When you talk to most dealers and vendors about content, the standard strategy revolves around cars, inventory, and organic search rankings. This is a strategy that misses so many levels of true content marketing that one article can't do it justice. Here, we'll just focus on the story aspect of content marketing.
Your dealership has a story. In fact, it's a very interesting one. You may or may not know it because you're probably living it every day, but there are things that are happening at or around the dealership and within the automotive industry that can be extremely compelling for your website, search, and social marketing. The key is in telling that story in a way that makes the most sense.
Let's discuss why this content is important, then we'll look at some ideas on how to make it happen for your dealership.
The Power of Storytelling
Everyone loves a good story. It's why we watch movies. It's why we watch the news. It's why we watch YouTube, read a novel, or check out the history of a restaurant written on a menu while we wait for our appetizers.
The first question that most will ask is, "Why would anyone care about a car dealer's story?"
For that, we simply need to look at human nature. Remember that nearly every transaction that happens at the dealership, whether in sales or service, is extremely important to your customers. It can be life-changing. It's important for many of them to know who they're dealing with, what sets the dealership apart, and why they should do business there.
The next question that comes to mind is, "How will this help us sell more cars?"
This is the question that keeps many vendors from even offering this type of content services. It's a question that has a great answer, but it's not the easiest answer to communicate. I've found it challenging to make many people understand. It makes perfect sense to me, but then again I spend the vast majority of my day testing and delivering content, search, and social marketing, so I have the advantage of experience.
Telling stories on a dealership's website or through their blog and then sharing these stories on social media and through other means gives a pureness of depth to a website that everyone enjoys. By "everyone", I mean your customers, Google, Facebook, Bing, Twitter, and just about every other search and social component out there. It humanizes the website experience in a way that cannot be achieved with horsepower numbers or APR incentive specials.
The reason that it works so well in the automotive industry, better than pretty much any other, is because most dealers are not doing it. The reason that they're not doing it is because we are a very focused industry; we expect every action in marketing to have a direct impact on sales. This is important, but there must be room for supporting elements in a dealership's marketing that can help the important pages to perform better. This is where storytelling comes into play.
Inbound links, social media exposure, and social signals all have dramatic effects on the power of a website to generate leads. Just because a piece of content is not directly relevant to selling doesn't mean that it can't help the other pages to perform better. Let's look at social signals as an example. They are important for exposure on social media as well as the website's ability to rank for keywords organically in search. Getting these social signals is nearly impossible for the vast majority of pages on a dealership's website. Who is going to share a service appointment page, an inventory listing, or a specials page to social media? If your answer was anything other than "nobody", then I hope that it was "very few people," because that's the reality.
When an interesting piece of content on your website (i.e. a story) is made available for sharing, it is much more likely to get those social signals. In the world of SEO, social signals on any page of the website permeates its effects throughout. In other words, when someone shares a story on your blog about the service manager who dresses up like Ironman and reads stories at the local children's hospital, the sharing that happens will help your other pages to rank better.
It's a crude example, but hopefully you're starting to see the importance of this type of content. Now, let's look at what content you can put on your website.
As I mentioned earlier, we have a tendency to miss the awesomeness available at our stores because we're there all the time. The reality is that there is an endless number of stories you can tell that are intriguing and relevant to the dealership. You just have to open your mind to the possibilities.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you don't have to be a Pulitzer Prize winning writer to produce content. For some, it's as simple as shooting videos. They don't have to be professional. In fact, nice little iPhone videos are often better, especially for social media. Another thing to remember is that we've been told for years that you need tons of content. That's no longer the case. The length needs to be as long as it needs to be. That's not double talk. If it takes four paragraphs to tell a story, then write four paragraphs. If it takes 14, then write 14. Don't shoot for a certain length or a keyword density for SEO reasons. Those are both antiquated strategies.
Here are some ideas of things that you can use to spark some brainstorming:
- Interesting Walkarounds: The key here is the word "interesting". This isn't a sales pitch. This is you telling something truly intriguing about the car, making it fun and/or informative.
- Employee Profiles: You have interesting people doing interesting things at your dealership. Volunteer work, a Saturday night country western gig at the local bar, 25 years at the dealership - there are plenty of stories to tell. This doesn't just help with marketing. It can help with company culture and employee morale as well.
- Events: When dealerships think of events, they usually think of sales. There are, however, interesting stories that can be told about other events that are happening in the community. It could be the local fair or festival. It could be a concert that's heading your way. There is no shortage of events happening that you can cover and get interest in, not only from the local community but also from the event organizers.
- Localizing Industry News: When a new model is coming out, the national publications have it covered. However, you can take it local and get feedback from the community, discuss why it's an important model release for your local area, or post a graphic about the number of owners of previous models are populating the city streets. In other words, you wouldn't post a story like, "The All-New Camry is Coming in March" but you could post a story like "36MPG Makes the New Camry Perfect for Commuters on I-95".
- Helpful Videos/Articles: Anyone who has been in the business long enough has had to pair so many key fobs or bluetooth devices that it's second nature, but most people have to do it once (or never) in their lifetime. There are plenty of things that make great content where your knowledge can be translated into something helpful for your customers.
This is a very small sampling. The possibilities are practically endless, so take these and expand on them. We all know about the blog posts someone posted for you titled, "The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro for Sale in Newport Beach". We know they don't rank like you thought they would and even if they did, they wouldn't convert. Take a step back from the sales and marketing component, generate real content, and then let that content support the pages that can actually help you sell more cars.