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With the economic downfall of 2008 in the rearview, most of the local dealerships that were lucky enough to survive are still coping with its effects. While the government didn’t miss a beat with bailing out the major automotive manufacturers in Detroit, the local dealerships were simply left to fend for themselves.

Thankfully, the economy is recovering nicely and—as a result—people are buying cars again. However, since the economy is still relatively tender, dealers have to resort to unique marketing tactics in order to survive. Below are five of the most creative, yet effective marketing strategies implemented by dealerships across the nation.

Shuttle Service

While many local dealerships tend to be small, there are some in which parking might be inconveniently far away. By offering a shuttle service to and from the parking lot, as well as around the car lot, you can increase your customer’s level of satisfaction. Naturally, the vehicle chose to act as the shuttle should be branded with important dealership information.

Complimentary Gifts

You can always be sure of one thing—people like receiving free stuff! It never fails! One of the best items to give out is branded promotional items as they are inexpensive, diverse, and customizable. Many vendors feature cheap giveaways and other items related to the automotive niche—such as keychains and promotional flashlights—that would appeal nicely to customers. These can be handed out with each sale, or if you really want to draw in customers, to each person that walks in the door.

Referral Program

Many dealerships are establishing referral programs with existing customers. For instance, a good program might offer a free service package for every new customer referred. This would not only bring in new customers, but give your existing customers a chance to experience the knowledge and friendliness of your service department.

Contests

Everyone loves a little friendly competition, especially if the prize is nice. A popular game that many dealerships host is commonly referred to as “Find the Car.” In this game, a branded car is strategically hidden somewhere in the vicinity of the dealership. Participants who locate the car can tweet the location, or comment on Facebook. From there, the dealership can choose the first person or the first few people who correctly locate the car to be entered into a contest to win the hidden car.

Supermarket Copycat

Host a promotional sale in which customers who purchase a new car can take half off the sticker price of a second used car. For the most part, a dealership has to be doing well in terms of sales and inventory in order to host a promotional sale like this. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be feasible. However, most of these sales are highly successful because it is such a good deal that new customers are drawn in from all over.

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