I was speaking to an automotive executive today who oversees a large group of stores in California. He made a comment that stuck in my head and encouraged me to create this blog post.
His comment gave me some insight why there was so much interest at the 7th Digital Dealer Conference in Nashville for Automotive SEO
, Social Media, Microsites and overall Internet Marketing strategies.
Have We Seen a Bottom?
We were discussing Internet Marketing strategies and he wrote on the whiteboard how sales in 2008 and 2009 were down across his dealership group; year over year. Frankly he stated that in the first quarter of 2009 things were ugly
When people approached him at that time, with similar Internet Marketing strategies that I presented today, he was not able to "hear" the message because he was in a defensive posture
. New spending or adding staff was just not on the radar screen at the beginning of 2009. He recounted how his automotive group looked at all expenses and reduced overhead wherever possible.
Fast forward six month later and his mood and optimism has changed. In his own words he said:
"It is time to go on the offensive!"
At that moment I knew that our relationship would be successful because he was willing to invest and compete online. He was willing to take a step of faith and leverage the Internet to take his business to the next level. He was no longer looking backwards.
Are You Still in Defensive Mode?
As he prepared for his offensive squad to take the field he asked:
"How many dealers across the US are leveraging advance Internet Marketing strategies and social media tools?
My guess was less than 10% of car dealers were fully engaged in social media, SEO, microsites and integrated online marketing. That made him smile because it confirmed that he was not late to the game.
But the recent surge on online discussions on this forum as well as the diversity of questions posed at the Driving Sales Executive Summit and Digital Dealer Conference is a clear sign that the automotive marketing game is moving back to an offensive posture.
How To Direct The Offensive Team?
The challenge of educating automotive decision makers is that only a small percentage of dealerships have executives that actively engage their peers on websites like:
These websites are filled with great "Do It Yourself' strategies and peer review of new technology and services. This is good for those who are reading up on the latest tips and strategies shared on these forums. The real question is whether money is being increased at their dealership for digital marketing initiatives.
I am confident that dealerships who are first to act over the next year will be rewarded handsomely. It's time to stop looking back and comparing sales stats and compensation plans from three years ago.
It's time to listen to dealerships who are pioneering Internet marketing and social media strategies that are working. Rethink your monthly marketing budgets and TAKE RISKS
and test new ideas. Make sure you setup systems to measure real change and track results.
As team Nike would say: Just Do It!