Icon Responsibly

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When it comes to icons, these visuals that constantly surround us, we automatically connect messages to them. Stop signs tell us to stop, speed limit signs tell us how fast we can go and so on. Icons on a website are very similar, these image shortcuts convey a message. Websites sometimes use icons instead of text because the goal is to be concise and to the point. Icons can create simplicity, they’re easily configurated, moved, and applied. However, sometimes icons can be used in the wrong way, causing a poor user experience. When used in the right manner, though, these icons are subtle impressions that go a long way.

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Leaving cash on the table. You’re all guilty.

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You got ‘em! A shiny new customer just drove off your lot with a shiny new car. You spent a lot of money to get them to come into your showroom and really pushed your sales team to capitalize on that opportunity. Your website helped, too. Lot’s of great pictures of vehicles, great specials, and an up-to-date inventory all worked together to really highlight your dealership. Your retail game is on point and it just paid off.

But, are you satisfied with only 3.8% margins on that new vehicle sale? You shouldn’t be. You know your dealership truly sees its revenue flow in from that customer coming back, year over year, to your service department. In fact, according to NADA, service accounts for almost 60% of the profits for the average dealership.

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How to Build Trust With Service Customers From the Start

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The fixed operations department in the average dealership generates over 50% of a typical dealer’s  gross profit, according to NADA. Since this is where you make most of your money, it’s important that you do everything you can to turn each and every visitor to your service lanes into loyal, return customers. While your fixed ops staff may have a game plan once those customers visit your service department, how can you influence their opinion of your dealership from their first interaction online?

Whether you have a dedicated service website or are making the most of the service pages on your traditional website dealership site, here are some tips to use the online presence of your service department to help instill trust before customers get into your service lane.

Build Trust From the Start – When a potential customer interacts with a call to action on your website, make sure your dealership staff responds in the way that is promised. Did they request a service appointment? Ensure the email/phone call references the information your potential customer has already volunteered.

Show Them Your Staff – Let service customers see a familiar face when they come into your service lane. Maintain your dedicated staff page and add a little bit of information about each technician. This could include their certifications and years of experience. This may help visitors build a connection with your staff before they walk in the door.  Another benefit of posting your service techs certifications and qualifications on your website also builds value for using YOUR service department as opposed to one of the national service brands that don’t have staff with comparable levels of experience and expertise.

Give a “Walk-Through” Online – Post pictures of your service department as well as what to expect from a typical service appointment. Help potential customers feel more comfortable choosing your dealership’s service department by showing them around online.

Help Keep Them on Track – Does your website have scheduled maintenance information readily available? This type of information helps set your dealership website apart from the national service brands, and helps build trust with potential consumers. Try adding videos explaining what will happen at each interval for added benefit.

Make It Easy – Reduce as much friction as possible through your website. Are your service hours accurate? Does your service scheduler work properly if your dealership offers one? Do you offer loaner vehicles or is there a shuttle service? Try to answer typical questions online.

If your fixed ops website can make your service customers comfortable before they visit your service department, you’re one step ahead in converting that quick oil change into a lifelong service customer.

Using Content to Market Your Fixed Operations

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Every year since 2009, according to NADA’s Dealership Financial Profile data, the average dealer has generated over 50% of their gross profit from Fixed Operations.  When I speak at NADA or other national conferences on service department marketing, I get the same reaction – lots of heads nodding, lots of note-taking, lot of dealers telling me, “I know we should be doing this”.  Unfortunately, I’ve been getting that same reaction for almost 3 years.

We all know that dealers are busy people and they frequently struggle to make time for new things, like investing time and money into marketing their Fixed Ops department online, even if they know they should be doing it.

In 2011, one of our smartest and most creative customers requested that we build his dealership a brand new website, entirely separate from his dealership’s site, devoted to marketing the Fixed Operations side of his business.  At the time it was fairly unheard of – everyone knew that a dealership’s website existed to sell cars.

We think it’s important to help our dealers test digital marketing strategies, so we worked with our customer to build a separate, stand-alone site that strictly marketed his Fixed Operations.  Now, nearly 3 years later, after having started from scratch with a new URL, his site gets more than 2,000 visits per month – more than some dealers’ regular websites that have been online for 15 years.  Because our customer had the foresight and willingness to invest his time and efforts 3 years ago, he now controls a valuable digital marketing asset—a Fixed Operations website that generates more than 2K visits per month!

In 2014, I encourage you to re-examine how you are allocating your marketing budget, and make sure that you’re devoting enough time and resources to the Service Department, which is probably generating more than half of your profit.   As we all know, Google considers content to be king, so give your team a goal to generate 3-4 pages of unique, Service-related content each month.  In a year, you will have 40-50 pages of unique, high-quality content focused on marketing the most profitable part of your dealership.

Once you have enough content, you can start building campaign-specific landing pages for email marketing campaigns to your DMS contacts.  You can build PPC landing pages and begin running Adwords campaigns to conquest Parts and Service business from the National Service Brands like Firestone and Goodyear.  If you want some more ideas on how to market your Service Department after you start building content for it, check out my Webinar from June, “7 Proven Strategies to Double Your Fixed Ops Profit”.  You will learn what types of keywords consumers use when they research service department offerings and how mobile is impacting Fixed Ops marketing.

So, even if you haven’t built out any online content for your service department asides from the few out-of-the-box pages your website provider incorporates into your regular website, make it your goal to begin creating Service-focused digital content in 2014.  In 2 years you will build up an asset that may generate as much traffic as your regular website already does.

Maximizing Service Department Offerings

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Promote Your Service Dept. to Increase Revenue

According to the National Auto Dealers Association in 2007, 46% of the total dealership operating profits was brought in by service departments. Successfully plugging your service bay could up this percentage by giving you two sources of additional revenue: an immediate increase from customers spending more of their service dollars with you, and an increase in future sales.  Customers who service their vehicles at your dealership are more likely to buy from you when that time comes.

Here are some ideas to get you started promoting your service department:

  • Advertise—anywhere and everywhere.  Just like branding your dealership is important, so is making sure you include your service department’s contact information wherever it’s appropriate.  Give the department a prominent spot on your website.  Send out service specials via email and direct mail from the service manager.  This should place your dealership at the top of their mind when they have an automotive need (service, purchase, parts, etc.).
  • Make Customers Comfortable—Give them a tour of the dept. (it has to look nice), introduce them to the service manager, and explain what your technicians will be doing to their car.  For those about to purchase a vehicle from you, showing them around before they even enter F & I may make them more likely to buy warranties from your dealership–what a great way to increase your back end gross!  The more comfortable they are leaving their car with you, the more likely they will be to come back.
  • Incentives—just like people need a little push to buy a car, they often need that same push to be inclined to service their vehicle at your dealership.  Try creating a loyalty program that gives money off future purchases, offer gift cards for purchase (great gifts for those on set budgets, college students, and the elderly) or simply send coupons redeemable for repeat visits.
  • Compete—most vehicle owners think that independent shops are less expensive.  If this is the case in your area, you’ll either need to lower your prices to remain competitive, or communicate the value of getting work done at a dealership shop.  Create emails for each past and future customer explaining this, including your technician’s certifications, studies about quality of work, and anything you can find that will show them getting work done with you is worth the extra cost.

The service department is already a huge source of revenue for most dealerships.  With car sales slowing down, what types of things, if any, has your dealership done to promote your service department?  Have you built this promotion into your sales pitch?  Any tips?