Auto Parts Marketing Idea – Hold Your Own Car Show

Whether you’re in the business of manufacturing auto parts, retailing parts online, or retailing parts in your local market, a car show can be an effective and affordable way to market your company. Car shows tend to draw hard-core automotive enthusiasts who are influencers on social media, car shows often garner media coverage, and they’re fun.

Of course, car shows are a lot of work too. It’s not easy to put on an event, especially one that requires registration and planning.

Here are the pros and cons from a marketing perspective, along with some advice on putting together a good show.

First, Why Bother With Your Own Car Show?

Event marketing is a tried and true tactic, but it’s often considered something that’s only effective for businesses with a local customer base.

This is wrong.

Events are a great way for any company or brand to generate publicity, and publicity leads to things like social media shares and links to your website. All of this activity will boost your brand, your search engine rankings, and show your customers another side of your company.

The keys to success (explained in greater detail below) are:

  1. Identify a specific audience
  2. Co-market
  3. Publicize
  4. Invest in coverage

If you do these four things, you’ll find that a car show is a killer auto parts marketing tactic.

Identify An Audience For The Car Show

It’s foolhardy to hold a car show without thinking about who – specifically – you want to attend. If you’re an off-road parts manufacturer, you might want to invite Jeep and Tacoma owners. If you’re a restoration parts retailer, you probably want to invite classic car fans. If you’re a performance parts company, you want to invite racing and performance clubs. Etc.

NOTE: You may not want to get super specific about your audience, such as inviting 3rd gen Toyota Tacoma owners only (for example). It’s hard to have a big car show if you’re too specific about the vehicles you allow. Unless you’re in a bigger city, it may be difficult to find a lot of participants.

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of targeting “anyone with a cool car,” as inviting everyone is a lot like inviting no one. Besides, it’s not very authentic to open things up that much. Most car shows are focused on a specific type of vehicle or a specific type of exhibitor.

Market Research For Your Target Car Show Audience

Once you’ve identified the types of vehicles you want at your show, it’s time to draw a box around that audience. Social media is a great tool for this process:

  • Find Facebook groups and pages devoted to the vehicles you want at your show, and skim comments for other interests
  • Find people on Instagram and Twitter who share posts about a vehicle you want at your show, and see what else they’re talking about in their posts
  • See what pages, groups, and profiles individual enthusiasts are following and look for patterns

While it might feel a little bit like “social media stalking,” it’s great market research. You will likely find that a lot of off-road SUV and trucks owners have interest in veteran’s groups and patriotism, or that a lot of performance and classic car enthusiasts have similar musical and cultural tastes, or that there’s one or two local organizations that have already built trust with the people you want at your show. Use this information to figure out a good “angle” or “pitch” for your show.

Co-Market Your Car Show

When it comes to putting on an event, co-marketing will set you free. Do NOT try to do it all yourself – find another company (or three) in your area that have a similar audience and invite them to get involved. You can share the task of promoting the event, managing vehicle registration and show spaces, share in marketing costs, and so on.

Your co-marketing partners don’t have to be “partners” at all. You can invite them to become sponsors, but instead of charging them a sponsorship fee, you can ask them to donate a facility, or staff, or advertising, or whatever. (We talk more about car show sponsorship in this Spork blog post.)

Speaking of donations, it’s a great idea to involve a local charity. In exchange for using the charity’s name on all your marketing materials, you can offer to donate some or all vehicle registration fees to them, or encourage visitors to make a small donation when attending the show (like a ticket, but not really).

Finally, talk to your local new car dealers and restaurants about co-sponsoring a car show. These businesses have a parking lot, restrooms, lots of staff, insurance, and they often have a local advertising budget, too.

classic car show

Consider Charging a Vehicle Registration Fee And Using It For Prize Money

By charging a vehicle registration fee, you’re eliminating a lot of casual “maybe I’ll bring my car and maybe I won’t” participants. That might be a good thing for a show with a great response, but it could strangle a smaller show, so you’ll have to go by your gut.

If you decide to charge a fee, be sure to use some of that money to award winners with cash. Cash prizes tend to bring in higher quality vehicles, but also give you a great talking point in your advertising and promotion.

Publicize Your Car Show

There are about a million things you can do to promote a car show, but some of our favorite ideas include:

  • Create an official car show registration page on your company website and/or on Facebook, and then advertise it on Facebook and Instagram
  • Post announcements to vehicle owner forums. They often have regional threads where you can post car show announcements.
  • Register your car show with local event sites like Eventful, your local TV station and newspaper websites (most of which allow you to post an event announcement for free), car show listings websites (there are too many to list), and search for websites about things to do in your area. Google “things to do in Denver” – or whatever city your show will be held in – and see if you can get whatever websites that are listed to publish your event.
  • Contact all the car clubs in your area that might have members who would want to exhibit and offer them a special parking area and/or registration discount.
  • Find Facebook clubs or pages for your local area that might be popular with your audience and message the page owner about the show – they’ll often share a link.
  • Email local automotive media…every newspaper has an automotive news or local events reporter, as do most TV stations. Give them a two or three-sentence description of the show, offer them a free media pass, and offer to answer questions.
  • Email your local TV morning news shows and offer to appear on their show to talk about your event. They’re often desperate for guests.
  • Create an event on Facebook and invite all your fans to attend. Ask your co-marketers to do the same.

Whatever you do, make sure that all your publicity activity includes a link to your event registration page (which is hopefully on your company website) and a link to your Facebook event page. This will generate a variety of quality links to your site and build your brand on social media, both of which can boost search engine rankings.

Invest in Coverage

In our experience, this is where most car show promoters fall short. You can put on the best car show your town has ever seen, but the business impact of a successful show is maximized when you can receive legitimate media coverage.

The trouble is, that the economics of modern media make legitimate coverage difficult to obtain. TV cameras, photographers, and reporters don’t work for free, and most local media doesn’t prioritize car show coverage. The solution? Hire your own coverage team!

For less than $500, you can hire a professional photographer to cover your show (just post an ad on Craigslist and pick your favorite responder). For $200-$500 dollars more, you can get a videographer to shoot a video of your event for an hour or two. If you let your local media know you’re going to hire pros to cover the show and offer to send them footage or photos free of charge, they just might use it in an article or newscast.

What’s more, you can hire a freelance journalist to attend your event, write up news stories, and then send them to local media, bloggers, etc. in addition to your photos and video. Car show coverage is popular with a variety of automotive blogs, and car show photos can be popular post topics on forums, in Facebook groups, etc.

This Sounds Like A Lot of Work…

Yup. Putting on a car show isn’t easy. It takes time, money, and planning to be successful.

On the other hand, it’s not impossible. Local charities, alumni associations, and car clubs put on car shows all the time. These organizations don’t usually have marketing budgets or employees, and yet they somehow manage to pull it off. We have several clients who host their own car show annually, and all of them state that their car show is great for business and has really helped them grow.

When you consider the opportunities for legitimate media coverage, the marketing benefits that come with this media coverage, the branding benefits, and the opportunity to help a local charity, a car show is a great marketing tactic. So go for it!

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