A recent survey of 1,100 business conducted by Econsultancy and Bigmouthmedia found that majority of companies are planning to invest more in social media next year but are struggling to find the time and resources to manage their activity. According to the piece written on MC Charts
"The biggest barrier to better social media engagement for companies surveyed is a lack of resources, with more than half of companies (54%) saying this is a significant problem, the report said. Nine out of 10 businesses (90%) say social media is taking up more time internally than a year ago."
The data collected in the survey parallels my experience as I consult with car dealers seeking to create powerful Internet Marketing strategies for 2010. More than any time in the past, automotive budgets are being adjusted so that a majority of the funding
is directed toward online advertising. This is reflected in increased spending for Google Adwords, banner advertising, SEO, blogging, video, social media and microsite designs.
The survey data documents a turning point in retail automotive operations. In years past, software and technology have reduced the staff hours needed to complete sales or marketing tasks. Some reading this article may remember hand typing sales contracts or a newsletter that now is produced with a few clicks of a mouse.
The turning point is that Internet Marketing and engaging customers online takes real people doing creative writing, videos and online customer service. It's a labor intensive operational shift that requires increasing staff levels and dealerships need to recognize that shift.
How Much Should I Spend?
A common question I hear from dealership executives is; "How much should they be spending in each online strategy?" There is no easy simple answer to that question because each online advertising strategy will depend on local competition and your sales goals.
More importantly is the honest assessment of the commitment, skills, and availability of your staff and your ability to track the ROI on your online advertising spend. These two factors
will be hallmarks of successful dealers in 2010.
An important change is on the horizon in 2010.
With the increase in online spending and a decrease in monies spent on radio, TV and newspaper, dealers will have the opportunity to directly track a majority of their advertising investments. Let me emphasis that this is a major change and opportunity for car dealers. Automotive executives need to make the commitment to track their online media spending. Many dealerships will miss the rich information provided by implementing an online tracking strategy.
For example, do you have unique phone tracking numbers for Facebook, Review Websites, Press Releases, Microsites, Google Maps and Twitter? Is your website capturing the referring URL for every customer that submits a lead form? Are you creating consolidated sales reports by website and phone source? Do you know how many cars were sold off Facebook this month?
Media like radio, newspapers and billboards relied on either tracking phone numbers or sales staff surveys to related store traffic to a sale. It was an imperfect system. With many budgets going 75% or more to online spending, dealers must realize that the holy grail is getting closer; calculating the true ROI on your advertising strategies.
Do you have the right team in place?
I am currently interviewing candidates for dealership group in South California for position called Digital Media Specialist. This role will support the Internet Marketing needs of their 11 stores and also work with the Pasch Consulting Group marketing team to create a unified and competitive Internet Marketing strategy.
The job description requires the ability to write and communicate professionally online. Experience with social media, press releases and advertising is a must. The salary requirements of these candidates that have applied for this job ranges from $40,000 -$65,000. The position will enable the dealership group to more effectively blog, write press releases and engage local consumers on Facebook and Twitter, to name a few targeted tasks.
I commend the decision of their Executive VP to create a blended model of internal staffing and outside expertise. This will give the GM's immediate in-house resources for day to tactical marketing projects and the benefit of outside experts to direct the overall strategies for the dealership. This is a model that will be replicated in 2010 across the country. The pace of change in the online marketplace will make it difficult to be competitive with only internal marketing resources.
As I have said many times before; "The most important hire for car dealers in 2010 will be a content writer
". For smaller automotive groups or stand alone stores, in may not be cost effective to hire a full-time staff position so dealers will need to look at consultancy models.
A shared resource for Internet Marketing implementation can cost dealers a fraction of what a full-time person would require. For example, the Pasch Consulting Group has an effective starting package for $995 a month which brings those functions listed above to under $12,000 a year. There are other solutions on the market; you just have to do your research.
The key point in regards to staffing is that doing nothing is not an option. Online marketing spending is on the increase so in 2010 you will have more competition online. With recent changes in Google which shows Twitter and Facebook activity in real-time, dealers more than ever, need to implement a smart comprehensive online marketing strategy that include social media, blogging, microsites, press releases, banner adverting, SEO, SEM, IRM, video, document publishing, photography, and link building.
Are You Ready?
I look forward to 2010 as the opportunities for online engagement and new technologies keep me busy testing new strategies for success. Executives submitting marketing budgets for 2010 need to reflect on the findings of the study from Econsultancy and Bigmouthmedia. It is a snapshot of what is happening to business owners all over the country.
With increased spending comes increased competition. With increased spending comes accountability. Dealers must have a rock solid tracking system in place to determine which online strategies are giving them the best results so that they can be nimble throughout 2010.
Since effective online marketing and social engagement are labor intensive, car dealers must have the staff in place to be effective. Dealership staff must be trained on how to leverage social media and online marketing tactics; it's not intuitive for most people. At the pace of change in this industry, going it alone may not be the optimal choice.
Doing nothing will make your competitors smile.
Footnote: Dealers looking to increase the skills of their staff should send them to the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp
on February 12, 2010. It is schedule the day before the offcicial start of NADA so they can benefit from both educational experiences, back to back. Jarod Hamiltion, will be the keynote speaker with the opening night on February 11th.
About the Author
Brian Pasch is the CEO of the Pasch Consulting Group and can be found online at: