The list of skills that every auto retail marketer needs to succeed continues to grow and evolve. It’s true now and will continue to be true throughout 2023.
Every auto retailer should make deliberate decisions about their marketing and advertising strategy but the complexity is leaving many wondering which way to turn…and how to allocate their valuable resources. In-house auto retail marketing managers must regularly assess what’s working/not working and transition to new strategies when it’s time.
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Challenges lie ahead for auto retail marketers.
As if it wasn’t hard enough to navigate dealership marketing and advertising…Cox Automotive is predicting a slow-growing economy will place pressure on the automotive market. They’re also forecasting overall retail sales will decline in 2023, adding competitive pressures to the market, especially in used.
Navigating through the auto retail marketing unknowns.
The car business is undergoing perpetual change and 2023 will be no different. Challenges are plentiful, including operational adaptation to those challenges, but here are the highlights:
- Inventory challenges remain
- Higher interest rates
- Lack of affordability (the average retail new car transaction is now over $48,000)
- Shifts in consumer buying preferences (digital retail)
- Shortages of skilled workers
- Electric vehicles
On the plus side, new inventory levels are predicted to increase. Inventory constraints of the past two+ years have not deterred customers from buying, so let’s hope that sentiment continues.
Auto retail marketing and advertising challenges remain.
The places where car buyers spend time are even more disjointed, which spells trouble for inexperienced auto retail marketers. Whether in-house or outsourced, keeping current on how to best target car buyers is not for amateurs.
A retailer’s reputation follows it everywhere, online and off. Everything is connected throughout the consumer’s shopping process. Auto retail marketers must possess the skills to map that process and deliver the right content (at the right time).
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Today’s auto retailers have more marketing options than ever.
The number of tools and apps designed for retailers has skyrocketed. From digital retail solutions to automation and social media management to customer relationship management (CRM) and analytics, the increasing amount of information and capabilities is powerful.
But with power and rapid changes in marketing trends, comes complexity and uncertainty in knowing which methods and tools are effective and deliver results.
Additionally, with rapid change in technology, it can be challenging for auto retail marketers to gain in-depth knowledge about the latest marketing trends and understand which tactics work best for their organization.
The evolution of the auto retail marketing manager.
I reflect back to the days when the “Internet Manager” was also the “Marketing Manager.” Times were so simple then! Today, a designated Marketing Manager is the minimum you can do for your organization.
Social media, Search (including local search and Google Business Profiles, formerly Google My Business), content strategy and content creation, Google and Facebook ads (digital ads and the strategies that bring everything into focus) have all advanced to a level that many auto retail marketers struggle to keep up with.
It’s very difficult now to achieve good outcomes without a specialized group of skills.
Auto retailers have a history of being incredibly talented in some of the more traditional skills (print, radio, TV). But today, those traditional skills are not even the baseline.
It’s no longer possible to just ‘figure things out.’ In fact, it could be dangerous to your business reputation and future revenue.
10 Skills Every Auto Retail Marketer Must Have in 2023
Retailers should be rethinking their approach to marketing, and their staffing of a marketing department. Here’s a list of diverse skills every auto retail marketer needs in order to survive (and thrive) in 2023.
1. Website Design and UX
Your website is your digital storefront and in many cases, it’s the first thing customers come in contact with when they’re researching what you sell. It must digitally-merchandize your inventory and encourage inquiries and appointments.
- Does your website represent the company and its vehicles, service and parts well?
- Is the site fast, like really fast? (Pro Tip: use Google Lighthouse chrome plugin to check yours!)
- What is the user experience like – does it smoothly flow through to an inquiry?
- Is the site structure solid and secure?
- Is it optimized for search engines?
- Does the content answer buyers’ questions?
- Does the site make it easy to take the next step in the purchase?
A basic understanding of site structure and user experience (UX) is crucial.
2. Comprehensive Writing Capabilities
Writing skills, including copywriting, are vital in today’s automotive marketing and will continue to grow in importance in 2023.
Writing for the web requires two separate sets of skills:
- Ability to create content that attracts, engages and converts customers.
- Search engine optimization techniques to achieve site authority.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of good copy and content.
Writing skills are required for website copy, social media, email, video content, advertising, online review replies, and many other digital spaces.
3. Strategy Development and Deployment
A large auto group recently contacted me for digital retail operational guidance. They had been bootstrapping their efforts and were at a point where a digital marketing strategy was sorely needed. A few months back, they tried Google and Facebook ads but said, “Because we didn’t have a strategy, we didn’t really know what to expect. In the end, we spent a lot and got very little.”
Goals are at the heart of strategy development.
Many auto retail marketers jump to tactics first. Some simply acquiesce to the boss’ demands, (“Get me more sales!”) and rarely inject their own expertise to uncover the specific metrics to achieve success.
Always map out a strategy for your business, marketing or anything else. Just like GPS on your phone, you need to know where you’re going and the best route to get there, in order to arrive at your destination on time and in great shape.
4. Data Analysis and Reporting
There is a MASSIVE shortage of marketers that are skilled in the art of data analysis. A recent study found that only 3% of marketers are competent in analyzing data!
In digital marketing, every visitor, view, click, share, inquiry and conversion is tracked. In fact, there’s so much data now that retailers get a mountain of it to review each month. Sifting through it all and getting the right answers can be challenging.
Of course marketing creative and execution are important but measuring and analyzing results are too. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. One without the other only gets you halfway there.
5. Social Media Savvy
Social media has grown up, graduated college, got married, had kids and is staring down the barrel at middle age.
Every auto retail marketer in 2023 should be savvy in the social environment. That means being a regular user of social media personally, as well as professionally.
To be competitive, marketers should possess social finesse, be able to tell stories well and maintain a working knowledge of storytelling components. If you’re hiring a marketer and they already write for online media, that’s a huge advantage because that means they’ve already tested the waters of content strategy.
It’s also crucial to adeptly manage the community you’re building. The bigger a retailer’s presence gets, the more important to integrate Community Management into daily job duties. People are commenting and sending messages – replies are expected.
Pro Tip: When you’re ready to hire your social media marketing manager or agency, take advantage of >>these 10 questions<< and then >>these 10 more questions<< to ask your candidates. Their answers will inform your decision and help you pick the right person or vendor.
Adaptability has become the new competitive advantage.
Digital media has transformed all facets of modern lifestyle and culture. Add the reshaping of how Americans work and shop, and there’s hardly any aspect of modern society that has remained untouched by the digital media revolution.
Many auto retails marketers were left scrambling to change up inflexible plans and create their plan B under unprecedented circumstances. You may not be able to predict every future event, but if you set your marketing up to be flexible and plan to be adaptable before anything even comes up, your success in any similar situation is much more likely.
Navigating this new digital-first world we live in can be treacherous. How can you continue to build your business while at the same time, make sure you’re utilizing the latest and best solutions? Be flexible and ready to adapt to new, uncomfortable ways to attract and engage customers.
In order to create a truly flexible digital strategy, you need to incorporate adaptability into the structure of your marketing. Stay on your toes, be agile, and be willing to respond to new information as it arises.
7. Video Production
Video is a major component in today’s dealership marketing. Your video is being judged on its content, presentation, production quality, style, and the valuable information it provides. What does this tell us? It means that video production is an important skill needed to attract buyers.
Whether it’s you, your marketing dept., or salespeople, using video to sell cars is huge. Just ask my friend Tim Bartz at Long McArthur Ford, who among other achievements, has over 55,000 YouTube subscribers.
Sound and lighting are easy things to test before shooting your entire video. Take a 30-second test video, and watch it to see if the sound and lighting are optimal. Shooting outside in the elements affects the quality of a video, so be sure to shoot with the sun behind you and if possible, shoot on a cloudy day (but not too cloudy because it can go dark).
Even in the most “real” videos, if the sound isn’t superior, they will fall flat. Invest in a good mic for your desktop such as a Blue Snowball or Yeti. When you’re on the go, there are great microphones can be attached to iPhones and Androids that improve quality ten fold.
Other important video production factors to consider:
- Composition (do the people and objects look right?)
- Subject matter (what do you want the viewer to know?)
- The set or background
- Using a phone? Consider a tripod or stand.
- Video length
- Script (if needed)
8. Marketing Automation
Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for auto retailers to more effectively market and sell on multiple channels online and automate repetitive tasks.
Digital retailing is more prevalent now and retailers can take full advantage of digital tools such as data analytics and more sophisticated online tools.
The marketing automation industry grows exponentially each year. As marketing automation tools continue to improve and multiply, it won’t get any easier to navigate in 2023. Shrewd marketers command the use of specific tools while also investigating and re-evaluating to discover new and enhanced solutions.
Humans are predictably irrational, readily sidetracked and constantly making decisions. And the more decisions we make in a given day, the worse we get at it.
Decisiveness is an element of great leadership.
In today’s marketing, it’s not only what you put out there to attract customers that counts – it’s what you do once they see it and start interacting with it.
I see so many retailers still trying to keep a veil up between themselves and their customers. Most of it is habit from the old days of advertising where broadcasting was the norm. Retailers who work decisively at removing this barrier will be positioned for success in the long-term.
Retailers that connect with consumers on a human level will win in 2023.
It’s a skill to interact with customers and to do it well demands decisiveness. Often that interaction requires thinking on your feet, which calls for confidence, patience, empathy, gratitude and courage. All those skills make for better decisions and happier, engaged customers.
And speaking of empathy…
Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and seeing things from their perspective helps a great deal with understanding customer needs, creating meaningful marketing, and ultimately satisfying their queries enough to get them to act.
Empathy is also the key to outstanding customer experience. As social media has become more integrated with how we communicate, and how your customers prefer to communicate with you, retailers and auto retail marketers must develop protocols to be able to successfully address customers’ needs and inquiries.
In tense crisis situations, such as comments sections or online reviews, where there’s an audience watching, an auto retail marketer may not always be able to deliver a solution but she/he can always deliver empathy.
Empathy is feeling with people.
When you put yourself in your audience’s shoes, it becomes easier to acknowledge struggles and think critically about the best solutions.
Is your marketing moving at the speed of digital?
The skills every auto retail marketer needs to possess have never been more diverse. Mastering the complexities that are happening now and those beyond 2023, means upping your skills game.
We are coming into a time where selling vehicles will be even more challenging. But we’ve been here before, right?
Retaining control and dominance in your market will warrant tactical shifts from the last few years. Insist that your marketer possess the skills required to achieve the vision and goals you have for your organization.
I coach and train individuals and groups in automotive digital retail, including marketing, advertising and social media. Is this something that would help your store? Contact me and I’ll be in touch within 24 hours.