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The Ultimate Vehicle Acquisition Strategy Guide: Winter 2023 Edition

November 23rd, 2022 by

As we head toward the end of 2022, it’s time to look ahead and see what industry factors may continue to affect car dealer inventory levels headed into the new year. With the global chip shortage being a main driver of reduced inventory, it is positive to see that chip production is expected to increase by 20% in 2023. However, even with the increased output, the automotive industry will still lose up to 3 million units of planned production1.

With only small inventory gains to be made via your new vehicle channel, that means there is no room to relax your vehicle acquisition efforts. Even though you may have been prioritizing vehicle acquisition during the shortage, there are always new tool and tactics that you can add to your overarching strategy to make it more effective, and increase your ROI.

So with that in mind, we’ve updated our Ultimate Vehicle Acquisition Strategy Guide with our newest and best tips to help ensure you’re not missing out on any opportunity to keep your lot stocked with fresh vehicles.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Be sure you keep this guide bookmarked — not just for easy access when you need it, but also because we constantly update it with fresh tech + tactics that’ll help ensure your vehicle acquisition game is always on point.

THE POWER OF “WHY SELL”

A trend that has been steadily climbing upwards all year long is consumer interest in selling their vehicle. This is mostly due to market conditions raising the value of pre-owned vehicles across the board, thus allowing consumers the ability to off-load or consolidate the number of vehicles in their family fleet and get paid handsomely for it.

When we look at the monthly estimated search volume for the most popular keywords related to selling your vehicle, the trend is evident. This is absolutely something that you can capitalize on to ensure your dealership is top of mind for local consumers who are thinking about selling their current ride.

With just a little effort, your dealership can provide the perfect local selling experience, backed by a connected marketing campaign to drive awareness which leads to more successful vehicle acquisitions.

PROVIDE REAL CASH OFFERS WITH ACCU-TRADE

In order to be successful (and profitable!) with your vehicle acquisition efforts, you have to provide the right experience on your website that builds trust and confidence with the vehicle owners that you’re targeting.

While providing your website visitors with an estimated value range of what their vehicle might be worth has been the standard dealer experience for years, technology combined with the sheer amount of available market data has evolved to the point where you can give more than an estimate — you can give consumers a real cash offer for their vehicle.

Accu-Trade has the technology that integrates across the Dealer Inspire Connected Platform in addition to your Cars.com vehicle listings — giving you everything you need to enable instant offers and accelerate your appraisal engine.

When you combine Accu-Trade’s powerful appraisal and instant offer technology with your local customer service, the result will be more profitable acquisitions because you’ve removed the back and forth negotiation on price with your customer, while also removing any of your own doubt about reconditioning. It truly is a selling experience no one can beat.

Don’t just take our word for it. Jim Ellis Chevrolet uses Accu-Trade to remove all doubt, generating Instant Offers with comprehensive detail — including OBD-II scans of the physical vehicle — to build trust and transparency for a fantastic (and much faster) customer experience.

And the best part? No need to stress about the offers, because in the very unlikely event that you don’t see the opportunity to turn a vehicle for a profit, Accu-Trade will buy the vehicle back from you at the exact price of the offer, guaranteed.

Demo Accu-Trade

BE THE BEST WAY TO SELL, EVERYWHERE

Accu-Trade’s unprecedented vehicle appraisal technology gives you everything you need to capture more cars anywhere and everywhere, and Brian Kramer (GM, Accu-Trade) set out to prove it by hitting the streets of Naples, FL to ask total strangers if he could appraise and buy their cars on the spot.

When you can give your customer a real cash offer ANYWHERE — in the dealership, on the go, or on your website — you make it even easier for your customers to say, “YES”.

Aside from having your appraisal process and experience dialed in, your “why sell” message also needs to be backed up on your website, and amplified on your other marketing channels. Let’s take a look at how you can make that happen…

MAXIMIZE TRADE/SELL ENGAGEMENT ON YOUR WEBSITE

If you want your website visitors to know your dealership will buy their car, you have to tell them. Your trade and sell messaging should be front and center making the path to engaging with your trade-in experience just a click or tap away.

If you haven’t already, be sure to add a link to your trade/sell landing page to your main menu and place a prominent CTA above the fold to maximize impressions — especially on mobile.

#ProTip: If you’re a Dealer Inspire Website client, be sure to take advantage of our Personalizer technology to serve an actionable Trade-In message to your returning website visitors when they land on your homepage.

Check out the demo below to see how a website visitor can jump right from your homepage into an online appraisal that generates an instant and exact offer for their specific VIN — guaranteed by Accu-Trade.

PROVIDE CONSISTENT VALUES ACROSS YOUR PLATFORM

With the proliferation of trade-in, digital retailing, and chat widgets being mixed and matched on dealer websites, there’s a growing (and very real) problem of consumers receiving different values for their vehicle on your website depending on the experience they’re engaging in.

For example, you may have a trade-in widget embedded on a landing page which provides shoppers with an estimated value of their vehicle. However the trade-in phase in your digital retailing tool uses a different data source that the trade-in widget on your website, and thus returns a different value range for the exact same vehicle. Instead of helping your customer, you’ve only made the selling or trading experience more confusing.

By providing a consistent appraisal experience no matter where shopper’s are interacting with your trade-in experience, you can build trust and increase your chances of acquiring their car.

Accu-Trade now powers the vehicle appraisal experience in both Online Shopper and Conversations.

To help you achieve that consistent and trustworthy experience, Accu-Trade now powers the online vehicle appraisal experience within Online Shopper and Conversations. It all flows together and allows your customer to transparently understand how much their vehicle is worth while they choose their payment for their next vehicle, or while engaging with your team via online chat.

OPTIMIZE YOUR TRADE-IN PAGE FOR LOCAL SEO RANKINGS

It’s critical to understand that your dealership can claim top localized rankings in the search results for “Trade/Sell My Car” type queries if you have relevant content published on your website.

For example, the Dealer Inspire SEO team recently optimized all of the trade-in landing pages for a 39 rooftop automotive group. After just 30 days the client saw a dramatic increase in average search ranking position for those pages, along with a dramatic increase in organic impressions for related trade/sell queries3.

As you look to optimize your own trade-in landing page, keep in mind that simply embedding your trade-in tool on the page isn’t enough. You need to add additional content to the page that explains your process and builds confidence with consumers by showing them that they can expect a real instant offer for their vehicle along with a convenient, trustworthy experience from your local team.

FUEL YOUR VIDEO & DISPLAY ADVERTISING

After you’ve laid the groundwork on your website for maximizing the trade/sell engagement from your visitors, next you can put your superior “Why Sell” message in front of the most valuable in-market audience — from big screen OTT to small screen social.

Car dealers who use FUEL: In-Market Video to power their vehicle acquisition campaigns are seeing amazing results. Website visitors who were influenced by these video advertisements were 4x more likely to submit a trade/sell lead vs. all other traffic sources2.

Because FUEL: IMV is powered by Cars.com audience data, that means you’re able to serve your message to a pure, in-market audience across platforms and devices.

In addition to your video advertising, your can also run in-market display campaigns that are served across the Cars.com marketplace in key positions letting high-funnel shoppers know that your dealership has an easy, instant offer experience waiting for them on your website.

One of our clients recently activated an in-market display campaign for their vehicle acquisition efforts, and saw a 182% increase to their trade-in landing page in just two weeks4.

BE THE ANSWER FOR TRADE/SELL QUESTIONS

Aside from targeting in-market buyers and sellers with your video and display advertising, you should also focus on other digital marketing channels to be the answer for those looking to learn more about their options for selling or trading their vehicle.

Search Engine Marketing

Whether a local consumer is using a search engine to get more info about selling or trading their vehicle for something new, the value of their vehicle is going to be a big part of that transaction. Your dealership can be there in the SERP by setting-up a search engine marketing campaign targeted toward local shoppers who are showing intent to sell or trade.

It’s worth noting that we see impressive results for our Digital Advertising clients running search campaigns specifically for vehicle acquisition. The average cost per conversion for this type of campaign is $37.325, making it a very efficient way for your dealership to acquire the vehicles of local consumers.

We’ve also seen these ad campaigns have a measurable impact in foot traffic to the showroom floor with a 3.4% increase in actual dealership visits6 by those who engaged with these ads.

Aside from creating ad groups targeted to people explicitly looking to trade-in or sell their vehicle, you can also incorporate a related sitelink in your location or dynamic new & used campaigns. We’ve found that ads that include this sitelink extension lead to a 45% increase in conversion rate!

45% Increase in Conversion Rate with Trade-In Sitelink Extensions

Discovery Ads for Vehicle Acquisition

Google’s Discovery Campaigns are another way to get your vehicle acquisition message in front of an audience that is likely to take action. If you aren’t familiar, a single Discovery Campaign will allow your dealership’s messaging to appear on a consumer’s mobile device in three different placements — YouTube, Gmail, and the Google Discover Tab.

Dealer Inspire Internal Data July 1,  2021 — September 20, 2021

Unlike search ads which are intent based, Discovery Ads are served to users based on what Google’s automated systems believe to be a good match with their interests. We’ve found that your budget will go the farthest with sell & trade-In messaging for these campaigns as we see a 138% higher conversion rate compared to Discover Ad Campaigns focused on inventory and incentive based messaging.

PROVIDE MULTIPLE PATHS TO CONVERSION

The secret to any successful campaign is ensuring that you’re providing your target audience with alternative ways to convert should they not engage with your preferred experience.

Conversations offers the one-two punch of providing an automated messaging based trade-in experience combined with the ability to launch that experience from a web based CTA button or external link.

Automated Trade-In Values With Conversations™

What’s nice about the automated experience within Conversations is that once the value of the vehicle is provided, your customer has the opportunity to connect with your team right in the same chat window to schedule an in-person visit, or ask you any questions they may have in the moment.

GET INSTANT TRADE-IN LEADS ON FACEBOOK

Because Conversations integrates directly with Facebook Messenger, you can help local in-market shoppers discover your dealership and get an offer for their vehicle without having to venture outside of the Facebook ecosystem.

This tactic has worked well for our clients as 63% of all the clicks and taps on trade/sell ads result in a lead for the dealer. How awesome is that?!

GET TRADES FROM YOUR TRADITIONAL ADS

And if you really want to make sure you’re giving your dealership every opportunity to capture more cars, you can use QR Codes within your traditional ad campaigns (newspaper, direct mail, billboard, tv, etc) to tout your Instant Offer Experience to generate genuine digital engagement from otherwise static assets.

MINE YOUR EMAIL DATABASE FOR EVEN MORE OPPORTUNITY

While email has always been a powerful tool in your digital marketing tool box, you can continue to push your vehicle acquisition strategy forward by thinking beyond the CRM based “e-blast”.

Trade-In Campaign Email Campaign

Instead of blasting your entire database, implement more refined email marketing campaigns targeted toward specific segments of your database so you can deliver the most relevant message that’s is more likely to generate engagement from the folks who already know you.

Here are just a few email campaigns to consider implementing:

Need an Upgrade?:  Send to customers in your database who have financed a vehicle 3-4 years ago. The message here is simple…”a lot has changed, is it time for an upgrade?”.

Treat Yourself: Send to your customers who purchased 5-7 years ago and remind them just how long that is, and say hey…”don’t you deserve something new?”.

Financial Hardship: With rising inflation and uncertain market behavior, it’s not unreasonable to think the financial outlook for a small segment of your customers has recently changed. Send an email to your customers who financed a car the past 1 to 3 years and provide options to reduce payments by trading in their vehicle for something more affordable or to sell it outright.

If It’s Broke, Replace It: Send campaigns targeted towards your customers who recently declined having an expensive service performed. Instead of paying that large repair bill on your 5 year old vehicle, why not skip the repair completely and trade it in as-is for something new?

FUTURE-PROOF YOUR FOLLOW UP

I know we’ve covered a lot of ground so far, so kudos to you for soaking up all the content up to this point. It’s important to understand that everything we’ve discussed so far is going to get you more opportunities to acquire vehicles from your customers and local consumers. But…all of the leads in the world won’t mean a thing if your follow up game isn’t on point.

Let’s start with a quick test:

Question 1: A new Sell My Car Lead just hit your CRM. What do you do first?

A. Call Them – They must have their phone nearby, right? So I’m going to pick up the phone and give them a call.

B. I’ll shoot them a friendly and convenient text message to continue the conversation in a no-pressure kinda way.

C. Nothing. I’ll let my CRM’s automated email follow up process do it’s thing for the next 90 days, or until they contact me.

If you answered A or C… think about this before you make your first move: 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery. So don’t pick up the phone and call. Don’t rely on an automated response system. Instead, immediately follow up with your customer via text to seal the acquisition deal!

Want to know more about how you can perfect the art of follow up? We’ve written an entire guide to help you. Check it out!

LET’S GET TO WORK.

Are you ready to do supercharge your vehicle acquisition strategy? Just say the word and our team will set you up with the technology, audience, and cross-channel creative strategy to that makes vehicle acquisitions happen.

I’m Interested

1 Microchip Shortage Forces More Car Production Cuts in 2023.” Automotive News, 28 Oct. 2022

2 39 rooftop automotive group, 30 days after optimizing all trade-in landing pages

3 Case Study: Compared funnel conversion rates between total site visits and FUEL: IMV influenced shoppers visits from 10/29/21 – 12/15/21

4 Google Analytics results for a FUEL: In-Market Display customer, January – February 2022

5 Google Ads Results for 127 DI Digital Advertising customers from 4/1/2022 – 5/26/2021

6 Google Ads results for a Digital Advertising customer, 4/1/2022 – 5/26/2022

How to Power-Up Your EV Marketing Strategy

May 3rd, 2022 by

While the flying cars that The Jetsons promised are still decades away, the futurism of yesteryear is arriving today thanks to the rapidly expanding Electric Vehicle (EV) segment. The US automotive industry has been challenged to make half of its fleet electric by 2030, and OEMs have responded as we’re expecting to see at least 50 EV’s hit the market by 2025

That means whether you’re ready-or-not, having a marketing strategy in place to influence and acquire EV shoppers is going to be a vital piece to future-proofing your dealership. And listen, you don’t have to have an EV in your lineup today in order to begin preparing for the all-electric future. In fact, the earlier you adopt and implement an EV marketing strategy, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

The best way to power up your EV marketing strategy is to watch Electron: Future EV Legacy over on Inspire+ where our team of experts will show you how you can start marketing toward the EV future, today!

WATCH ON DEMAND

That said, you don’t have to watch the show right away to get what you need to inform your EV marketing strategy. I’m more than happy to get you started off in the right direction, and then you can watch the show on Inspire+ at your convenience. 

FINDING THE EV BUYER

So how do you develop a marketing plan geared toward EV buyers when there just isn’t a whole lot of data available to inform your decision making?

Well, you can start by developing buyer personas, which are a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research, and they’re typically made up of demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.

When I think of EV buyer personas, there are three types of early adopters that will make up your initial audience from the outset. 

The Environmentalist: This persona is extremely concerned about the environment, and typically feels that their personal choices make a difference on the macro level. They see EVs as a way to make a big environmental impact, however they may not be a fan of the traditional car shopping experience.

The Reformed Gas Guzzler: While this persona somewhat overlaps with The Environmentalist in terms of how important environmental and climate concerns are, they’re typically more accepting of current EV limitations, while also not being shy about visiting the dealership — meaning they’re ready to spend now on what’s available.

The Technologist: This last early adopter sees EVs almost like they see the latest and greatest iPhone or tech gadget. It’s about the style, the tech, the performance, and being “first”. The environmental impact is “neat”, but to this persona the vehicle is more of a status symbol than anything else. 

The purpose of defining your buyer personas is so that you can then begin to identify where these types of people may reside in your area. Start by mapping out the surrounding areas that align with early adopter characteristics such as, age group, gender, and income range.

Then, check your own sales data history to see which of these areas you already have a customer base in. You can also check out your Location Report within Google Analytics, or your district sales report for additional insights.

Once you do that, you should have a pretty solid understanding of where potential EV buyers are located in your area, which will ultimately inform your targeting for your EV marketing strategy.

STUDY THE EV BUYING GUIDE

In addition to understanding the personas of early EV adopters (and where to find them) it’s also super important you and your team understand the the EV resources that they’ll be using to inform their decision making.

One of the top resources available to EV intenders on the web right now is the Cars.com EV Buying Guide. This detailed resource is informed by more than a decade of EV expertise and leadership, created specifically to help consumers make an educated purchase decision that fits their needs, preferences and budgets.

By studying this guide, not only will you as a car dealer be better informed about all the different choices and considerations that go hand in hand with purchasing an electric vehicle, but it can also get you started on pursuing your own EV content strategy specifically tailored to your OEM and market (more on that below, and on Inspire+).

And if you really want to satisfy your EV curiosity, then I highly recommend you check out Cars.com’s Guide for the EV Curious.

Now Streaming: Car.com Guide for the EV Curious

Now available to watch on demand, the same Cars.com editors that created the aforementioned EV Buying Guide gathered together to address all of the questions EV shoppers had around the different types of chargers, home installation, and the needs and realities around EV range.

While this event was geared to consumers, car dealers should check it out as well to not only learn more about the EV segment in general, but to also understand the types of questions shoppers are asking that they’ll expect you as their local dealership to have the expert answer to.

ADVERTISING TO EV INTENDERS

When it comes to actively advertising to EV intenders, there are tactics your can implement right now (literally, right now) even if you don’t have any EVs to sell, as well as some tactics that you can keep in your back pocket until you have electric vehicles to sell. 

START WITH SEO

It’s not often that a business is able to be proactive with an SEO strategy. Usually SEO is about shoring up your current rankings, or filling in the keyword gaps that exist between your dealership and your competitors. 

In general, SEO takes time. So when it comes to EVs, you actually have the opportunity to start establishing your website’s authority on the subject well before your first EV hits your lot. 

A properly developed EV content plan will cover all the stages of the shopping journey from awareness and consideration, all the way down to deciding what to buy, and who to buy it from. 

ADD YOUR EV CHARGING STATION TO GOOGLE MAPS

If you plan on making your EV charging station available for public use, then you’ll want to add it to Google Maps so both local EV drivers, and those just passing through, are aware of your convenient service offerings.

To make your charging station discoverable on Google, follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to Google Maps
  2. Click the hamburger menu in the upper-left corner
  3. Click “Add Missing Place”
  4. Fill in all of the blanks
  5. Click “Claim The Business” and complete the follow-up steps

While filling in the blanks in Step 4, Be sure to use Electric Vehicle Charging Station for the category, and also make sure you add your dealership in the Located In section so your charging station will appear as a department in your dealership’s main Google Business Profile.

BUILD AN EV-MAIL LIST

EVs are certainly exciting, and it might be tempting to “blast” your entire customer database with an email every time you have something new to share. 

A better approach, however, is to start a separate email list just for those folks who specifically want to be kept in the EV loop. This serves two purposes. For starters, the list will mature into a critical asset that’ll aid in the targeting of your paid EV advertising down the road. And secondly, by having a list solely made up of people who are interested in EVs, you lessen the risk of email unsubscribes and spam reports from your customers who aren’t interested in those topics.

The easiest way to start building your list is to send one email to all your current customers which asks them if they’d like to opt-in to start receiving EV specific email content. From there you can add a signup form on your website, and even promote it on your social networks.

CREATE EV AWARENESS ON SOCIAL

Something else you can start doing before you even have EVs to sell is to utilize your social channels to organically engage your followers, while also attracting new ones, with your EV related content. 

Educating your audience on the benefits of EVs, and providing EV ownership tips can help get people used to seeing and hearing about the electric future in their newsfeeds from a trusted source. 

If you already have an EV in your lineup, embrace short form video as a way to generate interest and awareness for specific models. TikTok for example is seeing a ton of engagement on EV related content with over 1.9 billion views for videos that were shared using the #ev hashtag. 

CAPTURE ORDERING & BUYING INTENT

Once your EVs are nearing the point of arrival, then you can start investing your digital advertising dollars to capture the buying intent of local shoppers. From search ads targeted to those searching for how to order the latest and greatest EV, to social ads targeted toward those in your email list as well as those who’ve viewed your EV related content on your website.

You can go even further from there. What about having exclusive access to a pure in-market audience of EV intenders located in the zip codes that you identified when creating your buyer personas which you can then target your video advertising to? 

That’s real, and it’s exactly the kind of power that FUEL: In-Market Video gives you. Once you claim your zips, they’re exclusively yours, and now you can reach real in-market EV shoppers who were on Cars.com with your specific video advertising across the most popular social and OTT video platforms. 

SUPERCHARGE YOUR SHOPPING EXPERIENCE

Electric vehicles are a different kind of beast compared to their gasoline powered counterparts. They have different service needs, different driving dynamics, and thanks to Tesla being pretty much the only mainstream EV option for the past few years – a different shopping experience. 

As EVs come to market, they’re going to be a bit more expensive than the typical vehicle. Consumers, by nature, will want to understand if they can actually afford the EV they’re interested in prior to taking the next steps and contacting a dealership. 

That’s where having a modern retailing solution like Online Shopper on your website can really play a critical role in helping consumers answer the all important “Can I afford it?” question.

By giving shoppers the ability to compare an EV model side by side with a traditional gas powered vehicle to compare different finance scenarios is kind of a big deal. That will allow your website visitors to start selling themselves on the feasibility of owning an EV.

BE THE PRODUCT EXPERT IN STORE AND ONLINE

Speaking of experts, the early adopter buyer personas will undoubtedly want to make sure they have as much knowledge about their purchase as possible prior to finalizing their decision. And while you’ll be publishing plenty of content on EVs, and your OEMs will be doing their part to educate consumers as well, sometimes it’s a lot quicker and easier to just ask an expert.

The reality is that in-market EV shoppers are going to turn to their local dealership to get all of the answers to their questions. And for the most part, they’re probably not going to make a special trip, or even pick up the phone to call. Instead, they’ll do what the behavior profile of the early adopters suggests they’ll do, and that’s start a chat with you on your website. 

But it’s not the chat tool that’s the important piece to consider here. It’s who’s answering the chats that is key. Remember, when a consumer starts a chat, they think they’re talking to you. So if you’re still not answering your own chats during business hours, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to provide a superior level of customer service. 

This is particularly important when it comes to EV’s. If you’re not handling your own chats, and are relying on managed chat, when these types of detailed questions pop up, the managed chat agent isn’t going to be able to provide helpful information. They’ll only be able to attempt to get the lead for someone at the dealership to follow up with them later, which is the polar opposite of the experience that type of shopper wants.

LET’S AMP IT UP TOGETHER

From upgrading service bays, to training your sales team — when it comes to preparing your dealership for the soon-to-arrive EV future, you already have plenty on your plate. While we can’t retrofit a service bay for you (although we’re totally willing to try), we can help you implement an effective marketing strategy that’ll allow you to grow your EV business right from the start. We’d love to connect with you and power-up together! 

LET’S TALK!

6 Automotive SEO Tactics That Really Work

April 4th, 2022 by

Long before we ever built our first website, Dealer Inspire started out as an SEO Agency. It was through those early experiences when it became clear that trying to implement SEO best practices on websites built with other automotive web platforms was not very efficient, and oftentimes not as effective as it could have been due to technical limitations. The natural next step for our company to take was clear — we needed to build our own web platform so we could provide our partners with optimal SEO, UX, and conversion optimization.

So whether you’re receiving our SEO services through an OEM partnership, or you’ve signed up à la carte, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll be receiving a holistic SEO strategy that’s tailored specifically for your dealership, your region, and your goals. This is super important, because when it comes to SEO, there are two truths that you can count on:.

  1. You can’t be cookie-cutter with your approach to SEO. Each dealership is unique, and what works for one, may not work for another.
  2. There are no shortcuts or magic bullets that’ll instantly shoot you to the top of the SERP. Effective SEO that returns a positive ROI requires research, market analysis, and patience

So with that out of the way, I want to share six real and timely case studies from our dealer partners that show how our collaborative and custom approach to SEO provides proven results that drive a positive ROI. 

1. CAPTURE ORGANIC PRE-ORDER INTENT

With the ongoing inventory shortage affecting the entire automotive industry, our client at Dependable CDJR wanted to fill their sales pipeline by taking more pre-orders from in-market shoppers. The only problem was they didn’t have the proper content or site structure for search engines to understand that their dealership was the most relevant answer to related “order” searches for their brand of vehicles.

In an effort to establish their authority for these keywords, our team created and published a pre-order landing page on their website that explained in detail how the process worked and why a car shopper would want to customize their vehicle and order it directly through their dealership.

60% increase in order keywords 30 days after page was published
65% increase in conversions YoY

After publishing the new landing page, the next step was to ensure that it was easily discoverable by both search engines and real people by linking to it in the main navigation menu, in addition to creating other carefully selected internal links to the page.

The results of implementing this pre-order focused SEO tactic was impressive. Dependable CDJR saw a 60% increase in keywords containing the word “order” driving traffic to their website, in addition to a 65% increase in conversions year over year! 

2. BE THE VEHICLE ACQUISITION SOURCE

Aside from increasing the importance of having a pre-order strategy in place at your dealership, having a comprehensive vehicle acquisition campaign is pretty much required during the prolonged inventory shortage. 

Morrie’s Auto Group was on the forefront of implementing this strategy, and they took it to the next level by opening up dedicated car buying centers across three states. To help build their website’s authority for related “sell my car” and “trade-in my car” keywords, we started with a singular landing page that explained the process and allowed consumers to get a value for their vehicle.

237% Increase in keywords 30 days after page was published
296% increase in organic traffic since location pages were added (Jan 20, 2022)

Because Morrie’s had three buying centers in three different states, we wanted to make sure each center could have hyper-local relevance to consumers in those areas who are searching for where they should trade-in or sell their vehicle. To accomplish this, we created locations pages for each of their buying centers using the primary page as the parent. 

Since we added those location pages, organic traffic to all of the pages, including the parent page, is up 296% and they’ve also enjoyed a 237% increase in total keywords that their website now ranks for. 

3. ENHANCE YOUR CONTENT WITH ORIGINAL VIDEO

When the Dealer Inspire SEO Teams plans future content with a client, we always try to align our recommendations with the dealer’s stated goals and missions. For Triple J Guam, one of their missions was to enhance the relevance of the content we were creating for them even more by including their own custom created videos.

To that end, we now collaborate heavily with Triple J team based on what models they have in stock or what new models are arriving soon so they can go out and physically shoot videos on those vehicles that can be embedded on the page at the time of publishing. 

20% increase in total website keywords MoM
11% increase in total organic traffic YoY
18% increase in total organic ROI YoY

The chef’s kiss to this model specific content strategy is making sure that all of the content is easily found (and crawlable) for users (and search engines too!). To do that we created an informational hub page that neatly organizes the content that’s available on the site by OEM. 

Since implementing this collaboration and overall technical structure, Triple J Guam is seeing a 20% increase in keywords, an 11% increase in organic traffic, and an 18% increase in organic ROI. 

4. FLEX YOUR FIXED-OPS ADVANTAGE

For years, the most progressive car dealers in the industry have partnered with Dealer Inspire so they could achieve their goals using the most flexible platform on the planet. Sussex Honda is one of those dealers who is constantly looking to do things differently, and we’re always thrilled to partner with them to see those goals to fruition. 

In light of the global pandemic, Sussex Honda wanted to reinvent the way area residents could visit their service department in a safe and convenient way. To do that, they installed Express Self Service Kiosks outside of their service lane that allowed customers to drop-off their vehicle for service, and also pick it back up when service was completed. 

Their SEO Specialist took the information that was provided, and immediately began researching how to best make an impact in the organic SERP. After reviewing the keyword data, it was determined that targeting variations of “service kiosk” keywords would be more effective due to having good search volume and an attainable difficulty score. 

23% increase in keywords 30 days after page was published
158% increase in organic goal completions YoY
30% increase in organic sessions YoY

From there we created their Honda Express Self-Service Kiosk landing page that included detailed information teaching customers how to use the kiosk, and the benefits of doing so. We also made sure to include their custom how-to videos that showed folks exactly what to do when they arrived at the dealership. 

That page is seeing a 23% keyword increase along with a 30% increase in organic sessions. The total performance of the entire website has benefited as well with a 158% increase in organic goal completions. This is just another great example of how creating content to help educate users already on your website can also turn into a leading source of organic entrances to your site as well.  

5. GET MORE TRAFFIC WITH LESS CONTENT

Have you ever wondered to yourself, “is there such a thing as having too much content?”. It’s a fair question to ponder and on the surface it may seem like an easy “no” for an answer — especially if you’ve been taught over the years that “Content is King”. 

Well, believe it or not, there is such a thing as having too much content, and it’s something you need to be aware of so you can look for the warning signs and ultimately prevent any deciline in your organic traffic. 

While content on your website can be evergreen and still maintain high quality and relevance many years after it’s published, sometimes your content can become outdated and cause your keyword rankings to wildly fluctuate. 

That’s what was happening with our client at Biggers Chevrolet. They had years and years of custom content published on their website, but as those pages became less relevant due to age, organic positioning and traffic began to fall off. 

42% increase in keywords over a 90 day period
$18,000 SEMRush Traffic Cost ROI Calculation

Knowing that there was an opportunity to regain organic impression share, the SEO Strategist assigned to Biggers Chevrolet took a deep dive into their content library to identify which content was no longer driving traffic and could be removed from the site. From there they set up mass redirects of the old content to more relevant pages on the site, and cleaned up all the previous internal links to prevent presenting unnecessary 404 errors to users. 

Undertaking the technical audit of their website and implementing the proper fixes has paid off in a real big way. BIgger’s Chevrolet has seen an 42% increase in organic keyword positions 1-3 and enjoy a monthly SEO ROI of $18,000 and climbing. This proves that you don’t necessarily have to add more content to get more organic traffic. Sometimes you can just clean up what you already have and get even better results. 

6. IMPROVE YOUR NON-BRANDED PRESENCE

All dealers are going to see a mix of branded (keywords that mention your dealer’s name) and non-branded (keywords that don’t mention your dealer’s name) keywords driving organic traffic to your website when you inspect your analytics. 

The goal is to have a solid mix of both so that you’re able to maintain organic visibility both for people explicitly searching for you, and for people searching for the products and services that you provide.

If a majority of your traffic is coming from branded search, that means you’re not providing additional value and relevance to searchers about other aspects of the car buying and ownership experience. And if you skew too far into non-branded search traffic, that could be a signal that you haven’t done an effective job of marketing your dealership in general. 

Our amazing partners at Toyota of Cedar Park found themselves struggling with their non-branded traffic, and being close to a major metro market like Austin, Texas ranking for non-dealer name terms was a priority. 

1114% increase in non-branded traffic Q2 2020 vs. Q4 2021
229% increase in organic conversions YoY
237% increase in organic sessions YoY

To help address this imbalance, we developed a strategy to heavily focus on model research so they could connect with higher funnel shoppers who may not have discovered their dealership yet. In our research we found that the local competition in the Austin area wasn’t doing a very good job of providing informational content about Toyota vehicles in general. So we hyper-focused our content strategy on research and high funnel topics to capture the attention of shoppers early on in the research process. 

Taking this collaborative approach to Toyota of Cedar Park’s content strategy worked. When looking at the breakdown of traffic during the most recent quarter compared to when they started SEO services, they have seen a 1114% increase in non-branded traffic, a 237% increase in organic sessions, along with a 229% increase in organic conversions.

GROW YOUR ORGANIC RESULTS

When it comes to choosing a provider for your dealership’s SEO services, be sure to partner with one who provides a holistic and collaborative SEO strategy that aligns with your goals – not some off the shelf, cookie-cutter strategy that’s not tailored to your needs. Our SEO Team at Dealer Inspire would love to collaborate with you on the best approach to start improving your organic presence today. Drop us a line and let’s talk!

Let’s Talk SEO

Why QR Codes Are Finally Ready For Prime Time

February 15th, 2022 by

Let’s take a little trip back in time. The year was 2012, and as a part of our dealership’s setup at a local summer festival, we were going to give away the hot, new iPad2 to generate more hand-raiser leads than ever using a QR Code.

QR Code on a sign

What actually happened though was we spent way too much time educating people on what that giant, blocky black and white code on the sign was and the app they needed to install on their phone to scan it.

It was like working at the Apple Genius Bar…but only in 90 degree heat…and with people who didn’t really want to be there. 

It turned out that people really only wanted to enter to win the iPad if they could do so quickly and easily. Like, you know…by writing their name, email address, and phone number on a little slip of paper and then jamming it into a cardboard box.

No one wanted to download a special app (over a 3G cellular network) just to scan a weird looking code thingy and then have to type their name, email address, and phone number on a tiny virtual keyboard. Who had time for that?!

I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet

Looking back on it all these years later, I think it’s pretty clear why this promo didn’t work as intended:

  • The smartphone was barely 5 years old, and only 45% of adults actually owned one.
  • Those who had a smartphone saw it as device of utility — not necessity.
  • There was too much friction in the digital experience compared to the traditional one.

So after that weekend long experience of #qrcodefail, my main takeaway was utilizing QR Codes in your digital marketing strategy may have been the right idea, but it was definitely the wrong time. 

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW

Fast forward to today and things are different now, aren’t they? 94% percent of adults between the ages of 18-49 now own a smartphone. In just a few short years our phones have become physical extensions of our bodies that we can’t live without. 

but your kids are gonna love it

Ten years ago, if I realized that I left the house without my phone, I would have been like “oh well, whatever”. If that were to happen today? Yeah…I’d freak out, and I’m guessing you would too.  

So say what you want about the early days of QR Codes, but you can’t deny the fact that they laid the groundwork for some of the tech that’s been implemented inside of today’s most popular apps. 

Scanning a digital code with our phone is now near ubiquitous thanks to apps like SnapChat and Spotify where adding a friend or loading up a shared playlist is as simple as pointing your phone at a code. 

#ProTip: Quickly create and customize QR Codes that include your logo and brand colors at https://www.qr-code-generator.com/

Then there’s the game changing fact that your phone’s naitive camera app can now instantly recognize a QR Code and prompt you to visit the encoded destination all on its own.

Scanning a QR Code using the Android Camera App

Also, like many other aspects of our lives, COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of technology and irrevocably changed consumer behavior. Today, it’s hard to go somewhere and not see a QR Code — they’re everywhere. From Home Depot to Taco Bell, businesses big and small are using QR Codes to direct people to schedule an appointment, order online, download an app, and so much more. 

And you know something has gone mainstream when you see it on a Super Bowl commercial. Coinbase spent $13 million dollars on a 60 second spot that showed nothing more than a QR Code sailing across the screen. Not talking cats. Not expensive celebrities. Just a colorful, blocky code paying homage to the classic DVD screensaver of yesteryear.

That QR Code alone drove over 20 million users to the Coinbase website within that one minute where users were able to claim $15 in free bitcoin for signing up. The traffic and brand awareness benefits alone makes this a #qrcodewin!

Even after all that, if for some reason you still aren’t sold on the viability of QR Codes, then I’ll tell you that ever since version 85 of the Chrome Browser, QR Code generation is a standard feature of the world’s most popular web browser. That means anyone can quickly create a QR Code out of anything that’s loaded up in Chrome with just a couple of clicks or taps.

TIPS FOR USING QR CODES IN THE DEALERSHIP

If you’re ready to revisit the idea of using QR Codes at your dealership, I’ve put together a few creative ways that you can incorporate them into your shopping experience and marketing materials to drive engagement with your customers. 

PROVIDE A MORE ENGAGING EXPERIENCE IN THE SHOWROOM

You could create and print QR Codes to place on the vehicles in your showroom so that when scanned would do any number of things, like open a:

QR Code being scanned in a car dealership showroom
  • Digital brochure for that vehicle
  • Video review or walkaround of that model
  • Video highlighting an F&I product such as Appearance Protection
  • Model landing page on your website
  • VDP for that specific vehicle
  • VRP with available inventory for that model

VIRTUALLY CONNECT ON THE LOT

With some folks being more weary of being inside a building for an extended period of time, shoppers might feel more comfortable wandering your lot, especially after hours and on weekends. 

Scanning a QR Code on a vehicle on a car dealers lot

Just because these folks are out there alone, that doesn’t mean you can’t virtually be there to assist them. You could certainly use the showroom QR Codes above on the vehicles on your lot — or you could take it up a notch and provide the casual tire-kicker with an even better experience by providing a(n):

  • Video from your owner or GM welcoming them to your dealership and explaining your health and safety protocols
  • Easy way to connect with someone inside the dealership via chat
  • Instant trade-in evaluation experience powered by Conversations™

GENERATE REVIEWS

While we all understand the importance of reviews and the role they play in helping other shoppers choose to work with your dealership over your competition, you may not realize how review recency plays a factor in calculating your overall review score. 

QR Code on a business card

The short version is that as reviews age, they become less relevant to shoppers. So it’s not how many total reviews you have that matters most — it’s how often you’re getting reviews. Printing and placing review reminders on the desks of your salespeople and finance managers is an easy way to utilize QR Codes that lead to the specific, positive outcome of increasing your review velocity.

Now, it’s cool if you want to create a QR Code that will take someone directly to Google or DealerRater to leave their review. But it’s always good to have an even distribution of reviews on all the various platform. So a better idea would be to actually create a landing page that contains links to all the platforms where you have a review presence on your website. Then you can use that url to power your QR Code so that when scanned, people can then select their favorite review platform such as Google, Facebook, DealerRater, Cars.com or Yelp.

IN YOUR MARKETING

While QR Codes can definitely play a role in keeping your in-store customers engaged, you can also incorporate them into your traditional marketing channels to drive digital engagement.

Scanning a QR Code on a mailer sent out by a car dealer

For example, if you’re sending a direct mail piece with service coupons to your customers, include a QR Code that links to your service scheduler to easily generate appointments.

For any print advertising you run with new and pre-owned vehicles, include a QR Code that’ll allow someone to get an Instant Trade-In Evaluation via Conversations™, which will also generate a high quality lead for your team to follow up with.

Take it a step further and allow your salespeople to include a QR Code on their business cards that would link to their personal profile page on DealerRater that highlights their personal reviews.

IN YOUR COMMUNITY

And of course you can always use QR Codes just like we did back in the day in your grassroots marketing to drive sign ups for a giveaway or to create brand awareness in your community. The best part is you don’t need to go all Coinbase and spend $13 million to do it!

Think about this idea; do you sponsor any community events? I’m willing to bet you sponsor your local 4th of July fireworks, the high school football team, and/or maybe even a farmer’s market, right?

How about using a QR code on your signage or handouts for a free carwash for everyone at the event? Or maybe 10% off their first oil change or service appointment?

Today all the barriers have been removed, and using a QR Code in your grassroots marketing efforts is a great way to get new folks engaged with your dealership while also showcasing all the good you do within your community.

BONUS #PROTIP: TRACK WITH UTM CODES

Since you can take any text string and turn it into a QR Code, that means you can also incorporate UTM Codes for those times when you want to take a visitor to a landing page on your website. That’s one sure way to track how often your QR Codes are being scanned and which experiences your customers are finding to be the most “scan worthy”.

We’re always up for talking about creative ways to help our clients upgrade their digital marketing game. Want to talk about QR Codes or any other digital marketing strategies and tactics? Just give us a shout!

Let’s Talk Strategy

Power-Up Your Pre-Order Machine

February 9th, 2022 by

The combined effects of the pandemic and global chip shortage have drastically (and maybe even irrevocably) changed the landscape of the automotive retail industry. The resulting inventory shortage that began in early 2021 continues into 2022 with no tangible signs of easing up this year. 

As a result, we’ve seen a shift in consumer behavior amongst car shoppers. After decades of being able to just show up on a dealership’s lot and then drive off a couple hours later with the exact vehicle (or close enough to it) they wanted, car shoppers are discovering that with the lack of inventory, that just isn’t possible today — unless they’re willing to settle. 

And when it comes to the second largest purchase most people will ever make, “settling” is not at the top of a lot of people’s list of things they want to do. 

Like many other advancements that became popular as the result of the pandemic — such as curbside pickup and at-home delivery — placing a pre-order for your next set of wheels at your local dealership is the newest trend among car shoppers

According to a recent Cars.com survey, 41% of recent shoppers plan to pre-order their next vehicle through a local dealer. 

What that means for you is that when it comes to your marketing strategy, you can’t just rely on campaigns targeted to shoppers who are displaying active buying intent based on vehicle year, make, and model, or being classified as “in-market”. You also have to expand your reach to make sure you’re able to make an impression with local shoppers who are exhibiting “pre-order intent” too to ensure you’re reaching those people with a highly relevant message that meets their intention. 

We recently dropped a new show on Inspire+ called You’ve Got Pre-Orders that’ll walk you through what it takes to execute a holistic marketing strategy focused on filling your sales pipeline with pre-orders. 

WATCH NOW

But if you’re at work right now and can’t kick back to watch the show, don’t sweat it because I’m going to give you some of the best tips from our expert team right here, so keep on reading!

OPTIMIZE THE USER EXPERIENCE ON YOUR WEBSITE

If a shopper is just coming into the market for the first time in four or five years, there’s a real good chance that they may not be aware how much the car shopping experience has changed in the past two years. That’s why it’s important to update your website with pre-order messaging so it’s front and center on all of the most visited shopping pages on your website. 

From your homepage and main menu, to your VRPs and even your chat tool, it’s critical you show your visitors that they can order exactly what they want from you, regardless of where they may be on your website.

But the real question you need to answer is this: What is the user experience going to be like when a shopper on your website engages with your pre-order messaging? Are you going to take them to a landing page that explains the process, along with a CTA to contact you? Or can you provide an even better experience that’ll deepen the connection between the shopper and your dealership?

While a landing page + CTA is a classic marketing combo, that’s not necessarily going to fulfill the need for instant gratification that we’re all accustomed to in our shopping experiences these days. 

The preferred solution is to let that customer actually build the exact vehicle in your lineup that they want — right on your website — using the Build & Price tool that’s available to install on your Dealer Inspire website.

If you’ve ever configured anything online, like a new computer, the latest iPhone, or an Ikea kitchen, then you know that feeling you get as you dial in all of the specifications to meet your specific needs. It’s a non-stop dopamine rush as you tick off your options and upgrades. That’s exactly what’s in play when shoppers use our Build & Price tool. With each selection they make, starting from model and working their way down to trim, options, and colors – shoppers are not just getting excited about their next vehicle, they’re mentally committing themselves to seeing the order through to completion. 

Once their vehicle is built, a shopper will be able to see the price as configured, and then you’ll be able to reach out to them to confirm their vehicle preferences, and work through the rest of the details for completing the pre-order. 

CAPTURE ORDER INTENT IN THE SERP

Once you’ve prepared your website to convert visitors into sales opportunities, then you can begin marketing that experience. Like most questions that need to be answered, a majority of people will turn to search engines to get the information they need to make an informed decision. We can see the increasing trend in searches related to ordering a vehicle steadily increasing year over year, so it only makes sense to make sure that between your SEO and SEM efforts, you’re able to capture the attention of searchers exhibiting both Research and Ready to Act search intent. 

ATTRACT THE RIGHT BUYER WITH SEO

Today, car dealers who focus on optimizing their website and related content around pre-orders have a chance to get out to an early lead over their competitors. When it comes to SEO, it’s best to make sure you’re covering both types of intent through your content, on page optimizations, and your off site signals as well.

The SEO team at Dealer Inspire discovered that Google will return top local results for Ready to Act search queries (i.e. Order a new Make)  tailored to the specific location of the searcher if there’s relevant content available from a local source (hint: like your dealership’s website).

And that’s why local signals are really important for these types of queries: the proximity of the searcher to your dealership is going to be a top ranking factor. But at the same time, if you don’t have quality and relevant content that answers the shopper’s question, then you won’t show up at all.

So if you don’t already have a landing page that details all aspects of placing an order for a vehicle with your dealership, that’s the first place you’ll want to start. The page should be a comprehensive piece of content that’s optimized not just for keywords and user intent, but provides relevant and engaging content that’ll drive the visitor down the funnel to conversion.

If you want to create a pre-order landing page that cracks the top of the local search results, then follow these best practices:

  • Match your H1, Title, and Meta Description to user intent
  • Use visually appealing imagery
  • Provide a video that explains the process
  • Embed reviews on the page from customers who’ve ordered from you
  • Include a comprehensive FAQ that directly answers all related ordering questions
  • A CTA to engage with your dealership’s order process

Remember, the goal isn’t just to have relevant content that ranks, you want that content to convert those visitors into real sales opportunities. So whether you’re using our Build & Price tool, or have a different user experience, be sure that you have a prominent CTA in place on your landing page to encourage each visitor to take that critical next step toward placing their order. 

MAKE A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION WITH YOUR SEARCH ADS

On the flipside of the SEO coin, is your SEM. Here we’re only going to focus on campaigns that cover the Ready to Act intent versus the Research intent. You’ll want to have search campaigns set up in Google Ads specifically to cover these types of searches. 

Again, aligning your ad headline, copy, and sitelinks  to match exactly what the searcher is looking for is the best way to encourage the searcher to engage with your dealership’s experience. 

Also think about how you can provide a more optimized ad experience. While your ad’s main CTA might take the user to your newly-created, information-rich pre-order landing page, you can also remove that step and use a sitelink like “Build Your Honda” to take that shopper directly to the Build & Price tool with just one tap. 

Starting with your base search campaigns in, you can also run your pre-order campaigns across social, display, and video platforms. Check out You’ve Got Pre-Orders on Inspire+ to get the comprehensive breakdown on how effectively reach shoppers looking to order their next vehicle across all channels and devices. 

PERFECT YOUR PRE-ORDER FOLLOW-UP

As you effectively implement your pre-order strategy, it’s critical that you design a specific follow-up process for these sales opportunities. While your CRM is probably programmed to automatically follow-up with all leads that originate from your website, I’d highly recommend creating a specific drip campaign for pre-order leads — or even shutting it off entirely.

Remember, your customer just spent quality time on your website building the perfect vehicle of their dreams, so if the first outreach they receive from your dealership is an automated email from your CRM that’s providing basic information about the car they’ve already built and asking when they can come in — well, that’s a fail. 

The first thing you should do once you receive that pre-order lead, is to follow up immediately with a text confirmation to continue the conversation while it’s still fresh and exciting in your customer’s mind. 

The goal is to confirm the details of the vehicle that they just built, and go over next steps to set expectations for timing and delivery.

Once you have that order placed with your OEM, it’s imperative that you maintain regular contact with your customer as they wait for their vehicle to arrive at your dealership. This is where an email drip campaign can be most effective. Send out weekly or bi-weekly emails that include additional information about your dealership and the vehicle they ordered to keep them excited about its arrival. You can also supplement those emails with additional text or email messages that contain information about the progress of the build as you receive them in your system..

Then lastly, once your customer’s vehicle has been delivered, you’ll want to follow up again and ask them to share their story about pre-ordering a vehicle at your dealership with an online review.

Remember, shoppers just coming into the market for the first time in five years may not know that ordering a vehicle is even an option. But what we do know is that they’re going to read the reviews of dealerships that they’re considering doing business with before deciding whom to contact. That’s why it’s important you get those positive reviews that specifically mention how easy it was to order a vehicle from your dealership.

From there, you can then complete the circle by using quotes from those glowing reviews on your website and in your marketing to drive even more engagement with your pre-order process.  

LET’S TALK PRE-ORDER STRATEGY

As placing an order for a new vehicle becomes mainstream, it’s critical that your dealership doesn’t miss the opportunity to make connections with these shoppers. The team at Dealer Inspire is here to help you launch a holistic marketing strategy that drives relevant traffic to your website and convert it into more sales opportunities to fill your pre-order pipeline. Drop us a line and let’s talk about how we can work together. 

Let’s Connect

5 ‘Ship Tips For Building Serious Long Term Loyalty

October 13th, 2021 by

So, you’ve won over the customer of your dreams. They are smart, easy going, funny…and you’ve already put their birthday in your calendar to remember to text them on their special day. But what if we told you that there’s only a 1 in 3 chance that they will be loyal to you when it comes to their NEXT car buying relationship?  💔 🥺 😭

I don’t know about you, but to me…that really hurts. Why does having a meaningful relationship with your customers have to be so hard? 

Building a loyal customer base, like any true relationship, can be tricky, and a ton of factors are at play here. When you’re only buying a car every 3-8 years, most people want to at least explore their options out there, especially if there’s been a change to their lifestyle during that time.

Think about it like this: Each time a shopper enters the market, it’s sort of like using a dating app — does this vehicle fit my standards? Does it come with all the features I need? Will it let me pick the Spotify playlist on a road trip? 

And while an in-market shopper might feel loyalty to their current vehicle model, make, or OEM — maintaining a connection with your dealership falls squarely on your shoulders. So how do you earn their loyalty and develop a long lasting relationship?

WATCH ON DEMAND

The first thing you can (and should) do is watch our recent webinar, How to Achieve Next Level Loyalty. Our team of experts will show you how you can build a retention marketing machine across channels to efficiently keep more of your own customers, and drive more reliable revenue.

But if you’re more of a reader than a watcher, keep reading for our best tips that’ll help you build serious relationships with your customers starting today.

THE LOYALTY EQUATION

We know how much effort you put into each and every deal from the first lead all the way up through delivery, so seeing only about a third of them come back is worse than a breakup. 

Now before you decide it’s a good idea to stand outside of your customer’s window in the rain holding up a boombox…let’s talk about what it really takes to create a loyal customer for life. 

When you look at the Loyalty Equation above, you’ll see that building a loyal customer base goes beyond just providing a great in-store customer experience on the showroom floor or in the service department. 

It’s the other half of that equation — your marketing and your brand communications — that allows you to actually strengthen the connections with your customers to keep them engaged with your brand. 

I’m just going to assume that your CSI scores for your dealership’s in-store sales and service experiences are top notch. Where I really want to focus is on how you can improve your marketing and communications with your customers in a way that’ll make them brag to their best friends about your relationship and scribble “Katie’s Kia” (in hearts, of course) on their notebooks.

‘SHIP-TIP #1: SEND A TEXT WHEN THEY NEED YOU

I know you might be old fashioned like me, and you like to actually use your phone to make…well…phone calls. It pains me to say this *sigh* but nobody will answer their phone anymore if they don’t know who’s calling. So instead of experiencing that rejection of leaving message after message on your customer’s voicemail and never getting a call back — engage them with a text message instead! 

Not only are you more likely to make that connection, but you’re actually communicating with your customers in a way that they wish more businesses would. You’re showing that you’re laid back and there to help them on their terms.

And I’m not just talking about following-up with new sales leads. At Dealer Inspire encouraging dealers to take a text-first communications approach with our solutions throughout their customer service.

Have a customer’s car in your service bay and you need to explain an issue that your tech found when performing a multi-point inspection? Text your customer a video to show them the issue, explain the fix, and break down how much it will cost to perform the repair (or how much you’d give them for it in trade value). Handling a touchy situation like this in a personal way is going to lead to more closed RO’s than a voicemail ever could.

Want to increase your lease retention? You can use Online Shopper to proactively connect with your previously sold customers who have soon-to-mature leases. Just text them a reminder with a “magic link” to instantly open their personalized digital garage, filled with a few upgrade options for their next vehicle. Check it out.

The long and short of it is that your text game has to be strong if you want to keep your customers engaged, happy, and only thinking about you when it comes to all of their vehicle needs. So embrace it, and use the tools you have at your disposal to nurture those customer relationships!

‘SHIP-TIP #2: SHARE YOUR FEELINGS (IN YOUR REVIEW RESPONSES)

I think by now we all know how important having fresh reviews are. We’ve even dedicated a most excellent webinar to the subject. While providing a review-worthy experience at your dealership is the foundation of any great relationship, that review won’t mean as much if you don’t take the time to respond to it. 

You see, when you respond to a review, you’re not only letting your customer know that their experience meant something to you too, but it also solidifies your connection for future appointments all while showing in-market shoppers the kind of customer service they can expect when choosing to work with your dealership.

And what you say in your review responses is super-important too, as 71%1 of shoppers are more likely to buy from a business who responds to their reviews.

And since your review responses are pretty much open love letters to your customers that everyone is going to see, you really should make your replies stand out. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Be Genuine: Be a human being with emotions, not a cold-hearted copy & paste robot. Address your customer by name. Write a thoughtful response, and show them that you care about their experience as much as they do.
  • Acknowledge Their Unique Experience: Every shopper’s journey is different. By writing a response that’s specific to to the reviewer, it will show the world what a great listener you are. And who doesn’t want to work with someone who listens?
  • Sign Off With Your Name & Title: A great tip for any relationship, be it business or personal, is to just be yourself! Always sign your reply with your own name and title so shoppers know that there are great people behind your brand that they can work with to buy their next vehicle.

Follow those simple tips, and you’ll be giving your future customers an early case of the butterflies that’ll push your dealership to the top of their list. 

That said, I know responding to each of your reviews across platforms for all of your dealerships is time consuming, but don’t all lasting relationships take time and effort? 

The good news is that unlike a personal relationship, there’s a tool you can use to ensure that all of your reviews are being responded to in a timely manner by real people. With AutoResponse™ from DelaerRater®, a team of real-life expert reputation management specialists will personally respond to every review for you to help you build your brand loyalty, show future shoppers your great customer service, and give you back valuable time to focus on the experience that generates your great reviews in the first place.

‘SHIP-TIP #3: STAY IN TOUCH THROUGHOUT THE OWNERSHIP LIFECYCLE

The best relationships are the ones where there is open and honest communication. If you’re only texting your customer when you need something from them (like their trade-in) or when there’s an open recall on their vehicle, then you’ll be in serious danger of your customer forgetting who you even are and all the special times you already had. 

It’s imperative that you’re not a stranger in the months and years between service visits and purchases. But if you over-text your customers, you’ll be at risk for being left on ‘delivered’ forever. So what’s a car dealer to do?



For those times when you need to stay in touch, you can use automated email drip campaigns that spring into action the day a vehicle is sold, allowing you to deliver personalized reminders and offers throughout the ownership cycle.

For example, let’s look at Doreen Green here. She just purchased a 2021 Ford Edge, and you want to make sure you’re able to predict her vehicular wants and needs throughout the ownership experience.

To do that, you’d create a series of emails that would be sent from your CRM are timed to specific events or milestones of her ownership experience. For example, here is what a 36 month drip campaign could look like: 

  • DAY 2: Thank You Email From The Owner
  • DAY 7: Review Reminder
  • DAY 30: Intro to Service
  • 6 MONTHS: 7,500 Mile Service
  • 12 MONTHS: 15,000 Mile Service
  • 22 MONTHS: Check Your Tires
  • 30 MONTHS: Replenish Your Fluids
  • 36 MONTHS: Trade-In Outreach

Now, you can go longer than 36 months. What you see above is just an idea to get you started. But you know what’s an even better idea??

We went ahead and created fully customizable drip campaign templates that you can download and tailor for use in your own CRM. Just fill in some blanks, tweak the copy to fit your dealership, and you’ll be getting your first drip campaigns set up in no time!

GET THE TEMPLATES

As you’re customizing these email templates, keep in mind that you want to personalize them for the customer. Don’t make them feel like they are just another customer in some CRM on some email list… Make them feel special! Valued! Like a VIP!!! 🤩

Your CRM probably lets you include a {{first_name}} variable in the subject line and email copy, so make sure you’re doing that for all of your outbound email campaigns to get a boost in your open and conversion rates. 

And lastly, you’ll want to create 1:1 conversation starters in your copy, and include clear CTA’s so your customers know exactly what to do next. The last thing you want to do is have your customer scratching their head wondering what your email was all about and then clicking that unsubscribe button because they just can’t take your awkward email blasts any more. 

‘SHIP-TIP #4: MEET YOUR CUSTOMERS WHERE THEY ARE ONLINE

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that only 36%2 of customers stay loyal to the dealership they bought their car from, and it’s only natural for shoppers to visit Cars.com to play the field and see what’s out there for their next ride, even if they are perfectly happy with their vehicle and you as their car dealer. 

Human nature aside, that doesn’t mean you have to stand passively by on the sidelines while your customer searches for their next vehicle. What if I told you that you could meet your customers both in the search results and in their social feeds when they’re in the market to buy or service a vehicle? And not in a creepy stalker way, but in a totally helpful way that makes them wonder how you always manage to be so thoughtful. 

By exporting a list of your sold customers from your CRM, you can power your loyalty based search engine and social advertising campaigns so that you’re there for them, even if they weren’t thinking of you at the moment. 

FUEL: Search & Display will automatically bid-up on searches made by past customers that illustrate high buying intent, and deliver a personalized ad.

For instance, you can create a list of customers who purchased a vehicle 4+ years ago from you, and use that data within a “Trade-In” Google Ad Campaign within FUEL: Search & Display  — our dynamic inventory advertising platform. Then, when one of those customers is using a low funnel search query “Honda Accord Trade-In”, FUEL will automatically bid up to win that number one ad spot in the SERP based on the high intent, low funnel, shopping keywords in their query along with the fact that your customer was identified as the searcher.

Again, the idea here is to ensure that you’re not losing out to your competition when your customer turns to search first instead of you. It’s this kind of technological magic that allows you to be present during your customer’s time of need — welcoming them with a warm message, and then reminding them why they chose you in the first place.

On the social side of things, using your first party data can also come in handy to help retain your customers with maturing leases. So you’d simply export that list of customers from your CRM who have a lease due to mature in the next 3-6 months, and include that audience in your social campaign.

As your customer is scrolling through their Facebook feed or flipping through their Instagram stories, BOOM, there you are! Your dealership makes a thumb-stopping appearance right there in their feed with a compelling offer tailored specifically to them! Before you know it, they’re back on your website and in shopping mode looking to get out of their current lease, and into a new one. Crazy (in a good way), right? 

‘SHIP-TIP #5: WELCOME THEM WHEN THEY COME TO YOUR HOME(PAGE)

Sometimes your customers will be away from you for months at a time, and that’s okay because absence makes the heart grow fonder, amiright? But nothing rekindles that old flame like greeting a VIP customer with a personalized message when they come back to visit your website.

One of the most powerful tools on the Dealer Inspire Web Platform is our Personalizer tool that lets you create user experiences based on a multitude of mix and match rules. Think back to when we talked about those email drip campaigns. It just so happens that one of the rules within Personalizer is UTM_Campaign.

So going back to your email drip campaigns, you can include a UTM code within all of those links in your emails, and when your customer clicks through from an email to your website, Personalizer will recognize that UTM Code, and welcome them with a message like, “Thank You For Being One of Our Best Customers!”. Or better yet — show them that Exclusive VIP offer you just uploaded for an oil change and tire rotation. Doesn’t that just make you all warm and fuzzy inside?!

Aside from welcoming your returning customers with open arms, you can also adapt your website messaging to show what a shopper’s future ownership experience could look like if they choose to begin a relationship with you.

Setting the expectation for ownership through homepage sliders, VRP banners, special loyalty incentives, and even a landing page dedicated to winning over customers with what it means to be a VIP at your dealership now and forever is the perfect way to begin winning their affection. 

Everyone wishes they knew someone in the car industry to make it easier, and faster. You have the opportunity to BE that person. Express it on your website to show your customer that you’ll treat them like your personal referral each and every time. 

When your retention marketing is strong, the bond between your dealership and your customer goes beyond the delivery by giving them that “new car happy” feeling long after they’ve driven off the lot. 

GET THE RELATIONSHIP COACHING YOU NEED

At Dealer Inspire we strive to provide you with the tools and support you need to build long lasting connections with your customers. We’re even available to help you think strategically about your dealership’s loyalty building and retention marketing efforts. We’re just a thumb tap away from chatting about how we can work together so you can keep more of your own customers. Talk to you soon!

LET’S TALK!

1Brightlocal Local Consumer Survey, December 2019
2IHS Markit Trends in Dealer Loyalty Study, May 2021