How to Create an Automotive Dealership Marketing Plan – Step 1

By Jazel Auto Marketing

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Sometimes the most daunting task in creating a retail automotive marketing plan is knowing where to begin, and what steps logically flow from each other. We’re here to help; what follows is Step One in our concise four-part retail automotive dealership marketing plan series.


STEP ONE: Market Analysis

Market analysis isn’t easy. Many businesses struggle with obtaining the most relevant market analysis.  Information about your existing and target customers can’t be obtained from generic search engine queries. But, like many things that aren’t easy, it’s a necessary step.  Market analysis is critical to developing a customized and successful retail automotive dealership marketing plan. Market analysis is like radar, allowing you to see the lay of the land. Without it, you’d be flying blind. Now isn’t the time to be guessing with profit, gambling money on something you’re not sure of. Market analysis helps prevent, or at least mitigate, the uncertainty that comes with building something new.

Here’s how to do it.


#1: Know the Customers in Your Market

Gather demographic data. Population data from the US Census can give you a great jumping-off point, but you can also get valuable insights from your own data. Gathering and analyzing your own collected data can give you a wealth of information that has hitherto been untapped.  

In conjunction with demographic data, you should have some more qualitative data. You can achieve this by surveying customers and neighbors about your dealership, over the phone, by mail, or online. Each of these has its benefits and drawbacks, and it depends on the resources and needs of your dealership.

Here are examples of questions to ask:

Demographic: What is your [age, gender, household size, household income, profession, education level, location of home]?

Personal: What are your interests? What are your hobbies? Where do you like to vacation? What are you planning for yourself in the next ten years? What is your opinion of car dealerships?  

Purchase Patterns: When was the last time you bought a car? Who in your household makes large purchasing decisions such as a car? What is your first step when deciding it is time for a new car? Do you research various makes and models online? Do you also research local dealerships online? How often do you purchase a car? How long does it take you to make a decision about what car you’ll get? How long does it take you to pick which dealer to shop with? What are the traits that make you pick a dealership? What is your typical budget? How far would you travel for the right price?

Why gather all this information? Because you never know what you might discover that will change the game for you. Maybe it turns out it takes a really long time for the average customer in your market to pick which dealer they will shop at. You can turn that to your advantage, and start marketing to things like customer experience, dealership culture, and no-pressure sales process to bring in more of an indecisive population. Data gathering is essential to making informed decisions about your next marketing strategy. This data can be incorporated into your retail automotive marketing plan to strengthen your marketing tactics and strategies.


#2: Know Your Competition

The next step in market analysis for your retail automotive dealership marketing plan is to know your competition. Beyond knowing who the biggest names are in your locality, you need to gather a bit more data.

Some of the questions you should be able to answer are things like:

Who are they? What are they good at? What are they bad at? What do people say when complaining or praising them in reviews on Google,Yelp, and various industry review sites?  What do employees (presumably ex-employees who may review the company on sites like Glassdoor) have to say about how they operate? What does their marketing strategy seem to be? How do their prices, service options, staffing choices, appearance, online presence, and dealership culture compare to yours?

It seems like a lot of work just to learn about your competition, but the payoff comes in marketing insights. Even something as seemingly trivial as what ex-employees have to say may make a huge impact. For example, if ex-employees of a competitor mention frequent bottlenecks in the service department, you can first evaluate, then promote, your own service department based on its efficiency and superior service.


#3: Know Yourself

Up next: Your own dealership. Basically, you should go through and do the same information gathering for your own dealership that you did for your competition. Blind surveys of past and existing customers, a thorough review of customer reviews online, and mining Customer Satisfaction Index scores are great ways to gain a more complete picture of how customers view you in the marketplace.

But beyond the same analysis you performed for your competition, you should also make a full report of what your past marketing efforts have looked like. What worked and what failed? How much has your budget generally been, and should it be changed? What campaign had the highest ROI? How often did you market to new and existing customers?

Building out a history of your marketing will give you a good roadmap of what you’ve already tried, what worked, and what you haven’t done yet.

A secondary part of gathering data on your own dealership is evaluating your online presence. Is your website attractive, informative, easy to navigate, and optimized for mobile devices? Does your website look better than your competitors or does it feel hastily put together? How well does the website perform, particularly in comparison to those of your competitors? Is your website found easily online or is it hidden 10 pages into a search engine’s results?

Gathering this information can provide a unique look at your dealership’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the marketplace. This is potentially the most important information you can gather, because even if your plan to create a retail automotive dealership marketing plan goes by the wayside, you can still use the insights gleaned from this data to drive other important initiatives at your dealership. But hopefully you’ll be going on with your automotive dealership marketing plan, because analyzing your own dealership will give you much needed information and provide critical direction. Conducting a thorough market analysis and learning your own strengths,weaknesses, opportunities and threats will tell you where you fit in the market and where to focus your marketing.

Customer eyeballs are the end goal for your online presence, and it is of the utmost importance that your website is measured and analyzed for the best possible user experience. There are many ways to do this, and we couldn’t advocate for it strongly enough.  

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Step Two: Building the Foundations of Your Automotive Dealership Marketing Plan