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15 car dealership marketing and sales strategies to drive revenue

Alia Paavola
9
minute read
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Today’s consumers are taking a more active role in the car-buying process. They are researching online, asking for recommendations, and conducting multiple test drives before converting. As a result, strong car dealership marketing and sales strategies have become more vital than ever.

Benefits of auto dealership marketing and sales

An effective automotive marketing strategy will help your dealership attract more customers and boost revenue. Below we break down some of the major benefits of investing in a solid marketing and sales strategy.

  • Generate more leads and customers
  • Boost overall revenue
  • Build brand awareness
  • Reach a wider target audience 
  • Stand out from the competition
  • Improve customer engagement
  • Establish trust with your customers

15 car dealership marketing and sales strategies to help sell more vehicles

1. Build your online presence 

Cars are expensive, which makes the buying process a bit longer and more complex. However, the reality is that most buyer journeys start online. In fact, 95 percent of automotive shoppers go online to find dealerships and answers to their questions. As a result, the best place to start is by building an online presence. 

This includes building a credible, easy-to-use, and visible website. However, you should also make business profiles on social platforms, directories, and review sites.

Creating this rock-solid online presence will ensure that customers looking to buy cars are aware of your dealership and the offerings you have. 

Here’s a list of places you should consider having a presence:

  • Facebook 
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Yelp
  • Google Business
  • Angi
  • Edmonds
  • Carfax
  • DealerRater
  • Cars.com

2. Leverage search engine optimization

Twice as many car buyers start their research online than at a dealership. As a result, it’s important to invest in a strategy to boost the visibility of your auto dealership on search engines. 

SEO is a popular digital marketing strategy used by big and small businesses to do just that. Deploying SEO best practices will drive traffic to your website and improve the likelihood that your website will show up on the first page of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and more. 

Being on the first page of the Google SERP greatly increases your potential to reach more prospective buyers. In fact, research shows the first five organic results on Google account for 67.6 percent of all clicks.

Here are a handful of SEO best practices to keep in mind:

  • Write quality content that targets relevant keywords that buyers search
  • Write unique content that stands out; don’t rehash the same content over and over
  • Optimize your content title and title tag by including your keyword
  • Improve your website’s loading speed
  • Provide captions for all images and describe those images using alternative text

Overall, to rank higher you need a solid content planning strategy, strong content, and a user-friendly website.

3. Share high-quality content

Content goes hand-in-hand with SEO and is a great automotive digital marketing strategy. Post informative, well-written, and well-researched content to your dealership’s website. Answer common customer questions, build comparison shopping guides, or write content that your customers search for. This will help you become a trustworthy source of car information. 

For example, you could create a listicle on the most reliable cars on the market today, an article on ways to improve the longevity of a vehicle, or compare and contrast several SUVs you have on the lot. 

Regularly publishing high-quality online content will help you establish trust with prospective buyers, boost traffic to your website, and encourage more buyers to visit your dealership.

4. Encourage customers to leave reviews 

The reality is that reviews influence customer behavior. Research suggests that car shoppers are five times more likely to visit your dealership if it has positive customer reviews. As a result, a great marketing strategy is to encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews. Getting reviews boosts your online reputation and overall brand reputation. 

One of the best ways to encourage reviews is simply to ask! You can ask customers in person, over the phone, or via text after a purchase. 

Here is an example of a text message you could send to your customers to encourage a review.

A text example asking a customers to leave a review.
How a dealership could ask customers for reviews via text.

In addition to asking for reviews, it is a best practice to respond to reviews. This includes replying to negative reviews as well as positive reviews. This will help you build customer brand loyalty. In the following example, you’ll see the luxury car dealership Ferrari of San Francisco reply to its customers.

Ferrari of San Francisco responding to customer reviews.
An example of a dealership responding to reviews.

5. Invest in paid search and other digital advertisements

As previously mentioned, the car-buying journey often starts online. That’s why auto dealers should invest in paid search and other digital ads to get more customers.

The reality is that customers will often search for simple phrases such as “cars for sale in San Diego” or “top dealerships near me.” A local paid search advertising strategy allows you to target keywords like this to get your website or ad at the top of search engine results pages. This will ensure your dealership gets in front of people in the market for a new car.  

For example, when Googling “cars for sale near me” Google Search ads appear first. You can see this in the screenshot below.

Screenshot of paid search in action.
What paid search ads look like from a browser.

In addition to paid search, there are other paid digital mediums to consider. This includes leveraging paid social media ads. This strategy allows you to get more leads when done correctly. That’s because it delivers the right message to the right person at the right time.  

A few paid advertising channels to consider:

6. Perfect the test drive experience to close more deals

The test drive is an important part of the car buying process. It can help move customers from the consideration phase to the buying phase. Plus, it allows the car to sell itself. 

But, there are several considerations to keep in mind to ensure the test drive helps you close more deals. Below we break down a few of those considerations.

  • Offer unaccompanied test drives. One survey found that 63 percent of consumers would prefer to take a test drive without a salesperson present. This makes them feel more comfortable and able to test the car without distractions. 
  • Provide an upfront cost. No one wants to play a pricing game or feel like they are being taken advantage of. That’s why it's important to provide the cost of the vehicle upfront to the potential buyer. 
  • Offer a discount after the test drive. Incentivize a potential customer to buy after the test drive by offering a discount. For example, you could offer a dollar-off discount for customers that buy on the same day of the test drive.
  • Don’t use the test drive time as a full-on sales pitch. By the time a customer goes to a dealership, they have researched a lot about the car. In these circumstances, you’ll want to act as a trusted advisor rather than a salesperson. Don’t use the time for a full-on sales presentation to convince customers to purchase the car. Instead, ask if there are questions you can answer. 
  • Space out test drives. Ensure customers don’t feel rushed during the test drive process. Instead, space out test drives so they have ample time to consider the car.

7. Provide clear pricing and financing options

Cars are a big ticket purchase, meaning that cost is top of mind for customers. Plus, many customers may trade in their vehicles as well, which makes pricing nuanced in the industry. 

That’s why providing clear, fair, or upfront pricing options can help your dealership stand out. In fact, a study from Cox Automotive found that the top dealership differentiators are: transparent pricing and competitive finance rates. 

Because pricing is so important, many dealerships have turned to an upfront, value, or one-price strategy. This means that the vehicle is sold at a price that’s non-negotiable. This pricing strategy has helped some dealerships attract customers who are weary of the traditional car buying process and negotiating. 

Bob Lanham, the Head of Automotive Retail for Meta, says that this one-price strategy is especially helpful for dealerships that sell to younger generations. That’s because these generations are more likely to pay more just because the buying experience is better.

Another pricing strategy that works is to spend time analyzing and adjusting vehicle pricing to the market. This ensures the consumer always views the pricing as fair. 

Plus, you’ll want to provide a quote for any trade-ins as quickly as possible so customers understand how much it will cost them. 

8. Respond ASAP to leads

When it comes to buying a car, prospective customers are likely to reach out to several dealerships at once to schedule test drives, understand pricing, or gather more information. 

The faster you respond to inquiries, the more likely you are to turn them into a customer.

In fact, a study by Lead Connect found that 78 percent of customers select the company that responds to their inquiry first. And Harvard Business Review found that the chance of qualifying inbound leads is 60 times higher if you reply within one hour. 

Business texting is one great way to reach out to prospective customers quickly. That’s because most texts are read within three minutes and get a response in 90 seconds. The average email response rate is 3.5 hours. Plus, studies show that 80 percent of Americans don’t answer the phone if it is from an unknown number. 

Here’s an example of a quick text you could send a lead after they filled out an online form.

A text message example of following up with a lead.
How a dealership could follow up with leads via text message.

9. Put an emphasis on team training

Although most customers conduct research online first, 95 percent of purchases still occur at an auto dealership, according to Hyundai. This makes the in-person car buying experience a vital part of your sales strategy. Ensuring your team delivers this exceptional experience starts with training. 

The reality is new car buyers conduct extensive research before making a decision. As a result, your sales team must know more than the customer to help close the sale. Effective training ensures that your employees are knowledgeable about the brand and cars. This includes being able to answer customer questions promptly.

10. Make it easy for potential customers to contact you

Ensure that when customers want to reach out or schedule a test drive, it’s hassle-free.

One of the best ways to make it easy on buyers is to offer them many options to reach out. This includes letting them contact you via email, phone, text message, and form fills. 

In the example below, Mossy Toyota in San Diego offers customers the option to live chat, text, call, or fill out a form on the website. 

Mossy Toyota's contact us page.
Mossy Toyota's contact page with multiple ways to reach out.

11. Nurture your leads with an email or texting sequence

Although people may be looking at new cars, they likely aren’t ready to buy on the first visit to your website. A study suggests that there are actually 24 touchpoints before a customer buys a vehicle. 

As a result, one best marketing and sales strategies for auto dealerships is to nurture your leads. You can use an email marketing strategy or sequence to help turn interested customers into paying ones. For example, you could create a series of emails that share helpful information with your prospects. This includes sharing blog posts, comparison articles, and more. 

Additionally, if a lead consents to receive texts from your dealership, you could also use the channel to check in and see if they have any questions. You can also share links to helpful articles via text. 

The key is making sure you follow up with potential customers since the car-buying process is lengthy and requires multiple touches.

12. Focus on building customer loyalty

IHS Markit, part of S&P Global, found that a third of all new vehicle registrations in 2020 were from loyal customers. This suggests that a top priority for auto dealerships should be on retaining existing customers. 

You can build loyalty and retention in several ways. This includes being human in your interactions, reaching out during the most relevant moments, responding promptly no matter the channel, creating a loyalty program, and more.

To encourage loyalty, dealerships could offer customers a free oil change each time they purchase tires, offer gift cards for referrals, discounts on vehicle maintenance, or free car washes.

Overall, dealerships should focus on building relationships with past customers. This will create long-lasting customers who want to come back to purchase their next car from you or come to you for a particular service. 

13. Reengage past customers

This strategy goes hand in hand with building relationships and loyalty. But another good sales strategy is to reengage past customers. 

For example, a dealership could proactively reach out to past customers a few months before their lease is about to expire to tell them about new cars they have on the lot or their options for buying out the vehicle. 

Reengaging past customers gives your dealership an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell to boost sales. 

14. Tap into local marketing strategies

Don’t be afraid to tap into more local marketing strategies as well. This includes sending out mailers to customers in your service area or using newspaper ads. This can help you build awareness and drive customers to showrooms, car lots, service centers, or your website. 

Mailers come in many forms. For example, you could send out a magnet with your contact information, a postcard promoting a recent deal, or a personalized letter. 

The example below shows a personalized letter you could send to customers about trading in their vehicle for a new model. This example is from Auto Mail Mall

An example of a mailer created by Auto Mail Mall.

You could also promote a new deal in a local newspaper to encourage customers to go to your dealership.

15. Leverage SMS for marketing or sales follow up

Business texting is a powerful tool for car dealerships. Not only does it allow for personalized marketing, but it also enables car dealers to stay in touch with potential customers and respond quickly. That’s because it allows you to reach customers on their mobile devices, where the average person spends more than four hours a day

Using SMS to supplement your other marketing channels can help your dealership stand out from the competition. You could use it to promote future sales, send a unique offer, share your current inventory, or alert customers to a new service offering. SMS marketing campaigns perform seven times better than email marketing campaigns. Plus, the average ‍click-through rate CTR for links in text messages is about 9 percent, which is higher than other channels like Google Adwords and Facebook which are about 1 percent.

It also is a great tool to help you speed up your sales cycle. You can use it to respond instantly to prospects after they fill out a form online and move buyers through the sales process with follow-ups that are seen. In fact, texts have a 98 percent open rate and a 45 percent response rate. This SMS open rate is four times greater than email and the SMS response rate is eight times higher than email.

The bottom line

To sell more cars, it's important for auto dealership marketers and salespeople to generate leads and create a great car-shopping experience. Consider using the strategies on this list to help your dealership get more customers and improve the overall experience.

To learn about how texting can be used to improve the car sales process, read our blog here. To learn more about how SMS can improve your automotive marketing campaigns, read our explainer here

You can also start a 14-day free trial on Textline by clicking here. No credit card is required. 

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