Automotive Digital Marketing

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Hi, I am a Dealer, and I am scared of the Internet

What is your first sign of a dealer in trouble, a dealer that just doesn't get it, and a dealer that can only sell successfully for a limited period of time, because they are selling in SPITE of themselves. Yes, folks, the car market is back and dealers are once again selling cars in spite of themselves. And that has brought back the old fears and yes, let's call the baby ugly, the old stupidities that we had all hoped went away in 2008. Dealers are still just flat out scared of the Internet, so much so that the power is ignored in favor of the fact that some minimum wage lot guy just MAY discover porn while on break back in the wash bay.

Recently, I have had the pleasure of experiencing just that type of dealer. In the dealer's defense, they have come to us with a request to help them become a more Internet focussed store, and pull away from traditional types of media, mainly newspaper. My first point of fear with any dealer I am working with, is when they look at me and say, 'We know the Internet is the future, and we really want to get on board.' I will always look quickly around the room for a calendar to try to see if I just time warped back to 1997 or if I actually have more work to do than I was expecting. In this case, it was still unfortunately 2010. So my associate and I pop open our mac books (apparently there is no such thing as a mac in a dealership, under utilized iPhone, yes, but no mac book) and begin searching for a wireless network. Voila, there is one - however it is still labeled by the brand of the archaic router, which no customer would recognize. Now there are a few catches. This dealer has a corporate office that mandates the fear of the Internet. Asking for access, we are told that we can absolutely use the network, however, we can not access sites like Facebook from the network. No, we are not just talking about the dealers in-house, we are talking about their wireless network. So any customer that has brought their laptop along for their service visit, or while waiting for the F&I office, they will not be able to check out the dealer's Facebook page or "Like" the store. And it gets worse. The network user can get Google, but not much of anything beyond that, including the dealership's own website and even Craigslist (so just how are they supposed to be creating a Craigslist strategy?).So this corporation has determined that the evils of the Internet far outweigh any opportunity to market themselves, their reputation and vehicles online. We are back to the hourly lot kid that will discover Internet porn in the wash bay. I must point out, these are not opinions shared by the General Manager or others in management - so much so that they have gone out and purchased broadband cards just to be able to create online marketing strategies.

This post is not meant as a bash on any particular dealership, it is meant as a wake up call. If you are reading this and you are running a dealership that has the same prison bars, I am asking you to rethink your strategy and realize that if you don't, your competition is going to leave you in the dust. But your next thought is hopefully, how do I change this? How do I realize that my customers expect me to be online and Facebook is not only a powerful reputation tool, it is a great way for my sales people to look for business, instead of just protecting the point and smoking too much.

1) Open up your network - wireless and in-store - if the lot kid wants to search porn, he's doing it on his android or iPhone, he doesn't need the store network.
2) Rename your wireless network so customer's can find it, and advertise it around the store
3) Encourage your customers, sales and service, to check out your Facebook page, Follow you on Twitter, Check in on FourSquare and reward them for doing so (don't forget to actually talk to them after they leave)
4) Use all of the above to make sure your customers remember your store and come back again and again.

Remember, having a Facebook or Twitter account doesn't complete the task. And letting someone check in on FourSquare is useless if you don't do something with that check - in. You have people in your store that you can talk to, and market to, right now, without out sending out your sketchy looking sales guy who will actually send them running for their car and speeding off the lot. Facebook is not just about car specials - remember the "buyer" audience is constantly cycling through, if you don't want your fan base to constantly cycle remember you have potential and existing customers liking you. Twitter is more about the ongoing conversation. Yes, you should post SOME of your Tweets on Facebook, but it is less necessary that your status update is changed every hour, your Twitter post, it is expected.

I invite everyone to put this to the test. See what your favorite dealer, or your competition is doing. Are you a Ford store? Do you follow every competitive Ford store on Facebook and Twitter? Do it. Have you pulled onto your competition's lot and see what their wireless network is all about? Did you check in on FourSquare? Was their anyone else there or a special or did you have to add the location? If you find the dealer is there, don't worry you're behind but that doesn't mean you can't catch up. If you don't see the dealer there, rush back to your store, and get everything set up. Not sure where to start? No worries, email UpShift Digital and we can get you started in a very short period of time.

Bottom line, do NOT be afraid of the Internet - it is a marketing and reporting tool. Use it, have your sales team use it. If you have people on staff you don't want to use it or that are scared of it, replace them - plain and simple. And remember, if you still think the Internet is the future of the auto industry, double check to make sure your calendar doesn't say 1997.

Views: 115

Tags: dealers, digital, facebook, foursquare, internet, marketing, networking, social, twitter, upshift


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Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 8, 2010 at 8:32am

Comment by Mike Sheehy on June 8, 2010 at 8:30am
You have brought up a great list of ideas. It is especially important now to familiarize yourself with social media, because the integration with Yahoo! and Facebook will definitely change the way we retrieve information. If any company hasn’t made a Facebook Page for their company, they should start now.

After you make that page, it would be best to keep fans engaged. My company coordinates events and contests for fans to interact, as well as produce Facebook Notes about the automotive and marketing industry. It has helped us retain fans, and with a little work, it can do the same for anyone still in the dark.

You definitely have what it takes to give yourself that competitive edge. Thanks for sharing this with us.

J&L Marketing, Inc.
Follow us on Facebook!
Comment by Ralph Paglia on June 8, 2010 at 7:30am
@Brian - Next time tell him that your "Virtual Salespeople" are watching all the store's "Internets" while you build a bigger Web to trap more customers.
Comment by Brian Dreggors on June 7, 2010 at 11:38pm
Good post. Brings back memories of when I casually told our dealership's owner that I was going to upload some inventory from home and he literally retorted with, "If you're at home, who's watching our internets [sic] here??"

This is a small (75+ units) dealership in a burgeoning but still largely suburban/rural area of West Central Florida whose owner was then focused mainly on wholesale. Two years ago, there was no internet presence despite having inventory like a '71 Mercury Comet, a '96 Impala SS w/25k miles, and a '90 Chevy 454SS pickup w/70k miles that was literally sitting towards the 'back' of the lot, relying solely on walk-ups. Those units in particular were languishing on the lot for five-hundred days! Needless to say, after we set up a basic internet presence, they were all sold in three weeks.

This was an old-school wholesaler who went from "I'm not paying for CarTrader or Craigslist" - yes, he thought CL was another vendor - to someone who believes in the internet wholeheartedly. Just goes to shows even the most archaic dinosaurs can believe in - if not fully grasp - the medium when results are shown.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on June 7, 2010 at 9:18pm
John - Never underestimate the creativity of entrepreneurs... Whether dealers have their own "websites" or Facebook Fan Pages, or Twitter profiles, or presentations on each inventory unit... Or whatever the way we leverage the use of User Generated Content (UGC) websites to attract and engage customers, you can bet that there will still be a whole lotta selling going on!

But, I know what we do NOT have to wait for the future to see, and that is because it is here today.... The antiquated concept of building one website for a dealership that is supposed to be all things to all customers... is GONE... Kaput, no longer relevant!

5 years ago I set the market on fire in Phoenix because I walked away from that concept and created websites for every model, every type of customer and then blogged about each of them, cross linked, referred and used every site with UGC capabilities to write stories, insert anchor text, links, show photos and used Video clips to attract customer attention... We averaged over 5,200 leads a month and sold a whole damn lot of cars.

NOT A SINGLE SOURCE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR MORE THAN 10% OF ALL LEADS... The idea that every customer will march through our website that looks the same for everyone is no way to optimize our online marketing efforts... Going to the customer, where they are on the web and then giving them the exact information they need without requiring them to sort through all the other stuff we have at our dealerships that they do not have interest in is no way to optimize our volume of business opportunities...

I am having a lot of fun lately with seeing just how creative people can be in using different means of communicating with me...For some it is text, for others it is Facebook messages, then there are those who use ADM messaging... Google Chat, etc. But very few try emails any more... And most of them can be found in my junk mail folder if they have never received an email from me...

Which brings me to my final point about dealer websites. If your dealership website relies on web based forms in which you respond to them with email from your lead management tool of CRM app, then you are ALREADY MISSING HALF YOUR LEADS!

Hello, McFly???? Anybody home here?!?!?!?!

The last Toyota dealership I went to was only getting about 40% of the leads completed on their web sites, and then out of that fourty percent, only about 40% were receiving their email messages in response... That means that those precious lead forms (which suck so bad I want to puke) are only connecting you with 16% of the visitors to your web site that are raising their hands and saying they want to buy a car...

How could that be you say????

Check your server logs you bunch of bimbos!!!!


98% of all email is SPAM... And so is 100% of the emails you send to customers who fill out lead forms because there is no SMTP server log showing that they have ever sent you an email... Which means your messages get scanned, and every single one of us includes words like "sale" "price" "Opportunity" "Great Buy" and other words that cause our emails to be labeled as SPAM!

It is sooooo bad that the lead management tool provider at the Toyota store I was referring to was blocking 60% of the dealer's leads from getting from the lead forms on his site into the dealer's CRM tool...

I discovered it by mystery shopping the store... No biggeee... Have his most valuable leads getting sent to the trash can by his CRM app provider and nobody thought it was very important... Yeesh... So, if getting your leads is not too important than who gives a rat's ass about your precious crappy website?
Comment by John Druien on June 7, 2010 at 4:55pm
There's a whole other blog waiting to be published on dealer's sites - while I don't feel they are gone, just yet, I do believe they will be challenged to exist on their own. Most dealers tell me that highest conversion of lead to sale come off their own sites, however they don't know how that customer GOT to their site...I have heard more than one dealer say their site can function all by itself, and aren't afraid of the unknown. This makes me laugh a bit, and wonder if they'll need help painting their "For Lease" sign in a couple of months.
Comment by Ken Luna on June 7, 2010 at 2:09pm
Yep. By then everyone will have a computer disguised as a "phone". Text will be around still but no one will be typing it. Most of the commands will be able to handle voice syntax by then.

Comment by Aj Maida on June 7, 2010 at 1:23pm
You should have seen the look last week when I talked about how in 5 years we probably won't have a website as we know it today. That it will be some type of inventory listing, a manufacturers web site and social know " I know a guy who knows a guy". And if you think the look on the bosses face was great i repeated my opinion while out to dinner with two people who work at We can be ahead or we can be behind....and I think even though I'm getting there now I'm behind.
Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 7, 2010 at 12:27pm
Familiar Voices From the Most Ancient Transportation Almanac: "Look, Ash-Rahm, your wheel thingy is just not going to go anywhere in the market. Now, load all those stupid wheels on the sledge and let's get going dragging them over to the trash pile next to the pyramid. Idiot!"

Comment by Rob Fontano on June 7, 2010 at 9:37am
Thanks Ralph, I think that there is a degree of fear involved. It's almost like the tree falling in the forest, If you can't hear your customers complain did they really make a sound. Joining social media means hearing what your customers are saying about you in public. The great news is that you will learn so much from listening at a distance and joining in when appropriate.

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