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Get More Traffic to Your GMB Pages with User-Generated Content

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If your goal is to grow the number of searches and referrals you see from your Google My Business pages, step one should be to see what to expect as a baseline. Friendemic conducted research recently, examining hundreds of auto dealer GMB pages of various sizes. Following is what a dealer sees from their Google My Business page in an average week, based on data from September-December 2020: How do you compare? Track your Insights on your GMB page to set a baseline, and check how you compare to the average. There are multiple methods to grow the number of searches and interactions you generate on your GMB pages, one of which is to start or increase your posting of specific sales and service content to your corresponding GMB Sales and Service pages. Content that gets the most engagement is User Generated Content (UGC), but questions are common about what specific content fits into this category, so we will break down content into more specific categories for clarification. User-Generated Content is very much what it sounds like: any content — text, videos, images, reviews, etc. that is created by people rather than by the brand. The confusion sometimes occurs where the dealership uses software that allows salespeople, or other employees, to capture photos and videos, especially of customers, for social posting. Some will count this as UGC - since it contains a photo of the customer...others consider UGC only content captured and posted by consumers themselves. Since we love acronyms in the automotive space, we'll create our own here to break this all down. Let's break out UGC into two types: Consumer Generated and Dealer Generated, which both are separate from branding content from the OEM. Here is how we use these in our GMB posting strategy. Consumer-Generated Content (CGC) Consumers are more likely to trust a buying experience when it is shared by other consumers. This is the main reason online reviews are so critical to your business. Online reviews are the most critical type of CGC you can add to your GMB page. Another type is photos. Photos are highly viewed content on your GMB page (see above chart). Getting consumers to post photos of their visit to the dealership can help build your photo library, so encourage consumers to share photos/videos on their next visit. It also adds value to reviews when customers add a photo to their review as well. We see this all the time with restaurant reviews. Food photos add to the story. Follow their lead. The last type of CGC is when consumers post to the Questions section on your GMB page. Be sure to answer promptly, Answers, is one type of content you want to be strictly generated by the dealership, but Google allows consumers to answer if you do not. Dealer Generated Content (DGC) What about those happy customer photos? We will categorize this as DGC since the dealership staff is capturing and posting, but it will still see increased engagement because it is consumer-focused. Photos/Videos of customers sharing their happy experiences at your dealership in many ways is at valuable as a 5-star review. In some cases, more valuable because a consumer will view photos and videos at a much higher rate than text-only content. By the same token, encourage (or incentivize) your team to capture customer photos/videos/testimonials for use on your GMB page. Also, don't limit DGC to customer posts. Use the Offers option and post-sales and service specials (only to their corresponding page); at least monthly, weekly is better. Manufacturer Generated Content (MGC) Generally, this is referred to as OEM content for dealers. There is value in posting content from OEM, but the objective with this content is much more on branding vs. engagement. Just as with advertising, repetitive exposure has value, so it can help promote your brand by posting similar content as your OEM, but because it lacks the local factor and is typically not unique to your dealership, the benefit is less. While good to build into your posting schedule, this should be the lowest priority of our mix. I know there will be some uncomfortable with the idea of encouraging consumers to post photos and videos to your GMB page. However, there is a disconnect between the content consumers seek and what dealers/marketers are creating. According to a study by Stakla , 79% of people say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, yet only 13% said content from a brand is impactful. The focus of your posting then is for DGC to get the same love and attention that CGC receives. To clarify, Google doesn't treat UGC differently than other types of content; however, Google does rank content based on relevance and quality, and if consumers engage more with UGC, it will be seen as more relevant and better quality than content that gets ignored. Remember, our goal is to get our GMB page showing up in more searches. Better engagement with your posts will improve your SEO and get you more views. If you enjoyed this article, take some time to listen to the latest podcast episode on Experimarketing  with  Colin Carrasquillo
A Time-Lapse of Automotive Retailing & the BDC as We Know It

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Remember the days when internet leads were coming in by fax just like the daily lunch specials from the local pizzeria still do? Those were the days that, sadly, I did not experience as I started selling cars just as CRM tools became popular. I remember the Internet Sales department consisting of salespeople that gave prices, created appointments and sold vehicles directly to the customer. This was without a BDC department.  I loved it so much that after two years on the showroom taking ups I switched to the Internet department.  We were considered the “giveaway artists” that made no gross or lost the store money. Management considered us important because we moved units and grew volume. Salespeople on the floor did not like us because in the dead of winter when it was freezing cold and customers were not coming in, we still had customers coming to see us. We were starting to provide the customer with the experience they wanted, and they enjoyed buying vehicles from us. I loved it because it kept me busy on the phone instead of sitting around, waiting for the door to open, and I made a six-figure income.  Enter the Era of Fancy Digital Marketing The internet had officially taken over with the likes of “SEO,” “SEM,” “Social Media,” and everything else that came along. If we add the fact that there was an unfair advantage to having two different types of sales departments, there became a need for the BDC. The mentality of hiring lower-cost customer service agents that had no clue about selling cars seemed like a great idea because all they need to do is “just get them in.” Many dealerships went back to handling phone calls the same way they did in the old days, without giving numbers. The problem is that no one would understand that consumers had every tool available to them thanks to sites like Edmunds, Cars.com, AutoTrader, CarsDirect, and many others. Now customers have to deal with two layers of people to talk to. First, they speak to a BDC agent, and when they visit the dealership, they get passed over to a salesperson. The experience of this created a longer sales process and constant complaints from customers because the process starts all over again. Even today, salespeople are not prepared to talk to customers because they have no clue about the digital tools that can help sell more efficiently. This problem still exists in the dealership today, even after digital retailing became the modern way of life.  Enter Digital Retailing While I remember seeing Digital Retailing tools on dealer’s website’s as long as ten years ago I do not remember seeing a single Sales, BDC or Manager even know how to navigate the website. The dealership website is the digital showroom and I think that only now we truly are starting to get it. While customers are constantly saying that they want to do a complete transaction online they still do not realize that they have this ability. In fact, we as sales professionals need to coach customers to use these tools. Instead of “when can you come in” we shift the conversation intelligently to pressing a few buttons and discussing pricing and payments.  It is important to train people to ask the right questions and work their digital retailing tools. Nowadays, when customers want to negotiate numbers discussed we can start asking for a commitment and getting management involved to structure the deal. Essentially, if we use the digital retailing tool properly we can bring customers in the showrooms with half the deal being already finished and lowering the time it takes to finish a deal. Digital retailing is a culture that is officially forced upon us by the consumer and the software creator. We need to embrace this new way of doing business.  It is sad to see many dealers still not embracing this shift in business. We talk about disruptors like Carvana and even Tesla often being upset about their growth. Yet we forget that this is all about the customer experience. A digital retailing culture is the best way to battle disruptors and give customers a positive buying experience. My suggestion to auto dealers is that they need to rethink how they are training their Sales and BDC teams to work leads and car deals. The future is here! Let’s embrace it!
“Adapt or Die” Why Dealerships Need to Experiment with their Internet Sales Lead Processes

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You may have heard of the motivational sales phrase, "always be closing." But, when it comes to handling internet sales leads , dealerships really need to be thinking "always be experimenting": Define a process, test it, improve it. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Joseph Davis about this topic. Joseph is the E-commerce Director for the Ewing Automotive Group in Plano, Texas. He lives by this philosophy and has some actionable advice for sales and marketing leaders at other dealerships. Ashley: Can you tell me more about your dealership and your role there? Joseph: I've been with the Ewing Automotive Group for nine years. Our active brands are Mercedes-Benz, Buick, GMC, and Subaru. We 're in an area just north of Dallas. For the last five years, I've been the E-commerce Director for our group. I'm responsible for our internet directors, our third-party vendors, our sales process, our reputation, and all things dealing with the internet. Ashley: What do shoppers expect from their car buying experience with Ewing? Joseph: What we've found is that our customers want their experience to be very easy and very fast, and they want transparency above anything else. Our prices may not be the lowest in the market, but if we're transparent and we make the process easy for them, they still come to us and buy. The days of spending half the day in the dealership are gone. That's why we try to work our sales processes to get them in and out as quickly as we can . *** Ashley: That's a great transition into my next question. How would you describe your sales philosophy and what are the main things you think about? Joseph: My s ales philosophy is basically five steps: It's process, training, accountability, measurement, then rinse/repeat. Process : Building a process is the number-one piece to my sales philosophy. Dealers should have a process that works and should think through all of the variables that they can. Training : Dealerships should train everyone from the top down, to show them how their role impacts the process and the rest of the team. Accountability: Process and training don't matter if people aren't held accountable to expectations. On the flip side, not holding people accountable will ruin a store's culture. Measurement : Dealerships need to measure to find flaws and see if there are more efficient ways of completing a task. Rinse and Repeat: Take the learnings from the measurement phase and revise processes accordingly. Our own staff loves that we are constantly finding new ways to do things better and more efficiently. Ashley: These are great steps, have you found that they work? Joseph: I'll give you an example of how we've implemented these steps. We mystery shopped over 150 dealers across the nation. We looked at what communications the top dealers are sending internet leads, what we're sending, and what the customers want to receive. From those learnings, we boiled our customer communication down to the bare minimum, so that it's still impactful to them and tied it to interactions with our sales team. We set the process and we trained our sales team from the top down. The general manager had to know the sales process as well or better than the sales rep on the floor without any visual aids. So, everyone is equally held accountable to what we expect. Then we measured results. We give everything three to six months. I hate to say this, but it doesn't matter how well you think through a process, you're going to miss pieces. I looked at all the different audits that we did and saw patterns emerge, saw where sales reps were taking shortcuts. Those shortcuts were probably better than what we initially built because they found a way to do things more efficiently. Then I revised the entire process and rolled it out. Finally, we rinse and repeat. That way, we're always getting better. After we started this new process, we're now closing 125% more internet leads each month. Ashley: And I'm sure seeing the numbers move like that gives everyone confidence that the process is working. Joseph: Absolutely. We've done some different things such as instituting video into the sales process. So, every internet lead has to receive a personalized video from the sales rep, every single time. Other dealers in our area aren't doing this, so it's a real differentiator for our dealership. Sure, the sales reps initially fought tooth and nail with this new process. However, they saw the videos helped double the engagement rate with our customers, and that turned around their opinion. It was just a matter of forcing the process in the beginning, showing them that it works, and then the light bulb goes off and now they all love it. Ashley: What metrics is your internet department looking at each week to assess how everything is working? Joseph: I really focus on ROI and total sales. But, if the work going in is flawed because the process is flawed, it doesn't matter what my engagement rate is. That's why creating and following a clear process is so important. It changes the value you place on your metrics of success. Ashley: What does your relationship with your marketing team look like at Ewing? Joseph: Well, let me take off my internet director hat and put on my marketing hat. I'm also on the marketing team . I work hand-in-hand with our Marketing Director at our group. She handles the traditional marketing, which is only about 10% of our total budget. We're really a digital automotive group, and we'll always be moving further away from traditional. Ashley: That's interesting. Few dealers have gone so far digital. Joseph: I'll tell you why. You can't track traditional marketing, but with digital, I know where my dollars go. I can't measure something like a billboard. I can't even remember the last billboard I saw and thought, "I've got to use that product." Sure, branding is important, but we've been in business since 1940, and it's not as much of a priority as it used to be. Ashley: With all of your experience in mind, what's the one piece of advice you'd give to other dealers or internet directors in the auto space?  Joseph: Don't ever think that you've arrived and that you have the process-perfected. I've fallen into this myself — every time I think we've mastered everything, we lose market share, and it's an uphill fight to get back what we've lost. Dealerships should always look for ways to improve their processes. I promise you that your competing dealers are doing that right now.
With High Regard—What Buying a Mattress Taught Me About Customer Service at the Dealership

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Recently, I set out on a quest for the perfect guest room mattress set. This mattress would be used around six weeks out of the year, mostly by our elderly parents when they visit. I had a decent budget, but I certainly didn’t want to spend more than a thousand dollars. As you can imagine, a name brand was crucial to field any potential commentary from the in-laws. I was a shopper who knew pretty precisely what she wanted — a consumer on a mission. So, I set out to test a few options in-store to make sure I got just the right set.  What I discovered after a weekend of shopping in and out of mattress stores shocked me. "If You Look at Our Website, You'll See…" Every time I had a question about anything at a store, I got the same answer. "If you look at our site, you will see the…." Whether I wanted to know about measurements, specs, warranty, etc., was irrelevant. It was bizarre, like I was in some alternate reality. What was happening? Is this real life? I was in the store, ready to buy, and I was being sent to a website to find answers about an item the business had in stock.  This experience got me thinking about the car buying process and the glaring signals that auto shoppers give us when they're ready to make a purchase. What if instead of a mattress store, I was at the dealership with the clear intent to purchase a big-ticket item, literally cash-in-hand? How would your team treat me? Understanding where shoppers are in their journey is critical. If they have taken that step to engage you in a conversation, that is a clear sign that they are ready to move forward and buy. That conscious decision to interact with your dealership should be regarded highly and with great care. No matter how many folks on the lot or in the showroom have said, "I’m just looking,” we know they are never just looking.  How Are You Treating Your Online Customers? Being constantly redirected to a website, while frustrating, highlights just how much we, as a society, rely on websites to conduct commerce in various forms. Just as you promote your physical showroom to attract buyers, you should want your website to accomplish the same. Does it showcase your business in a way that entices people to learn more? What are the current specials? Does it clearly explain what sets you apart from everyone else? This sentence reinforces the role of what websites should be in terms of business. The experience I had at the mattress stores reinforced my belief that your website should be an extension of your business — a place to turn casual shoppers into excited buyers.  Imagine a customer visiting your dealership website to “just look” and gather information. Now, imagine they’re treated with such attention and respect for their time, that they are eager to get off their laptop or phone and test out the merchandise in person. In the era of customer experience, we can and should be able to offer this kind of engaging interaction for our customers. But, you need to start making all customers — both on and off the lot — a priority. How does the time and money you spend on sales training (i.e., phone training, product presentation, and sales process) compare to the attention and development you offer the team greeting online shoppers? When those potential customers start getting the service they deserve, more of them will turn into actual customers at the showroom.  NOTE: The in-dealership team must be knowledgeable about those online interactions, and every employee must be clear on what kind of experience to give those customers moving forward. That’s the only way to provide a seamless transition from the online showroom to the physical store. You spend so much to bring in buyers; you need to capitalize once they are there.  Leads Aren’t Always Opportunities Just capturing a name and contact doesn't always ensure a sale. I gave both in all the places I shopped. It was asked at the start of the conversation and I was happy to give it. I expected to receive the assistance I needed to complete a purchase. Likewise, generating a lead from your website is easy. People are more familiar with chatting online, and they’re accustomed to putting in phone numbers and email addresses on forms. But, it’s just as easy for shoppers to ghost you during follow-up if they didn’t feel highly regarded during the interaction. Placing a box on your site to capture phone numbers won’t capture sales. A positive experience that moves that shopper into a state of readiness to buy from you is what they are seeking and waiting to happen. Don’t make them wait. Whatever attention and experience you are not providing is just one click away to a site that does.
Should Your SEO Be Outsourced?

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Automotive SEO is complex, period!! Yet, most dealers will make the mistake of trying to perform SEO themselves rather than hiring a professional for the job, or even worse… just let their “Dealer Website Provider” handle it. In some cases, the do-it-yourself approach towards digital marketing and SEO may work, but even a simple mistake could result in your site being penalized. To ensure your car dealership doesn’t end up in a ditch and you benefit from consistent and proper marketing attention, consider hiring a professional automotive SEO agency. Below are some reasons that might convince you to outsource your car dealership search engine optimization to an agency: SEO Takes Lots of Dedication, Time and Effort When it comes to creating a successful and effective automotive SEO campaign, you need to be prepared to invest significant dedication, time, and effort. This can be a tough task, especially if your car dealership is in its growing phase. It will become difficult for you to manage both: your online and brick-and-mortar presence. By outsourcing your SEO, you will gain enough time to observe, control, and manage your business, along with the optimization campaign. You won’t be overwhelmed or sidetracked on your aims, goals, and aspirations. This ensures that you stay motivated to do what it takes to boost the visibility of your site. Experience and Knowledge is Crucial for SEO Results To get good results from your SEO campaign, it is crucial that you utilize state-of-the-art and advanced tools and technologies. If you don’t have any prior knowledge in SEO, choosing the right tools can be a difficult challenge. This can result in great confusion, especially when you want to generate traffic reports, keyword competition reports, keyword density reports, and click-back rates info. Skilled automotive SEO agencies have a suite of optimization tools for keeping up and executing reports. Professional consultants create roadmaps and strategies to successfully market client websites, which is essential for any SEO strategy. They also stay up-to-date with the latest SEO trends, ensuring you receive a higher Return on Investment (ROI) in lesser time. SEO Requires Great Planning and Preparation Search Engine Optimization requires planning. Google has changed the way sites must be optimized numerous times. Now, it’s more about architecture, strategy, and method. Therefore, SEO is more like a form of engineering. True SEO engineers will stay up-to-date with the latest policies, protocols, and strategies of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and SEO. By outsourcing your automotive SEO, you can feel assured your car dealership follows the correct trends. Professionals will use their best practices, historical methods, skills, and experience for successfully marketing your products and services. SEO Services Are Not Very Expensive Many automotive businesses have this misconception that investing in SEM and SEO might break their bank and result in them getting broke. However, what most don’t know is that optimization campaigns are relatively affordable as compared to other advertising avenues like TV ads, print advertising, and broadcast advertising. You can find plenty of professional services online that can match your marketing budget and needs. By comparing different automotive SEO services, consultant rates, and reputation, you can get a fair and honest deal that ensures you remain satisfied. Outsourcing Improves Website Visibility When you outsource your automotive SEO to a reliable firm, you can rest assured that you will gain better ROI in the form of increased traffic, improved visibility, and boosts in ups & sales. If you select a leading  automotive SEO agency,  they can help get your website through the ranks and land your website in the first or second positions of Google for the best keywords. You can even tell the agency to focus on increasing rankings from different search engines, but we always focus on Big G first.   Give You a Competitive Edge By outsourcing your SEO, you can gain an edge over your competition. Your website will naturally outrank your competitors who use the do-it-yourself method of SEO, or the “website company” SEO platform. Trust me, we have destroyed those dealerships for our clients... and they never understand why! Although it may take a few weeks for the results to start showing, you can quickly see a boost in overall rankings and traffic. Since SEO professionals are aware of effective coding techniques that streamline your optimization of website homepage, Meta titles, Meta descriptions, alt image/video tags, and all forms of content – they can still work hand in hand with your dealer website. Best Bang for Your Buck Search engine optimization costs peanuts compared to other advertising methods like direct mail, and Tv/Radio broadcasts… and is far more targeted than Cable. Since everything in SEO is done naturally, professional agencies will ensure that your website isn’t using any black hat techniques. Still, your internet sales rep might get you in trouble if doing your SEO. Professional SEO companies will only use legal and approved SEO techniques and tools for business promotion, avoiding the risk of penalties altogether. Treat Your Website as a Business Therefore, if you want to take your car dealership to the next level, perhaps it’s time you considered acquiring the services of a professional automotive SEO agency. 
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Sales Opportunities Start… In Service?

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It might sound counterintuitive, but one of your best ongoing opportunities for boosting dealership sales lies in the Service department. Consider the typical sales prospect walking through your showroom front doors. They wait for an average of six years between vehicle purchases. 1 Their life circumstances are wildly different from the last time they bought, and yet they expect you to know more about what they need than they do. Just a few of the factors at play in figuring out what they need include education, employment status and salary, relocation, marital status, and the number of children at home. Now, it goes without saying that you can’t know every detail about a customer. Luckily, thanks to the convergence of market data, consumer trends, and demographic segmentation, you don’t actually need to know everything to pinpoint what vehicle best suits a prospect. You just need to know key information relevant to purchasing decisions, pair that with your existing dealership management system (DMS) data, then compare your customer to other people like them to suggest a deal based on larger trends and customer segments. It Starts in Service… Where does the Service department come in? Well, Service serves as the perfect launching point for mining your existing database for qualified sales leads. Why is that the case? Consider what happens in Service: You get a crystal clear snapshot of specific customer needs basing on their current vehicle situation, paired with the demographic and trend information available to you. You’re then empowered to approach customers before they declare themselves “in the market.” This process isn’t just identifying qualified leads – it’s creating them by proactively nudging prime sales targets toward a buying decision based on insights gleaned in the Service department. Think of it as activating dormant buyers who didn’t know what they needed until you presented the perfect offer to them – a scenario that’s totally in line with the expectations of today’s car shoppers. In fact, a service-to-sale success benefits every profit center in the dealership: Used Vehicles: High-quality trade-in to resell on the lot or at auction New Sales: Vehicle sale to rotate aging inventory and meet original equipment manufacturer (OEM) incentives F&I: Extended warranties or insurance plans Parts and Service: Internal repair orders and a higher likelihood for continued service If you can get in front of a prospective buyer before they start looking, you're likely to win the sale. Combining your customer data with predictive analytics allows you to plan the perfect approach. …But it Doesn’t End There What’s the key takeaway here? It’s worthwhile to think harder about where your best leads come from and leverage the information already present within the four walls of your operation. Adopt a proactive approach to funneling leads to your sales team via Service, and your entire dealership will reap the benefits. 1 The Nest