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How many dealerships do you know where only one person is budgeted to attend educational conferences/workshops designed for digital marketing, social media, or BDC operations. How many people from your dealership attended NADA this year?
Have you known a dealership that relied heavily on one person to lead their online strategy only to see the new "hot" dealership down the road lure them away? In most cases, the dealership is left hanging without a clear understanding of their vendor reports and online investments.
I've also discussed with dealers why their BDC/Internet department is not performing well and more often that not, the answer comes back like this, "When ___________ left, the performance really went down hill. He/she knew all our systems and we didn't have a backup." The blank can be filled in with any name of course but you get the point.
As an industry, we need to increase budgets and commitments for education. Our industry is evolving faster than ever! New marketing and operational models are being introduced by progressive dealers that change how dealers will communicate with consumers in the years ahead.
NADA and NCM 20 groups should be addressing educational priorities and how dealers can avoid being overly exposed to one person moving on and leaving the dealership exposed. A more educated dealer body will also be able to navigate vendor negotiations more effectively. Dealers with a solid education program will also be able to attract and retain the next generation of workers.
Dealers spend tens of thousands of dollars a month on marketing to make the phone ring, entice consumers to visit their showroom, or attract more website visitors. Yet, I talked to dozens of Internet Sales Managers who want to increase their knowledge and skills yet funding is not provided by the dealership. How much is underperformance costing the dealership?
Another trend that I see in larger dealer groups is that a few "gatekeepers" are the ones that go to the major conferences. Their rationale for not sending employees from each store goes something like this, "If I send people from each store, they will be talking to vendors. The vendors will sell them a bill of goods and then I have to spend months unwinding deals."
I've also heard something like this, "Well 60% of our stores are digital engaged and the other are really not leveraging digital marketing. They would not really get any benefit from attending a digital conference. They just don't get it, and that's why we have to do it for them."
It's funny that the educational benefits for each person that attends a conference are never discussed. I see every year at automotive conference attendees that have the "light bulb" go off in their heads and become committed to learning and implementing new idea. Conferences can make a big impact on dealers who feel behind their peers. They can ask their peers for advice, strategy, and get great ideas from industry experts. Good conferences are an efficient educational model.
Today, social media and digital marketing strategies REQUIRE action and engagement at the store level. If large dealer groups limit their stores from individual educational opportunities, are they in turn limiting their growth? There is only so much a centralized marketing/IT department can do today to move the needle. A dealership group is only as strong as the sum of its parts.
Can we stop using time out of the office as an excuse? If an educated employee can operate with better efficiency every day of the year, how much time and profit does that yield? If a BDC manager can increase closing ratios 1-2% based on new strategies learned at a conference, how many tens of thousands of dollars is that worth.
Dealers have to acknowledge that their staff needs regular training to keep up with the ever changing dynamics of our industry. Isn't time to start sending a larger rotation of staff out for education?
What say you?