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Inbound Is Changing Automotive Marketing

automotive marketing

Unless this is the first time you’ve read our blog, you know that our automotive marketing is based on an inbound philosophy. 

“Instead of blasting out interruptive ads and trying to pull people to your company, inbound marketing uses helpful content to attract visitors and get them to engage of their own volition.”

That quote is from Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2015 report. Hubspot, a leader in the inbound industry, surveys thousands of the world’s foremost marketers and salespeople to put together this report, with questions on priorities and tactics used to meet the biggest marketing challenges.

We work with HubSpot’s tools to help dealerships across North America use inbound — and we’ve found it’s changing the landscape of the automotive marketing industry.

Changes in Automotive Marketing

There’s no doubt inbound marketing is changing traditional marketing. Companies are three times as likely to see higher ROI on inbound marketing campaigns than outbound, according to Hubspot’s State of Inbound. Download the full report here for more information

Now that you know inbound works, let’s talk about how it’s changing automotive marketing — and how you can change right along with it if you haven’t done so already.

Are you inbound marketing your customers? If you aren’t sure, take this quick survey to find out exactly where you stand. Inbound marketing has affected budgets for dealerships as they change the way they spend money to accommodate the new digital era.


The Outbound Way

Traditional ads — television, print, radio — are still prevalent. But they are slowly fading. Marketers are learning that there are much more efficient ways of reaching potential customers.

Using this old-school methodology, you contact the media outlet of your choice, create an ad and pay for it. After you buy the ad, you hope people listen to it, or read it, or watch it. Chances are, they’ll be exposed to it. But whether they actually react to it is a different story.

The media outlet you hire will provide stats on approximately how many people listen to that radio station, or watch that television station, or read that newspaper. So you have an approximate idea of how many people are potentially receiving your message. But, in reality, you don’t have any hard data. You may know who is capable of receiving it, but not who is actually getting it.

The Inbound Way

More and more dealers are using inbound methods for advertising, and you can see the difference every day. Instead of “shouting” messages at customers, auto dealers are drawing them in with free content and expertly guided email campaigns.

When it comes to advertising, auto dealers are spending less money on reaching out to customers and more on allowing those customers to come to them. In other words, automotive SEO (Search Engine Optimization)  has become a major factor in automotive marketing strategies.

SEO is about showing up in search engines. Dealerships are spending time and money producing blog content with certain keywords and spending money on Google Adwords in an effort to rank higher for a certain term.

Some dealerships also provide content such as free eBooks or whitepapers and make signing up for email campaigns a cinch using catchy, well-designed landing pages.

Fewer Car Commercials: Better Websites
The result: We are seeing less traditional advertising while more and more money is being put into digital advertising. Dealers are investing in better websites, full-scale social media campaigns (with paid and organic reach) and digital marketing software.

Lead Gathering/Tracking

The Outbound Way

If you go back as far as the days before email, you’ll remember that auto dealerships relied largely on marketing by telephone. A customer would see an ad and wander into the dealership (or perhaps do so without any prompting) to test drive a vehicle.

The best a dealer could do was hope to impress the person and, if a purchase wasn’t made, get their phone number and use it for later follow up.

Moving forward in time, many dealerships continue to rely on outbound methods when it comes to gathering/tracking leads. This means some dealerships have basic websites with no landing pages or blog and keep track of leads with basic spreadsheets.

These dealerships gather leads through word of mouth or drop-in appearances. They may send email blasts, but without sophisticated CRMs and automated marketing software, tracking leads is difficult. These dealerships will receive fewer leads from their website than inbound-prepped sites and will have to count on repeat customers and hope their traditional ads bring leads through the door.

The Inbound Way

Inbound lead tracking and gathering is all about automated marketing. You gather your customers online and use that information to send them the right message at the right time. VDPs with short forms provide you with email leads, which you then follow up on through your digital marketing software. This software (Hubspot is one example out of many) can track online behavior such as the number of times a person has visited a particular page on your website or clicked a certain link on an email.

You have a much better idea of what your leads are thinking — and you can capture their email addresses more easily. You also have better demographic information. Quite the step up from cold calling, or calling leads who may have already purchased a car without your knowledge.

Fewer Cold Calls: More Targeted Emails
The result: Dealers are buying digital marketing software and sophisticated CRMs that allow them to track and gather leads with ease. They are spending less time trying to physically track and update lead status and more time letting automation work for them.

Customer/Dealer Interaction

The Outbound Way

A true outbound dealership won’t necessarily know why a particular customer walked through their door, unless the person is a repeat customer or someone a sales person got into the store through a phone call. Therefore, the customer/sales person interaction may be somewhat rough at first, with questions such as, “Is there a particular vehicle you are interested in?” The customer may not know much about the vehicles at the dealership and could spend hours going back and forth with different models, going on various test drives and deciding on features and financing.

The Inbound Way

Customers who have been exposed to inbound marketing tend to be more educated. They have received detailed emails, read extensive blog entries and done plenty of their own research. Return customers aside, sales people will have a better chance of a rapport with an inbound customer who they have exchanged emails with. The sales person could also have a good idea of the customer’s personal tastes and vehicle desires due to information contained within the CRM.

Quicker Sales, Less Talk
The result: People are spending less time at dealerships and more time online. People are increasingly showing their preference to shop online (Exhibit A: Amazon), and car shopping is no different. They may not order a vehicle online (although it’s not impossible) but they will definitely do plenty of online research if they encounter a dealership properly prepared for inbound marketing.

Lead Tracking: Your First Step Toward Inbound

If you haven’t embraced the inbound methodology, our free eBook on Lead Tracking is one of our best resources to get you started on inbound marketing. Click below to download it