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Car dealers need a mix of online and offline marketing

“For me, digital provides quality of measurement, it can be uploaded in just a few hours, the content can be changed easily, the clarity of the images is exceptional and it is extremely cost-effective,” said Alvis.

“We have seen a massive reduction in the cost of print ads, but I don’t think we are quite in position to switch off press completely. There is a small but significant element of our demographic who still read the local papers and own a mobile but don’t have an email address.”

However, Lookers Volvo’s biggest spend is on radio, where Alvis has advertised for the past four years: “As a business in Colchester, we have to have a presence on the local radio as a large proportion of local people listen. It’s just simply about reminding people that we are here and repetition to drive the message home.”

Email figures highly in the mix, but Alvis is careful to maintain a balance so as not to bombard the database with sales-led messages.

One of the best marketing tools has been its online digital i-magazine delivering a quarterly diet of dealership news, product information, lifestyle articles and offers incorporating video and website links. The magazine is written, edited, designed, produced and marketed including via social media by GoldSand Digital. Called Krönika (from the Swedish meaning knowledge), it is now on its sixth publication and won the online marketing title at the Digital Essex Awards.

GoldSand Digital director Ingram Sanders said: “It means a dealer’s communication is on-brand, yet tailored to the personality of the business. It successfully merges a traditional marketing tool with new media and the lack of a hard sell adds to its attraction, yet it still drives traffic to specific used car models or offers.”

As well as the lifestyle i-magazines, the company has also produced ‘mini’ versions surrounding specific products or events such as its Jaguar F-Type launch. A six-page digital magazine introduced the vehicle and invited readers to be among the first to test drive the car at a track day.

“We wanted 10 drivers, but the campaign generated 20, demonstrating that by combining old marketing tactics like a traditional test drive event with new media can be a perfect blend,” said Sanders.

“Digital is an exciting and evolving landscape, but also works well when integrated with traditional marketing methods.

“The most crucial element remains the quality of the data. We still come across dealers who do not have a substantial email database or do not actively collect email addresses. The database is a dealer’s most valuable asset, whatever the method of communication.”

To prove his point, Sanders cites one client that held emails for only 40% of its database. It used postal data to send a postcard to the remainder with an image of the digital magazine front cover and a tracked URL resulting in a 1,000% increase in views.

Luke Carter, head of search at Manheim Retail Services also favours a mixed approach: “Most consumer-facing companies have come through the traditional trading ranks prior to the noughties and the SEM and social media revolution and continue to rely more on traditional offline marketing to add impact to its digital and online marketing.

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