When you’re a car dealer, one of your goals is always to get potential buyers into your showroom. But before your sales team can work their magic on the floor, you need to give shoppers a reason to head your direction. So how do car dealerships attract customers in the first place?

More than ever, auto dealerships need to invest in great lead generation tactics. Thanks to the internet, shoppers have access to more dealers and greater control over the car-buying process than in the past. This means fewer potential customers are visiting your dealership as a first step. Instead, they’re putting in the research to find the best car dealer and vehicle for their needs.

Your automotive marketing strategy must enable your brand to show up and stand out from the start of their research. You can use the tactics we outline below to drive more quality leads to you.

How do car dealerships attract customers?

Bringing car buyers to your dealership starts with effective lead generation techniques. Once you’ve identified your target audience, your job is to reach these potential customers where they’re already seeking out brands like yours—both online and offline.

Let’s dive into five dealership marketing ideas that you can use to attract more car buyers and drive up your sales.

1. Social media

Social media usage isn’t just becoming a more prominent part of our personal lives. It’s also directly influencing the car-buying process. When shopping for a new car, 90% of consumers who use social media for research say it influenced their final decision—especially Facebook. This makes social media a great marketing channel for car dealerships to engage new customers (and re-engage existing ones).

It is possible to capture leads from social media organically. For example, you can:

  • Share posts that link to relevant landing pages on your site
  • Add your contact information to your profile
  • Encourage users to subscribe directly to your Facebook Messenger bot

However, if you want the best results, you can use Instagram and Facebook Lead Ads, LinkedIn Dynamic Ads, and similar paid ads. Not only do these paid ads allow you to target a highly specific target audience—ensuring you’ll reach the most relevant audience—but they also allow you to ask for and collect phone numbers directly on the platform.

The cost of these lead generation ads will depend on the audience you set, but you can expect them to cost a bit more than the standard Facebook ad (which is about 28 cents per click in the U.S.). However, you do get far more than clicks, which don’t guarantee any further action. Instead, you’ll gain a potential customer who actively entered your sales funnel.

2. Pay-per-click ads

With car buyers spending around 60% of their time researching online, it’s critical to have a strong presence on search engines. You can instantly get your site to the top of Google results pages by using pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements, which allow you to target a specific audience and show up for relevant keywords.

For example, when someone in your target market searches “car dealerships” with local intent, your PPC ad can drive your site above the first organic result.

You can also target more specific keywords for specific products (“2020 Honda Civic”) or services (“oil changes Sacramento”). These PPC ads can then take users to a landing page that specifically targets users in search of the given product or service.

No matter what web page you promote through your PPC ad, it should include a contact form or lead magnet that encourages visitors to submit their contact information in some way. It should also be mobile-friendly, since many car buyers are using mobile devices to shop.

The price of PPC ads can vary greatly, but broader keywords that get more traction tend to cost more per click. You will get to set your own budget for every campaign.

3. Local partnerships

You don’t have to use digital marketing techniques to attract customers to your car dealership. Building partnerships with other local businesses can be one of the best ways to gain high-quality leads without spending a dime (unless other payment terms are agreed upon).

When you partner with other members of the auto industry—those who aren’t direct competitors and may complement your service—you start a mutually beneficial relationship that expands both your networks. For example, if you were to partner with a rideshare company, your dealership could suggest their app whenever a customer has their car in your shop. In return, their company can refer current or prospective drivers to your dealership.

Other types of companies you may partner with—granted that you don’t offer the same products or services—may include local car washes, auto parts stores, car detailing shops, and even auto insurance companies.

One of the reasons this tactic works so well is because you’re drawing from a customer base that may already be loyal to the brand you’re partnering with. When that brand backs yours, you gain the instant trust of those loyal customers.

If you want to further entice leads, you can also agree to offer discounts to each other’s customers. If you want to take your partnership online, you can each make a landing page that shows the perks of shopping with both brands.

4. Referral program

The majority of marketers agree that referral programs offer a lower cost per lead than any other channel. It makes sense—people trust other people. Just like getting backed by a local business can help you gain the trust of their customers, getting the support of a current customer can help you gain the trust of their friends and family members. This can help you make a faster car sale.

Your program does need to give your customers a good incentive to refer you to people in their network. For every lead you’re able to convert, you may give the referrer:

  • A free car service (up to a given value)
  • A gift card
  • A cash reward

You can even create a referral program for employees, giving them bonuses when they successfully refer car buyers. No matter who your referral program is built for, the exact value of the reward you offer is up to you. However, keep in mind that you shouldn’t be stingy, since you’re selling a high-value product.

If you don’t have the budget for bigger rewards, you can also offer smaller rewards for customers who bring in a friend who takes a test drive.

5. Community events

Finally, take part in your community. Most car buyers will choose the car dealership that provides an experience they enjoy—regardless of price—so sponsoring, hosting, and having a booth at local events are all great ways to build relationships on a more personal level.

When taking part in other organizers’ events, make sure attendees will align well with your audience. For example, joining in on a car show is more worth your time and money than a general family festival. To encourage attendees to provide their contact information, you’ll also want to brainstorm an incentive, which can be as simple as a prize wheel or as big as a car giveaway, based on your expected return-on-investment.

When hosting your own event, don’t forget that your dealership can be your venue. This is a great way to not only get new leads, but also to get the community under your rooftop, so they always have you in mind. During these events, you may offer test drives of a new car model and deals on cars to attract customers, while also offering general perks like free food, drinks, and games to involve the broader community.

Attract and convert

There are endless methods that you can use to attract customers to your car dealership, both online and offline. These days, you need to blend traditional and modern tactics to reach car buyers wherever their attention is at, then draw them to your brand. Your job is to make it easy for shoppers to become your leads—then your customers—by making yourself available on social media, search engines, events, and beyond.

If you want to amplify your marketing efforts after you implement these lead generation tactics, check out more car dealership marketing ideas that you can add to your strategy.

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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