Dealerships aren’t always the first place that vehicle owners think of when it’s time for service. According to the Cox 2017 Car Buying Journey study, 23% of new vehicle owners and 53% of used vehicle owners did not return for service to the dealership where they purchased the vehicle.

To retain more of their sold customers, dealers are becoming more aggressive with their service marketing strategies. And similar to what we saw on the sales side in 2005 and 2006, they’re adding digital channels into their marketing mix.

This is a sound strategy, as omnichannel marketing is proven to increase reach, frequency and results.  In marketing, there’s something called the Rule of 7, which states that a customer needs to hear and see your message at least seven times before he or she takes action.

Digital omnichannel marketing campaigns are a cost-effective method for delivering multiple, personalized messages to a single customer. In many cases, dealers can get results while spending the same as they currently spend on their owner’s retention program (ORP). This is possible because digital campaigns are much more targeted than mass mailers and email blasts.

To maximize service campaign response rates and ROI, make sure you’re using the following channels, in addition to direct mail and email.

1) PPC/Search Marketing

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is highly effective because it targets prospects who are actively looking for service and repairs.  An active consumer has an immediate need; for example, it’s time for an oil change or the brakes start squeaking. The consumer turns to a search engine and enters a phrase such as “BMW oil change,” or “Silverado brake pads.”

If your dealership doesn’t have an effective PPC strategy for your service department, you won’t show up in the results and you’ll never even be in consideration.

2) Social Media

Currently Facebook has 207 million users in the U.S. and the average session is 20 minutes. Instagram has 96 million users and 80% of users follow at least one business. The reason your dealership needs to have a presence on these platforms is because that’s where your customers and prospects are spending their time.

Advances in marketing automation make it possible to match the customers in your DMS with their social media profiles. It’s now possible to deliver service reminders, overdue maintenance reminders, appointment reminders and relevant coupons right into your customers’ news feeds.

When you cross-reference Facebook and Instagram users with your own customer data, these two platforms become highly influential channels that deliver incredible results.

3) Display Ads/Retargeting

Google properties offer a variety of display advertising options that allow you to deliver specific messages to your customers based on their online behavior or physical location.

For example, if someone visits the service pages on your website, you can retarget that person with a display ad and relevant offer. Another effective strategy is to identify customers who are in an equity position with their vehicles and target them with a discounted oil change. Once they’re in your service department, a salesperson can approach them and offer a free trade-in appraisal.

Geotargeting and IP targeting allows you to deliver offers to customers based on their physical location, such as customers within 10 miles of your dealership, or at a competitor’s dealership. Or you can deliver an offer to people attending a sporting event or concert in a nearby stadium or arena.

4) Video ads

Video is the new television. For video ads, YouTube offers an array of targeting capabilities based on demographics, interests, life events, shopping behavior and the video content that your intended audience is currently watching.

YouTube’s greatest advantage is that you only have to pay for video views and interactions. This means there’s a huge opportunity to raise brand awareness without having to pay for video views.

You’re probably familiar with skippable pre-roll ads on YouTube videos. Whenever you watch a video, you have to sit through five seconds of a pre-roll commercial before you’re allowed to click on “Skip Ad.”

If you create a video that displays your dealership name and can grab the viewers’ attention in the first five seconds, even if the consumer clicks on “Skip Ad” you are raising your brand awareness and increasing the reach and frequency of your message—for free!

Ideally, your message is compelling enough to appeal to service intenders, and they won’t skip your ad. Either way, it’s a win-win situation.

5) BDC Campaigns

While not digital, BDC campaigns are important to mention because they’re highly effective. They can also be expensive, so reserve use for opportunities with significant revenue potential. Examples include declined service follow up, telematics notifications or recall completion events.

As more dealers rely on their fixed ops revenue to increase profitability, the effectiveness of their service marketing is coming under scrutiny. In sales, digital omnichannel marketing campaigns have become an accepted best practice, and soon it will be the same in service.

Author: Scot Eisenfelder

Scot Eisenfelder is a 25+ automotive market veteran who has driven innovation across multiple auto sectors. Previously, Scot was Senior Vice President Strategy at AutoNation, responsible for major change initiatives in eCommerce, pricing, IT and creating a blueprint for auto retail transformation and before that served as acting CMO, focused on realigning marketing spending. Before that, Scot led JM Family’s dealer software business and was Senior Vice President Product Management, Strategy and Marketing at Reynolds and Reynolds, leading both companies through value creating sales. Scot is a Board member of Quorum, a public dealer software company. He has an MBA from Wharton School, graduating with distinction and is a Palmer Scholar. He attended Mannheim University in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar and graduated summa cum laude in Economics from Princeton.

Digital Dealer