Now that we find ourselves firmly implanted inside of another new year, it becomes easier to separate ourselves from the imaginary line that we’ve just crossed over. Whether you think of it as a new beginning, the turn of a calendar page, or another journey around the sun, the significance of a ‘new year’ is largely sentimental. But it’s the significance that we assign to it which makes it something more. New goals. New trends. New areas of focus. Each of these asserts itself, helping to guide this next 12-month stage of our respective (and collective) journeys. And with that said, your automotive marketing strategy should be no different; it should focus on recognizing any shortcomings or failings of the year past while resolving to remedy them. And while I’ve never been big on the idea of lofty annual resolutions (preferring manageable daily goal-setting) one can’t argue that the clock is ticking to implement any changes of value. In fact, if you’re reading this in February (or later) you’ve lost at least 1/12 of your allotted time. So, let’s get on track, with the help of trend analyses which have already helped to mark some of the signposts we should aspire to pass in 2019.
And while (to our loyal readers) some of these might feel redundant, remember…a continuing trend is one which has proven itself capable of perseverance. So, take in the old alongside the new, recognizing the reprioritization of marketing focus as this fully-connective decade begins to wind down, looking backwards in order to move forward.
Restoration of Consumer Confidence
First and foremost, let’s talk social media. While not intended to downplay the importance of any other component of your marketing strategy, recent years have offered countless lessons as to the important role that social media plays. Providing more than a simple bolstering of brand recognition, social media engagement has asserted itself as the judge, jury and (yes, in some cases) executioner for brands of all kinds – be they commercial, personal, political or something else entirely.
And it was the surging influence of social media platforms in 2018 which began to draw criticism. Primary free-of-charge, leading platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have firmly asserted themselves upon users of all generations. And as with any free service, the only product offered up is the user themselves – now subjected to an onslaught of ad revenue. Growing awareness of this, combined with looming security threats (as highlighted by last year’s senate hearings) have certainly chipped away at people’s unquestioned adoration of social media. And yet, it’s done little to minimize usage; take Facebook, for example, which boasts over 2 billion active users on a monthly basis. So where does the criticism manifest itself?
Largely in a burden being silently placed upon the shoulders of the advertiser / marketer. That’s right, you. Why? Because the manifestation of consumer criticism takes the form of distrust in the disingenuous. In other words, consumers have ‘dialed up’ the sensitivity on their bullshit-meter, and are growing increasingly expectant of sincere marketing campaigns and genuine engagement, built around their personal demands of satisfaction.
So, if you’re looking to make a professional New Years Resolution in the interest of improving your social media presence, focus on what’s real.
Telling the Story
Earlier, we touched on the ‘imaginary line’ of a new year. Let’s pretend it’s a real one, even if just for a moment. Look back at everything you’ve done online to market your dealership and ask yourself, “Have we done everything possible to tell our story?” If the answer is no, you need to remind yourself that you’re now on the other side of the line.
Since its inception, social media has been intended as a means of telling one’s story. Through individual posts, check-ins, and timeline events we build a narrative of our own lives, and a dealership’s social media presence should be no different. Our exposure is what makes us relatable to others, and accessibility fuels personal contact. In other words, if you’re looking to attract new customers organically, let them get to know you.
This means a number of things: from employing the ever-increasing power of video to back-fill the story of your dealership, to utilizing post engagement to create a stronger bond in real-time. Everything you do should be part of your story, and you should be in a rush to share that story with the world. After all, no-one else will.
Humanizing Your Story
It doesn’t take a skilled salesperson to tell you that insecurity is poison to business. And insecurity is a funny thing that can rear its ugly head in a number of ways. One of the most dangerous, by today’s standards, is the reluctance of a dealership’s leader or principal to put themselves ‘out there’. Why? Remember, customers want to get you know you. They want to hear your story in the most genuine manner possible. That said, it’s important to reinforce the humanity behind the dealer plates. From appearances in scripted videos to live-streaming content, even blog posts and podcasts, a high-level leader can strengthen your dealership’s image by increasing its relatability.
Reimagining the Selfie
It’s no coincidence that we’re talking about ‘stories’ at a point that almost every platform offers short-form video ‘stories’ to the services offered. In the case of spoken short-form, these videos empower a user to reach their audience. And regardless of how many times you might ‘X-out’ of live video notifications and repetitive story content, the truth is that it’s proving to be some of the most heavily consumed content among younger consumers.
So with Generation Z having dipped their collective toes into the water of car-buying, it’s important to ask yourself if your dealership is making use of this more personal way of advertising everything from current inventory to buying culture? You should be. After all, you’re on ‘this’ side of that imaginary line now, and you need to tell your story as it grows. People are listening.
Quality > Quantity
Slow your roll, though. Before you go whipping out your phone to start barraging your followers with real-time content, remember the importance of moderation. Inundation means nothing if the content you deliver is uninspired. The goal is to engage your customers, which requires a strong and purposeful message but to do so in a genuine and meaningful way. Only in doing so will your content have the impact you’re aiming for, otherwise it becomes the equivalent of self-sabotage, rebranding yourself as a heavy-handed follower.
Knowing Your Platforms
The need for targeting (in a macro sense) can be easy to overlook. That said, any attempt to define your respective audiences should include consideration of the various social media platforms, and the demographics of their users. Failure to do this is another means of exhausting your resources and diluting the strength of your message.
Walk Before You Run
“We can do this” might be a powerful affirmation, but it can also be a toxic statement if it results in hasty action. Working with a skilled digital marketer can help you to gain insights into your existing and prospective customer base while guiding you through the perils of social media engagement and video content production.
All-too-often, someone reads a think-piece like this and looks down at their smartphone thinking “We can do this! We make videos. We post them. We attract new business.” And while, yes, new opportunities may come, it’s hardly a strategy.
At the end of the day, we’re not here to tell you how to sell cars. We’re just here to tell you how you can sell more cars in 2019. As we’ve said a few times so far, remember what side of the imaginary line you’re on now. Stop self-sabotaging yourself with outdated and disingenuous marketing tactics. Tell your story, and instill others with confidence. Engage your customers with quality content, and trust in the guidance of an experienced partner.
Tick all of those boxes, and you’re bound to have a prosperous new year!