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Home » Think Outside the Lot: How to Elevate Your Dealership Beyond Everyday Marketing

Think Outside the Lot: How to Elevate Your Dealership Beyond Everyday Marketing

Sale after sale, season after season, you know the importance of differentiating your dealership from the competition—a tall order in any market, regardless of your location or brand. But despite that constant challenge, you’ve bull’s-eyed the marketing sweet spot: Your broadcast work is clever, concise and compliant. SEO strategies? Paying off near the top of page one. You’re hitting all your digital markers with online ads and digital banners, even staying ahead of social media, populating Facebook, Instagram and Twitter regularly with sharable, likeable content… 

It’s the perfect time to kick back and let your well-crafted, well-executed marketing plans do their work. Right? 


No matter how perfectly oiled the machine is, there’s always room for more. More customers, more leads, and overall, more awareness of what your dealership has to offer. Unfortunately, your marketing budget isn’t infinite—so maximizing it by finding nontraditional outlets or outside-the-box strategies is just as vital as advertising your latest incentive or sale.  

Moreover, marketing campaigns that mildly buck convention can be extremely cost-conscious—ideas that can be implemented for far less than the typical spend for TV spots and print ads. 

The bonus? Not only can this style of marketing deliver a home run from a minimal investment, it’s also something many consumers fundamentally trustWhile a recent report confirms that traditional media (especially TV and print) is still a winning choice, non-traditional advertising naturally comes across more authentic. More original. And most important? More relevant to your audience—especially if it’s successfully targeted to a specific community. It stands apart from much of the standard fare—and then so does your dealership. 

So where do you begin? 

Start a conversation.
Answer your audience’s questions. Better yet, pose new ones for them to consider—via social media, review sites, blog posts, in the waiting room, through an email. Speak to them. Interact with them. Create a community of trust and transparency, and then use that foundation to address pain points or common questions. When you engage with your audience—and give them easy access to respond—you get them talking about you, sharing their own stories with you at the core. What was your first car? When did you learn to drive? How did our service department do? Let’s talk about our differences… Being accessible and open is as easy as it is important—and draws a direct line between you and your customers. 

Throw a party.
Think “Customer Appreciation Event,” but without the special sale or incentive attached. Food truck Fridays, spring picnics, summer ice cream socials, fall grill-outs, winter happy hours, maybe add inflatables or games for families with kids. It doesn’t need to be a formal affair—or a high-dollar one either—just a simple thank-you party to let your customers know they’re important. Better yet, open it up to the community—advertise the event in and around your dealership, and promote it via social media. This helps customers (and potential customers) create their own stories about your brand from first-hand experience—and the more they love your brand, the more likely they are to promote and share it. 

Launch a club.
Every manufacturer has one model that inspires fervent fandom. Wranglers, Beetles, Civics and more—all have their dedicated enthusiasts, so consider starting a new club or chapter based at your dealership. Get one rolling by organizing meet-ups (Coffee and Cars in your showroom), suggesting interesting or scenic local drives, or identifying Concours or car show events that members might want to attend. To really up the ante, offer discounts to club members on service visits or vehicle accessories.  

Get involved.
This is a big one, and likely the most impactful of the set. There are endless ways to get involved and give back to your community—you simply need to identify the opportunities that are right for you. Giving back through good outreach gives your dealership a presence in places your competition is not. It makes you a valued member of a community, not simply a business within it. You get to connect with people who care about an organization or cause, and then directly invest in their success—and that’s not only memorable, it’s honorable.

  • Sponsor a charity event, fundraiser or 5K walk; support a school during a back-to-school picnic or sports season
  • Donate to a team or cause with a test-drive event, where you give a dollar amount for each test-drive taken on a certain day or weekend 
  • Support a local animal shelter or pet adoption event, adding service coupons or branded materials to their giveaways or auction items
  • Partner with a grocery store for a food drive or coat collection

Simple actions, notable impact. Even if your conventional marketing strategies are already firing on all cylinders, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be investing time, thought and resources into other outlets. It’s a partnership based on balance—if one element isn’t working to full capacity, you can count on the other to steady it.