marketing an auto dealership

Marketing an Auto Dealership: Sell Your Dealership AND the Vehicle

When you sell a car, you’re selling more than a vehicle. In fact, an old adage in the car business goes, “When selling a car, you sell three things: yourself, the vehicle, and your dealership.”

What does this really mean? You’ve got to be able to connect with the customer in order to build trust, match them with the right vehicle, and most importantly, bring them back in the door for future maintenance, future repairs, and future vehicle purchases. Every sale should provide value for the customer, but if your dealership is truly customer-centric, it should also increase the blue sky value of the business itself in terms of broadening your customer base.

It’s challenging enough to figure out how to make that single sale, let alone consider the bigger picture. What’s the best way of marketing an auto dealership in a way that keeps customers coming back for more?

Focus on Complimentary Preventative Maintenance

In a 2016 study on automotive marketing conducted by 9 Clouds, automotive dealers revealed that their highest priority is increasing their volume of leads, while their biggest challenge is proving ROI. A recent report by Forrester suggests that despite businesses insisting that increasing customer loyalty is a real concern, they often spend much more on acquisition than retention. In other words, businesses are so focused on those new leads that they ignore their current customers — this despite the fact that it costs less to bring back current customers than to reach out to new ones!

The most valuable tool your dealership has to encourage buyers to return is a complimentary maintenance plan. Customers need to be well-educated on why preventative maintenance is so important for their vehicles. You should also work hard to make them understand why your dealership is the best place to have this maintenance performed. Make sure they know that their maintenance plan is free for X number of miles and a certain amount of time. Discuss the benefits of having their vehicle maintained and checked out by certified technicians.

Marketing an Auto Dealership Starts with Your Staff

Where does the ROI come in with giving away free maintenance? When the customer returns for paid repairs or to shop for a new vehicle, of course! When customers feel welcomed and learn that they can trust your dealership and your staff during visits for preventative maintenance, they’re more likely to return once the complimentary maintenance plan and initial warranty run out. It never hurts if your staff has a new model of vehicle ready for them to test drive or use for the day while their vehicle is being repaired.

In order for this to happen, the staff must all be on the same page. The sales staff must ensure that the customer fully understands the details of their preventative maintenance plan before the customer is handed off to the financial department. The staff there should go over the details of the plan one more time. When a customer returns for complimentary service, the service department must be aware that the greater goal goes beyond getting this one ticket cleared; it’s to be so customer-centric that your dealership wins a customer for life.

Use Software to Assist with Follow Up

According to the book “Marketing Metrics,” if you can keep your current customers coming back, the probability of selling to them is 60 to 70 percent. Meanwhile, the probability of selling to someone new lies somewhere around 5 to 20 percent.

One of the best ways to build that return customer base (as well as the value of your overall business) is by investing in software that tracks information about each customer and sends out automatic reminders at key maintenance milestones. This will not only help keep customers motivated to return; it also provides a way to turn lost opportunities around and regain customers who have dropped into the ether.

Marketing an auto dealership is about more than reeling in new customers. A customer can have repairs done or buy a new car anywhere. By selling your dealership, you can help ensure that they’ll only return to you.

Stop and ask yourself: is your dealership increasing its value by continuing to sell itself to the customers you already have, or are you ignoring them for the next customer as soon as a deal is signed?

Performance Administration Corp. provides personalized Maintenance Program Administration for Franchise Auto Dealers nationwide. We arm thousands of dealers with retention and marketing strategies that are proven to double or triple service traffic and CP/RO counts while improving dealership loyalty and vehicle repurchase rates. Learn more here.