When I talk to those working in the automotive industry, many think because they’ve hired internal staff or a marketing agency to manage specific aspects of their digital marketing strategy, and they may have seen some positive results, that their jobs are done.  

Yet there is a huge gap between either having a basic strategy or a ‘managed’ solution and being truly optimized across all mediums of the digital landscape. Once you have dipped a toe into the ‘optimized’ space, that is when your digital journey is complete. This is where the fallacy of managed vs optimized comes into reality.  You can have someone manage your content, but optimization comes together when those components work together towards the end goal of the customers expectations being met.

In the automotive space, while the top result we want is buying a car, parts, or service from us, it’s not JUST about buying a product.  The simple difference is sales (buying from us) is what you do with someone when they come into or call the dealership. Marketing is what you do to get them in the store or on the phone or, to visit your website.  Once that occurs, you want to be seen as a valuable resource in their purchase journey, not someone that just wants to sell them something. If that was the case, all you’d need is lots of the right inventory and the best deal (think Carvana, Fair.com, and CarGurus).  Traffic without sales equals no return, which we all know is bad. There is a balance between volume and quality. You need both to be successful. THIS is where an optimized strategy across all digital spectrums yields maximized results not just clicks and traffic. Changes in SEO and Social in the last several years have put the focus on mobile first and 0 click optimization moving forward.

Below are the top 8 reasons why I know a digital marketing strategy is crucial to the success of dealerships:

  1. I have attended many seminars and given presentations about this, but the ‘ah-ha moments’ usually come back to basic sales blocking and tackling techniques.  This isn’t any different in digital marketing with the exception that the lines drawn on the field in which digital marketing keeps changing. Most dealers have a written sales process for what to do when a customer calls, or comes to the store, but no procedure on how that digital strategy reflects what that sales process is or who the dealership is.
  2. Multi-channel marketing (website, SEO, all social media outlets, pay-per-click, remarketing and digital drip) can’t be siloed to be optimized.  Yes, there is a huge difference between Managed (Improving customer lifecycle marketing) and optimized (Complete customer lifecycle marketing).
  3. This is a never-ending journey, and you have to treat it as such with each pillar building upon the other.
  4. Customer experience is all that matters.  What YOU want it to be is irrelevant. This is about connecting people to information the way that they want to find it, not the way you think they should search for it.
  5. Digital trust is what drives quality traffic. The dealership has integrity and honesty in what they put online and engage with their customers quickly and accurately. Ultimately, they become a trusted adviser, not just a broker that pushes cars.
  6. Tech stack (basic ability to use technology to navigate what the providers want and how they want it) is only part of the issue.  If you aren’t focused on writing relevant content to improve your internal linking structure, both on and off site through suggesting other related posts to readers, you won’t be successful in driving quality traffic even when  budget is being utilized for pay-per-click.
  7. Mobile and 0 click FIRST.  Used to be the notion of your website information being optimized for mobile.  That has mostly shifted towards mobile first since most people aren’t on a desktop or laptop anymore.  They are on a mobile device, tablet or voice based (0 click) search result (featured snippets).
  8. Then promote that content via social media.  Social signals are a huge ranking factor. Without it, your content will just sit on your site all alone with no one to like it. At Dealer Authority, our social team tries to focus on local events and news for our front-facing Facebook posts. These type of posts help build the digital trust we mentioned earlier when you show your online audience that you are invested in the community around them.

Summarizing this is straight forward.  Take another look at your digital footprint as a strategy, not as each piece as a separate entity.  This includes traditional marketing mediums (print, radio and TV). Each dealership has a different personality. People are looking for what meshes with them, it’s not just inventory and price.

Find someone that serves your dealership not your manufacture and talk to them, open and honestly about what you are trying to achieve, and that can’t just be selling cars.  If it is, you have forgotten the core reasons why you got into this business to begin with. Your processes and “why buy” messages are part of your in-dealership sales process. Why aren’t they part of your digital marketing strategy? Understanding this is more important in 2019 than ever. Get help. Take the phone call. Ask questions. If you are only going to listen to what the OEM mandates are,  your strategy will reflect what master they serve. Choose carefully.

Who is Bob O’Brien?

Bob O'Brien Regional Sales Director

Bob O’Brien is a seasoned automotive professional, with over 15 years of experience working in and as a vendor for the automotive industry. As an experienced sales professional and our Regional Sales Director, Bob helps the DA team analyze digital marketing opportunities for dealers with the best ROI for their business in mind.