A Better Digital Marketing Playbook, Part 3: The Right Brand Matters

dealership digital marketing strategy

By now, you get it: The Zero Moment of Truth is a big deal because Google says so.

But do you really “get” ZMOT? Do you treat digital marketing like a to-do list, or is it a data-driven strategy powered by targeted marketing messages?

If you've already got those covered, let’s talk for a minute about your brand.

No, not your OEM’s brand. Your dealership’s brand.

Playbook Problem: OEM-Only Marketing

Your OEM probably has a marketing program, and you participate – whether it’s for co-op funds or maintaining compliance with OEM standards.

That marketing program works for the OEM, but your dealership actually needs more marketing than just that.

Generally, OEM marketing programs attract and retain customers for the OEM. They don’t focus specifically on customer retention for your individual dealership.

Here are some serious marketing opportunities you’re missing if you don’t have additional marketing messages for your individual brand:

1. You don’t reach all existing customers.

Most OEM programs decide which customers qualify as marketing leads. Typically only active customers and customers who currently own the OEM’s vehicle make will qualify.

You have way more customer names in your database than just those two types. OEM-qualified leads don’t include your used vehicle customers, especially if those customers own non-OEM vehicles.

If you send marketing messages only to OEM-qualified customers, some of your current customers aren’t hearing from you.

2. You don’t reach all potential customers.

Many OEM programs assign a primary market area (PMA) to dealers in their programs.

Guess what? Consumers are willing to travel quite a ways to buy at your dealership, but your messages won’t reach them if you stick to that zone.

New-vehicle shoppers will travel more than 30 miles away from home to purchase a vehicle. Used-vehicle buyers go even farther, traveling more than 40 miles from home.

Depending on how limiting your PMA is, you may miss marketing opportunities with many of your potential customers.

3. You don’t really reach your customers at all.

In automotive, competition is high and customer expectations are even higher.

When you use an “OEM only” marketing approach, you send branded messages that focus only on the OEM. They don’t focus on your dealership’s specific benefits to consumers.

Plus, if you and several dealers in one area all use the same OEM program, you’re all sending the same messages.

If people can’t tell your dealership from the one across town because you both offer the same specials, the same messages, and the same services, they have no reason to choose you.

When you’re not positioning your dealership as an individual brand, you aren’t really reaching customers – your OEM is.

Solution: Own Your Brand

You can participate in your OEM’s marketing program and develop an individual brand identity for your dealership through supplemental marketing.

Developing a brand identity is an involved process. While certain marketing tools can help you deliver a specific message or piece of content, a tool alone can’t help you figure out the right marketing strategy.

If you have a marketing manager on staff, work with them to deliver messages to customers and prospects. Or, partner with a reputable marketing and advertising service provider that can work with your available time, resources, budget, and customer base to deliver the right solution for your dealership.


If you only send marketing messages as part of your OEM’s program, you will only reach consumers with messages your OEM. Your dealership never gets a chance to shine.

To avoid missing out on more sales and service revenue opportunities, develop supplemental marketing messages that help you own your brand. Marketing your dealership as a unique brand in the community can help you stand out from your competition and capture more consumer attention.


The content in this post has appeared in an alternate form in the Naked Lime Marketing whitepaper, “Stop Using the Same Playbook as Your Competition: 3 New Marketing Plays to Help You Win.”