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Outsourcing Automotive Marketing Activities

DATE PUBLISHED: May 07, 2014

"My best salesman shouldn't be Tweeting. He should be on the floor, selling cars."

If you're a marketing manager at an auto dealership, we imagine this quote and play on social media resonates with you. You and your sales staff didn't sign up to write blog posts; you're in sales because you want to sell cars. 

Yet “you probably also” understand the value of social media and the power of inbound marketing techniques to boost brand awareness and attract new customers. So what's to be done?

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The answer, in short, is to consider a strategy that keeps key inbound marketing components in-house while outsourcing others. It's a cost-effective approach that puts certain elements of your inbound marketing strategy into the hands of experts.

Outsourcing Decision Rules

Any possible outsourcing arrangement should be predicated on three questions: what are we good at, what are bad at, and where can we save money? 

If you're dealership is particularly good at engaging visitors or fans on social media, you'll want to keep that in-house. After all, your sales staff built these relationships and they should continue to develop them. On the other hand, you may find that you're wasting valuable time coming up with three blog posts a week. While you can't quantify the loss, there's an opportunity cost in play here and once again, you'd much prefer to have your sales team on the floor rather than behind a desk. 

Outsourced Automotive Marketing: A Model

We here at Palmer work closely with dealerships on all kinds of marketing issues, and while there's no definitive outsourcing model that's applicable for all clients, we've noted areas of similarity across our client base. Dealerships tend to be good at certain marketing activities while they prefer to outsource others, either due to cost concerns or a lack of in-house expertise. With that in mind, here's a handy road map (pun intended) on how to outsource automotive marketing roles:

What to Outsource

  • Social Media Scheduling and SEO. To have an effective social media presence, dealerships need to be active on all the networks - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc - and most marketing managers don't have the time to do it all. A third party cannot only create an affordable social media schedule, they will also keep up to date on the latest news that affects these plans (like the recent Google "Hummingbird" algorithm update.) After all, social media consultants do this stuff for a living.
  • Blogging. Similarly speaking, dealerships should try posting at least 3 blog posts a week. The posts should include keywords and be subsequently marketed on social media networks. If this sounds like too tall an order for a dealership, we can't blame them. By working with a reputable blogging provider, dealerships can enjoy a steady stream of content at a very reasonable cost. How reasonable? Well, a typical blogging service provider can charge as little as $30 a month.
  • Email marketing. We imagine you also aren't excited about your staff sifting through email lists, creating segmented eblasts and tracking analytics. This task can also be outsourced and your sales team can enjoy the benefits: contact information on promising leads.
  • White Paper and eBook creation. Dealerships are well-equipped to keep this task in-house. However, given the sales-intensive nature of this business, it's usually most cost-effective to outsource it. The process itself isn't difficult: dealerships can suggest topics in advance and the third-party runs with them.

What to Keep In-House

  • Real-time social media engagement. In addition to scheduled social messages, real time engagement is a very important component of a social strategy. Dealerships control their social media networks themselves as they're comfortable with posting news or special promotions and they see the value of directly engaging with followers, leads, or customers.  
  • Lead generation. While outsourced lead generation can make sense for other industries, dealerships should keep this role primarily in-house, precisely due to the unique personal nature of selling cars, especially tried and true tactics like direct mailers and posting on AutoTrader.com and Google Auto Advisor.
  • Brand development. There can be value here in working with a third party but ultimately, this role should stay in-house. Dealerships need to constantly reexamine their brand, target demographics, and buyer personas.

Ultimately a good rule of thumb here is the degree to which a marketing activity interfaces with the customer. Selling cars is predicated on a personal relationship with customers. Trust must be earned and relationships must be cultivated. Roles that support this goal like real-time social media engagement and lead generation should therefore remain in-house. However, if the activity (e.g. blogging, writing eBooks) doesn't put your team in direct, personal contact with customers, or becomes too cost-prohibitive to keep in-house, then outsourcing is a perfectly viable option.

Looking to outsource some of your inbound marketing work? Download our How to Hire an Inbound Marketing Agency eBook for guidance:


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