There's a public perception that if anyone knows the art of the sale, it's the staff at an auto dealership. In person, certainly, that needs to be true, but is your auto dealership really WOWing customers? The consumer journey is becoming increasingly fragmented, and with the economy starting to find its feet again, competition in this market isn't going to make things any easier. In today's post, we're going to cover six marketing best practices for auto dealerships to help you keep your competitive edge.
Although this tactic is reaching out to people who have already provided their email address, it can be quite successful, even more so if they've signed up for your newsletter. This is in no small part due to the fact that the people you're reaching with this method are among the most qualified, that is, they already want to hear what you have to say, and find out more about what it is exactly you can offer them. You can keep them up to date on the latest news, tips and tricks, and perhaps most importantly, your new offerings, services, and deals.
Tactically, email marketing also offers significant levels of segmentation that allow you to tailor a level of personalization customers are looking for. After all, your long time customers will probably expect a different tone or level of attention than those that have only recently made their first auto purchase. Parents that have just purchased a car for their teen have different interests than single working professionals that just bought a car to commute with. This tactic is improved as the relationship with your customers grows—for instance, if you know there's a segment of customers with teens about to receive their license, you can provide tailored information for that, nurture those leads into conversion, then transfer them to a different email list.
Calculating efficacy isn't out of the question, either. There's any number of ways to track engagement and ROI, not least of which is measuring open rates. What's more, your calls-to-action can stand out in-email with strategically based buttons.
- Warby Parker and Turnstyle Cycle — Email marketing can become a way to engender an ongoing connection and relationship with your customers if you tap into it correctly. You may not think that your auto dealership has much in common with an online prescription glasses supplier or an indoor cycling gym, and in most ways, that's true. But take a closer look at both the examples. With clean, simple layouts and a friendly, almost familiar tone, both companies remind their customers about things important to their customers. Warby Parker ties in external services (perhaps insurance or warranty offerings, in the auto world) while Turnstyle stands on internal services that the customer has yet to take advantage of (tune-ups and similar). As vehicles join the connected world, offering customers the ability to opt-in to reporting services can help fine tune and improve these kinds of offerings.
- Tory Burch and Litmus — Email should be a way to inform, and thus move, your customers, and these two brands took that to the next level. Tory Burch uses the "gate opening" movement to position their brand as exclusive, and what's more, to emotionally impress their offer as exclusive in the process, while Litmus uses the swiping motion to engender the sense of revelation, an inside look at how what they do works. The use of graphics is both simple and brilliant, and the concepts behind them can easily be applied to your automotive business as an exclusive — and nearly literal — peek under the hood. Keep an eye on evolving techniques that can make email even more engaging and interactive.
It isn't news to say that the auto industry is saturated and that your business needs to stand head and shoulders above the competition just to get noticed. Of course, you need to ensure you're standing out for the right reasons, which is to say, for good ones. Whether it's something as basic as your customer service (which we'll touch on in a moment), innovative marketing, or superb prices, your automotive dealership needs to make its mark.
The biggest way to do that is your unique selling proposition (USP). Quite frankly, your business can't be all things to all people; on a consumer journey that continues to fragment into micro-moments, trying to reach everyone all at once will actually mean you're never quite what someone is looking for in the moment. Determine what it is your dealership does best, what you bring to the table that no one else can, and you'll find new avenues to stronger marketing and more loyal customers.
- Basecamp — Basecamp is a CRM platform (i.e., project management tool) that could have tried to pitch itself to any kind of business, from entire multinational corporations to individual contractors. If it had, it might have been lost in the noise of all the other CRM platforms. Instead, it narrowed down its purpose and its audience, specializing on small work groups and finding excellence in meeting a very specific set of needs. Thus, you can approach your USP by who your dealership wants to market to—families, twenty-something college students, or high-end, luxury buyers, for instance.
- Starbucks — The company has become ubiquitous nationwide, but for all its various offerings, Starbucks is ultimately known for one thing—premium coffee beverages. By selling itself on coffee alone, it was able to conquer its market, giving itself the room to explore different things, such as boxed lunches and fruit drinks, that won't make or break its market base, as well as expand into related categories, like home brewing machines and beans. In this way, you can define your USP by brand.
You're sure to already recognize that offering solid customer service is a basic for running a good auto dealership, but to really wow your customers, that customer service needs to be stellar. In fact, customer service alone can be what differentiates your business, even if what your dealership offers could otherwise be described as standard. Why is that?
Quite simply, sales work on the idea of quality experience. Assume for a moment that a customer is visiting a number of dealerships to figure out what they're looking for. If the cheapest dealership also offers the worst experience, customers are unlikely to return for that purchase. Similarly, a dealership offering the best cars could be turned down because the experience was impersonal, or they felt dismissed. Even if they ended up making a purchase there, customers are likely to turn to someone else for their next car or for other services that the dealership could be offering them. What's more, 87% of consumers are inspired to share their experience due to positive experiences. That can go a long way to influencing potential customers.
- Lexus — To be sure, this next example isn't one that every dealership can pull off. However, it should be inspiration for how to take your customer service to an unforgettable level. For a vehicle recall in 2006, the brand did one thing that seemed counterintuitive—they asked customers to come in, instead of sending technicians to their homes. But the reason was one that customers could be thankful for: getting an entirely new vehicle instead of waiting for the one they had to be fixed.
- Zappos — Customer service isn't just about what you can literally offer the customer in the context of their transactions, although that is a part of this particular example. A customer ordered a number of shoes for her mother, looking for something that would fit comfortably due to a medical condition, and ended up returning each pair that didn't work. When asking for instructions about how to do that, she explained the reason. Zappos sent flowers and upgraded their account to VIP status, not because they needed to, but because it deeply improves the customer experience. You may think that this is harder to do as an auto dealership, but the truth is, it just requires really listening to your customers. Is it a couple expecting a new baby, or a present for someone about to graduate? There's plenty of opportunities to take advantage of, and simple gestures can go a long way.
Post-Transaction Follow Up
The sale doesn't end just because you've gotten your customer's signature on a contract and they've got the keys to their vehicle in hand. For one thing, re-targeting your customers better ensures future business. But it also ensures that your customer is actually satisfied, and helps you be involved with or even control the post-transaction conversation (which we'll touch on in a few moments).
There's a number of ways to do that, but one of the best is through email. Similar to the email marketing we mentioned in our first point, being clear and being personal while finding a good way to stand out go a long way toward success. Remember that not getting a response doesn't mean rejection, and persistence can be important.
Social media channels are the future of brand outreach, and that's true of basically every industry. If your dealership isn't already taking advantage of these channels, you need to change that ASAP. (And no, car brands having their own outlets is not the same thing!) Social media plays a key role in the changed path to purchase—both as a source of research and as a customer service outlet—because you can engage your customers where they are and in their moment. The number of tools that are available to help you tap into the social sphere meaningfully means there's no reason not to.
- Mercedes Benz: GLA — By combining multiple platforms and tapping into influencers, this campaign became so successful that Instagram devoted a case study to it.
- Nordstrom — The brand took the idea "go big or go home" pretty literally, and to huge success. By thinking outside the box, it built up the sort of buzz that goes viral and brings in conversions. Leveraging creativity and your social channels together can do the same for the offers and sales at your dealership.
Managing your reputation is more important now than ever because, as we mentioned, the customer's journey involves sharing their experiences with the world via the internet. Consumer reviews have a huge impact on sales, not least because it's a go-to resource for customers doing research. You can't afford to pretend that customers aren't talking about you any more than you can risk reacting to online commentary and reviews poorly.
Take this review for a doctor's office as an example. Because their staff was on the ball, they turned a bad review into an amazing—and impressive—experience to win new people over.
With these insights, you should take a fresh look at your marketing strategy, because even this short list of marketing best practices for auto dealerships will improve your business as a whole, not to mention the way you communicate with your customers. Have you already utilized any of these methods for how to market your automotive dealership? Are you winning these areas and capturing or recapturing customers? Let us know how you WOW your customers in the comments.