Promoting your auto business can be easy and affordable using the automotive marketing strategies below. From digital strategies like social media and email to traditional tactics such as direct mail and coupon marketing, learn how to create a marketing mix to build brand awareness, attract customers, and increase sales and loyalty.
1. Build Trust With Customer Reviews
One of the best ways to get new business is through word of mouth by getting referrals from happy, loyal customers. In fact, businesses with reviews are trusted by 73% of consumers. You can wait for word-of-mouth, but it’s better to tip the odds in your favor by asking satisfied customers for reviews on Google.
The more positive reviews your Google Business Profile has, the more likely your automotive business will appear to Google as the best option. Here are some ways to get more reviews on Google:
- Add a QR code linking to your Google Profile to receipts asking customers to leave a review
- Send a post-transaction email or postcard with a link to your Google My Business listing
- Reach out to your most loyal patrons and ask them to leave a review
- Place a link with a request for review on the landing page customers visit after completing an online purchase
2. Send Direct Mail Campaigns
Sending direct mail is a top local advertising idea for easily targeting prospects by region or even by neighborhood. Plus, direct mail has a response rate of 2.7% to 4.4%. To put this in perspective, email marketing has a response rate of just 0.6%. Plus, unlike with email, you don’t need to have the recipients’ permission to send mail to them.
To build brand awareness with your target audience, set up a series of mailers to go out once a month for six months. Include a mix of offers, such as a product or service-based coupon, a seasonal checklist or tip list, a customer testimonial, reminders based on the time since the customer’s last visit, and so on. Our direct mail marketing ideas article can provide more inspiration.
When you’re ready to get started, send mail to a list you own affordably through a provider like VistaPrint, or automate drip mailers through PostGrid. Find out how much this would cost and get more information in our list of the best direct mail services for small businesses.
Did you know? Fifty percent of millennial consumers ignore digital ads, but eight out of 10 are attentive to direct mail, according to Alter Agents and PebblePost.
3. Align Email Marketing With Direct Mail
It may have a lower response rate than direct mail, but email marketing has the highest return on investment (ROI) of all marketing channels—at $36 for every $1 spent, per email marketing statistics. It allows you to send informative and promotional emails to your contacts, including things like special offers and coupons. In fact, email is the top way consumers get coupons (and a top reason someone will subscribe to your email list).
Using the same automotive marketing strategies as you do for direct mail, you can align email blasts and newsletters to double down on your campaigns. The best email marketing software platforms make this easy, with premade templates you can customize with your branding and content. Some, like Mailchimp and Sendinblue, even let you start for free.
The first step is to build a permission-based contact list by getting customers to sign up at the point of sale at your business or online. For example, offering a discount for a future purchase can convince a customer to give you an email address, mobile number for text marketing, and a mailing address for coupons and special offers. You can also use website forms, such as a pop-up form offering 10% off for new sign-ups.
Get started today by reading our guide on permission-based email marketing.
4. Sell Products Online
Another automotive digital marketing idea is to expand into selling products from your website. Online sales of auto parts and accessories increased by 1.6% in 2023, so adding ecommerce to your site can help you take your piece of the $8.4 billion U.S. market share.
The best ecommerce site builders make it easy and help you save time. To test the waters, you can build an automotive ecommerce site on Weebly for free with features like unlimited products, inventory management, and automated sales tax calculation.
Building an ecommerce website isn’t your only option. Retailers like Amazon and Walmart accommodate third-party merchants, as do niche platforms. If your automotive business sells unique items such as car decals or decorative seat covers, selling on Etsy would be a good option.
5. Add Your Business to Online Directories
More than 64% of consumers find addresses for local businesses through Google Business Profiles, making it a must for your automotive marketing strategy. Listings in online business directories can also help improve your SEO as well as allow people to discover your business and its hours of operation, address, phone number, and website.
Start with the basics:
- Create a Google Business page
- Add a listing to Bing Places for Business
- Learn how to use Yelp for business promotion
Next, look into auto industry-related business directories that allow free listings as well. Find the best places to list your auto business in our list of dozens of general and niche online business directories.
Did you know? The top three organic results in Google map results are called the “three-pack” or map pack, and Google search statistics show that people click on the first organic result 39.6% of the time.
6. Build a User- & Search-friendly Website
Starting with a great website is one of the best automotive marketing strategies. It takes less than half a second for a user to form an opinion about a business website, which determines whether they will stay on the page or leave. Plus, web design statistics show that 75% of a brand’s credibility hinges on the design of its site.
Your website should be easy to navigate, look professional, and help you rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) through search engine optimization (SEO). Learn more about what makes a good website, including more than a dozen ways to make yours stand out.
Implement Local SEO
Local search engine optimization (SEO) includes several tactics that will help your website rank in location-based searches, and so is essential for an automotive digital marketing strategy.
You can start with simple ones like adding location references to your site, such as your city or region (e.g., greater Puget Sound region).
To make it easier, build your website with Wix or another of the best website builders for SEO. They make site building a breeze and walk you through SEO step by step. For more guidance, read our tip list for ways to rank higher on Google.
7. Expand Automotive Digital Marketing on Social Channels
Social media is an excellent tool for reaching your target audience with auto marketing campaigns. Not only is over half of the overall global population on social media, but more than 74% of consumers say they rely on social media networks to guide purchasing decisions. Find out more in our small business guide to social media marketing.
Open the tabs below for specific ways to use social media in automotive marketing:
Create a Facebook business page for your auto shop to make sure anyone can find your services, regardless of where they look. Facebook business pages can even rank on search engines. Incorporate some of the same keywords you used to optimize your automotive website into your Facebook profile’s “About” and “Description” sections, and in the content you share on the platform.
Join or create Facebook groups about specific cars, common auto repairs or issues, or even automotive parts—and share posts showing your expertise. Followers will see your business name every time you post, which can help your brand awareness. Plus, you can post about new products or services to help spark interest (and new visitors to your website or business).
According to a study by Google, 70% of car shoppers use YouTube during their research process. Creating engaging and informative videos, optimizing your videos for YouTube’s search algorithm, and promoting your videos through other channels are some of the essentials for online auto marketing strategies on YouTube.
In creating your videos, remember the star of your content should be your products or service. For example, if you are marketing a car dealership, showcase the features of the cars that are most important to your target audience. This can include things like safety features, fuel efficiency, and performance. Use real-life footage of people experiencing the products and services you offer to help viewers envision themselves as your customers.
When creating YouTube videos, it is best to keep your videos from five minutes to 15 minutes per post. Use proper video editing and ensure the final video is well lit, with good sound and smooth transitions. Also, keep in mind that the best aspect ratio for YouTube videos is 16:9, or the widescreen ratio, to occupy the entire YouTube video frame.
Facebook isn’t the only social network where you should implement automotive marketing ideas. Instagram and Pinterest are both visual social platforms, and so they are excellent places to post pictures of vehicles, parts, or before and after photos of what a car detailing service can do. TikTok works well for those who want to create fun, short videos for their followers, and these videos can also be cross-posted to Facebook and Instagram.
On any social network, use hashtags so people interested in your industry can find your posts and your pages. For example, if you own a car dealership, you might use #carsofinstagram, #caroftheday, #autoparts, or #autorepair. Likewise, you can incorporate locale into your hashtags to hyper-target your audience, such as #CarRepairPhoenix.
It’s important to note that creating a successful social media campaign requires a consistent and thoughtful approach, as well as an understanding of the target market. To help you get started, learn how to create a social media plan for your business and fill out our easy social media plan template.
8. Publish Blog Content on Your Website
Blogging on automotive topics creates a helpful reservoir of knowledge that you can share with customers by email and on social media. It sets your brand up as the authority in your field and locale and can bring new customers to your business when they discover your content in online searches. In fact, business blogging stats show that blogs can increase web traffic by 55%.
Publishing helpful content (e.g., how-to guides, videos, checklists, and so on) can also help your website rank higher in online search, in part because this type of content often produces links from other websites, called “backlinks.” Earning backlinks from high-authority websites makes your site look more authoritative to Google, in turn improving your website’s rankings.
To get started, choose one of the best blogging platforms to build your website, like Wix.
Did you know? Eighty-one percent of consumers trust blog content, and website statistics show that 61% have made a purchase after reading blog content.
9. Build a Stable of Cohesive Branded Marketing Materials
Having marketing materials ready allows you to gain referrals and build brand awareness more easily. In fact, they are integral for building a strong brand presence for your business. As such, they need to be cohesive as a reflection of your brand, online and off.
Click the tabs below to get ideas for some of the types of marketing materials all businesses need.
A business card is an essential marketing tool regardless of industry. Customers will often pick up your business card at the point of sale when dropping their car off or shopping at your business. If you have sales reps, business cards are a must, and you’ll need them for all types of networking events, trade shows, and more.
Browse dozens of the best business card designs for ideas that would work for your automotive business or design your own. When designing your own, elements you should include are:
When you’re ready to print your business cards, we recommend VistaPrint. They top our list of the best places to print business cards quickly and affordably.
Flyers and brochures offer more space than marketing materials like ads and business cards. They can be an ideal way to promote your auto services and educate your customers. You can use business brochures or flyers to:
Flyers and brochures are affordable to print, and you can create digital versions to post online, send by email, or share on social media. Get more inspiration from the dozens of business flyer examples in our article, which also links to free templates you can customize with your own designs.
Business brochures are even more versatile than flyers. They come in different shapes and sizes to showcase your marketing message and get your audience’s attention. Find out which brochure design ideas are best for your project.
Special offers are a proven way to stimulate sales and attract new customers locally. Our article on coupon marketing offers a step-by-step guide to creating an effective coupon-based marketing strategy. With your strategy in place, develop a multi-channel distribution strategy for extending special offers and discounts to your customers via:
- Email blasts
- Social media posts and ads
- Point-of-sale displays
- Referral partnerships
- Your Google and Bing business listings
- Direct mail postcards
Looking for inspiration? Check out dozens of coupon examples for promoting a local business.
10. Explore Traditional Automotive Advertising Strategies
One of the most common automotive marketing strategies is advertising locally in newspapers, TV, radio, and with creative billboard ads. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), car dealerships spent $4.26 billion in advertising in 2022.
All of these traditional auto marketing tactics are viable ways to connect with potential customers. They enable you to mass or hyper-target your ad’s placement and contribute to your brand’s credibility.
Depending on your location, the cost of billboard advertising can be surprisingly affordable. Work with your local billboard advertising company to determine the best places to advertise your business to ensure potential customers are seeing your brand.
High-traffic intersections and along major highways are just two examples of desirable locations. By coordinating your campaign with the billboard provider, you’ll be able to maximize the impact of your billboards. Whether you’re buying a traditional printed billboard or space on a digital billboard, your ad will capture the attention of motorists and put your brand at the top of mind of potential customers.
Local newspapers make a powerful venue for displaying your business to potential customers. Newspaper advertising provides you the opportunity to present more information about your business and to establish deeper bonds. It’s also an effective way to build trust with consumers. In fact, 82% of consumers trust print ads the most, which makes newspaper advertising too valuable to ignore.
Learn more about newspaper advertising costs, and remember: smaller local newspapers are less expensive to advertise in than big national newspapers. Local papers can make newspaper advertising one of the more affordable advertising media available.
TV, cable, and streaming advertising opportunities abound, and the cost of TV ads can be surprisingly affordable, though this is still a more costly automotive marketing channel than most. TV ads can be used to reach a wide audience nationally, or even internationally, but you can also purchase ads that are targeted regionally, such as placing an ad to run on the cable channel that covers local sports.
Need more inspiration? Check out our piece on advertising ideas that are sure to grow your small business within your area.
11. Try Online Automotive Advertising Ideas
Automotive digital ad spend is expected to increase by 11.7% in 2023. And if you are using traditional advertising, integrating online marketing can help you get the best results. According to a report by Statista, digital advertising was the top advertising expenditure of car dealers in 2021.
Online ads are one of the cornerstones of a solid search engine marketing (SEM) strategy. Learn the difference between SEO and SEM and how to leverage the four key elements of search engine marketing to drive traffic to your website, generate leads, and grow your business.
Click the tabs below to learn more about different types of online advertising.
Google Ads makes it easy to reach customers when they are ready to buy with search ads and to maintain top of mind awareness with web banner ad remarketing. The cost of Google Ads can be very affordable, especially for remarketing to people who have previously visited your website. Get started today in our step-by-step guide for advertising on Google.
A quick way for local businesses to get to the top of SERPs is by using Google’s Local Services Ads. These are ads placed at the top of local search results based on target keywords and industry. Unlike search ads, Local Service Ads require a Google background check for approval. As a result, these ads also display a “Google guaranteed” tag that increases trust with customers.
Facebook advertising is an effective way to get automotive marketing content in front of your exact target audience. Ads show up in the news feeds of users based on ad campaign targeting, such as location, interests, age, gender, and other demographics. They allow you to reach potentially interested customers to build brand awareness for future sales as well as those who may be ready to make a purchase.
Not only can you target your desired audience with Facebook ads, but you can also target “look-alike” audiences that fit your criteria to a certain degree. So, if your ideal buyer types are males ranging in age from 25 to 49 who live in Phoenix, a look-alike audience might include men 18 to 24, or women in the same age range (25 to 49), all in Phoenix.
Facebook ads also target audiences based on recent searches conducted by users on Facebook or its advertising network. For instance, if someone has a strong interest in sports cars and searches for similar content online, your ad or a sponsored post could show up in their feed. Learn more, including how to set your budget, in our article detailing how much Facebook Ads cost.
Due to the sheer complexity of advanced audience targeting, running Facebook ads could be more than you want to take on yourself. If you want recommendations for outsourcing, check out our list of the best Facebook advertising agencies.
Facebook Ads is just one of the many social platforms you could use to reach your audience. Discover more ways in our guide to social media advertising for small businesses.
12. Nurture Brand Image With Public Relations
Communicate with the media using press releases to create a positive image of your auto dealership, repair, or parts business and build a strong reputation. Press releases can also drive brand awareness for your automotive business. Writing them takes practice, but learning how to write a press release and using our free template will make the process faster and easier.
In addition to being published online, a news agency could pick up your press release for a story, boosting your news and brand. When they do, they’ll likely visit your website to round out their stories. Make a press kit and add it to your website so journalists can easily add details about your company to their own coverage.
A press release is relevant for many occasions, such as when your business expands, for new product or service releases, when you contribute to a charity, or to promote a special event. Learn more about the different types of press releases you can use to bolster your company’s public relations (PR) efforts, and what to include in each one.
Pro tip: To increase your odds of getting picked up by news agencies, use a press release distribution service. This will give your story maximum reach and exposure as well as help you with industry and audience targeting.
13. Generate Referrals
Establish a referral lead generation partnership with complementary businesses and provide them with business cards to hand out to their customers. For example, if you run an auto repair shop or a parts store, consider setting up a referral partnership with an auto detailing service. As part of the agreement, you will both display or even distribute one another’s business cards to generate referrals.
Another way to get referrals is to attend networking events and join civic organizations, like your local Rotary or Chamber of Commerce. This also helps to build brand awareness within your community, so that when someone is asked for a recommendation, your auto business is the one that comes to mind.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
On average, car dealerships paid $312,000 on digital advertising in 2021 and $48,000 on radio advertising costs. Also, keep in mind that the cost of advertising varies greatly depending on the channel. Overall, auto dealerships spent over $8.19 billion on advertising in 2021.
Your strategy should incorporate a mix of digital and traditional automotive marketing and advertising tactics to get the best results. Digital marketing has become the dominant marketing strategy for most industries, but there are many on and offline local advertising ideas that work especially well for local businesses, including car dealerships, detailers, auto parts stores, and repair shops.
The first step in generating internet leads for car sales is to have a search-friendly website. It should show your areas of expertise and include keywords you want your site to rank for. Add topic-specific landing pages to convert traffic generated from ads or marketing campaigns using webforms. Once a form is submitted, funnel the leads to your customer relationship management (CRM) software or email marketing platform for automated lead nurturing.
The key to choosing the best automotive marketing strategies is understanding your customer’s journey. You can connect with the buyer, wherever they are, if you tap into the marketing channels that reach them at each stage of that journey. Try a mix of automotive marketing strategies, track your results, and reinvest in those that produce the best return on investment.