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That’s what I heard most at NADA 2012. Dealers are re-building their Internet marketing departments and they’re pretty excited about it. For the first time in years, many dealers are hiring additional staff to help with increased Internet leads and increased sales. Yet they are doing so cautiously, and from what I heard seem to be focused on the following three areas:

Return-On-Investment (ROI): Many dealers were at NADA to learn about all the new tools and technologies available to them for helping drive in-market customers to their dealership. But they also want to know the ROI for the various solutions, and many people I spoke with says it all boils down to cost-per-sale (CPS).  The good news is most of today’s technologies do provide a measurable ROI. For instance, one of our customers using a gift card to incent customers into the showroom generates a lead-to-show rate of 35% and a 59% conversion rate with an average CPS of less than $100. Vendors should be able to provide dealers with similar ROI statistics for all their products.

Process Improvement: It’s always a challenge to find good staff, but it’s possible to turn average salespeople into great salespeople with continual process training. Whether a dealer gets leads from their web site, from independent lead providers or from the manufacturer, any lead is only as good as the people and process working it. After all, it’s not rocket science is it? Follow up quickly with a personalized response, provide good customer service, listen, give pricing if asked, etc. The real challenge here is the time it takes to properly follow up all the leads that are coming in. But fortunately, new tools such as an automated virtual assistant (AVA) can help fill the gaps in any sales department by engaging every lead until they are ready to be handed over to the salespeople, as well as re-engaging older leads.

Social Media: Many dealers still aren’t quite sure how to approach social media. The consensus is that it’s best not to use it as a selling platform, and should be used to bring potential customers down-funnel. But why not leverage social media platforms to attract in-market customers as well? Posting inventory on a Facebook page is a great way to engage people interested in buying  (creating a separate tab so as not to alienate the more casual visitors). Creating the right balance with messaging is key as being too pushy is a turn-off for many consumers, and especially the younger ones who are most active in social media.

Overall, it’s an exciting time to be an Internet Sales Manager and sales predictions for 2012 promise a rewarding year for auto dealers. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Using tools and technologies can definitely make the sales process more efficient, but the best tools in the world will never replace the final interaction between salesperson and customer, and the basic selling skills required to make that transaction a successful one.

As an Internet Sales Manager who may be in the process of “putting your band back together,” what are your biggest concerns and what are you most excited about?

Views: 454

Tags: Internet, auto, leads, marketing, sales


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Comment by Mike Shawd on February 17, 2012 at 9:00am

Thanks for the positive comments and feedback. You’re right – communication and engagement are absolutely key. Internet Managers have struggled for years with getting customers to respond – social media and the tools out there that enhance their contact efforts are ideal for gaining engagement and a real two-way conversation with customers.

As for testimonials, I know whether you’re selling a car or the products we do that word of mouth referrals are the best source of business. We like testimonials and try to pair them up with the results our products are generating, like the case study we recently did with Dick Brooks Honda. It has to be results-focused and real.

Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on February 16, 2012 at 1:36am

I like it Tarry!.....and , maybe wear NASCAR style suits with the logos of all the entities that they are shilling for sewn on them.

Comment by Tarry Shebesta on February 15, 2012 at 7:55pm
Maybe vendors should have a disclosure at the bottom of every ad or post that says "I approve this message" ;)
Comment by George O'Sullivan on February 14, 2012 at 5:30pm

Good Article.  The challenge is always the ROI, and then the proof.  Not the dance that all of the marketers, "think of the click throughs", "if you sell just 3 cars a month, it pays for itself".  We measure our internet department as you have above, simple ROI math. How much do you spend, how much did you generate.  What is the CPS for the department? 

Comment by James A. Ziegler on February 14, 2012 at 5:18am

Great posting. The Internet is evolving as a total communication, multi-media medium. The challenge for the dealership marketing team going forward is communicating as opposed to advertising... engaging on several levels. 

Thanks for this blog, wish I would have written it. JIM

Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on February 14, 2012 at 2:34am

@Tarry, infomercials and testamercials are often notoriously short on backing up claims when authored by journalizers and blogitizers. 

Comment by Tarry Shebesta on February 13, 2012 at 5:59pm

"Vendors should be able to provide dealers with similar ROI statistics for all their products."

What a concept! How about also providing some (more than one) real testimonials/references?


Comment by Tom Gorham on February 13, 2012 at 4:33pm

Thank you Mike for a great article.  Yes it is an exciting time to be an Internet
Sales Manager AND an Internet Marketing Manager.  Your post is full of good advice and I especially like the understanding that technology can help but it's people that make it work. 

As far as Social Media, posting inventory (and service coupons) under separate tabs is really important for the reasons you mentioned.  Facebook is not only for potential customers and in-market customers, it for customer retention.  Engagement is paramount.

Comment by Michael H kaleikini on February 13, 2012 at 2:15pm

Definitely a great article. Love how you've postured the social media to 'engage' rather than sell. this is what Social Media is about anyway. Gaining engagement so you can foster the relationship for them to know like and trust you. It's just a spin on the old way of marketing and sales.

Keep this coming!

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