What kind of auto marketing messages are most effective?

December 15, 2022
Editor, Canadian auto dealer magazine

How do you best reach your potential customers, and what do they want to hear? Those were the questions posed to Jeff MacLeod, Manager of Client Engagement at CARFAX Canada, on the (always very interesting) Trillium Automobile Dealers Association podcast recently. MacLeod’s insights were very relevant to auto dealers all over the country, so Canadian auto dealer reached out to him to talk about using the right messaging, on the right medium, and how to leverage positive online reviews.

So the big question is, what are the most effective marketing messages for auto dealers in Canada?

“Through our research program, CARFAX Canada Driving Insights, we analyzed countless dealership websites and listings to find the most popular marketing messages,” said MacLeod. “The statement most car buyers favoured (38 per cent) was that they want to hear that you put your customers first. This is no surprise, as Canadians have come to expect a personalized experience when shopping and going to a dealership is no different. Something to keep in mind is that the statement “we will beat any competitors’ price” came in at a close second (33 per cent), suggesting that getting the lowest price is also very important to your customers.”  

Just using one message isn’t very effective, according to CARFAX’s research. To reach more customers with differing priorities, it’s best to mix it up a bit, but not too much.

“Our data revealed that speaking to only one benefit alone isn’t going to attract a lot of buyers,” said MacLeod. “Even the most popular message, “putting customers first,” is only appealing to 38 per cent of car buyers, so dealerships need to advertise multiple benefits, and ideally match them to the customers needs, if they want to maximize their marketing investment. We found the sweet spot to be three statements that speak to different benefits.” 

Some types of message work better depending on the medium.The key thing is to tailor your messaging to what your customers are trying to do. For example, if a customer is looking at your homepage, wondering if they should shop for a vehicle at your store, mentioning your expansive inventory and how long you’ve been in the community could help them realize that they should come to the store in person. Or if someone is looking at a listing, you can help them feel confident about purchasing by mentioning your competitive pricing policy and goal to provide the best possible experience.” 

Every dealership and community is different, said MacLeod, so it’s important to track the responses to your different messaging to find out what works best for your situation. “The best way to know what’s resonating with your customers is to track the effectiveness of your marketing messaging, that way you can find the best mix for your audience. Also take a look at what competitors in your area are doing and make sure your dealership is standing out. Take cues from others in the industry—what works for them may work for you too.” 

Are there ways to advertise your Google or Yelp reviews through your other channels?

“Absolutely—if a customer is seeking to understand how credible you are, use those great reviews you received on Google in other ways! This can be accomplished with widgets that show your rating directly from the source and can be added to your website. Also consider highlighting them on social media and in other advertising you may do.” 

As Canadian auto dealers prepare for this upcoming year, navigating specific conditions like very low inventory, as well as transitioning to selling electric vehicles, MacLeod has some advice. “No matter what changes we face in 2023, dealers should aim to provide helpful and timely information to their customers so they can be viewed as the expert on everything from vehicle ownership to buying and selling. This way, when the customer is ready to make a move, they’re most likely to give their ‘expert’ the first chance at their business.” 

When it comes to selling EVs, dealers should keep in mind the top three reasons Canadian car buyers are interested in this type of vehicle: We found that Canadians are most interested in EVs because of the fuel savings (80 per cent), lower maintenance costs (51 per cent) and concerns about the environment (56 per cent). By keeping these reasons in mind, dealers can effectively speak to what’s on their customers’ minds.”

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