Where to Put Your Dealership Marketing Dollars in 2022

By: Whit Norrad   |   28 Mar 2022
Counting money

With many dealers struggling with allocation on new units and finding used inventory regardless of trades and other acquisition methods, it’s an interesting time to be a marketer. In this post, I’m going to share where we believe dealers should put their marketing dollars depending on their specific inventory situation.

Situation #1: You Can Barely Get The New Units You’ve Been Promised

While not in order of volume, this is the situation we’re seeing the most with our franchise dealers. We just went through a renewal with a large franchise group and even if we were to increase their marketing budgets and incoming leads, they don’t have, and won’t have, the new units to sell.

This isn’t the time to hold back and play scared, but it also might not be the time to focus on the most common ad types or allocations for your marketing spend like lead-gen ads or inventory ads. 

Tilting your budget towards efforts that build your brand awareness and affinity will help you stay top-of-mind as a preferred choice, even while not being able to allocate inventory as you did in 2018. If your customers like you based on the content they’re seeing consistently online, they’re more likely to be willing to order through you, wait for the right unit, or find an alternative way to buy from you.

Situation #2: You Need to Sell More New to Get More New 

Ah, the situation that makes sense and also makes no sense. We have clients with tons of new inventory of all the wrong vehicles for their market, which hinders their ability to sell the ideal vehicles to the ideal customers. In a cruel twist of fate, this is now preventing them from getting the vehicles they need entirely! 

What? Yeah, that was as confusing as it sounded!

If you need to sell more new vehicles for your OEM to provide fresh allocation to you, that can be a tough spot. How do you sell the scraps that you have to make room for better cuts? There are several ways to market and position yourself to do just this:

  • Reachback campaigns: Look to use email lists of buyers that bought minivans 3-5 years ago and remarket similar, but newer, vehicles to them using Facebook ads.
  • Brand campaigns: Be seen, be heard, make your market fall in love with you. Trust us, it pays off and they’ll come to you. Once they do, you can sell from your available inventory in a way that meets their needs.
  • Lead campaigns: Lead campaigns on Facebook are a great way to generate exactly what you need: lots of leads. These tend to operate like a hose: turn it on and you see results. We even have the case studies to prove it! 
  • Inventory-focused placements: These include Google Vehicle Ads, search ads, and Facebook carousel ads. Get the units you have in front of as many people as possible who are in different points of the funnel.

Situation #3: You Have More Units Than You Can Sell, or Need to Sell More, Faster

For the most part, the same approach as situation #2 applies here. 

We’re fans of the long-game when it comes to content marketing, SEO, and truly building up brands. Speed isn’t what these marketing efforts are known for, and that’s okay!

If you’re looking to go faster, the easiest way to do so is to pay-to-play. That means opening up the wallet to get in front of more buyers, faster. That’s paid advertising. Look to the notes above in Situation #2 for some campaign recommendations!

Situation #4: You Are Having Trouble Sourcing Quality Used Inventory

Dang, you’re doomed! 

Just kidding.

If you’re struggling to secure inventory, there are a few unique options available when it comes to finding more inventory. 

  • Find private sales: look to CraigsList, Kijiji, AutoTrader, and Facebook Marketplace to connect with real people selling their vehicles privately and make them a fair offer. It’s a roll of the dice but it can’t hurt.
  • Overpay: your shoppers are likely overpaying compared to previous years when it comes to used vehicles - overpay for the ones you’re buying to ensure that you have inventory on the lot to sell. We have countless client partners doing exactly this to keep the momentum alive.
  • Cycle more new to obtain more used: this is a 1:1 (usually) that helps dealerships to meet new vehicle sales numbers. 
  • Upcycle: when you source a trade, ask if they have another vehicle they would like to trade – a partner’s, a backup summer/winter car, or perhaps even a classic.
  • “We Want Your Vehicle” campaigns: across Google Display, Facebook Messenger + Facebook Lead-Gen formats. Doing these right can help you connect with the right people who may not have been considering selling before seeing your offer. Be clear in your message about how simple your process is.

Situation #5: Focus is On Cycling Inventory Fast Enough to Avoid the Pricing Bubble’s Pop

Securing inventory, but constantly worrying about it? You’re not alone. Whatever we end up calling The Wolf of Wall Street, in automotive, it will be almost as ugly as the housing bubble’s pop.

If you’re getting inventory, you’re likely overpaying for it in some way, shape, or form. Dealer trades, auctions, trade-ins, and more: all inventory is hyperinflated right now. Keep up with the sales cycle so you don’t end up in the red when the market rights itself.

Trust Us: You’ll Get Over the Inventory Hump

What do all of these suggestions have in common? Inclusion of brand, marketing your dealership’s unique voice, personality, and USP. Don’t sleep on authentic brand content: put your marketing dollars into shouting your name from the rooftops and building long-term customer relationships. It’ll pay off in the long run.

When you’re ready to ditch the tired set-it-and-forget-it approach to automotive and start getting creative, we’ll be ready too.