Expanding your dealership audience is no easy task in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace. In addition to traditional competition among established brands in dense metropolitan areas, new competition is hotter than ever. Established stores need to duke it out with not only other brands but direct-to-consumer companies like Tesla and Rivian, not to mention the litany of used car technology companies such as Carvana and Vroom. 

Moving beyond the “only in my zip code” mentality may seem daunting, but with proper tools and creativity, expanding your dealership audience can be sustainable and profitable. 

1. Tell compelling stories

By now, most automotive businesses have some presence on social media, but few take advantage of the power offered by the ever-evolving world of social media. 

You and your staff know better than anyone that buying a vehicle is an emotional experience for customers, and doing so often represents a significant milestone in their life. People love to read other people’s stories and every customer that walks out of that dealership is a compelling opportunity to tell a story. Posting photos of customers, or customers’ families, posed next to their new vehicle and writing a compelling caption along with it can reach well beyond your local zip code. These stories show the human side of buying a car, and it is the human story that gets the most views. 

Potential ideas for compelling social media content include a monthly focus on a military veteran who happens to be a customer, a stand-out student in the community, or a local organization that does excellent work. In addition to telling other people’s stories, encourage employees to join in community events such as food drives, Habitat For Humanity builds, or even charity-backed car shows. These events are significant for the local community and can help expand your dealership’s reach even more.  

2. YouTube

According to Google, 75% of shoppers say online video has shaped their shopping habits or purchases. This can be anything from watching a vehicle review to listening to an industry expert explain the current automotive market. 

If your dealership doesn’t have a YouTube page, you’re missing out on opportunities to expand your dealership audience. Check out this video from a dealer in Parkersburg, West Virginia. This simple video outlining the differences between two Mitsubishi Outlander models has over 56,000 views on the platform! All you need is a smartphone, some basic editing software, a willing host, and a YouTube account to enjoy similar levels of exposure. 

Here are some potential ideas for quality YouTube content. 

  • Do a thorough walk-around video that shows the inside and outside of every vehicle your brand sells
  • Compare trims, colors, or model types right next to each other
  • Do a walkthrough of the infotainment system and ADAS systems
  • Show backseat room, including a car seat 
  • Fold all seats in an SUV and show cargo being loaded in
  • Show hooking up a trailer using the camera systems 
  • Load the bed of a pickup with gear 
  • Show off accessories like bed liners or wheel packages 

This gives you a place to send customers inquiring about vehicles and allows your staff to provide this information to people well outside your zip code. Companies like Intelichek also provide real insight into service pricing of competitors, giving dealers the advantage of delivering concrete, research-based recommendations to customers when it comes to servicing their vehicles. Who knows, maybe the following video you post can go viral!

3. Work with journalists

One of the fastest ways to get your name out there is to become an expert for a news outlet and receive backlinks to your dealership’s website. 

Outlets like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) frequently seek expert advice on various topics, including the automotive industry. Journalists who work within the HARO universe solicit requests from experts and then provide experts (at their discretion) links to their business’s website as a sort of compensation for the time and information they provided. This is a unique opportunity to put general managers, sales managers, or owners in the spotlight and draw attention back to your store. HARO stories are often nationally syndicated with some of the largest publications in the world. 

Another approach to working with journalists is to do so on a local level via local papers and publications. Local papers often run stories on the automotive industry, especially in recent years. As sales professionals, you know the hurdles of vehicle supply chain challenges better than anyone, and local publications often look for experts like you to help them tell stories with authority. 

Make some calls, send some emails – you’ll be amazed what you’ll find. 

4. Leverage your brand’s demographics

Tapping into your brand’s demographics creatively can expand your dealership audience beyond your local area. 

Subaru is a perfect example of a brand that closely taps into its owner’s demographics. Their research indicated that 67% of Subaru owners have a pet, and half of those owners have a dog. So, what did Subaru do? It rolled out dog-friendly advertising and accessories and aligned itself with pet adoption groups throughout the United States. Savvy Subaru dealerships launched their own local campaigns and began to host everything from dog adoption events to community clean-up events at their stores. These events not only bolstered themselves within the local community but on a much broader scale. 

Spend some time researching your brand to see what makes your buyers tick, and then host an event. You’d be shocked by how many people will come from far and wide to join in the camaraderie and fun. Plus, these events are fantastic opportunities for social media posts.

5. Think outside the box

The automotive industry can suffer from the pains of stagnation, but that doesn’t need to be the case for your store. Compiling traditional marketing techniques like Pay Per Click advertising, compelling landing pages, and text/chat options for potential customers with unique and out-of-the-box ideas will ensure that you can expand your dealership audience well beyond your local area.

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