Education (Best Practices)

Automotive Blogging – How To

I wrote a post last week about the search engine optimization (SEO) stats your dealership needs to track, and wanted to expand a bit.  Your dealership website needs to allow you to track more than just SEO statistics.

The 6 things your dealership website provider needs to measure are:

  • Traffic—this should include all sources like organic, paid (PPC), OEM, referring sites, and direct.  If your website provider isn’t showing you which sources your traffic is using to reach your website, they need to be.
  • Organic Traffic by Keyword—there are three types of keywords: branded, platinum, and long tail.  Branded means someone is using your dealership name as a keyword.  Platinum is typically 2-3 words and includes your city, make you sell, and “dealer” or “dealership.  Long tail keywords are longer and can be specific makes, models, or even vehicle years.  Challenge your website provider to take it a step further and provide you with the actual keywords that are being used to find your dealership online.
  • Changes in Traffic—which months brought the most traffic to your website?  Which years?  If you don’t know, your website provider isn’t doing their job.  Being able to see when traffic is reaching your site, as well as how, will help you determine what accounts for the shifts in numbers.
  • Changes in Lead Volume—knowing when your dealership website has a dip or spike in lead conversion will help you know why these changes happened.  You need to be able to see your leads on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, and see where they are coming from.
  • Leads by Lead Form—does your website provider show you which lead conversion forms are doing their job?  If not, how can you test which are most effective, which need work, and which can done away with?  Unfortunately, you can’t—but you absolutely need to.
  • Leads by Traffic Source—just as you need to know where your traffic is coming from, it’s equally important to know where your leads are coming from as well.  This will allow you to see which traffic sources are converting at the best rate (organic, PPC, OEM, etc).  Knowing which sources convert the best will also help you determine where you should be spending your online advertising budget.

If your website provider either doesn’t or can’t provide you with these statistics, it’s time to reconsider who you choose to create and manage your online presence.

Customer Satisfaction in a Down Economy

Every dealership is after the (often) illusive repeat customers.  With people buying less often, earning the loyalty of the customers you do sell to can pay off.  Once you’ve earned the business of repeat customers, the next step is to turn them into evangelists—those who recommend your dealership and ultimately send more sales into your showroom.

These types of customers are beneficial because they not only help to create more profit for your dealership, but also to direct those sales away from your competitors.  But have you ever thought about how much people who recommend against buying from your dealership could be costing you?

Found on the Church of the Customer blog, Satmetrix published a study about how much financial harm unsatisfied customers can have on the bottom line of a business.  While the results below are focused on the wireless industry, I think it’s worth looking at:

In this case, a negative word of mouth results in losing $300 per unsatisfied customer.  Can your dealership afford this?

Make sure customer service is consistent throughout your dealership, and that there is a plan in place to try and satisfy unhappy customers BEFORE they start costing your dealership money.  This could include using automatically sent surveys to attempt to find those who are less than content with your dealership, as well as keeping you finger on the online pulse of blogs and other online forums.

Now, more than ever, it’s essential that your dealership keeps your customers happy.  If you don’t, ignoring an unpleasant experience may be costing your dealership more money than you know.

Dealership Grammar

There are always classes in school that make you wonder, “When will I ever need to know this?”  For me, that class was English.  Have you ever needed to know when to use a past participle, or what a homonym is?  Neither have I…but the more I write and get involved online (conducting business via email, writing this blog, participating in online social networks), I have begun to realize that while I may not need to know the definitions of these grammatical terms, I definitely need to know how to use them accurately.

Using correct spelling and good grammar are becoming more and more essential to running a successful business.  It’s amazing how much of a blow to your credibility and professional image it can be when a potential customer reads an email with misspellings or incorrect grammar.  Put yourself in their shoes…two vendors are showing you similar products, but one doesn’t speak well and their emails have spelling errors…which vendor are you more likely to choose?

I never paid much attention in English, and wish now that I would have.  While the written word is not my strong point, I’ve found ways around this.  I use a spell-checker every chance I get, both in my word documents and in my emails.  I have co-workers look over and proofread almost everything I send to customers or potential customers.  Some things do slip through the cracks, and when they do, I go back and fix them when possible (blog, social networking), or make a point to learn from my grammatical mistake.  Nobody’s perfect, after all.

Whether you’re already a stickler for grammar, or lean a little more to the “alternative spelling” side, not utilizing all the tools available to ensure your spelling and grammar are correct could be costly to your dealership’s sales.  Whether it’s fair or not, using correct English gives your potential customers confidence in doing business with your auto dealership and helps build trust that they are choosing the right place and salesperson to buy from.

What tools do you use to help check your spelling and grammar?  Any tricks of the trade that work well for you?  Let me know—I can always use more help!

Dealership Lead Nurturing

According to the 2008 Cobalt Automotive eShopper Experience Study, the “traditional” dealership gives up on a lead after three days, no longer actively pursuing them as an in-market buyer.  This just doesn’t make sense, considering that J.D. Powers reports in their 2008 New Study that those in market for a new vehicle begin using the Internet to research their purchase about 12 weeks before they actually buy.

Lead nurturing or follow-up (whatever your dealership calls it) is so important if your dealership wants to sell as many cars as possible.  The most important thing for your sales people to do is respond to each and every email that you receive from potential customers.  It’s amazing how many incoming leads don’t get responded to.

Check in with your leads at regular intervals to ensure that your dealership has done everything you can to earn their business.  Ask if they have any questions about a specific vehicle or your dealership.  Try sending short surveys to make sure they feel that they have been treated how they want to and nothing is holding them back from eventually choosing your dealership for their purchase.

There is no doubt your dealership staff have full plates, so why not automate some of your lead nurturing?  Take full advantage of your CRM and any web tools your dealership uses to take some of the load off.  These programs can schedule emails to be sent at various time periods to ensure none of your leads fall through the cracks in the long term.

Automotive Sales Targeting

Get to Know Your Customer

The 2008 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index® U.S. Auto Industry Study set out to study how customers were treated while shopping for new vehicles.  They used mystery shoppers to visit auto dealerships nationwide who reported back about the customer service they received.  Among many other, interesting facts, the study found that auto sales people were more likely to:

  • Mention the availability of different financing options.
  • Handle any required wait professionally.
  • Make special orders simple and easy.

Sales people were less likely, however, to ask info-gathering questions like:

  • Why the shopper was considering the particular brand.
  • What the customer’s price range was.
  • How the vehicle would be used and by whom.

Judging by the types of questions these sales people asked, it appears as though their main goal is to make the car shopping process quicker and easier for potential buyers.  While this will help improve the experience of your shoppers, it’s important that it go beyond this.  Customer service shouldn’t stop at the efficiency and ease of the transaction.

It is extremely important that your sales people are actually finding out what their customers want and need their cars for.  Many shoppers will come into the showroom, full of facts and figures that they found on the Internet, but it’s still the job of a sales person to discuss the car choice and make sure it’s the right fit.

It can be tempting to get the sale and get out, quickly moving on to the next.  However, your long term sales, referrals, and overall customer satisfaction will be much higher if you take the time to ensure your customers are getting a vehicle that is right for them, their lifestyle, and their budget.

If this isn’t incentive enough, think about the possibilities of an up-sell.  Asking what the budget is, the down payment amount, or their ideal monthly payment all open the door to finding a “better” vehicle to fit their needs.  When you find out more about the buyer and their lifestyle, you have more room to negotiate and open their eyes to the vehicles they could end up wanting and buying.

As a sales person, it’s imperative that you know your product; but it’s also extremely advantageous to know your customers.