Digital marketing for an automotive dealership franchise is complicated. I’ve worked in this environment and I write this post to educate. As a digital marketing consultant, I feel the need to share my experience. Any entrepreneur looking to build, buy or manage an automotive franchise needs to read my automotive dealership series. I will never call out the company I worked for or anyone I met in my positions. This series is about learning and let’s face it, that’s what life is about.
During my automotive dealership experiences, I didn’t really know what I was in for until I went full-time. My skill set is in SEO, SEM and Social Media Marketing, but shortly after I showed my technical skills, my new role was system administrator. This doesn’t mean I didn’t do my skill set, it means other people did it for me and this was the problem in the end. I personally didn’t want to be out of the tools. Facebook and AdWords just did a double whammy this week and I’m studying a ton. If I don’t understand how the marketing systems work, it’s going to be tough to manage campaigns and/or staff.
The reason why I became a system administrator at an automotive dealership was because the automotive dealership knows selling cars. Generally speaking, these owners don’t know about technology and how to challenge automotive industry technology providers, this is where my skill-set came in handy.
As a system administrator in an automotive dealership you deal with constant turn-over. Sales folks come and go, but all of them need technology and web system support. The sales folks could be there a year, a month or a day and these people need system credentials and support from day 1 in order to sell cars.
I’m just starting this series and following are a few of the insights I want to share my lessons learned with dealership owners, digital marketing professionals and automotive technology providers:
Website Hosting is very challenging because the majority of the automotive franchise owners are dictated to use a specific CRM/ERM system. If an owner want’s to branch out on their own the OEM charges these owners dollars every year for not taking the OEM’s recommendation. This fact, makes each automotive dealership a different experience, when supporting digital marketing and system administration. It broke my heart to see how owners are mandated to use a system just because and let it be known, I found many bugs and system issues throughout my experience as a digital marketer/system administrator at an automotive dealership.
Email Addresses, I worked at a company where sales staff used their personal email addresses for sales related communications. When did this seem like a good idea? Oh it’s because the owners sell cars and not communications services. It also has to do with the bottom-line. This leaves the dealership at risk for losing future business because if a sales person does their job right, the customer goes with the sales person when they leave a dealership.
Website Chat is easy to implement on a dealership website because chat services focus on the need and their processes are nailed. But as a system administrator this process is very labor intensive especially when a dealership has high turn-over. Chat lead generation requires integration with the CRM/ERP systems and while this was relatively easy for someone like me, it’s a learning curve for the Internet Sale Manager selling cars and managing the internet leads.
Local Dealership Ratings on other websites. In theory these sites identify the awesome automotive dealerships and the other ones that aren’t so good. Customer reviews are a huge part of making an automotive franchise dealership successful. Let’s talk about DealerRater, the cornerstone for success at an automotive dealership. Oh it’s great, but it’s another labor intensive job for the system administrator or internet sales person on site. For a dealership to achieve a successful DealerRater account, it requires; photo of the sales person and bio of the sales person. But it’s more complicated, the dealership’s General Manager, Owner, Internet Sales Manager needs to create an incentive program for the sales folks to generate these customer reviews. Consumers place purchasing a car right next to buying a house, it’s a big purchase. Why would a customer write a review on the numerous automotive review sites? Oh the customer gets a better deal on the car! Yes and this is why dealerships need to focus on real customer review sites like Yelp, CitySearch and Google. Building programs to make sales folks generate customer reviews is a natural idea. Let it be known automotive buyers are not stupid when buying a big dollar item like a car, they look past the pretty dealership customer review sites and look at closely at the Google results. And these customers go past page 1 on Google to see the poor Yelp, CitySearch and Google+ ratings.
I have my ideas for the next post in the automotive dealership series, but I’d like to know your thoughts as well, leave me a comment or voicemail if your into that at 913-735-3832.