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Growing your dealership’s service business isn’t an easy job. With countless auto repair shops trying to steal your customers away and manufacturer-recommended service intervals ever expanding, it’s easy to feel like the cards are stacked against you. But with the right service department marketing, you can bring in those customers you seek.

Now it’s probably not news to you that there are no silver bullets when it comes to marketing. It’ll take effort and consistency to make the tactics included in this article successful. And, once you do bring customers in, it’s up to you to do deliver a great customer experience.

With that said, these seven marketing tactics are a mix of new best practices and old staples that’ll help you serve more customers, more often.

1) Value-Added Incentives

Value-added incentives are all about making your standard services more valuable to your customers without relying on discounts. By including extra perks at no additional charge, you make customers feel appreciated and can stand out from the competition. Many dealerships have done some form of this for years now, such as offering a free car wash with every oil change. But some dealerships take this much further to really set themselves apart and build customer loyalty.

Example: Our product, DriveSure, is centered around value-added incentives. We make it easy for dealerships to add a suite of renewable benefits to regular maintenance services, such as oil changes. Each time a customer comes in for a qualifying service, they receive dealership-loyal roadside assistance, road hazard tire protection, and rental car coverage at no cost to them. When these benefits expire, they simply return to the dealership for another qualifying service to renew them. Dealerships like Lilliston Ford in New Jersey have used DriveSure to grow their service business by 33%.

2) Mobile Alerts

Most of us always have a smartphone by our side these days and that can be great news for savvy marketers. While most of your competition is focused on more traditional marketing channels, you can cut through the noise by marketing through your customers’ phone notifications.

Example: With the DriveSure Digital Pass that your customers can easily add to their smartphones, they can receive notifications when they’re due for service. Even better, dealerships can set up geofencing to deliver specific messages when customers are in certain locations. For example, you could welcome them back when they visit your location or instantly provide them with an offer when they visit a competitor.

3) Text Messaging

If there was one thing that was clear from our recent 2020 Dealership Service Retention Report, it’s that consumers are open to receiving text messages from their dealership. With well-crafted messages and a solid strategy, you can communicate with people through the same channel where they talk with their friends and family. This can help ensure that your messages actually get read while also helping you build a lasting relationship with your customers.

Example: One way to make text messaging do double duty for your marketing is to ask for reviews after a customer visits your service department. Not only do you get one more opportunity to engage with them through SMS, you can also improve your average rating and number of reviews online. We wrote about many more text message marketing examples here. 

Dealership text messaging tactic

4) Email Marketing

Even though we have new ways of reaching customers, our 2020 Retention Report proved that email is still king. One of the things that make email great is its versatility. We recommend using it to send regular updates as well as one-off notifications. Regular updates, such as a dealership newsletter, will help you stay top of mind and build a lasting relationship with your customers. Service reminders and other one-off notifications can drive immediate action and assist with increasing your service visit frequency.

Example: Here’s one email template from AutoRaptor designed to help ensure that customers return to your dealership for service after purchasing a vehicle:

Dear [name],

Congratulations on the purchase of your new [make/model]! It was a real pleasure to help you find your perfect vehicle. How many people have you showed it off to so far?

Our team is grateful that you chose to buy from our dealership and we hope that the experience exceeded your expectations. If you think we could be doing anything differently—or want us to keep something up—please let me know.

As a reminder, your first oil change with our in-house service department is complimentary, so I hope we’ll see you walk through the door in about 3,000 more miles.

Thank you again, and enjoy your new [make/model]!


[Sales rep name]
[email signature]

5) Direct Mail

So far we’ve only talked about digital forms of marketing, but direct mail can still be a powerful tool for dealerships. In fact, giving customers a physical item in the mail is actually beginning to become a stand-out tactic as more and more of our communication moves online. In our experience, direct mail works best when you give the recipient a clear and compelling call to action and pair it with an attractive offer, such as a value-added incentive like we discussed above.

Example: Using DriveSure’s direct mailers similar to the template below, Mazda of Orland Park drove over $100,000 in additional sales across three conquest campaigns.

Traffic driver mailer marketing tactic

6) Online Advertising

Online advertising can be a great way to get in front of customers. We recommend starting with Facebook Ads and Google Search Ads. Google Search Ads can help you ensure that your dealership gets found when people make relevant Google searches. Facebook ads are a great way to get in front of new people, and can even be customized to show specific ads to your customer list.

Example: The example below comes straight from Facebook, showing one way dealerships can use Facebook ads to show off the experience of their technicians.

Screenshots of Facebook online advertising

7) Get the Sales Department Engaged

Last but not least, one of the most important automotive service department marketing tactics happens entirely at the dealership. If you can get your sales people to talk up your service department and introduce new buyers to your team, you’ll have a much better chance of creating a lasting relationship that keeps them coming back.

Example: One of the most effective ways to do this is with a well-executed sales-to-service handoff. We have a free guide that walks you through exactly how to master this technique.

What marketing tactic works best for your dealership’s service department? Let us know in the comments below!

The 2020 Dealership Service Retention Report


Learn why customers choose to return to their dealership for service and why they don’t. Plus, we reveal your biggest opportunities for encouraging customer loyalty.