Making Digital Doable for Your Dealership!

Dec. 19, 2021

Get your digital marketing rolling

By Dan MacDonald

As a busy tire dealer, you have a ton of priorities pulling you in many different directions. You need to optimize your inventory; keep your dealership properly staffed, which is a big challenge; stay up with industry trends; take care of your customers and so much more.

It’s a lot and you might ask, “Who has time for digital marketing?” Well, simply put, you must find time. 

If you’re not investing time and resources in digital marketing, you are falling behind your competitors and losing out on a ton of customers who may be looking for you online. In effect, without a digital presence, you’re invisible. 

Consider this: Google processes more than 3.5 billion internet searches per day and has 92.18 percent of search engine market share. For many consumers looking to buy a product or service, Google is the first place they go. 

All of this points to the fact that if you’re not showing up in Google searches, you are missing out on a lot of potential new business. If you are showing up in Google searches, but if your website is tired and dated, that’s probably not going to attract a new customer to your door. It all fits together. 

To have a winning digital strategy, you need to have a great website, a strong Google presence and you must effectively leverage social media channels and advertising to proactively put your message in front of customers who are actively looking to buy tires or automotive service. 

The digital stool has three legs. And if all three legs aren’t in balance, the stool will topple over. The good news is you can do these three things. It will take some effort and strategy, but not a lot of money to achieve significant results.

So now you’re thinking, “I’m in, but where do I start”? 

Here’s a digital marketing toolkit outlining the three key steps you need to take to get your dealership shining online and actively engaging customers to take your sales to the next level:

No 1. Make your website world-class. Your web presence is the last place to cut corners. In this digital age, your website is the front porch or your business. It’s often the first exposure a customer will have to your business. It’s your best chance to make a great first-impression and drive them to your outlet. Make the site something you are proud of and put your best face forward. 

You really need to think about your website as a continually evolving, dynamic marketing tool for your business. The same is true for your Facebook and Instagram pages. You can’t just build those out, check the box and wash your hands of them. 

Optimizing your business’ digital presence is not a destination. It’s a journey. You are always on the way to making your company’s website better, more eye-catching and more relevant to your customers.

For starters, you must have a solid tire locator so customers can easily search your inventory online for the tire they need. That’s a “must” and you will find that nearly all of your competitors have that. The challenge is to stand out from your competitors. Are the photos of your dealership old and poorly shot? Hire a local photographer and have some great new digital images shot of your dealership, inside and out, and you’ll quickly upgrade the look and feel of your site and social pages. 

Is your “About Us” section empty? Are the photos of your team 10 years old and out of focus? Each member of your team should have a great, current photo and a fun, informative bio. You employ great people, right? Let your customers know that.

Also give your site some depth. Most of the tire dealerships’ websites and social pages I see are flat and really don’t tell the story of their business. Here’s where you can have some fun and brag a little. Do you support charities or sponsor a little league team? Does your business have a long, rich history in the community? Have you won awards for service or sales? Are you the best dealer in town for high-performance tires and custom wheels? Your website and social pages should showcase the best things about your business and tell your unique story.

In addition, don’t be afraid to embrace video. Every good site should feature a professionally shot and edited video on its homepage. It’s the best way to once again tell your story.

This isn’t a do-it-yourself project unless you’re really good at scripting, filming and editing videos, so strongly consider partnering with a third party vendor in your town.

And keep it mind that your video shouldn’t be longer than two minutes. It should be a short, impactful tool that tells the story of your business, plus its history, culture and unwavering commitment to customer service.

No 2. Claim your Google business profile. So, what happens when you Google “tires near me?” Does your dealership pop up on the first page of that search? If it doesn’t, you are invisible to potential customers. It’s that simple. 

Very few people scroll past the first page of any Google search. To have a chance at winning over that potential new customer, you need to improve your search engine optimization (SEO). Don’t hesitate. Claim your Google profile. It is completely free. (That’s not a typo!) Claiming your Google business profile page costs nothing. Just go to Google and type “Google my business.” A link will pop up and you just start filling in the requested information, including your business’ name, its hours of operation, its location and logo and a short description of your business.

Google is, by far, the dominant search engine. In fact, as we discussed earlier, Google processes more than 3.5 billion internet searches per day. That’s 40,000 search queries per second. It’s truly mind boggling how powerful Google is when it comes to internet search. 

Google uses many data points about a user and the environment to figure out what they really want to know and each “page one” result is customized to the user to match their browsing history and the query posed. What’s more, Google changes algorithms often, so having an effective presence there goes well beyond inserting certain keywords into your profile. You need to be proactively adding content to your website and your Google profile that describes what your dealership is all about, what you specialize in and all those things that you do better than anyone else.

As you continually improve your profile, you will move higher into the searches of potential customers in your area who are using Google to search for tires and service.

Smaller, independent dealershipsin most casesdon’t have the marketing and advertising resources as the big national chains. But Google can be an equalizer. If you create a solid profile and you actively add content, you will start showing up in more searches, you will connect to more prospects and you will lure more new customers to your front door. They are out there searching the web looking for you. Make sure you make it as easy as possible for them to find you.

3. Embrace digital advertising. When it comes to advertising, it’s too easy to put things on autopilot. You know the drill: run that weekly ad in the local newspaper or do that fall radio remote. Why? Because that’s what you’ve always done. But is that really driving new customers to your business? Can you track how these ads lead to sales? Is there an offer in each ad that gives you an opportunity to track its effectiveness? It’s all about return on investment. If you’re spending money on an ad and it’s not generating new business, try something new. If you’re not running ads on social platforms, you’re passing up a lot of opportunities to drive new customers to your dealership. 

Facebook, Instagram and Google are the most cost-effective ways to reach your target audience. The secret sauce is the ability of these platforms to geo-target your message and put it in front of people looking for tires and service within five miles of your front door. The above social platforms use very sophisticated algorithms to understand what people are clicking on and how to put your content into their feed. 

Your ad should always include an offer. The customer will click on the ad and it will drive him right to your website. Now you’re reaching people who are in the market for tires and service and you’re giving them an action step to connect directly to you for the purchase. That’s where the magic happens. If this is outside your comfort zone, engage a digital agency in your market and give it a shot.

Digital advertising is very cost-effective. And you can track the performance of digital ads. If you do this right, you will see results.

And don’t forget that you can work with your suppliers to help amplify your company’s digital presence. Ask your vendor if it offers co-branded advertising programs. Work closely with marketing contacts at your suppliers to ensure they can help you achieve maximum benefit. And make sure your business is listed on your suppliers’ dealer locators and other tools, and that this information is current.

As 2021 draws to a close, this is a great time to try a new marketing approach to jump start your business and get a running start into 2022. Dressing up your website and social feeds and investing in digital ads is relatively inexpensive. Claiming your Google business profile is free. 

Don’t put this off any further. If you’re investing in your web presence and digital advertising now, way to go! You’re probably already reaping the rewards.

If this is at the bottom of your priority list, move it to the top. Your digital investments will result in more dollars flowing in your dealership, so get rolling today.

To learn more about Hankook, click here.

Dan MacDonald is a freelance writer and former public relations vice president for Bridgestone Americas Inc. Dan founded MacDonald Communications, which focuses on public relations and digital marketing. He can be reached at 615-681-5387 or [email protected],