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The car dealership is dead. Long live the car dealership.

June 14, 2019

By Matt Jones

This week, I spent the day at CDX – a conference and expo run by Car Dealer Magazine that’s dedicated to the UK motor industry. It was a superb day with attendees featuring a huge range of businesses dedicated to the motor retail industry and an array of speakers from all corners of the industry from sales to finance to marketing and beyond

Many of the day’s conversations centred around how buyers – specifically car-buying habits – have changed. Needless to say, that’s when my interest was piqued.

Of course, any business worth its salt knows how important it is to capture buyers as early as possible in the process. Everyone knows you need to capture a buyer’s attention online, and that there is a plethora of tricks and techs out there to tempt the buyer until they book a test drive or commit to parting with their money. You can track the sale, retarget them, and even directly speak to them on every device and social media account they own.

But what about getting them to engage with you in the first place?

My experience tells me that however much tech is available, at the core of any sale is the vital understanding of how to engage with people, whether this is in person at the dealership or online in an advert.

We’ve known for years that consumers now spend much more time researching a brand online before committing to it, and that the majority of their decision-making will be made a long time before they walk through the dealership doors. So how do you ensure it’s your door they choose to walk through?

Engagement is key, and knowing exactly how to connect with your customers should come before everything else.

This is where the art of ad-writing comes in.

All too often the content of the ads is exactly the same as Ye Olde Newspaper ads of yesteryear: 0% finance, £500 deposit contribution, sale on this weekend only. It didn’t really work back then (at least, not very well), and, if we’re being perfectly honest, it doesn’t really work now. If you start selling too early, today’s discerning consumers tune out quickly. All buyers want to feel an association with you before picking up the phone or walking through the door, and shouting about your latest sale that’s exactly the same as the other ten dealerships in town is simply off-putting.

So what if you could have had a one-to-one conversation with them before they get to that put-off stage? What if your ads are so good that they find you before any of the other ten dealerships in town?

Our work with dealerships has shown that if you can build conversations with customers based on topics they care about, the engagement levels skyrocket. Interesting articles on topics such as auto versus manual, new versus ex-demo or petrol versus diesel can get you engagement on social media and create a relationship between the customer and the dealership in a way that no summer sale advert ever can. These sort of articles and long-form ads introduce you and your values in a way that’s genuine and far more inconspicuous. They can get you ahead of your competitor, and, if done well, can result in potential customers spending more time on your website rather than shopping around. If you then follow up with a nurture sequence of good value content (such as customers reviews or testimonial videos), and eventually sales messages, they’ll be test driving one of your cars before you can say ‘nought percent finance’.

If you speak to people online in the same way you’d have spoken to them in the showroom back in the good old days, then they warm to you.

We recently ran a campaign for a single site retailer (single manufacturer) aimed at a wonderfully warmed up audience, who’d read and seen a number of their articles. The entire ad spend of the campaign was approximately £420, and directly as a result of this (because we can track it precisely on Facebook) they managed to sell an additional 24 cars that month. Great return for a great team who know how to treat their customers once we get them to the forecourt.

Interested? Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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