Thinking Small: an Automotive Marketing Mindset for 2019

A man in a suit holding an outline of a car

There are certain expectations found all-too-commonly among those seeking the expertise of an automotive advertising company or 3rd party marketing professional. In many cases, such expectations come influenced by some sort of marketing myopia or an inability to see the proverbial forest for the trees. Granted, one might argue that such a lack of awareness explains why a dealership or 3rd tier marketer is looking for guidance in the first place. However, it speaks volumes about the ease with which one can self-sabotage their marketing initiatives simply by failing to remain purposefully focused.

As we tip-toe into 2019 (still wondering, collectively, where the hell 2018 went) it’s easy for automotive marketers to get swept up by industry inertia. Looking behind us, we find ourselves propelled forward by several years of record-setting, and highly-enjoyable, sales growth. Looking forward and we’re pulled by a blinding and almost-infinite amount of innovation and evolutionary growth. The momentum of these forces makes it all-too-easy to convince ourselves that we need to think ‘big’ and ‘fast’. However, 2019 might be a perfect opportunity to slow things down, paying attention to some of the smaller, more easily overlooked concerns.

That said, here are 5 back-to-basics ideas you might want to keep in mind when shaping your dealership’s digital marketing initiatives and strategies for 2019.

Trust is Alive (Except for Advertisements)

Risking hyperbole, Traditional Marketing is dead. Ads, even in digital form are the last resort of appealing to the modern consumer (over 30% of online users make use of ad blockers) so your strategy from this point on should be fueled by a clear understanding of what works (and what doesn’t).

Now, as digital marketers, we’re not here to pitch the abolition of digital ads. We’re simply stating the importance of a multi-platform, multichannel approach in your marketing initiatives. Consumer trust is placed largely in a combination of online reviews, branded sites and editorials. There is also a growing number of companies investing in content marketing, partnerships with social media influencers, and referral programs. The goal in using such avenues is the same as that of traditional marketing, they just represent a more direct and effective way of getting a return on your investment in today’s digital age.

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Personalization Isn’t (Just) For the Customers

We talk a lot about creating a personalized experience in all that we do. For better or worse, today’s consumers have come to expect such efforts. Done properly, it’s what distinguishes us from our competitors. It’s part of our external branding. That said, it’s equally important for businesses to shed the shackles of conformity, transforming ourselves with inventive, personalized methods and mindsets. In other words, you need to get creative with your internal branding.

What is it about your services and products that make you different from your competitors? What steps do you take to offer a superior experience? Are your efforts felt only by those onsite at your dealership or does it equate the online experience that you offer? If you’re not sure, you need to figure it out.

Organize Yourself for Success

Common sense tells us that we shouldn’t expect to get a job done properly if we approach it without the right tools, proper strategy and/or organization. Creating a customer-centric culture within a dealership can be difficult, especially if you’re not organized in the proper manner to do so. Perhaps your policies and procedures are profit-centric. Maybe you don’t have sufficient staffing to dedicate to customer service, social media or reputation management. The end result is the prevalence of built-in obstacles and barriers which will inevitably prevent you from achieving your goals.

If you intend to take a slower, more introspective approach in 2019, this should be a major area of focus. In terms of your digital marketing, it could mean investing in the hiring and training of additional personnel, or a new relationship with a digital marketing team. Either way, such decisions should be paired with a willingness to restructure as needed to ensure success.

A computer with "Automotive" on the screen

Speaking the Same Language

Rest assured, we’re not talking about language in the traditional sense of ‘language spoken’. By ‘speaking the same language’ we’re referring to the need to understand the manner in which your customers communicate. Do they prefer to interact through text, email, on social media, phone calls, snail-male or in person? Only by determining this can you (i) ensure that your customers are receiving all communication, regardless of importance and (ii) reassure them of your commitment to your customers by communicating with them in the method they’re most comfortable with. Of course this requires a degree of preparation, and willingness to deliver all messages across multiple mediums. Which speaks to our next point…

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Be Genuine. Be Helpful.

Just as the intense pace and momentum of the automotive industry can make us feel like we have to move faster in order to be effective, the convenient nature of personalized technology can cause us to distance ourselves from one another. Just think of how often you sit on the couch with someone, both of you focused on the phone in your hands, as opposed to each other.

With this in mind, it’s great to hear that companies from all industries, and of all sizes are identifying the reprioritization of relationships as a key area of focus for 2019. This means the revival of personal touches and the scale-up of interpersonal communication. While certain aspects of modern customer service will always come from behind a keyboard (or equivalent technology) there is little debate that many of us have moved too far away from relationship-based business models.

For dealerships, a personal touch might come in the form of organic social media engagement, or simply the proliferation of a customer-centric business model. And the proof is in the pudding since stronger relationships tend to be the driving force in establishing quality, loyalty and longevity in business relationships. In turn, it’s important to identify the steps your dealership can take to personalize each and every customer relationship. Be genuine. Be helpful. Be communicative. Be ready for your effort to pay out some serious dividends.

What’s In Store for You in 2019?

Whether you agree or disagree with our prioritization of the ideas listed above, it’s hard to argue the likelihood that 2019 will play a pivotal role in these trivial times that we live in. The strategy that you employ in the years to come will have an immense influence on the ability of your dealership to achieve your long-term goals.

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