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Brian Pasch

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The Driving Sales Executive Summit attracted industry thought leaders and automotive retailers that are forward thinkers and leaders in their local communities.  From the various presentations, breakouts sessions and round table discussions a few themes developed.    One theme that resonated with me was that car dealers cannot afford to ignore Social Media (SM), Internet Reputation Management (IRM) and Automotive SEO.   Automotive retailers must understand that a major shift in how consumers are using the web in underway.  Dealers need to place themselves in the path of the consumer, listen and respond appropriately.  Speakers shared data that quantified the opportunity and the actual ROI of social media, IRM and Automotive SEO.  One specific study which analyzed a three year period of Internet leads from Dick Hannah Honda showed that their Automotive SEO and Internet Reputation Management strategies today represented 40% of their Internet revenue and the best ROI of all lead sources.  They are getting 180 calls a month from consumer review websites. The data from Dick Hannah Honda clearly demonstrated that consumer review websites, business directories, microsites, blogging, social media, and onsite SEO can drive traffic that converts into leads at a fraction of the cost of any other lead source.    I've been writing about these opportunities for two years and I was so pleased to see that data so beautifully presented by someone else.    Amen! As a side note, Dick Hannah Honda does not advertise on the radio, TV, newspaper or local car booklets and leads their region in new car sales and in second place in used car sales. They attribute their success to a partnership of vendors and their early adoption of SEO, IRM and Social Media.

Getting Started

Dealers who attended this conference or those that have been following the buzz about Social Media, IRM and SEO have to be feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Where should they start?  One of the expert speakers and author Chris Brogan said "if dealers wait to get started, they will be behind the curve by 7 years!"  If this is true, how can dealers start down the path of new media strategies when they are unclear where it will lead? The build vs. buy conversation comes to mind.  Most dealerships do not have one person that is capable of handling all aspects of SM, SEO and IRM.   Secondly, these communication strategies are not one time tasks; they need attention each day if not every week depending on the scope of engagement.   Lastly, things are changing so fast that even consultants like me are learning new techniques each day. Since doing nothing is not an option, my suggestion is to call in a consultant and get started.  Get your initial footprint established.  Get training in place to share the daily tasks involved in tapping into these new channels.  A good footprint will get you "in front of the consumer's path" and you can start to listen to what they have to say.  By sharing the workload, a week will never go bye that something isn't done regardless of your staffing issues.

Roles For Consultants

Consultants can be very helpful in setting up systems and procedures that have proven effective for things like IRM and Social Media.  However, outsourcing 100% is a mistake.  The beauty of Twitter and Facebook, when done properly, is that they reflect the personality of the dealership.  Having a consultant setup Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and NING is a smart choice but having a consultant as the sole content creator for your social media websites would be missing the mark.  Consultants are ideal for off-site SEO: link building, bookmarking, press releases and aiding customers to post to review websites.  That is a great use of a consultant's time because the skills required are not those that dealership staff need to focus on initially.  Later, you can decide to take back any of these tasks if your staff evolve into mastering these strategies.

How To Price These Services

The challenge of social media, IRM and SEO is that initially it is boundless.  The initial work and setup is very time consuming. Local market conditions also dictate how aggressively a dealer needs to invest in their strategy.  So do one size fits all pricing packages work? I've been of the mindset that charging for services by the hour makes the most sense because of accountability.   If the initial setup takes more time, then initial charges will be higher.  If a dealer wants 20 consumer reviews posted over 90 days it will be cheaper than if a dealer wants to build to 100 reviews over the same period. However, dealers are hooked on the fixed monthly pricing model.  Most all of these services they buy are packaged this way.  So is $500 a month too cheap, $2,000 a month better and $5,000 a month crazy or nirvana?  The answer is they all can be good depending on what they offer.  I was told that I need to raise my prices. When dealers don't understand the mechanics of SEO, IRM and SM the risk is that any price point may make them feel uncomfortable; is this valuable?  So, in the end, service providers have a challenge to clearly measure the impact of these marketing channels and educate dealers on how they are contributing to their bottom line.

What Are My Choices?

At the Driving Sales Executive Summit there were a few independant companies that offered services that could help dealers get started other than my namesake consulting firm; Pasch Consulting Group.  Paul Rushing from Sega Systems and Exteres Auto are two other companies that are offering consulting services to car dealers who want a competitive edge. So what are you waiting for?  If you have not fully leveraged SEO, IRM and Social Media, you would not want one of your competitors to call one of the three conference participants listed above.  All three of us are extremely competitive, and personally I don't like to lose.

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