John’s Auto Buyer Journey: The Ultimate Ad Placement Strategy

Digital Marketing, Identity and Branding, Social Media

In today’s digitally dominated world, it is more important than ever to meet potential auto shoppers where they are online.

And it is no shocking secret that today’s savvy consumers (as well as their mom, coworkers, and best friends) invest their time on social media.

In fact, the average person scrolls through about 300 feet of mobile content on Facebook and Instagram… daily. That’s equivalent to the size of the Statue of Liberty!

So with every swipe of their thumb, dealers have the opportunity to get their brand and promotional content on valuable visual real estate.

Sure, with so many resources and the handy-dandy “Boost” button, Facebook has made it easier than ever to run ads on social platforms. But what separates the average from the best converting ad campaigns is strategy.

Specifically, leveraging different ad types intentionally with thoughtful messaging throughout the auto buyer journey.

The Auto Buyer Journey

According to Cox Automotive, auto shoppers are only in-market for just over 3 months.

This means that your dealership must strategically take an auto shopper from awareness to consideration to conversion in a limited amount of time — or just hope you get lucky. 

Most advertisers are only meeting the shopper with 1-3 messages and hoping it’s at the right time and the right message. 

And while this method can work, there is a far better, more reliable way. 

Introducing “The Auto Buyer’s Journey,” where dealers are NAILING the right audience, right message, right time, every time. 

We’re going to follow an example auto shopper avatar, “John,” as he goes from initial vehicle research to ultimately converting at your dealership. 

Keep in mind: John’s example journey is very specific based on John’s unique interests, behaviors, and stage in the buyer journey. As you walk through the experience with John, imagine other types of prospects that could fall into each stage, and how you would message them. This is truly where the magic happens… entire Monthly Ad Spend turned into Leads.

 VIDEO: How Dealers Can Reach Shoppers Throughout The Auto Buyer Journey

Identifying Your Shopper

Meet “John.” 

John is a 36 year old male who is interested in an F-150. John is in your addressable market but has never been to your dealership, isn’t in your CRM, and has never visited your website. 

He just started doing research on 3rd party sites like Edmund’s and Autotrader. After a little investigating, John decides that he wants a new, white or gray F-150 between $40,000-$50,000.

Bringing Awareness To Your Dealership

Using Facebook and 3rd party data, we now know that John is an in-market shopper in your PMA who is browsing for a new F-150. 

We certainly could send John ads with your F-150 inventory at this point. 

But if you immediately start showing “Sales-y” ads to John, before you even have had a chance to introduce your dealership, it’s kind of like asking someone to marry you before you even know their name. And that’s just… wrong.

Next time John hops on Facebook or Instagram, you first want to capture his attention by deploying engaging ads that introduce John to your dealership.

These ads should include “Why Buy” messaging about features that make John want to purchase from you, instead of your competition. 

Winning the “Consideration” Stage

John is now aware of your dealership and has been engaging with your Awareness ads through Likes, Comments, and Video Watches.

In this next stage, you want to accomplish 3 things: 1) Encourage John’s interest in the F-150, 2) Inform him about current specials on the F-150, and 3) Show your live, on-the-ground F-150 inventory.

With these ads, John will click through to your SRPs, which will trigger a View Content event back to Facebook.

Now we’re going to start showing him all relevant live inventory that your dealership has on the lot.

Once he engages with your ads and either lands on your website VDP or an on-Facebook VDP, we know once and for all that John is ready to buy.

But if John leaves your VDPs without converting, it’s crucial that we retarget him to keep your store top-of-mind until he makes a decision.

Bringing John Back With Retargeting

1. Continue enforcing what sets your store apart from other dealerships.

While “sales-y” ads are a priority at this stage, don’t forget to continue messaging John about what sets your store apart.

Customer testimonials, awards and accolades, and your involvement with your community are sure-fire ways to build trust with John.

2. Stay relevant and ask for a lead conversion (at the right time).

If John is looking at neutral color F-150s between $40-50k, you certainly don’t want to retarget him with a bright blue F-150 that is out of his price range.

Instead, retarget John with the exact VIN that he viewed, and all similar inventory you have in stock.

Then, when John is at the peak of his shopper journey, ask him to submit a lead directly on Facebook to Apply For Financing, Schedule a Test Drive, or Schedule a VIP Appointment!

With On-Facebook Lead Ads, you can provide John a frictionless experience without slow page load times, pop-ups, or other friction. (Want to learn more about reducing auto shopper friction? Watch: Reduce Auto Shopper Friction with Facebook’s Newest Solution for Dealers)

Did you know? Many dealerships and agencies run Lead Ads either too early, or for too long, which can waste your ad dollars. With Facebook’s custom retargeting windows, you can maximize your spend by ONLY asking John for a lead conversion when he is at the peak of his journey: 3-7 days after he left your VDP.

Once John raises his hand and submits his information, your team will see his information dropped immediately into the CRM as a lead so you’re one step closer to the sale.

Attributing The Sale

Say John never submitted a lead form on Facebook, but still came in and bought that new truck.

How can we attribute that unit sale to your Facebook campaigns?

Using Facebook’s Offline Conversion tool, dealers don’t have to guess anymore.

Simply upload your sales report into Facebook (or via our our awesome new dashboard), and you will be able to see the amount of shoppers who viewed or clicked a Facebook ad before they bought.

Learn more about how Facebook Matchbacks work here.

This will give you immediate insight into your return on ad spend and cost per unit sold, so you can stop guessing and start making better decisions with your advertising dollars.
But John’s journey with your dealership isn’t done yet!

Customers For Life

Now that John is in your CRM as a successful sale, you can run service and promotion campaigns to him and the rest of your established customer base.

Keeping your dealership in John’s timeline, we can continue to drive fixed ops revenue and ultimately start reenaging him with trade in incentives to get him back into your store to buy again.

Want to see how your dealership can engage your customer base to start getting back much needed inventory back on your lot? Click here to download the 2021 Buy Back Ad Playbook.

Now that John’s journey has come full circle (and he’s a raving fan of your dealership), grab a testimonial and turn it into an ad for future shoppers who you meet during their auto shopper journey.

Nothing builds trust like word of mouth referrals, so it’s so important to continue to nurture these relationships even after the sale. You never know the connections one person can bring!

The Journey Never Ends…

By now, you understand the full spectrum of interactions in the auto buyer journey.

There are so many opportunities to optimize each touch point to drive a potential buyer (and everyone they know!) into becoming a raving fan.

Facebook and Instagram are a digital marketers playground: internet users spend an average of 144 minutes per day on social media. Moreover, 63% of car buyers are discovering new vehicles online and 86% of shoppers want to engage with brands post-purchase.

From prospecting and retargeting, to nurturing the relationship (and revenue) post-sale, these strategies will help your business build local awareness, enhance engagement, garner qualified leads, and get the most out of your advertising budget.

If your business isn’t leveraging digital marketing across the marketing funnel, your local audience is one click away from giving their business to your competitor.

Ready to learn more with real world examples? Check out this video to see the auto buying journey in action.

 VIDEO: How Dealers Can Reach Shoppers Throughout The Auto Buyer Journey

Blog Author - Drew Detweiler

Written By Drew Detweiler
Drew manages inbound and outbound marketing for Dealers United. When he’s not at work, he’s probably enjoying the outdoors, fishing, or eating.

Register for the webinar, “The 3 Biggest Facebook Mistakes Even Advanced Dealer Marketers Are Making”!