The following is based on an article I wrote for the March 2009 issue of Fixed Ops Magazine.
The Fixed Operations staff has many challenges not very different than today’s floor salesperson. They have the same goals of building their business “funnel” to create a continuous revenue stream. They also face the challenge of maintaining relationships with previous and current customers to ensure repeat business and referral business.
Here we discuss three key ways for your Fixed Ops organization to survive and thrive in a tough economy:
Optimize your website
You must be optimizing your website to drive traffic to both sales and service within your dealership. All marketing and sales efforts should be directing traffic to your website, including offline ads, online coupons, etc. Promote your site and tools like your website’s “Schedule a Service Appointment” through your display, e-mail and search marketing.
If you have a page on your website dedicated to service and parts coupons and specials make sure you that consumers see your business when they search by optimizing your website for terms related to your specials. Organic Search Engine optimization is one of the most cost-effective measures that you can take to generate traffic to your website and ultimately your service bays.
The next step is to make sure that your website is addressing what the customer is searching for. If you have service specials running, you must have them listed on your website’s homepage or the landing page the offer directs the prospect to. Make sure that your site has relevant, accurate, current Fixed Ops content and offerings.
Implementing an integrated search engine marketing program in order to leverage your parts and service business is critical in these economic times. According to Yahoo, a full 25% of all automotive searches on Yahoo are from consumers looking to buy parts or service for their car.
And, according to Google, over 90% of service customers are influenced by their online experience. These consumers are searching for such things as ‘oil change’, ‘brake pads’, ‘transmission service’, ‘cheap alternator’, etc and having your dealership website listed when in-market prospective consumers are searching on these keywords is important for building your brand presence and driving more local traffic to your dealership service bays.
Optimizing your website for search engines means having a landing page or multiple landing pages on your website that talk about the automotive services you offer. In addition, it requires that you keep this information up-to-date with weekly specials and “why us?” value proposition for your dealership. Another great way to ensure that your dealership appears on top search engines such as Google and Yahoo is to buy paid search advertising. Identifying the right keywords and integrating ad copy with your website pages helps increase your return on your investment.
E-mail is one of the fastest and least expensive ways to remarket to your existing customer base. It should be the responsibility of every service advisor to get a current e-mail address from every service customer. How do you get the customer to give you their e-mail address? Let the customer know “what’s in it for them”, such as quarterly e-mail specials and coupons that they will receive, as well as important notices and recalls that could affect their vehicle.
One of the biggest issues we see today with most DMS systems is the number of duplicate records and the amount of outdated information in the system. The database has to be cleansed and updated to have the most effective marketing results. With accurate consumer information, your marketing efforts can be targeted to specific customer segments. The importance of delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time cannot be overstated.
Every customer purchasing a vehicle – new or used – should receive a special email promotion for their first scheduled service within 90 days of the vehicle purchase. If you can get your customer to return for regular service, 86% of them are going to purchase another vehicle at your dealership at some point. Owner marketing programs can make this type of targeting easy to accomplish and can even help scrub your customer data to make your Fixed Ops marketing efforts more effective.
The fact is that in the current economy more consumers are holding onto their vehicles longer and that means that the need for parts and service on those vehicles is increasing. Every Fixed Ops manager needs to focus their efforts on finding and capturing as much of these dollars as possible and the best way to do that is to find consumers where they are searching for that information: online.