By Mark Sokal, President, Sokal

Advertising in today’s market is challenging. Buyers consume more media than ever before – changing the way they make purchases, especially when it comes to cars.  Understandably, this meant that the way dealers advertise had to change as well. Today, marketing is more than just sitting down with media reps to pick out dates on the calendar for tv, radio, and print ads. Now, in addition to all of the traditional media options, you have social media, programmatic products, and websites. But since you simply cannot advertise everywhere, where should you focus your marketing dollars?

The four main areas that all dealerships should focus on include digital branding, search engine marketing, a user-friendly website, and using their sales staff to drive sales. Creating a marketing strategy with these four areas in mind is key to getting a successful return on your marketing investment.

Creating a digital footprint is essential to reaching buyers in a time when people no longer pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV every night. Almost everyone has access to a smartphone with internet capabilities, making the following four digital tools important to consider when expanding your digital marketing approach.

  • CTV (Connected TV) helps you to reach those who no longer pay for cable or satellite TV. This new-and-improved TV ad platform offers expanded reach with digital precision.
  • Pre-roll is another video-based commercial that can appear before, during or after an online video or article. A key benefit of pre-roll is that even if a viewer skips the ad, they’ve still been exposed to the brand in a non-intrusive, engaging form of advertising.
  • Display advertising campaigns are highly targeted banner ads served to customers on websites and apps to generate brand awareness and encourage users to make a purchase. These ads can get placed in front of an exact audience using specific targeting parameters that make the ads relevant to those viewing them.
  • Social media has taken the world by storm with people using social media to not only follow friends and family but also companies they interact with. Having a social media presence that is consistently updated with the latest news and photos is critical.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) helps keep the dealership brand top-of-mind and allows a dealer to show up at the top of search engines on both desktop and mobile devices. There are several popular types of campaigns. You can bid on geographical and dealer-specific terms, such as the dealership’s name. Based off of Google’s algorithms, terms that are dealer-centric are seen as more relevant, thus making them appear more often at a lower cost per click and with a higher click-through rate.

When running SEM campaigns, if a dealer is not bidding on their store name, their competitors have a chance of getting less expensive clicks. The higher a dealership can show up on the search results page, the more likely they are to be viewed.

By running digital advertising and SEM campaigns, a dealer will start to see an increase in traffic and leads on the website. However, if the digital rooftop is not creating a user-centric atmosphere, it will be difficult to convert leads to sales. The website is a virtual showroom and says a great deal about the brand. Keeping the site clean and updated helps to create a unique experience for the customers shopping on the site. Having the right tools on your site, such as “chat now” options or finance applications, will help increase conversions. With more people starting the car buying experience online, a full functioning website is a necessity.

Leveraging the Power of Your Salespeople

One thing every dealership has in common is a sales staff. The size of the staff may vary, but every dealership has people that sell their cars. A sales staff is oftentimes one of the most under-used marketing assets in a dealership. Salespeople today are more connected than ever to their friends and family. Creating a process and system that has your salespeople taking ownership of their business, while selling under the rooftop of a dealership can take your sales to the next level.

Instead of a salesperson feeling like they just work at a dealership, let them take responsibility for their own business with their own set of clients. Have them connect to their friends and family and have their friends and family refer more business with a better referral system. Letting the sales team conduct their business as they see fit will lower the sales turnover, increase owner loyalty, and ultimately lower the PUR.

Advertising in 2019 is very different than it used to be. Buyers are consuming more information and data than ever before. Advertising can get expensive, but it’s not always what the monthly spend is but more about where the marketing dollars are being spent. Most importantly, it comes down to having a solid marketing strategy, being able to put that strategy in place, and evaluating how that plan is working for the dealership and the market.

Learn more about how to spend your ad dollars in places that make the most sense for your budget and market by attending “What to Do When You Can’t Do Everything” (presented by Mark Sokal) at Digital Dealer 27 Conference & Expo (Aug. 19-21, 2019) in Las Vegas, NV.

About the Author

Mark Sokal spent the first 25 years of his career working in the automotive business. After starting as a salesman at Autoland in New Jersey, Mark quickly climbed the automotive career ladder by being promoted to a sales manager and then a GM at multiple dealerships like Maxon Automotive and Planet Honda. After years at various locations, Mark opened up his own dealership, Lakewood Chrysler and then, Coast Kia. After the attacks in New York on 9/11, Mark decided to close his dealerships and move his family to North Carolina. In 2003, Mark teamed up with the advertising agency, The Magna Group, and opened up a branch in North Carolina with ten employees and less than twenty clients. In 2010, Mark bought out Magna, renaming the company Sokal. Today, Sokal has grown to one of the largest dealer-focused advertising agencies with over 130 employees and serving over 350 clients.

Author: Contributing Writer

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