[Posted October 29th, 2014 by Keith Shetterly]
With the Great Recession that began with the U.S. financial and subprime mortgage crises of 2007 and 2008, the economy would never be the same. Apart from the aforementioned sectors, the automotive industry was one of the most adversely affected. People were laid off, car sales slowed, and revenue dried up. While the economy has steadily recovered since the Great Recession began to taper off, it’s still an uphill climb for dealerships to return to pre-2007 numbers. More than ever, companies have to rely on the following dealership marketing tools:
“Modernizing” Dealership Websites
With the continued advancement of technology, dealerships have had to rely on technological tools more than ever before. One of the most vital dealership marketing tools are websites, which have been around for more than a decade. These days, however, the era of auto companies relying on websites that have basic functionality are practically over. According to auto industry experts, more than 90 percent of people start their vehicle searches online, and they expect to find dealership websites that are optimized for functionality and interaction. This includes the ability to browse through current inventories, send an inquiry, chat with a customer service representative, and see the latest promotions. In some cases, the website might even allow the potential customer to create a customized version of the desired vehicle. Additionally, in an age of the increasing use of smartphones and tablets, the websites must be optimized for use and viewing on smaller, mobile devices.
Another vital arm of advancing technology is using software to integrate and organize the essential activities of a dealership. This concept is known as customer relationship management, or CRM. With CRM software, dealerships can maximize sales and revenue from not just their sales departments, but from servicing vehicles and selling parts and accessories as well. A prime example is CAR-Research XRM, which is headquartered in Houston, Texas and has won the title “Top Rated CRM” four years in a row by auto social network Driving Sales. Through the company’s DealCenter virtual business development center, dealerships can promptly respond to Internet and phone inquiries with phone scripts and email templates, send electronic newsletters containing the latest sales and service promotions, follow up with customers who are yet to buy vehicles, and convert more equity-and-trade customers.
In terms of technology, the 21st century is currently most notable for the rise of social media. Social network services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are responsible for digitizing the establishment of interactions between people—whether for personal or business purposes. These places are ripe for dealerships to make themselves known, especially to users that are discussing car purchases or servicing online. Employees can be assigned to the company’s social networking accounts, using hashtags and other tracking tools to attract potential customers and their specific needs. The key is to do so by creating value, instead of selling. This creates trust with potential buyers, who eventually rely on such dealership as top choices for purchasing their vehicles or taking them in for service.
Unconventional and Fun Promotions
Marketing a dealership can also be creative and fun. For instance, a fleet of cars can be branded as promotional vehicles and driven around the neighborhood in which the dealership is located. Other ideas include holding weekly contests, hosting monthly parties or creating video testimonials.