I HEARD A RADIO SPOT FOR a local car dealer. The shouting about lowest prices was so annoying, I changed the station. There are better ways to spend ad money than yelling at customers.

Yes, price is a main driver for car buyers. But if price alone motivates customers, will they beeline to your showroom the next time they are in the market?

While prices and values are important to buyers, so are reputations and referrals, says Michael Jackson, former vice president of advertising for General Motors.

Jackson, now a co-owner of Jackson & Partners, an ad agency for auto dealers, maintains auto retailers need to build their own brand and manage their reputations.

Because 80% to 90% of car consumers go online to shop and research, Jackson believes dealers need to start with a solid online strategy to maintain a strong presence on search-engine pages.

Do you know what your customers are saying about you online? Dealers should have someone track rating sites to monitor customer beefs. Of course, the best way to avoid negative buzz is to provide service that keeps customers happy.

Put your happy customers to work for you by asking them to participate in testimonial ads. An ad of just you, the dealer, telling people to trust you is rarely effective and can reinforce negative stereotypes. “It's not always the best idea to appear in the ad yourself,” Jackson says.

Another way to reinforce your reputation is to inspire your happy customers to spread the word about their positive experiences digitally on one of the rating sites or your Facebook or Twitter pages. Dealers can offer service specials on Facebook to encourage supportive buzz.

Too many dealers aren't capitalizing on their own histories, Jackson contends.

He recalls a dealer he worked with that was in business for nearly 60 years at the same location, with three generations as part of the family business. There also were generations of customers. But the dealer was not capitalizing on all that in his marketing.

“There are so many untold stories like this,” Jackson says.

He urges dealers to formulate a media strategy, integrate messages across different channels and be mindful of where TV and radio spots are bought. It dilutes the message if three or four other dealers are in the same commercial break.

Dealers need patience after introducing a new advertising campaign or media approach, Jackson says. Too often they pull the plug if there aren't immediate results.

Give it time to work, he says. “It's not going to happen overnight.”