In the past (and to this day, quite frankly), auto dealers have tried everything to drum up business. Catchy jingles, funny commercials, tent sales, giant inflatables, you name it. And while some of those things are falling by the wayside in today’s digital age, they’re often being replaced by things that are just as ineffective.
Have you replaced your print, radio, and/or television advertising with digital ads? How has it been working for you? Unless you’re willing and able to spend enough money to ensure you’re at the top of every internet search, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be a futile effort. Still, you need to find a way to attract customers — both online and offline.
So what’s an auto dealer to do? For starters, don’t try to rush things. Auto dealership marketing is a long-term strategy. Yes, you want to get the next sale. But you also want that customer to come back again and again — and bring their family and friends.
When you hold decision-making power over allocating your auto dealership's marketing budget, there are various options at your disposal for incentivizing prospective customers. You need to consistently funnel car-buyers into your showroom, executing battle-tested techniques to get them behind the wheels of your vehicle inventory.
Don’t go for the quick fix. Focus on making, keeping, and delivering on service appointments, deliver good customer service and minimize customer churn, build a dealership review process, and get personal with your customer retention strategy.
Another thing you should do is read the book “Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success” by Rory Vaden. It’s a great read that tackles today’s “escalator mentality,” and encourages you to not “skip the stairs” and take the easy way out or quit when things get tough.
Ready to get started with a better auto dealership marketing strategy? Here’s how to achieve the right blend of automotive marketing tactics and enhance your customer attraction, long-term retention, and dealership profitability.
Why Traditional Auto Dealership Marketing Often Fails
As attention spans get shorter and more and more information and purchasing options populate the Internet, the world of auto dealership marketing has become increasingly muddled. Outdated advertising practices (print, radio, etc.) have lost usefulness and newer techniques remain unproven or ineffective (PPC). Whatever it may be, traditional marketing efforts have a limited shelf life and typically fall by the wayside following a month-long rotation — even if they do provide a short-term boost.
The Benefits of a Customer-Centric Complimentary Maintenance Program
While traditional auto dealership marketing is losing steam, a focus on long-term growth is defining the future of automotive loyalty. The differences between the traditional approach of customer acquisition (direct mail, email marketing, TV, radio, and online advertising) and the modern approach of customer retention (a Complimentary Maintenance Program) are stark and cannot be ignored.
The ultimate goal of a complimentary maintenance program is to have it double as a full-fledged customer retention strategy. Not only are customers attracted to your dealership for an initial vehicle purchase, but they also return for service and, ultimately, their next car-buying experience. And when you keep them happy, they tell their friends and family and tout your benefits on social media.
What starts as a comfort level develops into long-term loyalty on the part of the customer, converting a transactional value into a lifetime value. Complimentary maintenance programs have demonstrated the ability to increase customer retention and service revenue. You’re promoting your dealership and your brand, separating yourself from the competition by offering packages that fit the specific needs of your customer base.
Are You Paying to Reach the Wrong People?
Traditional advertising generally involves casting a wide net. Your ad may reach a large, general audience, but it's seldom targeted towards your exact customer model, and you pay a premium for that placement. Consequently, traditional advertising rarely produces a strong return on investment (ROI) for most dealerships.
An effective complimentary maintenance program, on the other hand, achieves the distinction of being both targeted and economical. You reach your vehicle-purchasing audience with a variety of options to fit their needs — prepaid, discounted or loyalty programs — and you do so in a cost-effective manner. The average dealership spends $628 per vehicle on traditional advertising before a sale is made. A complimentary maintenance program can attract customers to your dealership for one-quarter of that cost on average.
Why Retaining Customers is So Important
What's the cost of an automotive customer? Well, it depends on the nature of that particular customer. Return buyers are worth their weight in gold, as it's up to 10 times more expensive to acquire a new customer versus maintaining a current one. Furthermore, it's estimated that 80 percent of your company's future revenue will arise from the most valuable 20 percent of your existing customer base.
While most traditional auto dealership marketing efforts focus exclusively on attracting new customers, an effective complimentary maintenance program accomplishes this objective while also drawing previous customers back to your dealership for service and subsequent vehicle sales. Once your dealership truly appreciates the importance of customer retention to your bottom line, then the value of complimentary maintenance becomes vividly clear.