CommentaryFeb 13th, 2013

Content Marketing for Small Auto Dealerships


As the business world adjusts to 21st century realties, new strategies for marketing and branding have emerged, sometimes to complement longstanding strategies that still work and other times to replace antiquated methods that have lost their effectiveness.

Small auto dealerships have had to adapt to this change as much or more as any business community. What were considered best practices for local promotion and brand development 30 years ago, seems quaint and obsolete in today’s market.

For instance, no longer can dealers rely solely on having a recognizable face and/or voice shouting to people over the local television and radio airwaves to get attention from potential customers. It’s not that that strategy has completely ceased to work (in some instances it still does) but the landscape has changed towards the online world and e-commerce to such an extent that it is no longer possible to market yourself efficiently without a prominent presence on the web.

That’s been true for a decade now, only the most luddite small business owners would have avoided the online marketplace for this long, and if they did so it was at their own peril.

But just having a website or a few social media accounts isn’t going to cut it, either. You’ve got to implement some of the best and most innovative 21st century marketing tactics if you don’t want to get left in the dust by the competition. And if you want to be on the forefront of your local auto market, you’re going to have to do even better — you’ll need to be ahead of the internet marketing game.

Now, if I knew exactly how to achieve this, well I’d be running a profitable auto dealership instead of freelance writing for a meager living. However, I do know a thing or two about the latest trends in internet marketing, so I do have a few ideas to share about the future of marketing for small businesses such as local auto dealers.

Content marketing

The latest rage in the marketing field is called content marketing, in which content that you create, it could be articles, videos, graphics, how-to guides, etc., draws potential customers to your website or social media page.

Another way this concept is expressed is to call it inbound marketing. In contrast with traditional media promotion in which the marketer visits customers on their turf — in their newspaper, on their television, on their radio dial, etc. — with inbound marketing you don’t go to the customer, you bring them to you.

The concept of inbound marketing is nothing new, when you think about it. It’s been around long before Al Gore invented the interweb tubes.

For instance, giving away free hot dogs with Chuckles the Clown on hand with balloons for the kids is a perfect example of an inbound marketing strategy that auto dealerships have been using in one way, shape or form for decades. You offer the potential customer something they might want, whether they are specifically looking to purchase your product or not, and by doing so you get them to come to you, at which point you have the opportunity to deliver more targeted marketing messages directly to them.

On the internet this time-honored inbound marketing tactic takes the form of content marketing. The idea here is that you are creating content that your target customer base may find useful, amusing or entertaining.

The way many businesses do this is by having a blog connected to their business website on which they generate content. Having a blog with mediocre content, e.g. your typical “top five things to look for when buying a car” fare, won’t do you much. But if you can find a way to generate unique and engaging content, the benefits are multifold.

These benefits include:

  • Build brand awareness.
  • Make a personal connection with potential customers.
  • Create a trust-based relationship with targets before they even make their decision to buy.
  • Get shares and likes on social sites, thus increasing your reach and marketing prowess.
  • Attract links to your website, thereby improving your businesses results in search engine results.

Content strategy

It’s not enough to simply have content up on a webpage or a brand YouTube/Facebook/Twitter page, because everyone is doing this. You have to have a content strategy and that strategy needs to be better than the masses if you are going to stick out.

Some examples of some good content strategy for auto dealerships:

  • Video reviews of new and used autos
  • How to guides for repairs and maintenance
  • Forums on which car lovers and potential customers can interact

These are just a few ideas I’ve seen done effectively, but there are countless others that a savvy dealership could try.

One final note, auto dealerships often have the benefit of having a larger brand behind their small business and they can leverage that brand’s influence, and oftentimes their content, into an overall content marketing strategy. You won’t want to rely entirely on the brand’s content, but you can certainly use it to complement your own.

Jack Payton is an automotive enthusiast and a freelance content producer for the online tires outfitter

Authored by

Michael Bowen

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