The traditional car buyer has changed. Consumers don’t spend time test driving cars until they have done their research. In fact, most consumers know a ton about the car they’re interested in buying when they arrive at your dealership. These empowered buyers don’t want a sales pitch nor do they want to waste time.
Even more important, the new breed of educated car shopper needs to trust the dealership where they purchase from. Trust that takes time to build. To compete in this changed climate, dealerships must be part of the conversation as the potential customer travels the road to automotive ownership – in most cases, starting long before they ever set foot on the showroom floor.
The best way to be present, is to create a content strategy. In order to create content that resonates with your customers, dealerships must develop an understanding of your unique ‘Buyer’s Journey’. What is the ‘Buyer’s Journey’ you ask? Great question!
Car shoppers travel through the ‘Buyer’s Journey’ in three stages.
- Awareness Stage: Becomes aware of a problem or need.
- Consideration Stage: Looks for possible solutions to the problem.
- Decision Stage: Decides on a solution and takes action.
This three step process happens for every consumer. It is a method we all take when making a purchase. Although each of us travels the ‘Buyer’s Journey’, we tend to do this in slightly different ways. One person may fly through the steps while another might take months to decide on the right vehicle. As a general rule-of-thumb however, the larger the purchase the more time the customer will spend researching to find the best possible choice for the need. Once you understand your customer (Find your Persona), and identify what content you can create to help empower your customers, you will be much more likely to be part of the journey from beginning to end.
So let’s review each step.
Stage 1: Awareness Stage
A potential customer (Jack) realizes he might need to start looking for a new car as his current model is slipping gears on acceleration. He decides to take the car to a repair shop for an expert’s opinion. The mechanic tells Jack that the ongoing maintenance for his older car will become increasingly expensive. Jack isn’t mechanically inclined and doesn’t want to learn how to repair the car himself.
At this point, Jack isn’t in a huge hurry because he can afford the repairs this time. But he knows that soon he will need to make a decision.
Awareness Stage Takeaway:
Potential customers in this stage are noticing cars when passing a dealership, paying more attention to commercials, and start researching vehicles in their price range without great commitment.
Stage 2: Consideration
A month later Jack has another issue with the car – the transmission dies. All of a sudden, he faces an expensive repair and needs to consider his options, quickly. His first action is, you guessed it, to pull out his smartphone and start searching online for the cost of repairing the transmission versus the cost of buying a new car. When he gets home he starts hitting up social media sites, Google, and AutoTrader. He needs to make a decision but is distressed because buying a car is a big decision. So he reads everything he can about cars, reviews, safety articles, loans, and other ways to purchase a new car.
Consideration Stage Takeaway:
Buyers in this stage are consuming as much information as possible. Generally they are looking for education type content, social media referrals, user ratings, and inventory directories.
Stage 3: Decision
This is it, Jack has a couple models in mind and is close to making his final decision. At this point the only thing holding him back is getting the answer to a few final questions he has about price, terms, etc.. In this stage, Jack doesn’t want to deal with the typical dealership bullshit, he wants an immediate solution and immediate answers to his questions. It is at this point that he buys from the dealership / salesperson he trusts.
The pain of not having the new car is real. This discomfort must be changed, and he is looking for the perfect salesperson to ease the pain.
Decision Stage Takeaway:
The Decision Stage user is interested in getting the vehicle, fast. They are looking for price, ways to pay (cash, finance, lease, etc.). They may be looking for this information over the phone or online. At this stage (although it’s preferable to get the user into the dealership), you will lose the sale if the user perceives your tactics as insincere.
Become The Trusted Automotive Advisor
The question now is, how do you become the person your customer trusts to remove the inherent discomfort & distrust of selling cars. The answer to this question is surprisingly simple – give your customers the information they need to make informed decisions, and answer their questions with honest, helpful answers. Then, be present at each point of the buyer’s journey.
Today’s empowered vehicle buyer is looking for something most dealerships simply don’t provide! Valuable content given freely at each stage of the ‘Buyer’s Journey’. When this is done, trust is earned, and sales increase.
Solutions For Jack At Each Stage
Let’s review each step again, adding the relevant content solutions and keyword types needed to deliver those solutions directly to Jack.
Awareness Stage: When Jack was only vaguely aware of an approaching problem he didn’t see the need to act. This is a great opportunity for your dealership to highlight potential problems he might face (and ultimately did). This stage is also a good place to share tips and information, how-to’s and reviews to help Jack solve his problems. For example, Jack would have benefitted from articles that outlined ways to identify transmission issues. Use titles and keywords that are problem based.
“Why kids and transmission problems don’t mix”,
“Transmission repairs might not be worth the cost”.
When a potential customer is in the awareness stage, they are looking for education more than a concrete solution. At this stage, Jack was not interested in choosing dealerships, but rather was looking for relevant content to help him identify a solution (buy or fix).
Content ideas for the Awareness Stage:
- Research Reports
- Repair Guides & Instruction
Consideration Stage: Jack has made a decision about which direction he wants to go – he’s going to purchase a new vehicle. He is now looking for solutions & is primarily concerned with learning which make to choose & what makes one model better than another? He is looking for answers.
This is the stage your dealership needs to offer answers to his questions in an easy to act upon format. Because Jack realizes buying a car is a large purchase, he is definitely price / value conscious. A comparison guide on financing options for new and used cars would have been a great piece of content to help push him further down the funnel.
The consideration step needs simple solutions. Use keywords that are solution based to get your customer’s attention. Offer expert guides, comparisons, videos and other instructional materials to make his decision easier.
Content ideas for the Consideration Stage:
- Expert Guides
- Model Comparisons
- How To Choose A Dealership (Dealership Comparison)
- Instructional Guides
- Safety Articles & Information
Decision Stage: This step is about choosing a vehicle based on the information gathered in the last two steps. The customer has consumed educational materials from your dealership, helping to build trust and rapport. He/She is now searching for product specific content directly. This is where your dealership can offer vehicles from your inventory to the customer, pricing terms, payment options, and more. Content for the decision stage is branded and dealership focused. An example is a comparison of several models available on your showroom floor (for best results, offer models in the prospects price range). At this point you will want to ensure you’re offering a strong call-to-action (CTA) to test-drive, come in to the dealership, or place a deposit online. A popular CTA is a low initial payment with 0% financing for a period of time, if he buys a car from your inventory this weekend.
This step is focused on taking action to relieve the customers “pain”. Not having a car for example. Use keywords that are branded to draw attention to your dealership.
Content Ideas for the Consideration Stage:
- Test-Drive Offers
- Discounts & Pricing Incentives
- Employee Pricing
- Case Studies & Testimonials
Understanding the three steps in a ‘Buyer’s Journey’ will help your dealership create content designed to ensure you’re part of every part of the conversation through each stage of your prospects decision process. This information helps the customer transition from one stage to the next by building trust through repeat exposure to your dealership brand. Additionally, understanding the where your customer is in the ‘Buyer’s Journey’, will ensure your internet marketing team can create a strategic approach to advertising and marketing. This has the added bonus of being able to better allocate marketing dollars to what is working, while decreasing funds to what isn’t for a more successful dealership.