5 Ways to Elevate Your Dealership Brand & Experiences to Drive Profits Now  

Sep 8, 2022
Karrie Sudbrack, Vice President of Deal Sales, Cox Automotive


With continued inventory shortages and rising interest rates, juxtaposed with a still present buyer demand, it’s more important than ever for auto dealers to learn how to sell the car they might, or might not have, on their lot. How can they effectively do that? By focusing on elevating their brand and experiences. 

Shifting consumer buying behaviors have given new opportunities to market how your dealership stands out compared to your competition, and most importantly giving you the ability to highlight why a potential customer should buy or service their vehicle from you. Digital retailing, and the ability to do most, if not all, of the buying process online is now at the forefront of how our industry operates.     

Over the past few years manufacturers and dealers of all sizes have had to ride different waves of shifts in buyer behavior, demands and expectations. They found themselves having to quickly create a strategy to provide the buyer who was actively shopping (and buying) with what the customer’s wanted and preferred, but then had to shift strategies just as quickly again.   

When you sell your brand and experiences, not just the car you need and want to sell, there are some huge benefits for you and your dealership. The consumer will end up with more than just a car; they’ll better understand who you are, what you stand for, the overall process and enjoy doing business with your dealership.  


It’s time to elevate and sell your brand and experiences. 

By taking a closer look at how your dealership markets and sells their brand and unique experiences offered, you’ll discover new ways to not only stand out to your ideal customer, but also help your customer get the car and experience they are looking for which will lead to increased business. 

Below find the top ways you can elevate your dealership brand marketing and experiences to help drive business and stand out to your ideal customers. 

#1 – Brand marketing has become more important 

It’s no secret that the last few years, especially with inventory shortages, has turned the focus away from the specific car and onto the brand. Many probably also wouldn’t be surprised by the fact that with changed consumer behaviors, there’s also been a trend of customers defecting from brands they used to be loyal to.  

With completing more of the purchase process online, consumers are looking to buy a car they can actually get, and in the timeframe they want, even if it might not have everything they were originally searching for.  

What stands out to them is the dealership and brand that is 

in front of them more and is selling to their needs and wants.  

Be sure to answer the following questions and implement them into your dealership marketing strategy when it comes to your brand: 

  • How do you stand out as a brand to your ideal customer vs. your competition?  
  • Why should customers do business with you vs. your competition? 
  • What unique things does your brand offer potential and existing customers? 
  • What makes your dealership and brand different from the others?  

When you sell an experience, you will win the customer. When you sell the car, you might win a single sale. It’s time to evolve and align with what the buyer and manufacturer both want. 

#2 – Offer experiences that stand out  

If you’re still wondering, how does my brand stand out? How can I have a customer wanting more than just a vehicle? You do it by offering and providing experiences. 

Experiences that stand out: 

At one of the nation’s high volume Toyota dealers, when facing inventory shortages, they decided to get creative. They purchased the lot next door to the dealership, put some dirt mounds on it, and now offer test drives for their trucks on it. 

Once the customer, or potential customer, takes the test drive in the demo on the mounds, they’re hooked on the experience they’re offered! It’s unique, and it has them wanting that truck. And most importantly, because they had such an incredible and one of a kind experience, they are not only going to tell everyone about it (and your dealership!), but they’ll also be willing to wait and complete a pre-order to get exactly what they want. 

Examples of brand takeaways that create an experience: 

When you don’t physically have the car for the customer to see, smell, feel, touch… how are you engaging their senses? Some OEM’s assist in this experience through providing slick brochures, however an Autotrader dealer partner took it to the next level and customized their dealership marketing brand brochure. They had it made out of the leather options available in new car pre-ordering, all the way to the stitching in the leather. They provided a sensory experience that the customer can take home with them, even if they weren’t able to see them in a car on your lot. 

The longer you are able to connect with the customer and provide sensory experiences that they can continue to see, smell, feel, touch… the more likely you are to make the sale.   

These examples keep a consumer engaged and wanting more than the car – they’ll want you and your dealership. So constantly be looking at the experiences you are providing both online and in store, because that is what will not only win you a sale or service client, that is what will gain you the profits only a lifetime customer can provide. 

#3 – Implement educational marketing on how new car pre-order works  

When we talk about making sure your dealership is marketing your brand and experiences, it’s also important to include that you must implement educational marketing, especially when it comes to new car pre-order. What does that mean? It means you should be telling the consumer exactly how new car pre-order works. 

Remember, new car pre-order is a relatively new thing for the majority of car purchasers. In days past, you really only had to focus on super luxury or very specific vehicle needs when considering pre-ordering. But that has changed, and you must not forget about educating your customer on how and what to do when thinking of pre-ordering, more specifically on how that is done at your dealership with your brand. 

Below find a few ideas that are currently helping dealers not only educate their existing and potential customers, but driving sales and profits:

  • Put a video on your website describing step by step the buying process on new car pre-order – including the delivery process. 
  • Have educational material on the difference between a new car purchase and new car pre-order purchase. 
  • Outline the steps for ordering, giving them specifics of what they will do online, what they will do in-person, and any other overviews and details they will need to avoid confusion.  
  • Be sure to stay in front of them every step of the way and have pre-scheduled touch- points or check-ins outlined for them. The more transparent and thorough you are here, the more you will take away the fear of the unknown and build trust. 
  • Cover the highlights and the advantages to pre-ordering! When you can share the savings and advantages they’ll experience, it will ease their mind and get them excited. 


It’s time to either think or re-think about how you’re educating a consumer who probably is having to go through this process for the first time with your dealership. Make sure you not only go above and beyond, but stand out as a dealer that wants them to feel comfortable and is willing to help them step by step. 

#4 Turn your service center into a profit center 

Last but not least, when you focus on selling your brand and experiences, be sure to look closely at your service center, especially when it comes to the opportunity to turn your service center into a profit center. A recent Cox Automotive study revealed that over 50% of a dealership’s profits come from its service center. That’s a large amount of revenue! Yet ironically typically only 10% of your dealership brand marketing efforts go into your service center. 

It’s time to look at your fixed ops in service for its major profit and revenue opportunities. Refer to the following below as suggestions for actions you can take now to show how your brand and experiences stand out from your competition in your service center: 

¾   Are you offering extended hours?  

¾   Do you make it easy to book online – on your website or on an app? 

¾   Knowing customers want convenience, how easy do you make the whole process for them? 

¾   When short techs or experiencing tight schedules, are you outsourcing some of your more common services or offering bonuses and overtime to your existing techs? 

¾   Are you transparent with your pricing? This builds trust and will keep them coming back to you! ex: Service Advisor on Kelley Blue Book which provides a fair range for cost on that specific

¾   Are you offering pickup and delivery? 

¾   Are you stocking and selling items such as tires, that might have a low profit margin, but lend to a high retention rate of a client. 

¾   Are all of your service people trained on a multi-prong approach so that if a repair is more than expected, and you’re asked is it worth it or should they buy / order something new – does your service team know what to do or say? 

¾   Knowing with today’s economic challenges people are holding onto cars longer, what are you doing to ensure they stay servicing their car with your dealership? 

In addition to the many items to re-examine in your service center above, remember you can also acquire inventory through your service department. However, turning your service center into a profit center does require process and alignment between all of your staff – and every department. 

Do your dealership a favor and take a look at that true lifetime value of a client, including the revenue you generate from that client in your service center, which typically is significantly more than the profit made off of the initial sale. Your service center is a reliable way to elevate your brand and experiences, so be sure to shift some focus to your fixed ops department. 

#5 – Want help powering your business forward? The Deal Doers Solution. 

We invite you to connect with us to take a deeper look into ways to capture a buyer’s focus online in order to help maximize how your brand and experiences stand out to drive profits and close more deals. As your trusted partner at Cox Automotive we provide you with the solutions to run your dealership more efficiently, driving quality leads. But we also want to provide you with insights into what we see working. Our success, data, audiences and destinations can be yours as well. 

Want access to the replay of the highly attended webinar hosted with Automotive News with Karrie Sudbrack, VP of Dealer Sales, giving you more examples and ways you can stand out to your ideal customer in today’s times to drive profits? Click HERE to watch it now.