Creating A Contest To Drive Consumer Interest To Your Dealership


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The basics of Facebook and Twitter and Google + as a medium for car dealership marketing has been covered before. Using Facebook posts to attribute the latest promotional APR or cash-back offering for a particular new or used car is one way. So is connecting that same post into a summarized promotion over Twitter. However, there are old-hat marketing attempts that are being forgotten—or at least not blended with social media—because of this.

Email marketing is still just as relevant to the current subscribers you have. But doing it in a way that doesn’t come off as overly-pushy or too frequent to the point it comes off as spam is the real matter at hand. As social media becomes more popular with every passing day, some may see email marketing as a bygone era, when in fact it’s the opposite. I still have a list of companies soliciting me, because it’s a combination of how spread out their messages are, and what’s being offered at the same time. Those that aren’t in my inbox anymore are the ones that offloaded, on average, three emails per week. Also, the messages were redundant and didn’t offer any timely reasons to click.

And that last point is the juicy center of this post: creating timely content to be promoted through both old-hat and new-hat media. The same consumers that are enamored with social media when looking out for the latest vehicle specials may well indeed become your advocates through email newsletters if the dealership plays its cards right. And there’s no better way to bridge the two than through a contest or other beneficial promotion.

Here are a few ways to strategize a contest, how to push it through to the masses, and more importantly, how to respond to the aftermath.

Thinking up timely contests

Seasonal contests may seem like the easiest win-win when it comes to pumping out a contest, but sometimes that’s not the case. Or just generating a bare-bones contest and thinking it’ll work because it’s simply a contest is also a speed bump in-waiting to stall the dealership’s efforts.



Creating a contest requires research, incentives and knowing how to approach consumer interests. For example, if you’re trying to get current customers to provide feedback to your local listings, make an email tailored to asking for a few minutes of their time to leave feedback on their shopping experience at the dealership. Did they feel satisfied with everything, one thing or nothing at all? Would they return to your location for future maintenance or parts and accessories? How was their interaction with the sales team?

Those are questions that should be prefaced before they continue to Google or Bing or Yelp or wherever to leave their review. It helps generate honest reviews which, to no coincidence, helps your ranking start to grow. Plus, future consumers may be more apt to judge honest, insightful reviews over ones that read: “best experience ever!! Definitely recommend.”

And at the end of it all, you throw in the incentive of a gift card to Amazon or a chance to win the latest smartphone or discounted maintenance options, oil changes or car accessories and other similar enticements. However you choose to dangle the carrot, make sure to give them an option on the prize because while one consumer may love the possibility of winning an iPhone for their efforts, another might want a potpourri option, like a gift card or free maintenance checkups.

Promoting the groundwork

Once the foundation’s in place for the contest, it’s time to start dropping hints about the contest across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and basic email. It’s important to put out a few promotional posts or tweets a few weeks before the contest officially begins. This way you leave a bigger net for customers who aren’t able to participate at a moment’s notice. Leaving a little teaser with plenty of time before the green light allows any participant enough time to schedule a reminder, or even better, inquire about the contest for more details.

Any interaction before the contest is a plus. There’s no denying that. But interactions about future contests open the door for free promotion from the customer’s end. If done properly and professionally, it’s word-of-mouth marketing at its finest.

Handling the chaos after the word “go”

If the contest is centered around customer feedback to your website, then make sure that your sales team is on point to handle any negative comments. If you’re aiming for honest feedback, be prepared for a less-than-favorable review or one that’s somewhere in the middle and has taken to task one particular issue. Providing feedback shows that your customer service mantra is standing up and holding its own. Present and future consumers appreciate that, regardless of whether it’s dealing with a positive or negative remark.

Same applies to monitoring how active the contest is over social media. Are your fans or customers leaving questions or feedback? And at what time of the day is there more activity? Facebook has its own monitoring system of when a post gained the most traction and how successful the conversions were in the form of “Facebook Insights”. There are similar Twitter applications out there that help gather times and spikes in traffic, sharing or retweets. Both forms of analytics provide future ways to manage a contest or marketing strategy for your dealership. Sometimes it could boil down to sending out the progress of the contest twice a day (once in the afternoon and another time late in the evening) if that’s how the stats report the most activity from your followers/fans/customers.



In conclusion

As said before, promotion via contests must be well-organized and active before and during the time allotted. If all you’re using social media for is to routinely blast the same car special over and over, you’re email subscribers, Facebook fans and Twitter followers may soon lose interest. No one likes to be bombarded with superfluous marketing efforts, but everyone loves a good contest if it’s put in front of them in a genuine manner. It’s why covering all angles of your contest, whether they’re seasonal or not, can be one cog in the wheel of customer loyalty to your dealership.

Kyle O’Brien is a Freelance writer and frequent automotive blogger whose covered a range of industry topics such as hybrid vehicles, fuel economy tips, head-to-head car model breakdowns and so forth. He’s consulted for Jay Wolfe Honda, one of many new and used car dealers in his hometown.

Michael Bowen

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