By Kristen Judd


"The only thing constant is change." With the pace of technological advances today, this statement should resonate more than ever. Just when you think your team has the eCommerce process dialed in, consumer behavior shifts and shoppers begin to conduct more online research without any dealership contact. Other consumers are undertaking most of the buying process online. How is your dealership responding to these changes? Are your technology and your team equipped to adapt without losing ground? 

And consumer behavior and process changes aren't the end of it. We all must respond to changes made by third-party platforms over which we have no control. Facebook announces that access to third-party data providers will be shut down. The Google search algorithm continually adjusts and evolves. The Yelp review filter keeps us all on our toes as do the changes to other online review sites. The changes just keep coming. Do you sometimes feel like all you can do is react? Wouldn’t you rather be able to take more control over your own destiny?

At 3 Birds, we’re fortunate to work with automobile dealers across the country, including some of the most progressive and digitally sophisticated groups and dealerships operating today. No one is immune to the challenges associated with keeping up, and few can maintain a straight face when stating that there are no holes in their marketing strategy. There are challenges that everyone in the industry confronts, but there are also steps that automobile dealerships can and should take that will provide a strong foundation from which to weather changes in the digital landscape (not to mention fill in the gaps to increase marketing effectiveness). This idea of filling in the gaps will be a recurring theme that we revisit in this article series. We’ll tackle a number of common holes we see and offer takeaways that readers can implement in their stores, starting with... 

Hole #1: Focusing on Immediate Business Objectives Instead of Establishing Long-Term Relationships With Your Customers

"Me. Me. Me." Does this sound eerily familiar? Is it always all about you? With the monthly sales cycle and numbers to hit, it’s easy to slip into the trap of single-mindedly focusing on accomplishing your business objectives. The risk is that customer communications become purely transactional and happen only when there is something you want from them that, more often than not, involves them spending money at your dealership. With this kind of an approach, it’s no surprise that many consumers consider a visit to the dealership as only slightly less painful than a root canal.

Don't Forget to Establish Your Dealership as a Trusted Partner

While it's true that transactional messages and outreach have their place, giving customers something of value without immediately expecting something in return should absolutely be a component of your dealership’s ongoing customer communication strategy. Provide your customers with information and content that increases their enjoyment of their vehicle and in so doing solidify a positive association with your dealership. This establishes your dealership as a trusted partner in the ongoing care of the vehicle and can take the form of new owners’ clinics, a virtual new owner’s clinic on your website with videos of the features and functionality explained at the clinic, technology guides, introduction to the Service Department and what to expect at the first manufacturer recommended maintenance visit, post-purchase thank you or welcome to the family communications, and so forth. 

Continue This Approach Throughout the Vehicle Lifecycle

Continue to provide quality non-promotional content and helpful information throughout the vehicle lifecycle. Share information about your community involvement and support of local organizations, schools, or teams. Spotlighting members of your staff puts a human face on the dealership and helps your customers to connect with the people behind the cars. It should come as no surprise that we think that an email newsletter should be an essential element of every dealership’s customer communication plan. Other excellent vehicles for disseminating the type of content we’ve just described are blogs and a well-developed About Us section of your website.

Here's What's in it for You

Before you dismiss the idea as too touchy-feely, consider what is in it for you. 3 Birds’ data shows that your highest-value customers, the ones that are the most loyal and spend the most, engage with non-promotional content in communications from the dealership 290 times more than low-value customers. Customers who engage with non-promotional content from the dealership are responsible for 61% more service visits and 28% more vehicle sales than those who do not. But wait… there’s more! 

Every time your customers interact with this kind of content, you learn more about what they like, what they’re into, and what their interests are while enhancing and enriching your own first-party data. The more you know about your customers, especially your best ones who are interacting with your content the most, the more you can leverage this data to find and target other “lookalike” people. After all, if you’re going to conquest wouldn’t you rather conquest people just like your highest-value customers instead of your lowest-value ones?

We hope you enjoyed the first in our series on Common Holes in Your Dealership’s Marketing Strategy. We invite you to reach out to us to schedule a strategy session if you are interested in learning more about 3 Birds solutions!

Kristen Judd