Driving with Digital Marketing

Digital marketing, social media, and the Internet have changed the retail industry worldwide. Forever. Most importantly it’s given the consumer the ability to research and shop for the exact product they want exactly when they want it.

I’ve spent the last four years working in and supporting the retail side of the automotive industry as a digital marketer and director of business development. I most definitely have drunk the kool-aid about how we shop and how we want to be sold as consumers with the power of the Internet. Here are a few digital marketing tools and tips for automotive sales professionals to help improve their sales successes to earn and keep happy customers.

Your Dealership Website

This is a no brainer here. Every automotive dealership, car lot, and automotive sales professional should have a great looking and easy to use website. This is an absolute must for a complete digital marketing package. You always have the option to make your own custom website with all of the shiny bells and whistles you think you want, but there are more than a few companies out there who know what they’re doing. And they do it well. Below are some of the industry leaders in website service providers I’ve worked with:




Search Engine Optimization SEO

Search engine optimization is an essential part of digital marketing and winning the search engine results game. Without the right text and visual content, you won’t be a part of that discussion. And we know that 90% of the world’s consumers use Google to find us. When Google says, websites do or you don’t get found.

Make sure your vehicles have the proper pricing, images, video, and descriptions so that your customer’s questions are answered and those Google queries are full of your website’s page results. Your website provider should be your best bet for SEO services and support. Their infrastructure and focus should support your digital marketing needs for good content in the right places.

Chat / SMS

Today’s shoppers want to communicate faster than ever. Not providing avenues to communicate like chat, SMS, and instant messaging services as part of your digital marketing force is no longer an option. Offering these instant ways to reach you and your team at every turn of the buying process ensures you capture every opportunity to help your customer along the way to being an informed, happy vehicle buyer. I’ve used most of the today’s most popular automotive text, chat and messaging services on a number of my dealership websites. Most are relatively the same, but look for differences in automation or live representatives and the delivery of the leads. Here’s a couple of my favorite messaging service providers:


Edmunds CarCode

Much of what we’ve discussed so far is great for the customer who already found their way to your website, but how do you get them there? The lead generation and digital marketing relationship in the automotive industry is rather tumultuous. Finding great quality leads without costing you your profit is a tough thing to do these days. Let’s take a look at a few services and products that will get the attention of that most valuable buying customer.

Digital Advertising / SEM

Oh, this one is a beast. Do you spend buckets of money and saturate the search engines or do you take the time to find out who your customers are and spend that money right? This should be a no-brainer, but who the heck knows what “spending it right” is?! The search engine marketing game is an ever-evolving animal and unless you want to quit selling cars and become a full-time digital marketer, leave it to the professionals.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is somewhat controversial in its methods and returns on investment. Some top tier marketing companies charge quite a bit for consistent email marketing services, but when planned and executed properly this avenue of contact can be your most effective and efficient method of digital marketing available.

Regularly scheduled touches to your customer base are invaluable. Saying “thank you” or “happy holidays” may be the difference in a sold referral or repeat customer. If your group or dealership uses any of the latest CRM, you already have this power at your fingertips.

Speaking of tips: filter your customers down to specific sets like sold or unsold, car or SUV, work truck or weekend truck. Your messages will be more specific and ultimately more effective.

Check out MailChimp or Constant Contact for email marketing automation if your CRM doesn’t provide email campaign services as part of their services package.

Social Media

If you aren’t already on social media, at least in an organic sense, you’re missing quite possibly the biggest boat of digital marketing opportunities. The audience size alone should’ve gained your attention, but knowing the wealth of data available to digital marketers should have your motors red lining! Did you know you can market to people who have shown very real interest in purchasing a new vehicle in the near future? Did you know that you can find out what they drive and what they want to drive?

Social media marketing can be relatively inexpensive and very effective if used properly. There are a number of ways you can take advantage of this data, but there are also a few folks who can do it better for you. Check your options for local social media service providers. Having someone close is often beneficial and worth the extra cost if any. Wink wink.

Reputation Management

Reviews, reviews, reviews. There’s no way around this most awesome and most painful source of information. And in some cases, the reputation management site service providers hold it down like the mafia. I’ll follow this post up later with some ways to stay out of their pockets and avoid the headache of a disgruntled customer lambasting you all over the Internet. Aside from avoiding the negative reviews, positive or specific and lengthy reviews will build trust in your current and future customers alike. These trust signals are invaluable points of digital marketing that cost pennies to manage or collect.

There are quite a few companies that provide these services, be sure to look for automation and flexibility. Some people hate Yelp but have hundreds of reviews on Google so don’t box your customers in. The landscape of service providers specific to reputation management is ever changing. Some CRMs and lead providers also give some sort of reputation management support as well.

Equity Mining

Unless your dealership was built yesterday, and even then they are most likely part of a group of dealerships, you are going to have a wealth of customer data to act on. This was my most lucrative focus as Director of Business Development for the groups I supported. This information often includes what our customers drive, what they used to drive, and what they want to drive. As well as current and past financial data.

Combining your customer data with your lender data and your inventory gives you a magic formula that is often a newer vehicle with a lower APR and lower payment. Few of us say no to that. In order to get your pocket full of equity fairy dust, you need a great CRM. I’ll cover those briefly next, but watch out for my deep dive on what makes a good CRM.


As with any business, a CRM is necessary for proper customer care, data management, accounting, and follow up. The automotive industry was a bit slow to the game, but today’s automotive CRM solutions offer a host of services and data management that will make any competent sales person better and more profitable.

Both through the management of customer, vehicle, and financial data and the marketing avenues offered in pair, a great CRM is the only way to true growth and the improvement of a dealership’s sales team. No matter how great your digital marketing game is if you cannot manage the customer’s requests or your inventory, you’ll never realize or understand your true ROI potential. 

I had the opportunity to use several of the best CRMs available in the automotive industry. DealerSocket and VinSolutions are current industry front runners, and I’ve had the “pleasure” of working with Promax for the last couple of years. Sometimes change is a very, very good thing.

Having a complete digital marketing plan that compliments and supports your traditional marketing efforts is essential. With the proper focus and organization, your digital marketing can be your primary spend. Starting with the right CRM to collect and measure your data is key to building the right website and the necessary supporting digital marketing channels. 

Be wary of piecing things together without considering all of the players. Spending just a little in the right place might just be the right thing to do in some cases. And sometimes spending a lot in the wrong places might gain you some success, but is it enough or have you exhausted its full potential?

Drop a comment below, send me a message at nick@nicholasallen.info or call me at 928-607-5821 to get answers to all of your automotive digital marketing needs.