There is a common misconception that car dealerships across the country must push through when they’re selling to skeptical buyers. Some Canadians in the market for a new vehicle may be mindful of dealership stereotypes such as pushy salesmen, questionable processes and dishonest deals.

However, this doesn’t mean these stereotypes are true. Utilizing marketing strategies that advertise your dealership as a customer-centric and low-pressure space will defy traditional stereotypes, increasing lead consistency and attracting car buyers based on the notion of trust.

A study conducted by Google Canada and Ipsos found that 90 percent of people in the market to buy a new vehicle will conduct their own research online before physically visiting a car dealership. Promoting transparency both online and offline can establish a brand identity and authority for a dealership that 21st-century consumers will be confident in.

Establishing a modern-day marketing plan for your car dealership starts with understanding who your audience is and positioning yourself as a business that is both knowledgeable and passionate.

Conventional advertising techniques like email campaigns, implanting a social media presence and ensuring that your website is responsive are all great approaches to reach potential car buyers. Yet, car dealerships still struggle promoting their brand and engaging with customers to drive sales. These five marketing ideas for your car dealership can help beat bad stereotypes, increase profits and boost lead flow while ensuring positive relationships with potential car buyers.

1. Bring your community together

Investing some time and money into hosting community events and promoting engagement are great ways to expand brand awareness while increasing word-of-mouth marketing. Interacting with your community will attract potential car buyers to your dealership, which could establish loyalty and increase sales. Free car washes during warmer seasons, charity drives with a reputable organization and sponsored events are community outreach ideas that could bring in new customers and increase your profit.

2. Get creative

Putting your customers first means getting creative with how you attract and keep them happy throughout the entire sales journey. Car dealerships that go above and beyond the traditional pushy salesmen tactic and promote themselves as unique and honest will gain the trust of car buyers. Creative and unique dealership contests, giveaways, discounts or promotional products are all great ways to market your dealership and bring in potential leads. Consumers love big gestures and spontaneity, and car dealerships should take advantage of this to get ahead of any potential competition.

3. Use customer testimonials

Given the power of the internet and the amount of research that Canadians do before buying a vehicle, car dealerships need to make their mark in the online world. Online reviews are an important source for consumers who are in the research phase of the car-buying process. By providing customer testimonials in marketing campaigns, on your website and across social media platforms, you’ll reap the benefits of one of the most effective business advertisements. Building up an archive of customer testimonials will look good to both potential car buyers and Google, as positive customer reviews on Google will give you better rankings on organic search results.

4. Don’t skimp on social media

Car dealerships who use social media to promote their brand often forget to use platforms for anything else but selling. This is a huge mistake in the consumer world, as most people are turned off by pushy sales strategies. Consumers are interested in what is going on behind the scenes. Go beyond posting photos of new vehicles on the lot and share more experiences of your happy customers, team events, dealership news, staff birthdays, tips and vivid videos and pictures — content that is visual, fun and used to inform rather than sell will win an audience.

5. Partner with a local business

Partnering with a local business that has the same audience as your dealership is a great way to stay closely connected to potential consumers. This is a great marketing strategy to increase word-of-mouth sales and make new connections within your community to encourage more sales and raise profits.

The methods you use to promote your car dealership to increase sales are impossible to perfect overnight. However, over time and with trials your car dealership will be able to better understand its audience while nailing down the specific marketing strategies that work. Encouraging community involvement, getting creative, using customer testimonials to your advertising advantage, ensuring that your social media is solid and partnering with local businesses are all examples of unique marketing strategies that could bring in more consumers and increase your profits.

Shannon Friesen is vice president of dealer services at Canada Drives.