What’s the best automotive marketing strategy?

That’s a question with a thousand answers. As much as we all want one clear champion strategy that wins above all others, that’s unlikely to reveal itself. Rather, the strategies you’ll get depend on who you ask.

Thankfully, there’s a place to start. Research shows that marketers agree on some general marketing ROI powerhouses:

We also have our own expertise to inform this analysis – what we’ve seen over all our years of helping dealers achieve and exceed their goals.

Before we get started, however, there’s an incredibly important element we have to bring up when talking about ROI.

The Catch:

Return on investment (ROI) is only a useful piece of information if you are actually able to measure it – and measure it correctly. What metrics you track, and how you track them can make a tremendous impact on how effective that channel appears to be. Your success measurement needs to be accurate in order for your decisions to be solid. Not sure about the KPIs and methods for measurement that you should be using? Check out our blog posts all about this: Are You Measuring Your Dealership’s Success With the Right KPIs? and Attribution is Changing: Google, The Death of Last-Click, and Car Dealership Marketing.

So without further ado, let’s go explore the best automotive marketing strategies for high ROI.


Automotive Marketing Strategy #1: PPC

PPC is crucial to dealership marketing success. If someone is telling you otherwise, honestly, they probably don’t know how to correctly manage PPC.

Your PPC strategy should prioritize what is most effective, but there’s no arguing that in general, paid search is dang effective. Paid search refers to full-copy ads that are given prime spots on the main search result page. These are ideal for general advertising to sustain your brand awareness, but also in strategic places where you wouldn’t normally rank – like keywords and searches where you can attract shoppers away from your competition.

Why this delivers awesome ROI:

Really well optimized PPC can be explosive. In fact, focusing in on your paid search has never been more important. New advertising tools from Google use machine learning to offer more relevant PPC ads.

Also to remember: the “bias against search ads”… isn’t a thing. Research shows that this “Search ad bias” just doesn’t exist – shoppers click what is relevant. They don’t care if that means you have to pay a few cents.

Quick Tips to Boost Your Automotive PPC ROI:


Automotive Marketing Strategy #2: Optimized Dealership Website

This is our home turf. Dealers struggling with low-performing sites frequently come to us for help – because we’re the customer experience experts..

And online is so important because a website with poor customer experience is going to undermine all your dealership’s other online marketing efforts. How so? Well, someone might be browsing online, see one of your ads for “Hassle-Free Buying” and clicks said ad, only be taken to a website that doesn’t meet his or her expectations for “hassle free”. Clunky UI, slow load times, poor design – whatever the case may be, it isn’t without hassle.

In this example, your ad did its job, getting the interested shopper to click, but your website couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain. That’s a dealership marketing nightmare scenario. Wasted money and a bad first impression.

Why this delivers awesome ROI?

An fully optimized dealership website is like replacing a rotting foundation – suddenly, everything your online advertising relies upon is rock solid. That makes a huge difference.  Your dealership website is the most important aspect of your online marketing. We’re not exaggerating. Everything else you do online comes back to your site. All your search results, all your ads, all your emails.

Quick Tips to Boost Your Dealership Website ROI:


Automotive Marketing Strategy #3: Social Media Marketing

This all depends on what you do. Social media marketing can be what makes you (look at Dollar Shave Club), and though it’s unlikely to break you, it can just fail to take off – taking potential customers and awesome social engagement with it. Even if you think there’s no appetite for engagement among your audience, you might just need to think about engaging in new ways.

The important thing is to streamline the processes of social content creation – whether that is vehicle highlights, dealership shoutouts, user reviews, or even UGC (see the tips below). Get your content RELEVANT to your audience, and you’re set for success.

Why this delivers awesome ROI:

Social media delivers a unique level of public exposure and relevant opportunities.

Remember how your dealership needs to be marketing where the shopper is (and when they are thinking about their new vehicle). On social media, you have the chance to do just that. The mixture of advertising, marketing, and user-generated content is a great place to forge connections and build a presence.

Quick Tips to Boost Your Social Media ROI:


Automotive Marketing Strategy #4: SEO

SEO is a staple. Everyone knows that. These days, you’ve got to rank for your shopper’s search queries or you’ll be stalling out shortly. As shoppers move their car shopping online, this is one of the most important (and open for improvement) of your automotive marketing strategies.

It does require some investment, however. Carefully managing your search experience takes time, expertise, tools, and an up-to-date understanding of the ever-changing automotive path to purchase.

Why this delivers awesome ROI:

To think of SEO in terms of ROI can be a little tough – mostly because SEO is an investment. Like many investments, it takes time to mature in value and be worth the initial cost. Depending on the type of content your SEO efforts appear as, that investment could take quite a while to make itself felt.

Still, it’s worth it. When you rank above your competitors, you’ll be really glad you took the time on search engine optimization.

Quick Tips to Boost Your SEO ROI:


Automotive Marketing Strategy #5: Relationship Management via Email

There are hundreds of tactics for relationship management. Some, naturally, are better than others. One of the central pillars of relationship management today (that can almost always have an improved ROI) is your email marketing.

Email marketing is one of the best ways to maintain customer relationships over a long time period – almost always the case in the automotive industry. But

Why this delivers awesome ROI:

When done right, email marketing boosts your Customer Lifetime Value – one of the most-important, least-tracked metrics out there. Dealers know the literal dollar value of their customer’s loyalty, and email marketing can pay for itself time and time again by helping you keep those customers happy and relationships lucrative.

Quick Tips to Boost Your Email Marketing ROI:

11 Brilliant Car Sales Email Templates To Boost Your Appointment Rates

12 More Helpful, Funny, and Engaging Car Sales Email Templates To Boost Your Bottom Line


Important Strategy Considerations:

There’s something else to keep in mind when evaluating any strategy for its potential for an excellent return on your investment. That’s the lasting power and growth potential of the investment.

You want each of your marketing cents to build the equity of your dealership’s marketing. Efforts like SEO and optimizing your dealership website are ideal for this – whereas paid search, as helpful as it can be, is more like paying rent than investing.



Though we’ve laid out the top ROI marketing strategies, peppered with awesome advice from our experience, it doesn’t do to forget that every business (even every dealership) is different.

But regardless of the gameplan, we can all agree that mastering your automotive marketing isn’t easy. However, focusing on what is helpful to your dealership and to the customer will bring in sales. Get your measurements right, understand your shopper’s needs, and focus your marketing on helping fulfill them. That’s a dealership marketing strategy for success.

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