The Automotive Industry: Tips for Navigating Niche Marketing

by Jenna Sindle

All marketers are faced with the difficult task of connecting to specific targets in a noisy marketplace. Today, consumers are being advertised to constantly – and for those that focus on niche markets – connecting with customers can be even more challenging. To make meaningful connections that lead to sales, marketers must engage audiences in the right place at the right time.

We spoke to Shelley Washburn, President of GSM, a full-service marketing company specializing in the automotive industry, to discuss how marketers can connect with niche consumers and get the most from their budget.

Modern Marketing Today (MMT): How does automotive marketing differ from typical product campaigns?

Shelley Washburn (SW): In automotive marketing, we focus on both acquisition and retention. So, not only are we trying to identify a customer who is in the market for a new or used vehicle purchase, we also must continue to communicate with the customer through their ownership journey.

The channels and messaging can be very different to reach a consumer at different times in the ownership cycle. For example, digital or traditional media may be the best way to reach a customer in the market for a vehicle and email and mail may be the best way to communicate that it is time for service.

Dealerships want to ensure that the customers bring their cars back to the dealership for service or body shop work. Not only are these profit centers for the dealership, but a customer is significantly more likely to purchase from that dealership again if they service there. Customer loyalty is very important for growing a dealership business.

MMT: What benefits do companies see when working with agencies?

SW: Agencies, as opposed to in-house marketers, have specific skill sets and tools that may not be as common in a more corporate or dealership setting – for example, automated marketing programs, technical writing training, advertising copywriting, graphic design skills, coding, and more. Using today’s martech tools can be complex, so a company may not have a specialist on staff that can leverage these new systems. Additionally, since agencies purchase ads for multiple customers, there may also be cost savings when using an agency to buy media.

MMT: Any tips for marketers to use their budget wisely?

SW: Ad frequency capping is a great way to use your budget wisely. Ad frequency capping limits the number of times an ad appears for each unique individual. Frequency capping helps reduce burnout (people ignoring your ads or becoming annoyed with how often they see them) and, more importantly, saves money by not wasting spend on ineffective impressions. For example, impressions served 12 times a day to a person who is not ready to convert would be better served four times in one day to three separate users who are ready to convert. Also, investing in ad-fraud protection is important. Ad fraud is activity that tricks advertisers into paying for performance that is not legitimate or earned, such as fake traffic or fake leads. It prevents the proper delivery of ads to the right audience, in the right place, at the right time.

MMT: How can companies find the best agency for their goals?

SM: We find that some dealers focus on finding new ways to stand out from the competition and unknowingly give in to agency pitches filled with misleading promises about tripling leads. What dealers need from a marketing partner is transparency, consultation, and actionable advice. If you find yourself facing a ‘too good to be true’ pitch – ask direct questions about how the company quantifies their data. What does the provider consider a lead? Can you see a breakdown of the data behind the metrics? Seek answers because not all leads are created equal. The automotive industry is highly competitive and very different from any other industry – this is why choosing a transparent marketing partner can make or break your marketing efforts.

An expert marketing partner is one who is transparent and provides actionable advice. You should leave every meeting with a clear understanding of where your metrics are coming from, how your ad spend is being used and contributing to those metrics, as well as a course of action for improving your performance outside of what your marketing company is already providing you.