How To Draw Vehicle Shoppers Across State Lines: Tips From Dealer Magazine’s Interview With BMW of Spokane

Mar 4, 2017 | Digital Marketing

Last month, Dealer Magazine’s cover story interviewed Mel Watson, General Manager of BMW of Spokane. Their dealership just received DealerRater’s 2017 Consumer Satisfaction Award and “offers an award winning lineup of new and used cars” despite battling a location that’s off-the-beaten-path. In the article, Mel Watson states their online marketing and strong community relationships are what brings vehicle shoppers as far as 600 miles to their store, but what can you learn from BMW of Spokane to generate more dealership floor traffic at YOUR store?

(Read the full cover story at digitaldealer.com/magazine)

BMW of Spokane Estimates That 80% of Their Sales Start Out As Internet Leads

I personally believe that everybody goes to the Internet first…The majority of our business comes from online, because we’re not on a busy street.”

Since BMW of Spokane is located in a part of Washington where a mere 20 cars typically drive down their street each day, they’ve had to develop a different way to generate more dealership floor traffic.

They maintain a state-of-the-art website and use other third-party advertisers to drive bigger volumes of shoppers to their VDPs: Facebook Advertising, Autotrader, and Craigslist for used inventory.

Craigslist works very well for us to drive people to our web site. We also use Facebook and AutoTrader…When I first got here we had something like three Likes on our Facebook page, now we have 14,000 people on our Facebook page. A lot of people check out Facebook at least once a day, so we’re able to stay visible…With all of the advertising you can do on Facebook, it seems to be working well for us.”

Here’s some tips to help your store:

Using Facebook To Increase Your Dealership’s Reach and Build Your Brand Across State Lines:

While widening your fan base helps build your brand, did you know that only 2% of your Facebook Likes actually see the organic content you post?

That’s why dealers like Mel Watson are putting an ad spend behind their content to increase dealership internet leads.

To use Facebook to build your brand across state lines, first consider the markets you want to advertise in. Avoid running ads out in larger nearby markets if you know that people won’t actually drive to you, or if there are a lot of other dealerships around the other larger markets who will be bidding against your ads.

For your ad objective, choose “Raise Local Awareness” instead of “Brand Awareness” to add a CTA like Get Directions or Call Now to help people not living in your immediate area find you.

Then, use relevant copy like “Calling all truck lovers in the tri-state area!” to appeal to your audience. (TRUST ME – it works! Read: [CASE STUDY] How Dealers United Gained 222 New Sign Ups in 31 Days With A Single Facebook Campaign)

According to BMW of Spokane’s interview, “We’re out in the middle of the country, and a long way from any big hubs. We have people come in from Montana, Idaho, and all over Washington state for their service.” To tempt shoppers to go out of their way, offer them larger incentives like $100 VISA, gas cards, or even a free hotel stay. But here’s the kicker—ONLY advertise these incentives to users living in distant markets. (Talk to your Facebook provider about Exclusion Audiences.)

Want to use Facebook’s FULL data capabilities to do smarter demographic targeting? Click here to see how we do it differently.

Lastly, remember: your dealership’s testimonials, reviews, and accolades are KEY.

Since shoppers are only visiting 1-2 dealerships in their buyer journey, they’ll make the drive to the 4.8 star dealership that’s 50 miles away instead of the 3 star dealership next door every time. Proactively advertise your ratings, testimonials and more to In-Market shoppers in a radius around your store.

Generate More Dealership Floor Traffic Via Craigslist

Craigslist benefits by being geared toward “local.” But before you post your pre-owned inventory on Craigslist, you need to decide which markets you want to dominate in. If you’re like BMW of Spokane and are a little “out-in-the-woods,” consider listing your inventory in nearby markets that boast larger populations.

For example, a dealership in Sarasota might also list a portion of its pre-owned in the closest metros, like Tampa or even Fort Myers.

Next, make sure you’re aware of how the new Craigslist works. Your vehicle listing can jump to the top of the Craigslist SRP regardless of your dealership’s geographic competition, so long as you’ve optimized your vehicle listing to outsmart the new search algorithm.

Get Our Perfect Craigslist Template That Increases Dealership ROI By 2,352%!

Most of the people who travel far to visit our store have already found one of our great deals online. Our staff makes them feel comfortable traveling the distance to do business with us…We want them to feel comfortable enough to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to get in my car and drive 600 miles and trust these guys that what they’re saying is how it’s going to turn out.'”

Using Community and Customer Service as A Secret Weapon To Drive More Local Engagement and Non-Local Investment

BMW of Spokane’s motto is: “Where first-class customer service comes standard with every package.”

There are a lot of things we do for our customers. In this part of the country, people have winter tires and a separate set of wheels for summer…We store those off-season tires for them. We give them 10% off on parts and service. We wash their car for them whenever they come in.”

Create stronger relationships by advertising service coupons to your CRM lists, or showcase a rental offer to vacationers in your area who are in need of an off-roading or winter-ready vehicle.

Furthermore, BMW of Spokane is involved with The Girl’s and Boy’s Club, the Children’s Miracle Network, and multiple local events including the Lilac Festival in Washington. “We’re a major sponsor for that and provide the cars for the parade. It’s a big deal here. It’s like a 100-year-old-parade,” said Watson in the Dealer magazine interview.

If your dealership supports or participates in any local causes, tell your story! Use Facebook Advertising to Raise Event Attendance and position your store as a respected member of your community.

[We] made a decision when we moved to Spokane that we would do as much for the community as we could. We wanted to spend our money doing that, even though we didn’t have a giant budget for advertising and stuff.”

Since nonprofits don’t have a lot of funds, your local dealership can easily connect with them to raise awareness. Your store will reap the benefits of extra traffic driven to your store and have your dealership top of mind next time anyone in your community is looking to buy a vehicle.

Think about which organizations hold events in your community. You could choose one a month and use your dealership’s own digital marketing efforts to bring awareness both to that non-profit and to your dealership.

Want to use your dealership’s community involvement to draw vehicle shoppers across state lines and generate more dealership floor traffic? Watch: How Street Auto Group Uses Community To Impact Their Bottom Line

Is your dealership battling a rural location, or do you have a strategy that brings shoppers in from distant markets? Share your successes below!

Blog Author - Brooke Jensen

Written By Brooke Jensen
Brooke handles all of Dealers United’s digital marketing. In addition to her love for design and copy, Brooke also adores her two dog-like kittens, playing the electric violin, and walking barefoot around the office.


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Dealers United is a game-changing automotive company dedicated to helping auto dealers improve their dealerships. We have helped over 6,500 dealers nationwide cut costs, save time, and sell more cars.

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