Tag Archives: Automotive Dealership Marketing

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.
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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!

Automotive Dealership Marketing – Part 1

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.

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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.