Expand Your Digital Service Marketing Strategy

When a person wants to buy a vehicle, a dealership is the first place they think of. When a person needs to get their vehicle serviced, a dealership is not necessarily the first place they think of. For service, there’s plenty of choices and competition for dealers.


That’s why service marketing is more important than ever. Historically in dealerships, service marketing has taken a back seat to sales marketing. According to NADA, fixed ops is responsible for 47 percent of a dealer’s gross profits. Yet service marketing is less than 10 percent of the average marketing budget for many dealers.


However, I do see this changing. Service marketing is currently going through a transition that reminds me of what was happening on the sales side back in 2005 and 2006. If you recall, it was during that time frame that many dealers adopted digital sales marketing strategies.


The transition was not always smooth. In the beginning, both dealers and marketing companies spent a lot of time and money on strategies and search terms that didn’t produce results. It took several years, and plenty of trial and error, before consensus was reached on what works.  


For service marketing, dealers have long relied on direct mail and email marketing as two primary channels to draw customers in. Both of these channels have their place, but if that’s all you do, your reach is limited. Consider expanding your service marketing repertoire.   


The good news is, you won’t have to repeat the same mistakes that were made in 2005 and 2006. Digital marketing attribution has come a long way since then, and fortunately we already know what works.


For service marketing, the more personalized the message, the better. The following digital channels are ideal for sending out targeted campaigns:


1)  Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search can be very cost effective for service because consumers search using very specific terms. On the sales side, a customer may use terms like “Ford Focus” that are very broad. With service however, longer search terms come into play such as “brake pads Ford Focus near me.”


Try pairing services, parts and accessories with your brand makes and models. Target customers within a 15 to 20 miles radius. Identify the search terms that perform well and review them on a regular basis, as there is likely to be seasonal fluctuation.


2)  Display Ads

Display ads can be generated based on the same search terms and location criteria as you use for SEM. Additionally, you can factor in demographics information such as age and income.


Retargeting is an effective strategy for people who have visited your dealership’s website service page, and for your customers who are due for service.


3)  Social Media

Thanks to big data, predictive analytics and automated marketing, Facebook is incredibly effective at generating service leads. However, posting generic promotional messages on your Facebook page won’t cut it. Consumers don’t respond to messages that are irrelevant to them, regardless of where those messages appear.


Use Facebook to create service offers that are highly relevant. Facebook has access to Oracle/Polk data, which means you can target people who own a certain make/model based on when they registered their vehicle. Try creating offers for OEM recommended services at certain mileage intervals.


Facebook tracks virtually everything its users do. When a Facebook user visits a Discount Tire website, Facebook knows that person may be in the market for new tires. Take advantage of this information to serve up a tire ad, as well as other ads for service keywords.


Who to Target

The primary goal of service marketing is to retain your new vehicle sales customers through the ownership lifecycle. Your secondary goal is to reach new customers that have never visited your store.


Facebook and Google properties allow you to serve up ads to existing customers in your DMS. They also have tools that can be used to create look alike audiences within a defined radius of your store.


Another source of new prospects is in your CRM. Most dealers close about 50 percent of their new vehicle lead prospects. What about the other 50 percent? Many of them may have purchased from another dealership.


They gave you a shot at the sale, so maybe they’ll give you a shot at the service.


Try creating an unsold report of all the customers you didn’t close in the last six months, and create campaigns designed to re-connect and bring them in for service.


Service marketing can be highly effective for generating service appointments. But it requires moving beyond direct mail and oil-change coupons to an omni-channel approach using personalized and highly relevant offers.

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