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Automotive Marketing: 9 Strategies to Drive More Sales

November 25, 2019

Did you know that 95% of car sales today are made at the dealership, but search is the first place people go to begin their buyer’s journey? It is clear to most automotive marketers that online advertising is key to bring new leads into the dealership. Yet, this automotive marketing strategy comes with many challenges (and costs).

One of the biggest challenges automotive marketers face is gaining the trust of their leads. After all, the job of a marketer is to help bring leads in the door so the sales team has people to sell to. But in such a competitive industry—one where the consumer is making a rather large financial decision that will affect their everyday life—automotive marketers do not have it made in the shade.

image of woman on car

So how can automotive marketers deal with these challenges? By being smarter about their online advertising. 97% of people looking to purchase, repair, or customize a car start their journey online.

9 killer automotive marketing strategies

As daunting as it is to advertise in the auto industry, there are some tried-and-true ways to achieve sustained success. Here are nine automotive marketing strategies that you can use to drive more sales this year.

1. Build trust with customer reviews

I will never forget leasing my first car. I went for the reliable, affordable, and decent-looking (in my opinion) Honda Accord, but I was terrified at making this decision. I spent months doing research, calling local dealerships, considering whether leasing or buying a used car was the better route to go. At the end of day, I decided where to look in person by reading customer reviews on Yelp and Google.

The point of this anecdote is this: Reviews are probably the most effective automotive marketing strategy there is. As an automotive marketer you need to not only ensure you have GOOD reviews, but you need to go above and beyond to ensure these glowing reviews are everywhere they can possibly be. Yelp, Google, social networks, your own website—ensure you are covering all your bases! You can also take things a step further by creating customer success stories and videos with your most valued customers, and use these in various places, like paid social ads, your website, or your newsletter.

automotive marketing customer reviews

When it comes to automotive marketing, there is no better way to instill trust than to let your customers speak for you!

2. Be at the top of the Google SERP

As mentioned above, when I first started searching for my new car where did I turn to? Google, of course! I am not alone in this. According to a study from Kenshoo, 70% of consumers researching cars turn to search engines first.

Since Google is the first line of defense you need to be at the very top! Especially considering how often people scroll to the bottom of the SERP (HINT: it is not often). The first few listings always get the most clicks, so ensuring you're in the top positions is critical to your automotive marketing success. To do this your Google Ads strategy need to be extremely effective. So how can you get to the top of the page without completely breaking the bank? There are certain strategies that Google tends to favor, and will help you get in higher positions without spending more. Follow these tips to get started:

  • Ensure your Google Ads account is structured properly with tight-knit ad groups (aim to have 15-20 keywords per ad group).
  • Keep keywords tightly related to your ad text, and include 2-3 ads per ad group/keyword list.
  • Use ad extensions! Google loves them, and they will help you get more ad real estate and chances of lead interaction.
  • Add negative keywords to block out irrelevant searches (and keep a close eye on your search query report).
  • Allocate your budget properly between campaigns. What are your highest sellers? What is your target audience most likely to search for? Bid higher on these items to capitalize on what is popular among your audience

It’s also important not to forget about other search networks, like Bing.

Bing Ads breakdown by audience

While Bing might seem like the neglected cousin of Google, they do account for a section of the search market that typically attracts older folks—people who are probably more financially established and able to invest in expensive cars.

3. Bid on competitor keywords

While we’re talking about search engine marketing, it’s important to not only be bidding on the obvious keywords like “new Honda Accord.” You should also set up an automotive marketing campaign to tackle your competition.

It is a fierce and competitive world in automotive marketing, so being able to show up every time your competition does with compelling ad copy is key. While I would not recommend saying anything negative or using your competitor’s name in your ad copy (which Google could put you in time out for), you should bid on your top competitors brand names, and create highly persuasive ads to get leads to visit your website over your competition.

I love this ad from Toyota for instance:

automotive marketing search ad for college grads

While I can’t see if they’re bidding on competitor keywords or not, I love how they are appealing directly to a specific demographic, and adding value for that individual right in the headline of their ad.

4. Actively manage your negative keyword list

Did you know that your ads can show up for searches that are not relevant to your business? And if anyone clicks on them, you still have to pay? Whenever you are bidding on broad or phrase match keywords the potential to show up for irrelevant searches is present.

While just bidding on exact match might seem like a nice solution, this will greatly limit your reach potential, which makes the process of identifying negative keywords critical to your automotive marketing strategy. While searching your search query report might feel like a time-consuming task it is an absolute necessity, especially in the automotive industry. If your ads are appearing for irrelevant search terms your business instantly loses credibility. This is why being cognizant about setting up negatives to avoid irrelevant search queries is not only going to save you face, but also going to save you money.

For instance, imagine if you’re bidding on the keyword “affordable cars” and your ad appears for the search “toy cars,” and then a busy parent accidentally clicks. This is not only a waste of time for the parent, but it’s a waste of money for you!

search results for "big toy cars"

WordStream Advisor makes it quite easy for you to manage your negative keyword list through tools like the 20-Minute Work Week, which helps weed out irrelevant searches, and our search query report to find and configure your negative keyword lists.

5. Adjust your campaign budgets based on car-buying trends

Is Black Friday the hottest day to buy a car? What about Memorial Day Weekend? There are many unofficial “car-buying holidays.” According to an analysis done by TrueCar.com and U.S. News & World Report, you can purchase a vehicle for 7.5% to 8% below MSRP if you’re strategic about when you buy it. Assuming your audience has done their fair share of research, they are aware of these automotive deal times. Check out the report here to read more about the days of the week and times of year that deal-shoppers are likely to browse for their next vehicle.

Figure out when things are busy, steady, and slow and then adjust your online advertising budget accordingly. Make sure your windows aren’t too narrow. This often requires planning ahead, but Google and other ad platforms make it fairly easy to adjust your budget on an ongoing basis. Just make sure you’re actually doing this!

automotive marketing ad schedule

Another thing to take advantage of is ad scheduling. When do customers typically come into the store? Weekends? Weekdays post work? Look at the data to determine this and set an ad schedule so your ads are only running at a higher budget right before these key times, reminding your future customers to come on by.

6. Target the right people with your automotive campaigns

What type of automotive business are you marketing? Who is your typical customer? There needs to be a different automotive marketing strategy for marketers of luxury Porshe and BMWs versus marketers of used cars or more affordable brands like Honda and Toyota. The prospective customers have drastically different concerns, questions, wants and needs when it comes to investing in a new car. While your Mercedes customer may be more concerned about their heated seats and leather interior, your Honda buyer most likely care more about gas mileage and longevity.  Although this might not always be the case…

image of people on car

“Those who buy luxury cars more likely crave social status and material wealth, as opposed to utilitarian cars which consumers buy out of necessity,” says Julia Manoukian.

Different automotive marketing audiences need to be broken down and targeted separately. Considering the main things your audience cares about is a critical way to get the right message to the right person and increase the chance of conversion.

If necessary, you may need to split your audiences into two, three, or even four separate campaigns to ensure you’re sending the right message to the right prospect. And, of course, with tools like Facebook’s targeting options this is not as complex as it once was. Just ensure you spend the time to define your audiences so you can craft the right message to the right person at the right time!

7. Compel shoppers to come into your store with unique offers

Why should I buy a car with you versus the automotive dealership down the street—or one that’s more conveniently located or better priced? A crucial part of your automotive marketing strategy is convincing your prospects to choose you over your competition.

If there are not any obvious reasons, like having the lowest prices or the best reviews, brainstorm some unique incentives and offers you can provide to prospects. For example, you could offer all new car buyers a 5% discount or perhaps free oil changes for the first two years. Incentives are also great for creating a sense of urgency to spur people to buy with you before they miss out on a special limited-time offer.

Check out the deal below for $1,000 for college graduates. What a great incentive to bring new car buyers in at a time when they are likely searching for their post-college vehicle.

automotive marketing deal for college grads

8. Use all call features possible

Call-only campaigns, call extensions, mobile bid-adjustments, and call tracking—these are just a few of the Google Ads features that the automotive marketer should be prioritizing. Phone calls are common and important within the automotive industry, and phone leads are easier to turn into sales.

Here’s a run down of the various options when it comes to increasing your call volume:

  • Call-only campaigns: With call-only campaigns, your bidding and paying to get a call rather then a visit to your website. It’s important to realize that your strategy need to be different for these compared to a regular search campaign. Check out this post for some tips on doing these right.
  • Call extensionsCall extensions are a bit different than call-only campaigns. The option to visit your website is still there, but now you can add an extension to allow for phone calls, as well. You can also schedule these to only show during business hours, when people are available to answer the phone, which is pretty neat.
  • Mobile bid-adjustments: Where are people most likely to call from? Their cells phones, duh. Luckily, Google allows you to adjust your mobile bids, so you can make sure to bid higher on mobile traffic to bring in more rings.
  • Call tracking: Lastly, it’s critical to track your calls in order to understand where your ROI is coming from. For more on call tracking, check out this post.
cold calling in The Wolf of Wall Street

While optimizing your automotive marketing campaigns for phone calls might sound like a lot of work, it will be well worth the effort once your phones start ringing off the hook.

9. Remarket!

Remarketing is a critical component for automotive marketing. Since there is so much comparison shopping going on, and the sales process is such a key component of the car buying process, it is important to not lose new leads in the marketing stage of things. Giving them reminders through intriguing remarketing ads is one great way to ensure no leads fall out of the funnel.

With remarketing, you can lower your abandonment rate and close more deals by showing enticing Display ads to people who recently visited your site, in order to remind them you’re there and lead them through the process. Try showing them a deal to get them to come into the store. This will ensure you’re able to get them connected with your stellar sales team.

You can configure remarketing campaigns through Google Ads and social platforms, including Facebook.

automotive remarketing ad

With the help of these automotive marketing strategies, your campaigns should take off at a lightning pace. You'll be delivering new leads to your sales team in no time!

Margot Whitney

Margot is a content marketing specialist at WordStream and nutrition graduate student at Framingham State. She loves all things digital, learning about nutrition, running, traveling, and cooking.

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