This post is inspired by Dale Pollak's post on his Velocity blog, http://www.dalepollak.com/2010/04/05/hate-internet-department/track...
As a former Internet Director and now as a Digital Advertising consultant, I agree with Dale 100%. In general, the 5 profit centers in the dealership do not take enough ownership of the digital advertising and contact process.
Dealerships that are ahead of the curve have begun to recognize that a digital strategy should be incorporated into all of the 5 profit centers (new, used, parts, service, F&I). The problem is that too many are behind the curve...
Each department should work closely with the Digital Advertising Department (renaming the Internet Department), whose primary role should be:
1) to ensure the dealership messaging and branding is consistent and up-to-date both on their website and throughout the web.
2) exploring new high-quality sources for traffic.
3) being a watchdog over the digital vendors to ensure the dealership is getting what it's paying for.
4) executing management's CPC campaign strategies (if Google CPC is managed in-house)
5) providing accurate reporting to management at a dealership-wide level.
There are, of course, more responsibilities... but the five listed above would be the most important. This structure would allow each department to analyze their productivity vs. the other departments, show them what percentage of the digital activity they helped generate, and can also identify areas that need work.
It would also make sense at the dealer level and probably be essential at the industry level to gain the support and partnership of the manufacturers. Or, better yet, the manufacturers could require it as part of the operational infrastructure of the dealership in their franchise agreements going forward, laying out an approved department structure that must be adhered to.
Unfortunately, the biggest potential problem with the implementation of my vision is that while the Digital Marketing Department would be ingrained throughout the store, most Dealer Principals and GMs would sadly see it as an added expense that could not be productive or valuable enough to justify the investment. They typically look to cut anything that is not a direct revenue generating profit center or industry-accepted established role. When I was an Internet Director I felt I was constantly having to justify my position, salary, and presence through reporting and showing the revenue generated either directly or indirectly through digital communication.
I can hear the old-school argument already: "why add an expense that big which we don't 'need' in order to function, since we've been selling cars without it for XX number of years?" Times are changing - look at the GM and Chrysler dealers cut - the majority of them either never embraced the web at all when they had 15 years and the manufacturers screaming at them to get on board. It was horrible but in a lot of cases it was also survival of the fittest...
First, what needs to happen is a mindset shift that the department is an in-house ad agency, and a necessary support tool and lead-generator for all 5 profit centers. That can only happen when they hire a smart, passionate leader who has both a sales and technologically advanced background to run it. That person would need to be seen as a partner to everyone in the store from the top down and not be seen as a threat, unnecessary expense or detriment.
Unfortunately, many Internet Managers and Directors are viewed today, by at least one person in the store, as exactly that.
Finally it would take a Dealer Principal with the courage and patience and belief in the system to invest the time, personnel, TRAINING, and of course, money, and we're off to the races...
I'm trying to help affect this change - dealer by dealer, door to door, through networking, email blasts and community posts...
As you all know, this business has always been "monkey see, monkey do." I firmly believe that all it will take is a few stores to succeed with it and not be afraid to share it with other dealers. They act like the components of their business is a big secret when they all pretty much operate the same way - how could there be so many people that bounce from store to store and still function if not?
Thanks again for this post, Dale... It needed to be said!
I encourage your feedback, comments and input - let's keep this discussion going!