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Carol Forden

Carol Forden Freelance Writer & Customer Experience Marketing

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Are Dealers Blogs Dead? Or Do They Drive Customer Loyalty and Qualified Leads?

Over the past few months, we have been doing a lot of research on auto dealer websites reviewing content and dealer blogs. 

Ever take a hard look at your dealership blog? 

Did you have to go to the footer and click on the sitemap and then search through the listing for the blog?  If you did, you are not alone, based on the over 12,000 auto dealer websites we have reviewed, to date for a research paper, you are the norm in the auto industry.

How often do you think a consumer is going to do this?

How about never.

So, how much traffic and brand (dealer) loyalty are you losing by not using an effective form of marketing that should establish you as a trusted authority?

Useful, insightful content should be at the core of your marketing

Traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute; as a forward-thinking marketer, you know there has to be a better way.

Enter content marketing.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Instead of pitching products or services, you are providing genuinely useful and relevant content to your target audience and customers to help them solve their problems.

Take a look at your blog posts, are they sharing information and educating your target audience or are they selling them?

Are they all videos of cars or promotional articles of your dealership selling cars or service?

Here's an example of a blog post from a dealer website (we changed the dealer name and removed the link to keep the dealer anonymous):

"Being able to test the battery inside your car using the voltmeter is simple, that is if you are using the right safety equipment.

Shut off the car engine and the lights on the car, then open the hood and make your way to the battery compartment.

The battery terminals will be marked plus and minus. The voltmeter has a red cable that is positive and connects to the plus side. The voltmeter also has a black cable that is negative and connects to the minus side.

The reading on the voltmeter is going to be at or above the 12.4 mark if you have nothing to worry about concerning the battery. There is reason to be concerned when you see the meter reading at or below the 12.2 mark, don't put off having it looked at.

Don't hesitate in coming to XXXXXXXXX VW/Toyota to (link to dealer service offerings) today."

From a consumer perspective, let's take a deeper dive on this post. 

Does the post address these fundamental questions?

  1. What problem is this article addressing for the consumer?
  2. Does this answer the search intent?
  3.  Why should the consumer care or want to check their battery with a voltmeter?
  4. Is the consumer engaged with the article?  What's in it for them?
  5. Is the customer qualified to do this?  Do they even have the equipment?
  6. At 153 words, it's highly unlikely that this will ever appear in even the first 10 pages of Google search results.

Now imagine if this post was written in a story format that the consumer could relate to and with reasons as to why your service customer should care about having their battery checked for prime efficiency.  You would have the consumer interested and highly likely questioning when they could schedule a service visit not just for a battery check but a coolant check.

For example, below is a rough draft of a related article that catches the consumers' attention and one that they can relate to:

Remember last spring when temperatures shot up to 85 degrees and you were in the most important meeting of the year with your boss and your spouse started texting you, and you ingored the text messages?  Then your cell phone rang in the middle of the meeting? 

It was your spouse calling from the grocery store with a carload of groceries, screaming, cranky kids and the car battery was dead.

You had two options, ask your boss if you could leave and catch up on the details of the meeting from a peer or tell your spouse to call the garage for a tow. 

So what did you do?

You left the meeting, met your spouse and loaded the groceries and kids into your car, drove everyone home and then called your local service station for a tow to have the car looked at.

This left you with one car for the family and your spouse would have to drop you off at work, go to their job, then go pick up the kids and later that day, come to your office to pick you up.

This was a major inconvenience and expense.

After last years debacle that literally costs you points with your boss you are not going to let this happen again and you want the flexibility to go play the Thursday night pickup game with the office. 

You need your car and your spouse's car to be trouble free.

This year, you are prepared.

You are now aware that as temperatures increase and you start to use the car air conditioning, the pull on the battery increases dramatically and if the coolant is not fully charged, your gas mileage drops significantly....   

This is just a very rough draft of how we would have turned the original post into an article that your customers can relate to, its personal, it's a story that has probably happened to all of us (or someone we know) at one point or another, and it sells without selling directly. 

The customer is now aware that they should probably have their battery checked and we were able to add an upsell of a coolant check without hard selling the customer.  The "sell' was worked into the story.

This is what effective content marketing can do for your dealership if you take the time and make the investment.  The benefits of content marketing are significant, and once you create content, you own it, unlike a PPC or Facebook (social) ad. 

Content lives forever and continues to deliver day after day, year after year, PPC and Facebook ads once you stop running them are gone as are the benefits.  That's, why content marketing needs to be part of your overall marketing mix and 300 words with a video of the exterior of a car, are not going to cut it.

Why you need a content marketing mindset

Content marketing is consistently creating compelling and relevant content for a targeted buyer, that focuses on all stages of the buying funnel, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism.

Content marketing business goals

With content marketing, there are some overall business goals you could have:

Brand awareness or reinforcement
This is always the first thing that is thought of when you think of content marketing.

Your goal may be that you are just trying to find a more effective way versus traditional or digital advertising to create awareness for your product or service.

This is the long-tail strategy.

Content marketing is an excellent vehicle for a long-tail marketing strategy, as it’s organic, authentic, and an excellent way for you to start driving engagement with your dealership and brand. This is where content marketing and inbound marketing overlap.

Lead conversion and nurturing 
This is the most fundamental aspect of inbound marketing is conversions.

How you define a lead will vary by industry and dealership.  From a content marketing perspective, this is when you have (through the exchange of engaging content) engaged with and encouraged a customer or potential customer to give up personal information about themselves that you now have been granted permission to “market” to them.

This can include signing up for a “test drive" or "demo,” registering for an event, subscribing to your e-newsletter, or gaining access to a subscription-only "Resource Center." Once you have the consumers permission, you can use content to help move them through the buying cycle.

Customer conversion 
This is where, as marketers, we have traditionally focused — the “proof points” to the sale.

Examples include case studies you send to your prospects that illustrate how you’ve solved the problem before — or the “testimonials” section on your client page.

Ultimately, this is the content you’ve created as a marketer to illustrate to the hot prospect why your service or dealership is better and will uniquely meet the customers' needs.

Customer service
This is where content marketing can and will earn its “subscribe” stripes.

Are you using content to create value or reinforce the customer’s decision AFTER the sale? To reinforce the fact that they made the right decision with picking your dealership and the model they purchased?

This goes well beyond the user manual and the FAQ on your website.

These are the best practices for how to use your product or service, how to maintain their vehicle, improve performance and similar.

Content marketing allows you to educate customers on how can they get the MOST out of your product or service?

What are the successful, innovative ways that you’ve seen your product or service get used, maintained, etc.?

Customer loyalty/retention
Just as you have a planned lead nurturing process to turn prospects into customers, you need to plan a customer retention strategy.

If the goal is to turn customers into passionate brand advocates and subscribers who share your articles/stories and create social proof about your dealership, this area needs significant attention.

There are more than a few options that range from a customer-focused e-newsletter or printed newsletter, a print magazine, or possibly a user event series.

Customer upsell
No longer does marketing doesn’t stop at the “checkout” button.

If you’re particularly good and invested at using content to service the customer in a subscription model, you now have the opportunity to be effective at creating ongoing engagement for the other products and services you offer.

Why stop communicating with prospects once they become customers or when their vehicle is out of warranty?

Instead, communicate with them more frequently and engage them with additional value.

Customer upsells, and customer retention goals work hand-in-hand with content marketing.

Passionate subscribers
If you can successfully move customers to this stage, you have accomplished something significant.

Content — and especially user content generated from satisfied customers — can be one of the most potent ways to reach any business goal and is the most effective marketing there is

This is when content marketing starts to pay off exponentially.

Apple Computer is the prime example of this.

Ask yourself what their content marketing strategy is.

Apple no social media presence, their accounts are used for advertising only, with no social interaction at all.

Apple does not have a blog.

Despite this, Apple has successfully built a passionate subscriber base. These individuals create fan sites, write, share, and evangelize for and fight for the Apple brand.

Shouldn't your ultimate goal should be to create a community of evangelists who are prepared to fight for your brand?

So which of these goals makes sense for your content marketing?

Maybe it’s only an inbound marketing initiative, and you’re just trying to help drive more leads into the sales and marketing process.

Maybe you’re trying to create a program that increases awareness, drives down the cost of organic traffic to your website, and increases your position with search engines.

Maybe you are working to improve your customer retention rate.

Take a moment now to get your mental juices flowing.

What do you want to accomplish with content marketing?

Content marketing is good for your bottom line — and your customers

Specifically, there are three key reasons — and benefits — for companies that use content marketing:

  • Increased sales
  • Cost savings
  • Better customers who have more loyalty

Content is the present – and future – of marketing

Go back and read the content marketing definition at the top of this article one more time, but this time remove the relevant and valuable.

That’s the difference between content marketing and the other informational garbage you get from dealerships trying to sell you “stuff.” 

Auto dealerships and OEMs send consumers information all the time – it’s just that most of the time it’s not very relevant or valuable (can you say spam?).

That’s what makes content marketing so intriguing in today’s environment of thousands of marketing messages per person per day.

What if your customers looked forward to receiving your marketing?

What if when they received it, via print, email, website, they spent 15, 30, 45 minutes with it?

What if they anticipated it and shared it with their peers?

Mark  Nicholson

Be a resource to your audience.
Know that it isn't a selling time and providing value comes first.

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