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As we get ready to kickoff the Automotive SEO Study on September 1st, I was reflecting on both the enthusiasm of the 75 dealers who have committed to the program to date and also the low participation rate for a curriculum worth over $10,000. By the way, it is being offered for free.
One of the barriers that I see is that there limited educational resources that are building a bridge between veteran automotive executives (decision makers) and the vocabulary used by digital marketing and social media advocates.
You may often hear a young Internet Sales Manager say; "My GM doesn't get it!" but in fact few companies have made it easy for that "bridge" education to take place.
I'm sure at one point, many GM's and dealer principals tried to get a better understanding of digital marketing but they were quickly immersed in funny acronyms and words that might as well have been in French.
In the Bible, key figures spoke in parables so the local people could understand their message. Digital marketing advocates need to build digital marketing parables that can communicate new digital and social media strategies in terms that the majority of dealers can understand.
Even I have been accused of speaking square words into dealer's round ears.
In the early days of the Internet, sales professionals spoke in "Bricks to Clicks" analogies. I think we need to get back to those basics because owners and General Managers of dealerships are very smart people. We can not accept the "They Don't Get It" mentality. We need to find ways to connect their experience with new marketing concepts. We need them onboard!
Once dealership principals and GM's "get It" , I predict that the dealership will flourish in the coming years. There will be a unified understanding and direction for the dealership's marketing budgets. We still have some way to go. I estimate that 75% of car dealer executives do not participate in online digital marketing forums and communities so we need to do more to educate.
DrivingSales.com and the Automotive SEO Study is attempting to take 100 dealers through a 16 week curriculum to educate, mentor and coach them through one aspect of digital marketing; Search Engine Optimization.
We are attempting to be that bridge for 100 dealers who want to increase their online success. At the end of the 16 weeks we will document each dealer's success and allow them to tell us if we succeeded in becoming a bridge of understand for their dealership.
A whitepaper will be created from the study will be presented at 2011 NADA Convention in San Francisco. It will clearly demonstrate my belief that SEO has to be a part of every car dealership marketing budget.
The excitement for the Automotive SEO Study is at fever pitch and many have emailed Jared and I to say how excited they are to be a part of this historic study. I will do my best to keep the study members engaged but I will be fighting something bigger inside their dealership; Patience.
The car industry is obsessed with 30 day windows of performance. One of the biggest obstacles for car dealers implementing a strong organic marketing strategy is time. Car dealers want to see major results in 30, 60 and 90 days. I have lost clients because of this very problem even though I try to set clear expectations.
Car dealers who have had the patience to invest in a strong SEO strategy and content publishing process have been amply rewarded. Tim Martell, Internet Director at Marlboro Nissan and also President of WikiMotive.net has invested in a multi-year SEO strategy. The organic traffic to his website for a dealership of his size is without peer.
I like to use the analogy that SEO is like building a private advertising network in your PMA. You are building digital billboards on all the major Internet roads and highways in your locale. It takes a while to build this network but when it is done, it is yours for a lifetime. No one can take it away from you and this brings independence and more first party leads.
If your dealership measures success in months, then Automotive SEO may not be for you. Your competitors who have patience will smile at your decision and eventually will choke off your internet visibility. It's already happening now with third party lead providers and inventory advertisers.
The decision now is to find the right education and commit to being patient. If you want to experience both, join the study while there are a few spots left.