Automotive Dealership Marketing – Part 2

by: Anne Haynes

Automotive Marketing – Generating Leads

This is Part 2 of my Automotive Dealership Marketing series detailing the complexities of tools. Not all tools are complicated, but volume of tools makes it complicated. To get caught up on the series, read the Automotive Dealership Marketing Part 1, it’s more of an overview, but sets the tone for the series.

If you ask people about their communication experiences during the car buying process 90% of the people will say it was frustrating. If a buyer goes to a 3rd party automotive buying websites, most likely their request for more information is sent to a dealership’s CRM system or Dealership Management System (DMS). Once the lead is in the DMS, an automotive general manger or sales manager assigns the lead to a sales person. The sales person’s goal is to schedule an appointment and get the potential buyer on the showroom floor. If a sales person doesn’t follow-up to a lead quickly and schedule appointment this sales person will no longer receive leads. And this is one of the reasons why buyers complain about the communication cycle when buying a car.

In my role as a dealership digital marketing manager, I didn’t sell cars, so this post is not about sales tactics; it’s about the tools needed to continually generate leads into the dealership.

The majority of dealerships employ Internet Sales Managers; these individuals are responsible for managing internet leads and selling cars to these leads. Many times these “sales” people are put into a situation where they have to learn all the technical inter-workings of lead integration into the DMS. In my professional opinion this is where dealerships are focused too much on sales and not enough on technology.

Here is a humorous video which I continually reference which summarizes the evolution of the Internet Sale Manager. Warning: the ending of the video could be offensive to some, but it’s the reality of what dealership owners are expecting from sales folks.

How do dealerships deal with the changing landscape of the web and lead generation? They outsource everything; website development, SEO and SEM. Social media tends to be managed by another sales person who is measured by sales and expected to manage the social media presence for the organization.

The Internet Sales Manager is measured by sales too, heck aside from the owner every employee with any version of “Sales” in their title is measured by sales.

What does it take to generate and manage leads at a dealership?

A website is needed to show potential buyers the cars available. I’ve evaluated many vendors providing websites to dealerships and the majority of the vendors have hard coded templates with limited ability to optimize the website for the search engines and user experience. The website templates are used across the entire automotive industry and because the templates come with default content, what you see is duplicate content across multiple dealership websites which hurts rankings.

OEM’s trying to preserve their brand image require dealerships to buy OEM authorized websites if the dealership wants leads from the OEM’s website. The OEM website becomes another lead generation source. Dealerships are making the tough decisions to keep their local website built by one vendor or delete their website and move to the OEM authorized website vendor based out of fear that one day the OEM is going to make using their “authorized” website vendor mandatory. And after my SEO analysis you can see in the following example that the OEM authorized website vendor “Cobalt” has little value with regards to PageRank. Moreover, the dealership website built by AllAutoNetwork continually links to the OEM authorized website vendor. I put a stop to this quickly.
automotive-technology-bad

On the website SEO note, there are shyster companies who purchase all of the domain names for car makes-models-location. For example kcfordescape.com, kansascityfordescape.com, kchyundaitucson.com you get the idea. These companies put microsites up, build crappy backlinks and charge the dealerships a crazy expensive monthly fee for each microsite. I did an extensive analysis and the best performing microsite for unique visits 01/11-06/11 was 124 visits. Don’t be confused with leads; these are unique VISITS in 5 months costing the dealership $100 per visit. There were 16 other microsites, you do the math.

During my communications with one of the three account representatives I had at Cobalt, the representative made the mistake of telling me Cobalt was buying PPC ads and sending it to the OEM authorized website, which in my opinion was not our primary website. Well that’s interesting, when did we approve this activity? Oh I get it, you all buy PPC ads to make your traffic numbers look good and build a case for the OEM to mandate dealerships to use your service.

How about other ways to generate leads from the website? Chat is a great way for any website in any industry to immediately generate leads through real-time website traffic. I have experience with Contact At Once. Chat requires a sales person picture, and an email. Administering this service is not painful unless sales folks come and go. Turn-over was the environment I lived in when supporting dealership website chat. While install on the machines was easy, teaching the sales folks to use the tool was not always easy. I wrote an Automotive Dealership Sales Person Chat Manual Contact At Once and it helped with reducing question volume.

The new sales persons picture doesn’t stop at chat, local dealership reviews are important to lead generation. DealerRater dominates as the dealerships preferred website for customers’ reviews. Dealerships build entire programs around sales people soliciting DealerRater reviews. But let it be known the sales folks are also trained to only solicit DealerRater reviews when an automotive sale has been successful. As the administrator of a DealerRater dealership page it’s labor intensive especially when an automotive dealership has high-turnover. All sales people need a picture, email and bio in order to start accepting reviews on DealerRater. Dealerships use their DealerRater ranking in multiple advertising mediums; radio, tv, print and web. As a consumer it’s important to notice the volume of DealerRater sales people; the more sales folks, the more turn-over. I’m just going to say it, I don’t want my contact details being shuffled to another sales person who is going to be required to call me.

There is more to come on lead generation in the automotive industry, but for now this is the closing of Part 2. How am I doing with creating compelling awesome content in 2013? Leave me a comment and let me know!