As the buyers’ journey has evolved to be predominantly digital, the number of opportunities for automotive marketing professionals is at an all-time high. But, that also means the competition in the automotive marketing niche continuously sets the bar higher, while traditional tricks of the trade are simply not effective in the digital landscape.
To help you kickstart your career in automotive marketing, we asked four established industry experts to share their best advice for any aspiring novice, along with actionable steps you can take to really differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Here are their tips and tricks:
#1 Leverage your digital environment as a purchase pathway with automotive marketing tools
Gone are the days when those looking for a new car would simply roam the town in order to find a dealership that has the best offer. Nowadays, twice as many vehicle buyers start their research online versus a dealer according to Google. Not only that, but as much as 95% of buyers also relies on digital as a source of information.
Due to the fact that the customer journey has become much less physical, the first point of contact for most (if not all) of your potential buyers will likely be in the digital landscape.
Jack Middleton, a Business Development Manager at GForces Australia, multi-award-winning software and digital services provider to the automotive industry, emphasizes the importance of this aspect.
“Almost the entire automotive customer journey takes place before stepping into a dealership. That means successful marketers are shifting their focus from attracting walk-ins to establishing connections much earlier by leveraging their digital environment as a purchase pathway.“
The key is, as Middleton says, to establish your online assets not only as a means of information but also as a relationship-building platform that is a major element in the purchasing process.
“To enable this, dealer websites across the world must evolve beyond static sources of information, and instead reflect the dynamic retail environments consumers confidently use in numerous other sectors.“
Middleton suggests that in order to deliver this powerful strategy, successful automotive marketers must have access to:
- A flexible content management system,
- Intelligent digital marketing,
- eCommerce tools specifically designed to remove friction and enhance customer experience.
The amazing thing is, there are so many opportunities to connect with potential customers in these early phases and turn them into buyers, provided you utilize digital to its full potential.
Suggested read: Geneva Motor Show, but digital: an online analysis
#2 Focus on 91% of the population with no purchase intent
Traditionally, automotive marketers focus on people who are in the market for a new car. It might seem logical, as most of the people walking into a car dealership already know which vehicle they want – the dealership simply helps them obtain it.
But, this is not what the co-owner of Turbo Marketing Solutions, an automotive sales and marketing agency specialized for the needs of automotive digital retail, Sean Cassy believes is the right approach to targeting potential customers.
“Every manufacturer, portal, publication, automotive marketing company and the thousands of new and used car dealers in North America are all advertising to the same 7-9% of the population in the market for a vehicle. Everybody is fighting for the attention of a small percentage of the pie driving the prices of traditional ads and pay-per-clicks up, while the other 91% of the population is up for grabs.“
As Cassy explains, the concept of selling to non-intenders might not work for all industries, but the car business is very different. “Everybody would change their vehicle today for something bigger, better, faster, more fuel-efficient, with more cargo space, or more technology; they just don’t know they can.“
“What’s keeping prospects thinking they can’t change their vehicle is their misperception of one or more of these five friction points:
- Cash required
- Trade value
Non-intenders don’t believe it’s the best time to get the best price. They don’t believe the payment will fit in their budget. They believe too much cash will be required to complete the transaction. They don’t know if they will qualify for the credit, and they don’t know if they will get enough for their trade“, Cassy adds.
Create content marketing that changes non-intenders beliefs regarding these five misperceptions. That is how you will instantly move them into the market as hot buyers, and you will get the first kick at the can.
#3 Market the why, not the what
As tough as competing with other brands can be, competing with other dealerships that sell the same brand as you might be even harder. The fact that you sell the same products, often for the same price can be challenging from a marketing perspective.
So, if product and price are not the deciding factors, what is? A Walker study actually found that by the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
That is the reason why Jackson Automotive Group‘s Marketing Manager Dakota Snow advocates building value in yourself.
“The automotive industry is unique in the respect that when it comes to competing with other dealers that sell the same brand as you, there is no product differentiation. To get a consumer to choose to buy with you, you must build value in yourself. Who you are, what you stand for, and what you do to give back matter more at the end of the day than how low you will go on the price“, Snow elaborates.
“Anyone can advertise a lower price and make it a race to the bottom of the barrel”, he says, “but to find long term success, your company’s personal brand means more than a low price. Market the why, not the what.“
Rather than lowering the price, you might attribute to the overall customer experience more by making the process feel like more than just a transaction.
In that sense, your approach, principles, and values can be a valuable asset in establishing a relationship with potential buyers. And if you can connect with customers on a more personal level, you give them a significant reason to buy with you over and over again.
#4 Utilize video for automotive marketing
Video content in the automotive industry is not new, but its popularity is significantly increasing. The watch time of test drive and car review videos on YouTube has grown by more than 65% in the past 2 years, indicating the level of customers’ interest in this type of content.
In fact, while I was researching automotive marketing experts for this blog, videos by Jacob Sotiris, a Digital Director for Calibre Group Solutions, were something that caught my attention the most.
As Sotiris himself says, “video continues to dominate everything we do in our lives. From checking a product is suitable before ordering online, to watching YouTube videos before bed. We’re captivated by video content!“
Yet, the automotive industry is one of the slowest to follow suit, adapt and make the change. Manufacturers often push for online sales and instant lead responses during the standard 8 am – 6 pm office hours, thus missing out on customers who browse stock at 10 pm and want to see how the Apple Carplay works or how the back row of seats folds down.
There is an opportunity, though, to be there for your customers 24/7 and instantly provide answers they look for and can come back to anytime, and it’s through video.
“We trust people that we feel like we know and I can guarantee that if your favorite online or TV star recommends a product or service, you’re less likely to be skeptical about it. Even though you don’t actually know this person, they’ve built an online subliminal connection and rapport with you, so you trust them. Having the ability to take this into the business setting is the reason why influencers and vlogs are so popular in today’s world. We crave the ability to feel a connection.“
Sotiris concludes that becoming proactive in digital today, building a connection with our customers online without having to physically be with them and being present where your customers are will be the superpower going into the future in the automotive trade.
Already, the benefits of the digital proved themselves in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic required a quick and seamless adjustment from physical to digital in many industries across the world. Not one industry, including the automotive industry, was exempt from meeting the demands of the new situation.
One of the very first hurdles was the Geneva Motor Show. Carmakers worldwide were suddenly met with the challenge of moving their exhibition to cyberspace, whilst still trying to maintain the same level of quality, curiosity, and enjoyment the audience usually expects. Check out a more in-depth internet analysis of the first digital GIMS.
Try out tracking and analysing important topics and events yourself!