Own a car dealership? Run an automotive repair shop? Whatever sector of the automotive industry you’re in, you need to constantly be marketing to two kinds of people: those who know cars, and those who don’t. This can cause some complexities when it comes to online automotive advertising ideas and strategy, but by keeping these eight golden rules in mind, you may just find yourself ahead of the curve.
1. Accept that the Internet is a new kind of showroom
The recent 2013 Automotive Buyer Influence study conducted by the folks at Autotrader.com and Polk found that car buyers are spending less and less time shopping for cars online. Now, this might seem to indicate that the Internet is a diminishing trend for car shoppers. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, according to automotive marketing blog The Dealer Geek.
The news source points out that websites are simply more efficient than they were two years ago. The clearest indication comes from the 2013 Automotive Buyer Influence study again. When surveyed for the most-used information source during the car buying process, both new car and used car shoppers overwhelmingly stated that the Internet was their primary go-to. In fact, the web came in at 75 percent on average for shoppers, compared to newspaper and print ads, which languished at about 3 percent.
Simply put, the Internet is your dealership’s newest – and largest – showroom.
2. Groom your website and go mobile
Just like your physical showroom, you don’t want to let your online one fall behind the times. Updating and tweaking your website is absolutely essential, but you want to keep the variety of online shoppers in mind when you do so.
First and foremost, make sure your pictures and graphics are large, high resolution and dynamic. You want to catch eyes. Next, make sure that your user-interface is clean and clear. Visitors should be able to navigate your site without trouble, and your information should be clearly listed on every page. Finally, ensure that your site is optimized for mobile devices. If there’s another growing Internet trend beyond online car shopping, it’s doing so on tablets and smartphones.
3. Know your audiences
You have two primary audiences at any given time, and possibly more. The first are the car nuts. These may be auto hobbyists or just people who really like cars. There’s even a sector of folks who are fascinated with buying and selling cars rather than just driving them. Make sure your website appeals to this sector. Include a forum where enthusiasts can chat with one another, or provide plenty of high-res photo collections, manufacturers’ videos and under-the-hood peeks.
The other audience is the average buyer. They know they like this or that manufacturer, and what matters most to them is expediency and making sure they get the product they need rather than just the one they want. Your website should be optimized for these folks first and foremost, since they won’t want to get lost in the nitty-gritty. Clean design with helpful directions is key.
4. Use social media to build a fan base
One thing that everyone can get behind, whether it’s an auto enthusiast or your average Joe, is social media. Facebook and Twitter are just two ways to develop a fan base, but both take some work. You’ll need to stay current with your followers and make sure you’re part of the daily conversations going on in your industry.
Once you’ve developed your brand on social media, you can use it as an advertising platform. Got a sale coming up? Facebook is free advertising! New models just come in? Post a few Instagram shots to your Twitter feed for followers to get excited over.
5. Reward that fan base with giveaways
You’ve got a loyal following made up of car nuts and regular folks alike – now you want to make them feel like they’re part of your inner circle. One of the best ways to do this is with some free giveaways. Not a car, of course, but a few quality promotional products.
You can find a bunch of automotive promotional items that make for great giveaways to loyal followers and shoppers. Windshield sun shades, license plate frames, safety kits and other popular products can all be personalized for your business. But there’s no reason to stick to car-related items alone. Dealership T-shirts or ball caps bearing your repair shop logo are sure to be appreciated and make customers feel like part of your automotive family.
6. Have excellent and informed customer service
The customer is always right, and that’s a golden rule you’ll want your customer service reps to know by heart. But having excellent customer service isn’t enough – you want the people answering calls to be informed as well. Offer primers and workbooks to employees coming from outside the automotive industry.
7. Don’t get too stuck down the online rabbit hole
The internet is great, but it’s not the beginning and end of your car advertising. Remember to keep up a presence in your showroom or your repair shop. Put out occasional ads for cheap in local papers – that way you can continue to draw in those regulars who aren’t web-savvy.
And keep in mind that as convenient as the internet is for car shoppers, nothing compares to a warm smile and handshake.
8. Bring the physical and the digital together
Sometimes you’ve got to advertise your website itself. Search engine optimization, YouTube videos, blogging and other tips and tricks can help you out. But another great tactic is to advertise your URL on promotional products, like custom pens or magnets. Items like these can be sent out in mailers or dispensed at local events, like festivals or fundraisers. Customers may not check out your site immediately, but they’ll be carrying your business’s name and info around in their pocket everywhere they go.