I don't know how you feel but I think that our role as Internet manager, Internet Sales person or eCommerce Director is drifting into the direction to be a Dealerships "Marketing Manager". More and more, especially in these times we are in right now, dealer principles and GM's are coming up with the questions "What can we do to save more money?" or "How can we shrink the ad/Internet budget?"
The role to get the people in and selling them a car is still there but the responsibility to reduce spending on 3rd party lead providers, autotrader premium listings, cars.com banners, etc, etc....is taking over the daily business model of the Internet dept. Dealer principles/GM's need to understand to trust their Internet "boss" to a certain way of his/her expertise. I believe that most of the Internet Team leaders are seeing the opportunity to support their dealership in implementing an Ownership Marketing plan. We have the opportunities easily to connect to our Internet customers via email broadcast again.
This Ownership mktg approach will target existing customers in particular. If you promote thru Email Broadcasts a "MINI Cooper Clinic" (what we are doing right now", or a "Child Safety Awareness Saturday", in which local Fire dept. shows how to install correctly a child restraint device or seat or just a simple "Grill Out Saturday with Music and jump Castle" - Customer and Future Customer like to be approached, pressure-less without any sales spin, to join the community for "FREE". Due to the horrific daily unemployment numbers and other bad news in the media, people like to gather in events and to "forget for a couple of hours" what is going on out there. The dealership will have a huge opportunity to be "the Block Festival" provider and to be known through-out the community, again. Money is tight, and I am the opinion that we need to spend some money - to make "some" money in the long run.
Try to get on a bi-weekly basis with your Parts Director and Service Director and get from them a bi-weekly "Special" they want to promote to your internet clientele. Set up an automated follow-up process, which will trigger an email to your existing "ABC Dealership" customer after 30 days, after 90 days, after 6 months and after 12 months anniversary - don't forget Easter greetings and the Season. In between I am still using pdf articles or links about positive media coverage on their car, to send out. Believe me, when they are back in the market or their friend is looking for a "deal", who you think they will contact first.
IM's, ISM's and all other related Internet Sales positions - try to connect with your principle and GM, talk about it in meetings as "best practice" approach. Now is the time (when your dealership then will make it thru the "recession") to set your mark, and to show your valuable assets to your boss.