Automotive, Education, Insights

Car Dealership Advertising Strategies that Work: Our Top Digital Lead Generation Tactics

By Andrew Tai - Jan 27, 2020

Advertising might not be the single most important thing your dealership does, but how much do your merchandising or customer experience matter if nobody hears about them?

That might seem like a bit of a bleak outlook, considering how much time and effort go into building a truly top-notch dealership. But consumers these days aren’t visiting every dealership in the area for shoptalk and test drives; instead, customers are doing their research online before visiting the one or two dealerships that really stand out.

To increase your lead volumes and close more deals, you need a new advertising strategy that reflects the way people approach their automotive purchases. So what does that mean for your dealership? Here are our top digital lead generation tactics, and a clear roadmap for turning them into a cohesive dealership advertising strategy.

Before we dive into the specifics, here are some dealership advertising best practices to keep in mind:


  1. Go digital. Your focus should be digital – it’s where your customers are. Physical advertising can still help promote awareness, but digital is what gets leads.

  2. Keep your branding consistent. Colours, logo, voice, and even font face should all be identical across all channels, accounts, and platforms wherever possible.

  3. Simplify and align your messaging. Choose a clear CTA that can be leveraged on every channel, including your website.

  4. Centralize your strategy. Your dealership website is your strongest resource, so all advertising should lead back to it.

  5. Revamp your website. The stronger your website, the better your leads will convert. Implement a digital retailing solution to turn your website into a lead gen. machine.


Where are your customers?

As we alluded to above, your customers have gone digital. According to a recent Kijiji research report, barely half of shoppers used ANY offline resource at all in deciding where and what to buy. By stark contrast, 88% used online resources to guide their purchases.

A full 60% of buyers relied on the dealership website, making it the single most important resource in the purchase journey. Online classifieds, manufacturer ‘sites, and web searches each represented 30% to 40% of buyers, but nothing dominates the purchase decision like your own website.

This means that your most successful advertising strategy will be one that drives traffic to your dealership website. According to the same Kijiji report, 84% of consumers spend more than half their time researching online, so go where your customers are. Focus on digital.

Start by evaluating your advertising channels. Some people like to discuss the merits of display versus search advertising, but both are necessary for a successful dealership advertising strategy.


How to design social media & display ads

Facebook is your best channel for display ads. Everyone has Facebook, so a few well-tailored display ads are guaranteed to get your dealership in front of potential buyers. In our experience, the best way to get high quality leads from social media advertising is to have a simple value proposition and CTA, which links to a custom SRP on a digital retailing platform.

READ: What is Digital Retailing, and How Will it Affect Your Dealership?

Something like “Buy your next car online at DEALERSHIP! Click to build your deal,” offers clear value and expectations for your audience, and by linking into a custom SRP (2020 Corolla hatchbacks, for instance), you’re placing potential customers in the first step of their purchase.

If this SRP is part of a digital retailing platform, then the lead in question has all the tools to start understanding and navigating the purchase on their own, increasing the likelihood that they’ll carry on with the process.

How to build search advertisements

The targeting and segmentation on search ads isn’t the hard part. As long as you’re going after relevant terms that are related to the research and discovery stage of the purchase, your ads will land in front of the right people.

The tricky part is standing out. This is where a USP (unique selling proposition) shows its worth: instead of stating the availability of a relevant vehicle at your dealership, lead with what makes you special. Again, digital retailing is a valuable asset here, allowing you to create ads that promote the customers’ ability to “Shop online for your new 2020 Ford F-150!”


Other USPs could be your ability to bring the car to your customer’s house for a test drive, or your 90-day, 500-kilometre return policy. Regardless, lead with what makes you different.

What else can you do?

Search and display ads are two of the simplest ways to drive massive increases in lead generation. There’s always more you can do, though. It’s a great idea to leverage social media, even if you don’t see much lead generation potential there.

Instagram is unlikely to become a major lead source for you, but it helps humanize your dealership and your team. Take great photos of your inventory, happy customers, and cheerful team members to show potential customers how welcoming and genuine you are.

Your Facebook account is even more important. Display ads are a powerful lead source, but what you can also build a stronger brand identity just by keeping your dealership’s Facebook page active with the latest incentives, events, and pictures from your dealership. The more visible you are, the better.

To get the most out of your dealership advertising dollars, you’ll need a digital retailing platform. As we mentioned, this gives your customers the ability to do more and even begin selling the car to themselves immediately after they click on your digital ad. It takes less involvement from your team, and you get higher quality leads. Learn more about digital retailing by seeing it in action!


Andrew Tai is the CEO and co-founder of Motoinsight, but his influence extends far beyond the company. A contributing columnist to The Globe and Mail and a prolific speaker, Andrew is a recognized authority on digital retailing within the automotive industry. Connect with him today to learn how your dealership is going to change, or see the future yourself at motoinsight.com.

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