Cashing in on the Internet

 

We’re learning every day that today’s consumer is armed with lots of information and that the days of one-way-conversation car sales are pretty much over. The internet has changed the way you do business. Thankfully, there are so many more opportunities these days to cash in on this change!
 
The perceptions that consumers have about car dealers have forced consumers to become more educated during the pre-purchase phase. Concurrently, developments in digital technology allow you, the dealer, to be more transparent and to change these perceptions through your actions. Now, more than ever, dealers everywhere have the unique opportunity to right the sins of the past, to build a strong, confident brand, and to dramatically increase profits and customer loyalty in both sales and service.
 
This move toward pragmatism and improved customer service is the bedrock that will help your dealership flourish into the next economic boom. Here are some best practices to help you on your way.
 
Maximize specials and incentives where your customers are.
 
Buyers often start their new car search with an idea of what they want, but it’s the manufacturer’s incentives that often help them decide whether or not it’s feasible. Unfortunately, in many cases these valuable hooks don’t stand out enough on a dealer’s website. Make sure manufacturers’ incentives are prominently displayed on your inventory pages and on Google.
 
It helps to think of the incentive as a coupon the manufacturer is giving you to help sell off your inventory. Your customers need to find that coupon and associate it with your dealership for you to reap any benefit, however. Otherwise, it’s wasted.
 
If a customer types “2010 Ford Focus Fresno Incentives” into Google, make sure that you’ve bought paid search ads for those search terms so that your dealership shows up on the page! If the only ads listed are for ford.com or third party lead generators, it’s time to take action and make sure you’re not giving up that business. You may think you cannot compete against the manufacturer because they have much more budget, but think again…Your local dealership will often out-rank the manufacturer from a relevancy standpoint and edging out the third party lead source guys is a strong play.
 
Don’t fear social media and online reviews.
 
The world is completely transparent these days. There’s no hiding anything anymore. Don’t be afraid of this. It has never been a better time to be good. Think of social media as a check and balance for your dealership. If your sales staff goes the extra mile for a customer, this is the channel you should use to let everyone know. Conversely, if a consumer has a poor experience, it’s going to show up here.
 
So be good! The brand-building opportunity for social media is huge. Your Facebook fans may not be customers now, but when they see how well you run your business, when they see you giving back to your community—or just simply being cool—you’re going to win some hearts and minds. Your customers will be more than happy to recommend someone they like to a friend or family member.
 
Enhance your service marketing offering.
 
Service marketing on your website is by far the single greatest financial opportunity you have on your dealer website. Service customers are flocking to the digital space. Google reports a huge spike in searches for service-based terms. Yet, how much real estate does your website devote to service? I’d say not much.
 
This year, if you do anything, change that! The simple fact is that your service customer base is under attack. Do a Google search for automotive service in your area. I would bet you will not see your dealership listed or any dealerships for that matter. What you will see are the independent repair shops and chain garages like Pep Boys and Midas. They are aggressively targeting your service business and they are winning!
 
Think back to social media for a minute. Here you are, building relationships based on respect and trust for your showroom. But how do you keep that customer long term and realize the full revenue potential of a life long customer? Well, I can tell you it’s not by sending them irrelevant direct mail flyers for your service department.
 
There are a few new tools in the digital space to help dealers bolster their service marketing to help bring back lost customers, fight off the aggressive chain garages, and increase absorption rate. I invite you to attend a one-of-a-kind, free live broadcast on September 9, 2010 at 2pm EDT, to learn about ways you can turn up the needle on service marketing profits for your dealership. We’ll also be sharing some of the latest, most compelling research about service marketing, consumer trends and best practices for recapturing and retaining “lost” service customers.
 
I hope you will join me on September 9th. Register free at www.dealer.com/register. If you have any questions, let me know!
 
Mike DeCecco is the director, industry relations for Dealer.com. For more information, email miked@dealer.com or visit www.dealer.com.
 
  
 

 

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