Gone are the days when new car shoppers would go from one auto dealership to another and rely solely on in-person interactions. Today, car buyers are doing their own research and increasingly going online before they ever step foot inside a showroom. In fact, 92% of car buyers research online before they buy.

What’s more, most shoppers are starting at third-party sites, which means your digital marketing strategy for reaching potential customers is more vital than ever. With that in mind, here’s a roundup of several car dealership marketing ideas to get your inventory off the lot and on the road.

5 can’t-miss marketing ideas for car dealerships

When it comes to car sales, most customers aren’t big fans of the buying process. The haggling, the paperwork, the pressure from salespeople can all be a major turn-off. One study shows that a whopping 87% of people dislike going to a car dealership although most customers still make the trek before making their final purchase. 

Ensuring a positive and smooth-as-possible customer experience is key for creating loyal customers who come back and provide word-of-mouth about your business. The car dealership marketing ideas on this list will get your wheels turning, but be sure to review our guide on the top automotive marketing strategies for more in-depth approaches to gain new customers.

1. Make sure your website is SEO-friendly

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a must for any business, big or small. SEO increases your visibility online and improves your chances of showing up on the first pages of Google, Bing, and other search engines. 

You don’t need the fanciest website design with all sorts of bells and whistles. Instead, make sure it’s easy to navigate, loads quickly, and has helpful information beyond your address, phone number, and other contact details. 

Fill your website with regular blog posts that include keywords related to your business and what potential customers are seeking. For example, an article on easy ways to extend a vehicle’s life, the differences and similarities of SUVs and CUVs, or tips on changing wiper blades. Depending on your budget, consider working with a content marketing agency so you’re not wasting time creating content that doesn’t move the needle. 

2. Use your email database wisely

Promotional emails about upcoming sales are the most obvious reason for reaching out to customers. But you don’t want to bombard anyone’s inbox with too many sales announcements, especially when you consider that the average office employee receives 121 emails per day. That said, a smart email marketing strategy can be a valuable tool for any car dealership. 

Sending emails that provide useful and practical information tied to specific blog posts from your website is one powerful way to do this. Offering incentives is another. For instance, you can offer a 30% discount when it’s time for an oil change or a complimentary car wash the next time they come in for a service. 

Asking for customer feedback is another fantastic way to use email marketing. Send a brief survey to collect more detailed information and identify areas for improvement. You can also incentivize customers to fill out the survey or write a positive testimonial by offering a discount or free service.

However you customize your email marketing strategy, it’s a worthwhile approach to build your brand’s reputation as a valuable and authoritative resource, foster a personal connection, and enhance your customer retention rate.

3. Get active on social media

If you don’t have social media presence, then it’s time to act now. That might sound like a commercial, but it’s true — 79% of the U.S. population has a social media profile and your business can’t afford to be left out. 

To engage your target audience, you need content that draws them in and keeps them interested. You also need to customize your content based on which social media platform you’re using. For example, Twitter has a 280-character limit yet you can go much longer on your Facebook page. Meanwhile, Instagram is ideal for short captions along with compelling photos and video clips. The key is to tell a story that resonates with your target audience.

Along with highlighting vehicles that you have at your car dealership, consider sharing behind-the-scenes footage, how-to-videos, Q&A’s, and other captivating content on social media. Look at other car dealership accounts and relevant hashtags to get ideas on how to keep your social channels flourishing. 

Create a series of YouTube videos that establish your company as a trusted authority in the automotive space. It’s worth looking into when you realize that nearly 70% of car buyers are influenced by YouTube when shopping for a new vehicle.

You may also consider collaborating with local brands or influencers in your community or those who naturally fit within the lifestyle of vehicles you sell, be it outdoorsy Subarus or high-end Audis. (And you don’t have to spend a fortune. Micro-influencers are more affordable and offer high engagement.) You can then review your return on investment to measure which campaigns and social media channels work best for your business. 

4. Network with relevant, non-compete, local businesses

Much like partnering with influencers and brands on social media, collaborating with local businesses is a car dealership marketing idea that builds community online and offline. If your dealership doesn’t offer service and maintenance, connect with a local repair shop (or several) that you can recommend to customers and vice versa. Likewise, consider networking with your local car wash, auto parts store, and car insurance company to build your network. 

You can then host onsite tutorials (and stream them live on social media) with these local partners. For example, you can teach the public how to properly care for their vehicle, maintain their car’s paint job, or avoid common pitfalls when planning a road trip. You could even just have a “Coffee and Cars” meetup to socialize and generate leads

Even if someone isn’t in the market for a new car just yet, they are still a potential customer. When they are ready to buy, your dealership will be top of mind and a more likely candidate for their purchase. Ultimately, you’ll build brand awareness, establish trust, and inspire word-of-mouth while helping your fellow small business owners.

5. Manage your online reviews

Ask any business owner to identify two essential ingredients for a thriving company and the answer will be happy customers and reputation. It’s impossible to have one without the other. 

Knowing this, managing your online reviews is critical for the health of your company. While you can encourage your customer base to write testimonials for your website, most people are on third-party sites like Yelp and you need to reach them where they are.

Fortunately, using a platform like Podium lets you do just that. You can gather reviews from numerous sites on one simple dashboard without having to scour the Internet. Whether your car dealership listing is on Yelp, Google, Facebook, or any number of other websites, you can stay up-to-date when a customer review is published. 

Not only does this offer you the chance to gain valuable insights, but it allows you to respond to feedback, connect with customers, manage your reputation, and grow your business in one fell swoop.

Car dealership marketing ideas to get your inventory on the road 

A car purchase is one of the most expensive investments a person makes. With nearly all customers starting their car buying journey online, it’s no wonder that improving your automotive marketing tools is a must for selling more cars. 

From having an SEO-friendly website and using your email database wisely to activating social media, networking, and managing your online reputation, there are clear steps you can take to pave the road for a bright business outlook.

Max Steckler
Max Steckler Head of Strategic Automotive Partnerships

Max Steckler, is an auto professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects auto dealerships and businesses with their customers.

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