Ours is such an isolated industry. There are many reasons for this – some good, some bad. Let’s take a look at what makes the car business so special and the things we all can do to make it better.
First and foremost, there’s a reason that outside companies rarely succeed when they try to come into the automotive arena to help car dealers. We think differently. Our customers think differently. There is no other purchase a person can make that’s anything like buying a car. It’s a big deal like a home, but it can be handled in hours instead of weeks. Consumers rely on reviews just as they do with electronics and other purchases, but at the end of the day it’s the feeling they get while behind the wheel that supersedes reviews. Consumers can research it for months or they can make a decision instantly.
Those who come from outside of the industry have a hard time adjusting because they don’t quite get it. If they haven’t worked at a dealership and studied the various marketing practices, they could have dozens of MBAs and masters of marketing working long hours, only to come up with strategies, services, and products that simply don’t work to help sell more cars. We’re an enigma and we’re proud of it.
With that said, there’s something that can be said about the isolation that has occurred in our industry. I only need to look at the SEO world to realize that the strategies and expectations given to and set by dealers do not match what other industries know very well. For whatever reason, the industry is still abundantly attached to the concept that content and technical aspects of search engine optimization are all that you need when the reality is that it might account for 40% of the SEO picture at most.
It’s important to look outside of automotive and to make adjustments to those strategies that will make them fit. It’s something that we practice, that we’ve built our company around because we’ve found that the automotive digital marketing “box,” as powerful as it is, can be limiting when dealers want to get into aggressive strategies. With a discerning thought process tempered by the differences that lie within the car business, one can take great strategies and shifts in platform structures and make a huge impact on their marketing.
Here are some examples of “changes on the fly” that we’ve either already implemented or that we’re working on now. Use these examples to make determinations about your own marketing. Are you still doing the best practices from 2014 or earlier or are you ready to take it into 2015 and beyond?
- Twitter is Getting Hot Again: Between the coming rollout of “While you were away,” the inclusion of custom audiences in Twitter ads, and the upcoming addition of Tweets back into Google, the notion that Twitter should be a set-it-and-forget-it platform is quickly becoming obsolete. Images are paramount. Listening is becoming a necessity. Twitter, for all of its nonsense and fluff, is becoming a very valid marketing tool for dealers.
- Inbound Links Work: The car business is the last to hop back onto the high-quality inbound link bandwagon. Everyone got a little spooked with the challenges that bad links brought to the table with the Penguin update, but things have normalized. Unfortunately, the linking strategies that most vendors employ are weak at best and damaging at worst.
- LinkedIn May Becoming a Thing: Over the years, I’ve said at least 200 times these words. “You can’t sell cars on LinkedIn.” I was right. Today, I’m still right, but there’s an asterisk that needs to be plugged in there. The increased exposure in the form of longer time on site, recent upgrades to the UI, and a rise in the number of tools that can post to LinkedIn brings it into the category of, “Why not?” The barriers that made it a waste of time have been torn down and the potential to improve branding has increased. You’re still not going to sell cars as a direct result of LinkedIn, but we’re exploring ways that it can still bring a basic benefit to the dealership, even if it’s in an indirect way.
- Going Too Deep Might Be a Mistake: This is where the jury is still out. Many of the most popular marketing and advertising models focus on driving consumers directly into the VDPs. This works, but does it work better than driving up a level to the SRPs or a landing page? We’re finding out.
There are some very intriguing things we can learn from outside of the industry. The key is taking a best practice and adjusting it to fit the very unique needs of the car business.