December 5, 2023


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How to create a simple digital marketing plan for your local automotive business

This article first appeared in the May/June issue of Jobber News. Click HERE to access the digital version.

As any business owner can attest, creating a strategic marketing plan is no easy feat. Do you wonder how to market yourself and your business to keep your customers buying from you while also promoting your shop for you?

Here, you’ll find an easy-to-use system that can help you uncover market opportunities, determine which marketing channels to use, and how to do so effectively to win more business.

Determine Your True Goals

Knowing what you want to achieve is the most integral part of any marketing plan, followed by knowing why. Based on your existing knowledge and market insight, you likely know best where your most relevant opportunities to grow your business are.

The traditional S.M.A.R.T method of goal-setting is a great starting point for any marketing plan; set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Applying this methodology to your defined market opportunities will help you understand if they’re indeed goals that make sense to work towards, or if additional research is required before moving ahead. Vague goals are the enemy of success.

Understand Your Buyer Personas

Whether your business works directly with consumers or you’re a B2B supplier, knowing who specifically buys your products will help you uncover more buyers. Knowing their pain points, as well as how your unique selling proposition (what makes you better than the competition) can help solve those problems is key.

Based on the size of your market, number of direct competitors, and customer base, you may have an idea of your current market share. Choose to either find more customers like those your business already serves, or to begin serving new customers types.

Customer types are often referred to as buyer personas, which are detailed descriptions of who the buyer is, what problems they face, their financials, decision-making status, as well as other key details that determine if they’re a strong fit to buy from your business. Those that fit are referred to as “ideal personas,” while those that you don’t want to do business with are called “negative personas.” Make an effort to get as detailed as possible for both.

For example, you may sell parts direct-to-consumer in a busy city. It’s likely that there are customers in your market area that don’t yet work with you. Write down everything you know about these customers: where they are, what types of jobs they have, what their family status may be, what similarities they have to your existing customers, and how you can help them. This is the start to one of your ideal buyer personas.

Select Appropriate Marketing Channels

Armed with buyer personas, you’ll understand where you can find your ideal customers. Here are some channels to consider adding to your mix and when they may work best:

  • LinkedIn organic and paid advertising: often best-suited for B2B applications, LinkedIn allows you to target ads and create sales lists by industry and job title
  • Facebook organic posts, shopping, and advertising: best for B2C applications addressing the full funnel with compelling visuals and copywriting
  • Leveraging your Google My Business page: take up more space on the first page of Google, while consistently sharing relevant posts and offers with potential customers
  • Waze local advertising: a maps-based application that shows you on their maps when people are driving by or searching for what you offer
  • Google Organic, SEO: the most underrated and underused method of reaching customers is content on your website via pages and blogs that addresses the steps of the buyer’s journey
  • Google Ads: both display (visual) and search (text-based) can reach far beyond almost any other paid advertising medium out there while addressing low-funnel users with high intent
  • Other social media platforms: Twitter, Spotify radio, Instagram, TikTok, and many more
  • Traditional media types: television, billboards, print ads, etc.

There’s no one-size-fits all approach to choosing the right marketing and content-sharing platforms. Those that will work well in one market may flop in another. Doing your research is critical.

Apply Your Marketing Channels to the Funnel Steps

The tried-and-true marketing funnel, or buyer’s journey, is a framework that takes unknowing customers to loyal buyers. Understanding how to best reach your desired buyers will look different for each step:

  • Awareness: where could your customers see your brand? Billboards, Facebook posts, or local classifieds? Awareness is when the customer learns that your brand exists, and begins to learn a little bit more. This is when you need to insert your brand where they will see it without looking for it.
  • Consideration & research: How can you provide value and educate your customers on the benefits your product and brand have to offer? Customers in this phase are researching where they can get the products they need and looking for answers to questions they have. Provide those answers with FAQ videos, blog posts, pages on your website, Google My Business posts, and other relevant content mediums.
  • Decision: What will make the customer choose your business and product? At the decision step, the customer has decided how they want to solve their problem, and likely what product they will use to do so. Make it easy to choose yours.
  • Purchase: How can you make the purchase experience memorable, worth it, easy for the end user? Here, the customer is ready to complete the purchase. Ensure that it’s easy to buy from you with a user-friendly purchase process.
  • Loyalty & post-purchase: What will make them choose you next time? Post-purchase, ensure that your follow-up actions will entice them to choose you again, as well as share their experience with others via reviews and word-of-mouth.

Test and Test Again

No marketing plan is perfect, and that’s why optimization is so important. Track each of your activities and expenses to understand their impact on your business. While there are steps of a marketing plan that are near-impossible to track, remembering the following tips will help you stay focused:

Great marketing takes time: any new campaign or initiative needs time to stick.

Brand matters more than you think: knowing what makes you special makes all the difference. Tell the world!

Strategic variety matters: customers are using more mediums than ever before—choose the channels that are the most relevant to your user base and stay focused on those. You don’t need to be on every single one.

Learn what numbers matter to each campaign: with awareness campaigns, impressions are an important metric, with low-funnel campaigns, clicks and conversions matter more. The intangibles matter across all campaign types.

Do your research and work with a trusted professional: there are many empty promises and “gurus” out there. Working with an agency with a proven track record and tracking tools will set you on the right path.

Test & optimize: don’t write a platform off because one campaign doesn’t work. Test campaigns with different images, messages, and at different funnel steps to see what resonates with your audience.

Wherever your business is, the right marketing plan can make sure you’re seen or forgotten. Ensure that you’re putting a focused effort into your marketing or are working with an agency that can do so for you.

Whit Norrad is the Director of Client Marketing Strategy at FlexDealer. Flex is the creative marketing agency that breathes life into your marketing, strategy, website, and advertising.

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Social: @whitnorrad on all platforms