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Anand Srinivasan

Anand Srinivasan Consultant

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Marketing Strategies That Worked For Our Dealership Clients

In the past fifteen years, dealerships have moved an incredibly large chunk of their marketing budgets from offline to online channels. Any search related to a car’s specs, price, features or review is met with ads from your local dealer.

One dealer I spoke to told me that online marketing has been a very big reason for car prices to stay where they are today. Without this channel, marketing costs may have ballooned in the past decade and this would have had a cascading effect on car prices; and in turn, their sales.

But digital marketing has been changing too. Google Adwords (now called Google Ads) is a lot more expensive than it used to be. There is Facebook, but while it helps reach you reach the right demographics, it does not capture buying intent as effective as Google does. Yet, Facebook continues to be very popular in capturing leads who can be nurtured over the long term.

Add to this, the fact that digital marketing is constantly evolving. MySpace gave way to Facebook that is now losing the popularity contest to Instagram and SnapChat (not to mention the emergence of the newer TikTok).

What this means is that you do not have the luxury to set a campaign up and forget it. There is a need to constantly monitor the ROI and tweak things up as performance erodes. This is not to mention that marketers also lose a part of their budget to experimentation to see which of the newer channels work.

So in this article, we are going to list out a few strategies that have worked for my clients.

Go native

Native advertising has worked really well. For the uninitiated, this refers to the use of content and format that aligns with the platform where you are advertising. Take TikTok for example. It is kind of hard to explain the native content format of this app unless you have used it yourself. Essentially, the app is popular for its short video content that often looks amateurish rather than professionally-made.

The client we worked with sold high-end cars with dealerships across the country. The objective of the campaign was to establish the brand as the ‘go to dealership’ for such cars among the Gen Z crowd who form a whopping 41% of the app’s user base. While we could have produced ads for the platform, we figured that partnering with someone that this crowd trusts would be a better return on our investment. Besides, when it comes to TikTok advertising, the minimum budget requirements did not allow for fruitful experimentation.

So, for our campaign, we partnered with influencers whose content theme was related to “living the high life” - this allowed us to position our client as the ‘go-to’ dealer for such cars. Sure, the average viewer on the app did not conform to our target market; but the objective of this campaign was to position our client and bring mainstream branding to their dealership which was established successfully. 

Rework the landing page

From a buyer’s perspective, all dealerships are basically the same. And as a result, there wasn’t anything that differentiates the landing pages of various competitors. We decided to differentiate ourselves through our value proposition.

This one Australian dealer I worked with sold pickup trucks and dealt primarily with local service businesses. One way we added value to our customers was in the way we customized our trucks to suit their specific business needs. For instance, they had partnered with a few businesses that provided rope access services - so for these buyer, the dealer customized the truck with to hold the necessary rope access equipment like headwear, flynets, haulbags and ropes.

For our ad campaign targeting these buyers, we advised our dealer to rework the landing page to showcase these specific value propositions. This was done with the help of explainer videos. These are basically short animated videos that summarize your business offerings. The average cost of explainer videos can be between $10,000 to $15,000 per minute but for this client, the expense was more than made up by the increased conversion rate for our campaigns.

By getting into the specifics of what value you provide, customers are more likely to buy from your dealership.

Invest in session cams

Session cams have been around for nearly a decade now. Still, a lot of marketers are unaware of what this is, or how it can help your marketing campaign. We installed session cams on our clients’ websites a couple of years back and this has completely changed our perspective on what our website visitors want or how to market to them. 

Earlier, we relied completely on Google Analytics to gain visitor insights. But while this told us the pages that visitors spent most time on, or which of the links they clicked, it did not tell us what exactly goes on in the visitor’s mind when they are browsing your website. Session cams essentially capture a video of the visitor browsing your site and play it to you.

For one of our clients, session cams drove their entire branding campaign including their brand colors, messaging and logo placements. We noticed that the stock photos on the top fold of the site was a major turn-off and many visitors closed their tab simply on landing. We also noticed that when we run a video highlighting our dealer’s history, it was surprisingly well-received. The average viewer watched at least 45 seconds of the 3 minute video and this was a great lesson in telling our story to the visitor. Before session cams, we did everything to push the visitor towards either the lead capture form or the car pages. But once we started telling our story, visitors were more likely to give us a call or fill out a form even if we did not push it aggressively. 

I’m interested to hear from other marketers on this blog. What are some strategies that worked for your dealerships? Please share in the comments.

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