4 Ways to Improve Your Service Drive Marketing to Drive Car Sales

February 7, 2022 John Kehm

Amid ongoing inventory shortages, it’s easy to see why dealers are exploring new ways to continuously generate revenue – especially as shortages are expected to continue throughout 2022.

It’s even easier to see why so many auto dealers are looking to their service drive to promote their business. For dealers looking to achieve their own sustainable success in 2022, service departments play two critical roles.  

The first, as always, is revenues: Tickets from service drives and other fixed ops functions keep the lights on when a dealership’s market days supply isn’t quite as high as the sales manager would like. Plus the service drive can offer dealers a steady supply of high-quality, pre-owned acquisitions while auction prices are at historic highs. 

The second is as a source of service-not-sold conquest prospects. We’ve talked at length about the importance of the service department in the service conquest process, as well as its value to proactively promoting retention and building customer loyalty. 

So, how do you drive more traffic to your service department? 

To help your service department become a focus of your efforts to attract new customers, dealers need to adopt data-driven service marketing strategies for your car dealership’s service drive:

  • Targeting your best potential customers with predictive marketing
  • Ensuring your marketing connects with prospects 
  • Selling what your service drive means to customers
  • Accurately measuring service drive success 

1. Predict service success

Inventory challenges are expected to last into the foreseeable future, meaning dealers should be focusing on long-term solutions in addition to “quick wins,” when it comes to marketing their service drive. To aid in the constantly evolving world of automotive retail, predictive marketing tools like Mastermind empower dealers to identify and predict which of their customers are the best prospects for their products or services and target them with marketing materials.

In the modern age, the challenge for marketers is no longer getting data on prospects. Rather, the challenge is there’s so much data available that it’s long past the ability of any human to absorb, digest and make informed decisions from it all. 

That’s where analysis-based marketing comes into play, powered by artificial intelligence-based analytics tools that can digest massive amounts of data, identify patterns and traits that would be indistinguishable by humans and deliver actionable projections and suggestions.

For instance, Mastermind’s predictive marketing dealership solutions are powered in part by IHS Markit’s demographic data from 197 million households, three billion ownership records and 650 million vehicle records. But when it comes time to develop a marketing campaign to identify the best prospects for service department offers, your team isn’t opening the database of 197 million owners – or even two or three million owners in a metro area. 

Rather, your dealership is being presented with a ranked list of the prospects within your service radius who are most likely to be open to that specific offer. This information is generated by Mastermind’s Behavior Prediction Score® technology from the information in IHS Markit’s records and a variety of other public and proprietary data sets that have information relevant to automotive consumer behavior. 

When leveraged by a member of your BDC (or dedicated service-to-sales team) these kinds of tools allow dealerships to automatically identify owners who fit into any number of categories.These prospects will be primed for engagement, from customers who are approaching major service milestones to those driving well-cared-for in-demand pre-owned models.

2. Connect with customers

We’ve talked before about car dealership digital marketing best practices, from what you say to how you say it and where you deliver it to your audiences. 

Making this even more complicated is the speed in which the automotive shopping experience, dealership marketing landscape and customer expectations are changing. In fact, brand loyalty among U.S. consumers for new vehicles dropped to a six-year low in June 2021, according to IHS Markit. Coupled with ongoing inventory shortages and increased competition from online-only retailers and dealers are under more pressure than ever to engage and retain customers.

In the end, all the creative marketing strategies for your dealership’s service drive come down to the simple fact that you need to have enough insights into your prospective customer.  You need to be able to connect with them in the way that’s most appropriate and effective for them. This means asking questions such as: Are they more likely to engage with print materials mailed to their home, to social media advertising, video content, e-mail outreach or even a phone call?

When powered by predictive marketing technology, dealers can ensure their service messages are resonating with customers, personalized to include the details most likely to influence their decision and delivered when – and in the format – most likely to elicit a response. 

Learn how Mastermind can help you drive more traffic to your service drive  

3. Sell the meaning of service

It’s a question as old as auto dealers: How do you sell an automotive service to customers? 

One way to do it effectively is to sell what the service means to the customer, rather than make the common mistake of trying to sell its features. Especially in a consumer environment (as opposed to B2B), customers aren’t buying based on product features. Instead, they’re buying on what those features will do for them, or what that means to them. 

Yes, you need to share what your service drive will do for your customers’ vehicles – but more importantly, you need to make them want the benefits of those services.


Download the Cheat Sheet:
5-Steps to Marketing with Low or No Inventory


In marketing-speak, that’s known as “Features-Benefits-Meaning” or “Features-Benefits-Value” marketing. And while it might seem like an unusual way to think about your marketing, it’s something you can do very easily by simply asking yourself why a customer should care about what you’re offering – and then leading with that.

It’s also important to keep it simple. Research from the Corporate Executive Board shows that in the crowded, information-dense environment in which we live, consumers value marketing messages that are simple and easy to understand.

Here’s a quick example of how to market your dealership’s service department: 

•  Features: (What are the facts about the service you’re selling?)

◦  Your service drive offers free 25-point inspections for all vehicles more than five years old.

•  Benefits: (What does this service do?)

◦  Your inspection will identify needed repairs, flag potential future issues and present the owner with an easy-to-understand report on existing issues and maintenance plan for upcoming service needs.

•  Meaning: (What does this mean to the customer?)

◦  They’re protecting their investment, can make their car last longer and can drive with peace of mind.

In this example, many dealers would lead with “Free 25-point inspection” as the headline on the mailer or advertisement in a feature-first model. Consider how much more powerful a mailer would be that combined predictive marketing with a meaning-first message to connect with a headline along the lines of, “FREE: Peace of mind to keep your 2014 Ford Explorer on the road for years to come.”

4. Measure and monitor your marketing efforts 

Finally, to improve their service drive marketing, dealers need to assess what high-performing marketing looks like at their dealership. Additionally, the entire dealership, from the general manager to the service advisors, needs to understand their role in the process to support your service marketing efforts.

Every successful process you implement needs to be measured against expectations. Of course, no two dealerships are the same and the goals of some dealerships may differ from others. From the beginning, set SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound – goals for your service department marketing efforts. 

To determine these goals, its important dealers assess their current process. Start by asking questions like how many ROs you have monthly and the total number of phone calls and emails your service team is generating. Looking at these sort of key performance indicators – outside of just your sales number – is key to measuring your success and refining your future efforts. 


Get the Guide:
30-Question Quiz for Maximizing Revenue in the Service Drive


Thanks to countless factors ranging from new vehicle shortages, the automotive customer journey – and customer expectations – have changed. At the same time, the dealership service drive is offering dealers new opportunities to engage and retain customers, if they take the right approach. 

To make the most of their service drive marketing, increase service revenue and engage potential car buyers, dealers need to take a data-driven approach.  

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