Multitasking shoppers need digital marketing strategy

Automotive Marketing Strategies For Car Dealers

Written By Ted Rubin

Marketing is an important part of any industry, and the automotive industry is no exception. As the consumer world continues changing and becomes an increasingly online experience, the world of marketing is being revolutionized, and some companies are struggling to keep up and maintain engagement throughout the customer journey.

A smart, well-planned campaign is a key component in automotive marketing and helps you reach out to your target audience and bring in new buyers. Not only does it bring their attention to your brand, but if done properly, it can also make them want to learn more about you.

9 Automotive Marketing Strategies for Success

1. Build Trust with Customer Reviews

From the customer’s point of view, there’s nothing more suspicious than a business website with no legitimate reviews from current and/or previous customers. If you’re not a widely known brand and they haven’t worked with you before, then chances are they’ll already be a bit suspicious. Modern customers focus heavily on reviews and are keen to heed and leave them. (You can check out the best car dealership review response practices here!)

It doesn’t help that car dealers and similar automotive companies have a long-held perception of being untrustworthy and pushy during the purchasing process. If potential customers use Google organic search, and your dealership and the website that comes up is bare-bones and has little to no indication of customer satisfaction from other customers, they’re more likely to turn away and look for their new car elsewhere.

Consumer trust is vital to growing your business, with more customers than ever paying attention to online reviews. Good reviews can help with more than your business’s website. Using them in marketing campaigns instantly makes you appear more trustworthy and valid in the eyes of the consumer. When potential buyers think you’re trustworthy, they’re more willing to look into your business and consider buying from you.

Not only that, but they’re more likely to have an enjoyable car sales experience and recommend your car dealership to a friend. Maybe they’ll even leave a positive review of their own. So not only does a good marketing campaign boost your potential sales, but it also leads to an increase in the number of potential customers that know about your brand and value.

This step is an underrated and overlooked part of excellent automotive marketing strategies!

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2. Be at the Top of Google SERP

Google’s SERP (search engine results page) strongly dictates which brands a potential customer sees first. The more seemingly endless web results they must scroll through in order to reach your page, the less likely they are to see it. Being at the top of Google’s SERP is one of the main goals of marketers, and their marketing strategies, everywhere.

No shoppers want to sit and spend hours of their customer journey scrolling across the internet with dozens of dealership and other automotive ads popping up and insisting they’re the best. No, they want to click through the first couple of results and settle for whichever dealership has the fanciest website with the best customer reviews.

Most shoppers don’t look past the first page of Google results ― which is why the top position in Google results captures 33% of all search traffic for that term. You must have marketers that can get your dealership site on the top page or two of online car dealer results so that when shoppers go online looking to buy cars, your dealership will be one of the first car dealerships they’ll see on the undisputed champion of search engines.

Additionally, we recommend bolstering your content marketing. Youtube videos, and video in general, is becoming extremely attractive. A concise video is easily digestible and doesn't require a great deal of reading, and it can also serve to be the best visual representation for the good or service you are presenting.

3. Bid on Competitor Keywords

Dealerships are notoriously competitive because the automotive business has little room to share customers. Marketing to customers online who want to begin the automotive sales process requires things like good automotive marketers, research, digital marketing, ads, and a lot of experience in sales and the automotive industry.

You can bid on certain words other dealers frequently use when trying to convince online shoppers to buy a car, as one part of a keyword strategy. Google used to have a rule against bidding on competitor keywords, but they lifted the rule across the entire platform and you can now buy them at will.

Note: Keep in mind, however, that there is still a restriction against buying competitor keywords with the name of another dealer to use in your ads.

4. Actively Manage your Negative Keyword List

In marketing, sometimes the current pay-per-click (PPC) rate is one that you’re not prepared to pay. Simply not using a word or phrase in your online automotive marketing campaigns won’t be enough. The absence of keywords won’t prevent ads and social media-based marketing strategies from appearing to buyers who research vehicles based on that word.

Adding negative keywords helps you hone in on the terms you want to focus on without wasting your marketing efforts on irrelevant shoppers. Choose your keywords list carefully and make sure that your automotive marketing team turns them on and off at the right time.

Negative keywords are part of an online marketing strategy that your digital marketers can use to maximize your ad spend. Use negative keywords to prevent your business and related media from appearing across the web and social media to consumers who search using that word or phrase. This automotive marketing strategy can increase your chances of targeting the right shoppers and keeping your PPC costs (an important part of your overall automotive digital ad spend) low.

5. Adjust your Campaign Budgets Based on Car-Buying Trends

Traditional marketing strategies don’t work as well as they used to. The rise of the digital age means automotive marketing strategies and advertising campaigns need to be more digital, too. Car buyers rarely purchase a vehicle, or even test drive it, without searching for data on it via reputable auto review sites.

This new and digital automotive marketing channel means automotive marketers can land more sales by convincing customers to purchase a vehicle through content marketing and video marketing, mobile ads, and other forms of media that were previously unavailable, with good video content being key to illustrating solutions they need.

These new digital marketing channels will need a different budget from traditional marketing techniques. Automotive marketers can use recent car buying data to predict future trends and drive a car buyer’s journey toward your company, and use social channels to maximize reach and increase dealership social proof in the process.

Note: These new marketing methods are highly effective at getting customers, but videos, mobile ads, and other forms of media can become expensive depending on the current keyword bids.

6. Target the Right People, Automotive Marketers!

Different types of marketing will draw in different types of auto shoppers, but not all of them are right for you, nor are they your target audience. For example, people who watch an advertisement before a YouTube video won’t all be potential buyers of a new car. Some of them won’t even be old enough to drive a car.

If your automotive marketing is reaching the wrong people with the right message, you’re wasting your money. Your automotive marketing team must know what strategy to use to reach across automotive enthusiasts, hobby buyers, and customers in need of a car for daily use, and consider their use of multiple devices. The automotive industry is not just automotive retail, after all!

With this in mind, look to use demographic data to target ads toward eligible buyers to prevent your marketing budget from ballooning out of control.

7. Compel Shoppers to Come into Your Store with Unique Offers

The vehicle buyer journey is full of car companies saying the same old things. When shoppers see you and other dealerships blasting old data or bragging about auto reviews, they start to care less about the vehicle and more about getting the purchase finished.

When someone gets a new vehicle, they should be thrilled to drive off the car dealership lot, not relieved the ordeal is over.

If your dealership wants to stand out, you need fresh, exciting offers. Don’t use the same, stale automotive marketing sales strategy as everyone else. Working limited-time offers into your marketing is a great way to make new customers feel like they’d better act fast.

8. Use All Possible Call Features

When it comes to marketing, dealerships often think they’re doing everything. However, there’s one marketing tool that dealers frequently forget: call features.

The marketing world has moved almost exclusively online, and many dealers forget about simpler sales marketing tactics, like phone calls. Newer marketing methods may have made tracking data easier, but dealers can use that data for marketing virtually and the old-fashioned way. Why wouldn’t you use every marketing tool at your disposal to make your auto dealership well-known?

Google Ads are great, but don't forget that you have older customers who may not have adapted to new technologies yet in the realm of commerce. They still may not choose to engage with you digitally, even if their research process is done online.

ActivEngage integrates multiple methods of communication into one streamlined customer experience to not only boost leads, but quality follow-up opportunities to close deals and land more sales.

9. How Can the Automotive Industry be Improved?

The auto world has, in some ways, kept up with the times and evolved to accommodate new technology in this digital landscape. At the same time, it’s still monotonous and hard for people to navigate.

Vehicle advertisements and commercials are everywhere, and the vast majority look pretty much the same. It’s about time that dealerships, and the automotive industry overall, had some fresh ideas when it comes to automotive marketing.

Consumers already tune out commercials unless they’re specifically searching for a product. The automotive industry needs to get creative to capture auto shopper attention wherever they are in the sales funnel and turn leads into sales. ActiveEngage can help with multiple ways to reach customers, seamless messaging, and live agents on call with automotive expertise.

Having ActivEngage is Part of a Great Automotive Marketing Strategy

ActivEngage is the most trusted live chat solution in the automotive industry, and the perfect companion to a great automotive marketing strategy. We have a wide array of digital solutions that help you engage and build trust with your on-the-go dealership website visitors, such as:


Ready to discover how ActivEngage helps your dealership succeed?