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As a former new car dealer and current consultant on dealer operations and marketing through my advertising agency I am constantly amazed by the lack of cooperation between the various departments in a dealership. Their common goals – to sell more cars, service/parts and to make more money – should be part of their communal focus but these shared opportunities rarely receive the attention they deserve.

Dealers hire managers to solve a problem in a particular department with little attention paid to shared bottom line profits and accountability to the entire customer experience before, during and after the sale. Of course each department manager needs their own job description and areas of responsibility along with supported compensation plans based on individual and department guidelines and objectives but the true opportunity lies in inter-department communications of shared opportunities across department lines.

The A, B, C’s of the car business - “Always Be Closing” – go beyond the showroom floor and apply to all customer contacts. Opening internal communications in the selling process in both vehicle sales and fixed operations is the key to improving performance in all areas of operations. Verifiable R.O.I. to the dealer’s total bottom line, as well as the individual departments contributing to it, provides a more stable environment on many levels and is the key to consistent profitability in a down market.

The Internet Department of the future will be more than a lead generator with limited selling responsibilities. The Internet Manager of today is more central to developing sales and service than the GSM - and should be treated accordingly!

All communications, before, during and after the sale can, should - and soon will be-handled over the internet and/or on the dealership’s website which is already part of an Internet Manager’s area of responsibility.

Currently, Business Development Centers, (B.D.C’s.), coordinate new and/or used
vehicle sales developed on the telephone, showroom floor, service drive, data base
marketing and in some cases the Internet. They usually rely on linked technology like telephony systems communicating to a data base management system, (DMS), which is tied to a customer retention management system, (CRM). Who is better prepared to coordinate communications and even transactions on the Internet than the Internet Manager? Who has the best understanding of computers, software and integrated links to access and apply information to all of the department managers?

Customer Communication Centers, or “C.C.C’s.” can provide a more integrated and
accessible central point of contact at the dealership for your customers. All customer contacts for sales, service/parts and office should be channeled to one location from all sources including telephone, email, mail, internal DMS/CRM, Internet – you name it!

Cross-selling between sales and service/parts is obvious, but unlikely if they are handled by two different people or departments! Less obvious opportunities like customer complaints and key vendor communications provide the ability to turn a problem into a solution but only if channeled properly.

Most dealers have been traumatized by individual department software solutions they are still paying for and never use. Usually they require secondary input, are redundant with other more integrated systems to the selling process or just lack real world applications to their deal flow. “Inspect what you expect”, coupled with standards like “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” support the value of having one department responsible to focus on these investments in processes/procedures to be shared by all departments.

The following areas of responsibility cross over department boundaries and place your “Internet - C.C.C.” squarely in the middle of all selling processes. The devil is in the details and there is no standard application to apply to all situations. Deciding what to do and what to delegate, and how to best integrate with your current systems to minimize disruption, is the key. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water but expecting different results from the same action is a good definition of insanity.



The Internet “Geek” of the old days has matured into a key manager in most dealerships and the trend is growing! A forward thinking dealer or senior manager should evaluate current communications, customer and deal flow and create a C.C.C. based business plan in concert with the other department managers to develop shared profits.

Inter-department squabbles in the car business will always exist but a well integrated
C.C.C. – if introduced correctly – will transcend individual motives to resist efforts to
improve everyone’s bottom line. A C.C.C. taking on the burden of making appointments and providing centralized communications – both internally and externally to the dealership – will free everyone else up to sell more cars, service and parts!

Real time “paperless” reports available online – or in the DMS/CRM – will provide the department managers with the information and tools they need to do their jobs. C.C.C. provided “secretarial” services, automated and managed follow up systems to recapture lost sales/service opportunities coupled with increased appointments, sales and customer satisfaction is not a threat but a blessing!

Define the areas of responsibility that the C.C.C. will handle and decide which ones will be delegated. Compute the budget, staff and facility you will need, online and in concert with your conventional advertising and community networking proposals, to develop the traffic required to achieve established sales and performance goals.

Monitor shifts within budget based on results and R.O.I. per investment but never
increase the budget without a proper risk to reward consideration and an acceptable projected R.O.I. The days of guessing are over; so be right! Do all of the above, design a pay plan for the Internet /C.C.C. manager, as well as all other department managers, tied to specific performance with a bonus tied to the total dealership bottom line and move forward with the confidence that you have not left any money on the table.

That's all I have to say about that! What do you pro's think?

Tags: ad, advertising, agency, auto,, automotive, industry, online, philip, zelinger

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Replies to This ADM Discussion


You are on target whenever you find ways to reduce points of productivity friction in a dealership. I utilized my BDC to generate over 1,000 incremental deals in 2006 by having them rework and recycle "Dormant" Internet leads. After my leaving the store, the individual managers went back to their natural predisposition towards creating silos and now those incremental deals from BDC staff supporting the Internet Sales Specialists are no longer happening.

I couldn't agree more (and look forward to learning more from you and your posts). Most dealers have a tendency to overcomplicate what should and could be a very simple blocking and tackling approach to lead generation and lead management strategy by trying to keep things departmentalized and in their own little box. A CCC as you've described it or "communications hub", like the hub in your old bicycle wheel, gives dealers the best chance of executing consistently over time. If dealers stick to the basics and keep things simple and centralized as you've suggested, great things will happen. Ralph's experience @ Courtesy Chevy is a perfect example.

Selling it is part of the point. The only "customer" is your dealer and fellow managers who need to understand that we are all working for the same bottom line! I have several sample job descriptions and compensation packages that should motivate the rest of your team - as well as you - to shift focus to a central communication/distribution point for all selling opportunities across all departments. Let's talk about that on our radio show this Friday! I look forward to hearing and sharing your success stories with our dealer audience.

Most modern "car guys" get it! Now if only we can convince the "old school car dealers" that the new "core" resource is in the combined efforts of the internet and BDC departments using integrated technologies and processes instead of the old "buy or die" mentality. Frankly, based on current competitive market conditions I believe that the market place will make the adjustments in their thinking for them. Thanks for the input!
This puts the challenge in perspective when you said “Their common goals (managers)–is to sell more cars, service/parts and to make more money – should be part of their communal focus but these shared opportunities rarely receive the attention they deserve”. The description of the C.C.C manager may be what we call the GM of the future. The key is the integration of all these technologies into one, “easy to use solution”. The GM of the future will have his finger firmly on the pulse of this technology.
Thanks for the encouragement Ken,

I have been "installing" this philosphy in my dealer client['s dealerships for the past two years with my own "best practices" to make it work. The most effective, besides proven results, is that most pople work their payplans and an accountable compensation package with shared interests in the dealership's total bottom line seems to work the best!

Phil brings up a great point... Pay plans. One of the reasons why BDC managers are sometimes so effective for the whole dealership is that most of them are paid on BOTH getting people into the dealership AND additional income from when they buy or service their vehicle from the dealership. Can you imagine if desk managers were also compensated on every up that had name EMAIL ADDRESS, phone number, birth date, etc. collected and entered into the dealership's CRM system? Would there be a difference in the volume and accuracy of showroom visitor data collected?
This is a pyridine shift for most stores. The Dealer Assessment Question, called "INTEGRATED MARKETING STRATEGY AND CURRENT eBUSINESS PROCESSES" allows each department to recognize their opportunity to serve the customer and produce the profits that each department is capable of through the use of these new technology. Phil, seems we have a common philosophy on this one!
Thanks Ken, We agree on this and many other internet and technology based oportunities as well! The one constant in the car business is change - except that human nature always stays the same! Motivating people to do what is in their best interests should be easy - but it rarely is. I guess that is why they pay us the big bucks to remind them and to inspect what we expect instead of assuming everyone will do the right thing!
Hi Ken,

Are you going to the 6th Digital Dealer Conference? It would be a great place to discuss the new world opening for BDC's based on new applications using new technologies!
There are many ways you can use online advertising to drive increased volumes of "self-generated" leads... Just remember this, learning how to become a good angler and eating fresh, wild-caught fish (your own leads) is a heck of a lot better than buying week-old farm raised and slaughtered fish (3rd party leads) at a Safeway Supermarket (lead provider)... IT may not be for everyone, but those of us who have done will never go back to being totally reliant on lead providers. Click on the image below to learn more:

Thanks Ralph. Facts trump oinions any day and BZ Results seems to understand that. I will do my best to tell their story at the 4th Digital Dealer Conference in Orlando, April 21st through the 23rd They are a preferred vendor of AutoAdCreative.Com!


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