Online Marketing Trends

By Colleen Brousil

Keeping up with the latest trends in marketing can be a full-time job. So, as a full-time marketer, I’ve done my homework to provide you with a cheat sheet on the online marketing trends that you should have on your radar as we prepare to flip the calendar to 2015.

Before I divulge my cheat sheet, I want you to pull out your written marketing plan for 2014 and review the progress you’ve made toward your goals for the year. Which tactics worked, and which ones didn’t deliver?

My goal here it to get you thinking about change. What worked last year might not have worked this year, and what worked this year might not work next year. It is critical that you continually examine the tactics you’re using to meet your goals to ensure they still deliver the maximum return on investment (ROI) for your dealership.

Don’t have a written game plan? Resolve to draft one for the year ahead. Your dealership’s annual marketing plan doesn’t have to be complex, but it should include a few key components:

* Mission, vision and goals: What drives your business? Who are you as a business, and who do you want to be in a year? What do you want to accomplish?

* Target market: Who are your customers? What are their needs and wants? Who are your main competitors? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the year ahead?

* Tactics: What specific marketing tactics will you employ to reach your goals? Include documentation of each tactic: email marketing, advertising, events, social media, website updates, blog posts, videos, etc., and create an executable schedule with target due dates.

* Budgets/forecasts: What is your marketing budget? Be sure to include all promotional materials, advertising, events, online marketing expenses and the associated percentage of your team’s salaries dedicated to marketing.

* Measurements: How will you measure and track your results?

Alright. Now that you’ve got your head in planning mode, it’s time to take a look at what’s trending for the year ahead as you consider the tweaks you’ll be making to connect with buyers in 2015.

TREND #1: Personalization connects

Personalized marketing has gone far beyond inserting a customer’s first name into the salutation of an email. True personalization takes the preferences and needs of your customers into account to create marketing communications that connect.

Offering your customers a personalized experience doesn’t have to be complicated. It all starts with good data. The more robust data you’ve got on file, the better. Here are just a few data points you should collect in your customer relationship management (CRM) beyond their names and email addresses, as well as some examples of campaigns you can execute on regular intervals to create personal messages that will resonate with your customers and prospects:

* Major purchase history: If you know what products your customers own, you’re in a better position to extend offers for complimentary products and services. Need to move some snow plow attachments? Send a special offer just to your customers who own the corresponding UTV.

* Service due date: In an ideal world, your customers would sit down with their owner’s manual the moment they take delivery on a new rider mower and mark their calendars with the regular service intervals. But we all know that just isn’t the case. While generic seasonal emails will generate service business, try a more personalized approach. Run a weekly (or at least monthly) report of customers who have a unit due for service, and send them a reminder email inviting them to schedule an appointment, and to incentivize them, offer a special discount.

* Major unit products of interest: Did your customer bring a push mower in for service and spend 10 minutes salivating over your newest zero-turn riding mower model? Note this product of interest, so when you put it on sale, you know exactly who to share the news with!

* Birthday: Who doesn’t love a birthday present? Just like your service reminders, pull a report of upcoming birthdays on regular intervals and send an email with a special deal.

TREND #2: Selling won’t sell

Today’s ad-resistant consumers will tune out if your online marketing is all about you and your products. An entire industry has cropped up around the new discipline of “content” or “in-bound” marketing, and it will continue to dominate as we go into 2015. At its core, content marketing provides your customers with relevant, educational or entertaining content that they’ll find engaging.

Get blogging: While the idea of launching a blog can be daunting, a blog is key to driving traffic to your website. A realistic goal to start is to create one new blog post per week. I recommend sitting down for an hour with your entire team to generate a list of topics for a year’s worth of blog articles. No need to reinvent the wheel 52 times. Here are a few categories of content that can be the cornerstone of your blog calendar.

* How-to article
* Customer profile
* Staff profile
* Event wrap-up
* Event preview
* Top 10 list

I know you may be thinking that your job isn’t to serve as your customers’ entertainment committee, but done right, a blog can help establish your dealership as a local authority on outdoor power equipment, drive search engine traffic, and ultimately increase your in-bound leads.

Here’s where your blogging work continues to pay off. The content that you create for your blog can be shared across your social media and through a monthly newsletter to amplify your exposure overall and drive in-bound traffic to your website.

TREND #3: Visual storytelling connects

Whether through images or videos, 2015’s online shoppers will continue to be drawn to visual storytelling through images and videos that spark emotion. The best part? They like to share those visual nuggets with their social networks!

Try a little #TBT (that’s “Throwback Thursday” for those of you out of the loop on the social media lingo).

Or take a cue from a manufacturer and launch your own Facebook video contest. Briggs & Statton’s Mower Mouth Facebook contest invited Briggs fans to submit videos of themselves doing lawn mower impersonations. A few deserving winners were awarded Craftsman quiet lawn mowers powered by Briggs & Stratton’s Quiet Power Technology engine. What spin can your dealership put on this idea to engage your community with visual stories that beg to be shared?

TREND #4: Mobile blurs the line between online and offline experiences

The lines between your customers online and offline worlds will continue to blur as smartphones become more ingrained in the American lifestyle. Consider the following eye-opening stats from the Pew Research Internet Project:

* 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone.

* 58 percent of American adults have a smartphone.

* 67 percent of cell phone owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.

* 44 percent of cell phone owners have slept with their phone next to their beds because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night.

* 29 percent of cell phone owners describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.”

Take advantage of these blurring lines by incorporating the following digital tactics into your brick-and-mortar sales plan:

1) Arm your sales team with tablets: According to Merchant Survey 2014, tablets are already being used by 60 percent of retailers to enhance the customer experience.

Consider using tablets to allow your sales team to:

* Access customers’ past purchases to make new recommendations

* Share manufacturer brochures and specifications to answer customer questions

* Look up inventory across all locations

* Look up parts

* Take pictures of in-store inventory to upload to your website — both new and used

2) Offer digital receipts: According to Merchant Survey 2014, 48 percent of retailers, including Apple, are offering digital receipt options to customers. For many retailers, however, this just means emailing a receipt to the customer — leaving it up to the customers to go through their emails and organize the digital receipts on their own.

To get the most out of this emerging trend, take digital receipts to the next level. Offer customers the option to register for an electronic personal receipt folder that stores all of their receipts — making it easier for customers to find receipts, track their purchases, and expedite returns.

The upside: Use of digital receipts not only improves the customer experience, but also provides you with the opportunity to capture data that you can use to aid in your personalization efforts!

3) Experiment with iBeacons: Introduced in December 2013, Apple’s industry-leading iBeacons use Bluetooth low-energy technology to communicate with nearby mobile devices.

You can use iBeacons to:

* Send coupons and other offers to shoppers while they are literally standing in your dealership. Example: If they are browsing for oil filters and spark plugs, connect them with 20-percent-off service.

* Create an engaging customer experience (e.g. reward shoppers with mystery prizes for shopping in-store).

Worried your customers will resist these “Big Brother” technologies? A recent study, released by Swirl Networks, Inc., found that 77 percent of consumers said that they would be willing to share their location information, as long as they received enough value in return.

I hope this trend report serves as inspiration as you draft your dealership’s 2015 marketing plan. Got a digital marketing success story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Send me an email at

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Colleen Brousil is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Brousil served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. Brousil is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of an award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website ( and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”


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