When most dealerships are faced with the question, “Does your business have a digital strategy?”–the usual answer is (hopefully), “Yes, of course!” And this would be great, but are you truly utilizing this strategy? Or, even worse, are you not using a strategy at all? We’re not saying that not having a digital strategy is borderline criminal (though it is)–we’re just here to help.
Strategy, according to Wikipedia, is a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. In short, a strategy is an in-depth plan. For your dealership you should be thinking of the long-term advantages your dealership provides compared to your competition, and how you can defend that competitive advantage.
A digital strategy –get ready for this– starts with your website. Is it setup in accordance to best practice, or optimized with mobile in mind? That’s good, but it’s only a start. Having a truly well-built website is only part of the equation; having a concise and well built brand is another. Your website is your brand’s home, and everything you use to market your dealership needs a place in that home–otherwise you’re wasting your time with those choices. People are far more likely to visit your website than your physical dealership, at least during the initial research phase, and they’ll be looking for more than your inventory. Your sales, your reviews and reputation, your contributions to the community. These are all part of what the modern consumer looks for, and they’ll be looking online.
Secondly, your digital strategy must include online advertising. This will not only help bring in more leads and visitors to your website, but it will also help support the brand awareness you are working so hard to achieve. Sadly, this is one of the areas we see most dealerships cut first. A particularly bad month, or even a bad year, shouldn’t make you lose sight of your long term goals. Online advertising is a major key to your digital strategy, and cutting your budget might save you some money in the short term but you want to be playing the long game. If sales are down, this is a key time to evaluate several areas of your dealership. Are your staff professional? Are you optimizing everyone’s time and skill sets? Lastly, how well is your online advertising performing? Are you getting a reasonable ROI? Lowering your budget and focusing on the campaigns that have been driving the most results is a good place to start. No one is saying that you have to stick with something that isn’t working–but you shouldn’t be afraid to learn more about how you’re spending your advertising dollars, and work toward optimizing these budgets.
Thirdly, you must build content for your online audience. This doesn’t mean asking your customers to leave you a Google Review (although you should be doing this anyway), but instead building content that drives organic search and creates an audience. This content should live on your website and should reflect who you are, and how you want your customers to see you as a dealership. We always ask, “If your dealership was a person, who would they be?” Creating an image or persona that people can equate with your brand is huge when it comes to brand awareness. Factor in content that answers the questions that your customers are asking—”How does your crossover utility vehicle compare to this brands?” or, “What do I do if ___ happens to my vehicle?” are great ways to build up your authority online, bring awareness to your brand, and increase your visibility. Google rewards websites that have fresh content, or provide an excellent user experience, in turn boosting your visibility further. A carefully planned out content strategy, with landing pages and blog posts, can increase traffic to your site and be the difference when it comes to attracting or repelling a new customer. But remember, this is a strategy–meaning you’ll have to know what your customers are searching for, what matters to them, and target those areas.
The final recommendation may seem obvious, but with everything else you’ve got on your plate it’s easy to forget. Your dealerships goals, and how you can achieve them, can and will change over time–and your strategy must change with it! New opportunities and platforms are constantly becoming available, not to mention major changes to existing platforms that will affect your business. You’ve got to pay attention, or else you’ll be left in the dust when it comes to your digital marketing efforts. New strategies become old and outdated (not to mention ineffective), and you’ll find yourself wasting your time working on something that provides no benefit. Know your goals, and build a long-term strategy that you can make small adjustments to over time, adding and removing pieces to make it the most effective plan it can be.
Remember, no one knows your dealership as well as you do–but with effort and careful planning, you can share your dealership’s experience and expertise with the masses (and Strathcom is here to help). We’ve got dedicated content strategists, web developers, and online advertising analysts, not to mention marketing managers who will oversee your store’s plan, and help your digital strategy come to fruition. If you’re missing any of the above steps, contact your online marketing manager and have them explain how we can help. If you’re not currently a Strathcom client, or don’t have a digital strategy, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you build a winning strategy.