video and make it available for consumers to view 24 hours a day. When you have a video advertisement created, you can integrate them into Youtube videos as 6 second bumper ads.
When you’re thinking of ways to reach many potential customers (or leads) quickly and easily, don’t forget about email. Email marketing for car dealerships may seem not as modern or effective as some of the other car marketing strategies mentioned in this guide at first glance, but don’t underestimate its potential reach. Gathering and curating an email marketing list isn’t that difficult. You can set up your website to collect addresses of interested individuals or you may be able to reference information from those who have visited your showroom in the months prior. When you have a highly-targeted email list, your message is most likely to go to those who would actually have an interest in receiving it and who may follow up with you.
With this information at your disposal, the goal is to create short, snappy emails that build interest without seeming like an intrusion on the recipient. There is much advice out there on how to create a good marketing email. However, you’ll learn through experience which messages are actually read by the recipients, which inspire customers to click through and ask for more information, and which go straight into the digital trash can.
Email marketing can be one of the top automotive digital marketing strategies for car dealerships when done correctly. However, poorly worded emails will simply be ignored or could even drive traffic away from your firm. That’s why it is important to learn as much about this form of marketing as possible before you attempt to execute this strategy.
For email marketing efforts, you can use a combination of internal lists and rented customer data lists. Internal lists are made up of customers and potential customers. With a customer list, you can segment your emails to target customers by the car model they’re interested in purchasing. You can send personalized emails based on their purchase intent, vehicle type and financing type. For example, if a customer’s lease is up in 6 to 9 months, you can send emails with new lease deals and incentives. The same can be done for service specials. If a customer has recently purchased a car in the last 30, 60 or 90 days, email drip campaigns are great ways to ask for feedback, promote service specials and remind customers to make their first service appointment.
If you’re using a rented data list, the data provider will identify customers in the market for new cars, used cars and what type of vehicle they are interested in. WIth rented data, you will never see the email addresses the list provider sends to each month. However, at the end of the month, there is “matchback data” from the monthly sales data provided by the dealership. This list is then given to the data provider. The provider is then able to run that list against their database to determine which customers purchased a vehicle.
Your website is one of the most important ways you have to connect with customers. It can serve as an online catalog, so to speak, and helps interested individuals contact you directly by phone or email. While some people will find your website directly (i.e. typing in ABCCarDealership.com), others will only find you in search results when searching car-related terms through a search engine. That is where SEO comes into play.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Essentially, it requires you to build your website in a way that search engines are more likely to show it when someone searches for a related term. This is not done by “stuffing” keywords in places they don’t belong, but instead by creating websites that will naturally include words likely to drive traffic from a search engine (and using other methods of making your site more appealing to the robots that index for Google and the other search engines.) Good SEO with proper on page optimization, content built around specific questions, and customer interests, and proper link building is an important aspect when it comes to digital marketing for car dealerships. It will help you show off what you have to offer to the web searchers most likely to become customers.
Aside from your website, you should also make sure your name, address and phone number are consistent across all sites and platforms, like Google My Business and other local directories. Yext is a directory tool to help manage your business information and ensure that your consistent name, address and phone number and other important information can be found across the web.
Direct mail is a valuable marketing tool, even in today’s highly-digital marketplace. Direct mail is the best way to make sure your message reaches the ideal target. Direct mail is interesting because it can be used alongside digital marketing methods. For example, you may send out a postcard that directs the recipient to a website highlighting new vehicles on your lot.
A good direct mail campaign requires creativity, knowledge of your target market and will require you to put together a list of prospective recipients–normally those based in your immediate geographic area. You should use direct mail to compliment your digital marketing efforts and reinforce the message you’re sending out digitally.
Today, digital marketing for auto dealers usually doesn’t mean just creating one ad and hoping it works to bring customers to your dealership. It involves working with a number of different marketing opportunities and using them together to create a “funnel” of interested consumers who will ideally one day become your customers.
We hope you have learned a few things from our guide! Remember, for a car dealership, digital marketing is vital for keeping existing customers and attracting new ones. Don’t forget:
- Putting together an automotive digital marketing strategy is important if you hope to succeed with today’s ever-changing consumers.
- PPC is a great way to reach customers quickly and can be a good first step in digital marketing. However, it does take effort and knowledge if you hope for it to succeed.
- Social media is one of the best places to connect with consumers in their own space.
- SEO is important for all types of websites–small and large, as search engines such as Google and Bing will normally be your top website referral.
- Different types of marketing can all work together to build brand recognition and bring customers in today and down the road.
Digital marketing for car dealerships is a complex matter. If you want the best results, you need to understand your target audience, know the marketing options inside and out and track everything you do to see what works and what needs to be tweaked. Reach out to us at Ballantine today and let us work with you to create a digital marketing package that will help you rise above the competition. We are proud of our work as one of the top automotive digital marketing agencies and are certain we can help you grow your dealership to new heights. Contact Ballantine today to get started with your new car dealership online marketing strategy!
I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!