Marketing, customer-dealer interaction, and even your website are more than just the sales process, it is engagement with your community. Are you engaging in your language or your community’s language? For your dealership, engaging your community is the best way to grow your business and gain new customers. There is a great deal of focus on engagement and experience, without covering how you need to engage with your community. If you are like most dealerships, you are focusing on the sales process itself, your reviews, and driving traffic, not thinking about how your website, marketing materials, and even customer interactions can help you grow your business. The car business must go beyond the goal of selling cars—you must connect with people. And when you do so in their own language, they will feel more comfortable buying from you. Brands across the board have been pushed to recreate their marketing strategies and focus efforts on building relationships that are driven by two-way communication. One of the big questions is how to keep consumers engaged so that when they need your products or services, you are their first thought. To accomplish this, we need a shift in thinking to “Whose interests are being served?” For example, when you are posting on social media, are you posting content that drives butterfly effect engagement from your audience, or are you posting about the product only? By butterfly effect engagement, I am referring to the type of engagement that draws in people your audience is connected to and drives them to engage as well, allowing you to create a brand community. Consider that many potential customers will visit your social media pages before initiating the purchase process, reviews and content can impact the decision process in your favor. Putting out content that is of interest to your community is paramount, an example is Meta marketing content that is solely based on product and deliveries versus what interests your community. If you can scroll through your feed and cannot find anything that supports your local community regularly, you are not building your brand community. Remember, you are recruiting volunteers to champion your business, inundating consumers with sales purchases, and product places hoping to see results is simply disruptive marketing that desensitizes consumers and does not promote conversation. Unlike traditional advertising, which is primarily focused on getting new customers, a community marketing strategy is about connecting and engaging with people to build long-term relationships. It is about making customers feel seen, heard, and important. This type of strategy bridges the gap between the people driving your business, your team, and your customers. A vehicle purchase is no small thing, growing a sense of connection, support, and service within your community allows you to start building relationships before the sales process even begins. Providing value to your community is a great place to start What questions do customers most commonly have during the car buying process, what are some challenges you have helped others overcome, and what do people on your team specialize in? Sharing the details of how you serve and how it benefits the community paves the way for conversations. Participate Your community marketing strategy should take you outside of the virtual world of social engagement and participation in your community. Can you help educate young consumers on how they qualify for their first auto loan, how credit affects a large bandwidth of life or the ins and outs of the buying process? Getting involved early and giving young consumers the tools, they need as they move forward in life is a wonderful way to expand your value in your community. Consistency and accessibility are key Consistency is the foundation for trust, accessibility allows that trust to grow. How easy are consumers able to reach and converse with your team, do your internal processes allow for ease of communication or is there a backlog of calls to be returned and messages to answer? One large component of customer satisfaction is communication, the ability to reach contacts at the dealership amid the sales process, or even worse after delivery, is beyond frustrating to customers. This is a big part of the experience customers will remember when it becomes time to purchase another vehicle or service their current vehicle. Creating ways to engage with your audience in a way that works for them is crucial, whether by phone, text, email or messaging services - being accessible builds trust and impacts customer retention. Tell a story and use images Interaction on your social media posts gets on average 160% more interaction when you use relatable images, take this a step further and focus on telling the story behind the image. Consumers trust and value other consumers' opinions and experiences, share those success stories! Share other sides of your dealership, service, parts, community outreach, and team members - give your content an individualized touch. Consumers want to know who they are working with and look for connections and common interests on which to build relationships. Over and above long-term benefits in customer loyalty and retention, executing a community marketing strategy can help to reduce your dependency on traditional advertising, often a large chunk of the dealership budget. While not necessarily immediate, this type of strategy will snowball as you continue to grow your audience and engagement. The use of social platform engagement isn’t going away, what you begin building now will impact your future sales and retention. Over the last few years, we have experienced a shift in consumer value, a shift that focuses on people and the community. Building value and creating relationships within your community is a powerful way to engage your customer base and community, create loyalty and trust, and grow your sales and retention - that is if you choose to accept the challenge before you.