Editor’s Note: This article was written in late 2018; however it is so applicable to what is happening in the automotive industry in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses across so many industries have been forced to pivot, reassess, and restructure how they do their daily activities to survive amongst social distancing, remote workspaces, and brick and mortar closures. How your dealership survives and thrives is calculated by how you ‘interrupt‘ the unknown and jump headfirst into the digital space with your inventory and services. Fill a need with your offerings and expertise and make the process easy to complete remotely.


Are you ready to expand your dealership’s digital marketing in 2019? Let me guess; you’ve been ready all year! Or maybe you’ve been trying what feels like everything and still aren’t seeing the consistent sales that you are looking for month-over-month. You’ve been beaten over the head with “You must do SEO… You must do social media and PPC… You must do TV and radio ads.”


It’s time to interrupt the pattern. If you genuinely want your dealership to stand out amongst your competitors and shine within your OEM, you have to interrupt the pattern of marketing.


We are continually being “talked at” in the digital and traditional space…Buy this! Click this! Share this! But that isn’t marketing, that is advertising, and it’s almost become the dirty four-letter word: SPAM.


I recently listened to an interview with marketer Seth Godin. In it, Seth explained that if we aren’t interrupting the pattern of how we are presenting our products or services to our target audience, then we are instantly setting our strategy up to fail.  He uses the example of Silk Almond Milk to make his point. (Now I know all of you automotive vets are rolling your eyes at the screen and thinking, “Whatever lady, Almond Milk has nothing to do with selling cars.” But that’s where you’re wrong, so hang in there.)


When Silk Almond Milk came on the dairy scene in 1996 (thanks Wikipedia), the producers at WhiteWave Inc. knew that they were going to have interrupted the way that Americans thought about the products in the refrigerator section. Instead of buying print ads in Better Homes and Gardens and singing a cute jingle on the radio, they bought shelf space in grocery stores to have their product directly next to 2%. They interrupted the average shopper who was picking up their weekly gallon by showing them that there was a new option they could try. Silk was the same yet different, and over 20 years later, Silk has become the first choice for non-dairy and dairy drinkers alike!


So, stay with me…


Next, Seth explains that if you aren’t seeking the smallest target audience, you can live with, then that interruption of thinking may still be in vain. We all like to think that everyone wants our products and services. How many times have you heard someone say (or maybe even thought yourself) that they want everyone to see their ads and find their website at the top of search results so that shoppers will come from miles around to buy their cars? The age-old saying, “If I had a dollar…” comes to mind.


The key to being an interrupter is to pinpoint your exact target audience and interrupt the way that those shoppers engage with products.


So how does this apply to the automotive industry on the dealership level?


2018 is coming to a close, so assess the demographics of the individuals that purchased vehicles in the past year. Who were they, and what do they have in common? Maybe you own a dealership in a  major city, but you notice that you are catching a broad audience that is commuting to work in the city from a suburban area. Any audience that is attributing to over 25% of your yearly sales is worth targeting, and you need to build a marketing strategy with ONLY those individuals in mind.


Now how can you interrupt that audience?


Step one – Offer a service that saves the shopper time. Interrupt the idea that they need to take time out of their weekend to visit the dealership. We all lead hectic lives, so take away some of that hassle. Promote the personal touches that your specific dealership provides that a customer isn’t going to receive anywhere else. They can shop for a car anywhere, but they can only get these particular services from you.


Step two – Use your digital presence for good instead of evil. The digital audience is savvier than you think! Surprise them with personal, digital attention rather than ads of your current inventory. Ask your social media vendor to target specific audiences within a particular geo-target that falls into the demographics we just talked about. Use artwork and copy reflecting the services that we discussed earlier, then have your web provider build a specific landing page using the same creative. Doing so will provide a cohesive experience when you link your social media ads to your landing pages.


Step three – Build a digital presence that tells the world who your dealership is, what you stand for, and how you go above and beyond for your customers. In a world full of digital fluff, the shopper wants to be able to trust the businesses that they are giving their dollar to, so make sure they have many reasons to do so. Again, they can purchase their new or used vehicle from any dealer, but it’s your job to make sure they know the reason why it should be your dealership.

So be the automotive version of almond milk! You are the only one who truly knows just how unique your dealership is, especially in your market share, so why aren’t you building your digital marketing to reflect those niche attributes? Make 2019 the year that you change your digital strategy for the better.


If you’d like to listen to more of the interview with Seth Godin, check out Andy J. Pizza’s “Creative Peptalk.”