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How Advanced SEO, Online Reputation Management - and a New Social Media Strategy - Are Transforming Dick Hannah Honda2009 Snapshot: * 40% of Total Sales Generated Directly Thru Internet * Jumped from #3/#4 Positions in Major Metro Market - to #1/#2 Spots *Slashed PPC Spend $60,000/Year; Cut Nearly 100% of Traditional Advertising, Including ALL Newspaper, Used Car Liners and Radio *58% of all Internet-Generated Calls Coming DIRECTLY thru SEO and Review Sites/Directories (540 Calls a Month) * Leads Generated via SEO & Review Sites Cost $1.58, vs. $28 for Third-Party Leads Background: At Dick Hannah Honda in the metro Portland market, an intense focus on advanced SEO combined with Online Reputation Management (and, now, set for 2010, a new social media strategy), form the backbone of our marketing game plan. My goal here is not only to touch on why our dealership decided to get aggressive at the search engines and customer review sites, but how we implemented these campaigns, and the fully-tracked, seriously eye-opening results we're seeing. I've been in the car business 30 years, and a passionate student of the Internet for almost 15. I'm always seeking smart, efficient new ways to drive more business. But it's been in these last three years, where we've taken 'Search' to a whole new level, that's been the hands-down revolution, the 'aha' moment, for our dealership. 1) The Impact of Advanced SEO: There's usually a serious lag in what consumers are actually doing (and today that means online), and how we dealers are trying to reach them. Back in 2007, I realized search engine adoption had reached a massive tipping-point. I digested the data: 9 in 10 car shoppers were using search engines, and they'd quickly become the #1 way consumers selected dealers. And while I'd been spending $6,000 a month on PPC ads, I grasped that consumers trust the organic results far more. I was determined to tackle SEO to drive far more - far cheaper - 'first-party' leads directly to my dealership. SEO Results: Before the campaign our dealership appeared on the crucial first-page results only 18% of the time. But after our advanced SEO 'went live' in 2007, we've consistently achieved 72%-plus levels. I ferociously track exactly where our call and web traffic originates (using 3rd-party tracking companies, deploying 800#s at the search engines, etc.), and we've amassed three years of powerful evidence on the impact that 60%-plus first-page results have on a dealer's business. Out vastly improved search placement quickly led to huge increases in our site traffic and Internet-generated calls, and the ROI just keeps multiplying over time. In 2009, SEO was directly responsible for: * 48% of our unique website traffic *44% of our 900-plus/monthly Internet-generated calls - trumping PPC, and OEM and 3rd-party sites *410 sales and service calls a month * Plus, 90 website-submitted leads/month SEO was the first piece of the search puzzle for our 'digital dealership,' and it remains our bedrock: the single biggest contributor to our web traffic and incoming calls ever since. 2) The Impact of Online Reputation Management: * We've now generated over 1000 positive reviews across the Web, with an average 4.9 out of 5-star rating. * Now driving 150-plus super-motivated calls/month from review sites/directories. In 2008 we saw another consumer revolution gathering steam: the rise of customer reviews at sites/directories like Google, Yelp, CitySearch, Merchant Circle, Edmunds, DealerRater, etc. My Internet Director, Merla Turner, really educated me on how 3 in 4 car shoppers turned to online dealer reviews, and 1 in 5 actually switched dealers based on what they read. By simply Googling our dealership's name she showed my what huge traction the review sites have on first-page results, and how our customers were one click away from bad reviews that would cost me business. There are two different ways auto consumers search: they either use brand searches without a dealer name, or they insert a dealer name into the phrase. Generic searches (without a dealer name) are covered by advanced SEO - but the other searches, involving your name, are heavily trailed by review site results, and this is where Reputation Management becomes crucial. To cover our search bases, as dealers, we must tackle both. We consulted with eXtéresAUTO, and together decided that we would once again be their 'test dummy.' So we launched a year-long beta test at Dick Hannah Honda to nail down the most successful customer review process. This trial-and error test took us hundreds of hours of manpower...but the processes we discovered now underpin eXtéresAUTO's 'Online Reputation Management' solution, which has automated much of the laborious manual process I outline below. The automation radically simplifies this super-difficult process for dealers. Here are some core elements of our process: Get Management Buy-In, Motivate Sales Team Tackling our online reputation meant transforming the whole 'mindset' of the store: I knew I needed total management buy-in, and motivation for the sales team to actually make it a top priority. * I replaced weekend and monthly spiffs (for cars sold) with a $25 reward for each review generated - with a firm goal of 4-5 online reviews per salesperson every month. * Knowing staff recognition would be critical, we designed an email that circulated daily throughout our dealership, distributing all new reviews, along with graphs measuring each salesperson's status: how many reviews they'd achieved and needed to acquire. The transparency and tangible incentives quickly reoriented my team around a common goal: get those satisfied customers typing online... * We performed daily searches of the major review sites/directories. All reviews were printed, and placed in three folders: 'Good,' 'Pretty Bad,' and 'Terrible. *An attempt to call every unhappy customer was undertaken. When the customer was only identifiable by their online handle (i.e., Bob123), we searched our CRM tool to find email address matches. * Every negative review was taken hyper-seriously: even if the customer made wild claims and demanded financial compensation, we did everything to make it right. And when we did, we asked that they edit their review explaining their satisfaction. *Most sites let businesses respond directly, and we trained our team on tone and provided scripts. Our mantra: be honest, real, never defensive - and fix the problem. Getting Customers Typing The goal was to get the highest volume of satisfied customers posting, not only because they 'push down' bad reviews, but because, with their huge visibility at the Googles, they gave us the kind of exposure an ad could never buy: the recommendations of real-world customers... We hit on a multi-pronged strategy: * With any visibly pleased customer, staff simply asked them to share their experiences when they got home. * Whenever a strong manufacturer survey came in, we called and/or emailed the customer, politely asking them for a review. * When a happy customer responded to our 'thank you for purchasing/servicing' emails, we responded with an eXtéresAUTO-provided email template, including links to sites where they could easily post reviews. Online Reputation Management Results: The impact of this online reputation makeover on our bottom-line - along with its more subtle effects - has literally blown my mind. First, these 150-plus monthly calls I'm driving directly from the review sites represent the most motivated, highest-closing customers I've ever seen. Because we simply 'own' the state of Washington from a positive review perspective, people are driving 150 miles to do business with us, and asking for salespeople by name. We're gaining market share, our CSI ratings are up, and we now rank at the top of the Internet Satisfaction Index. The more subtle (but equally profound) impact: it's utterly transformed the 'personality' of our store. Our sales team is obsessed with providing better service, our customers feel 'warm and fuzzy' about us, and our owners are proud. Dick Hannah Honda simply flies out at people searching online as the #1 consumer choice. Impact of SEO and Online Reputation Management Combined: This is where our website visitors and phone calls originated:(Note that SEO plus ORM drives 51% of our total unique website visits and 58% of our incoming calls.) So, on average each month in 2009, Dick Hannah Honda generated well over 500 direct calls through the combined force of SEO and Online Reputation Management. For us, it's now responsible for the lion's share of our call AND web traffic, month in and month out. The True Cost & ROI of SEO PLUS Online Reputation Management I dissect (to death) what every marketing line-item costs me, and the true ROI. In general, first-party tactics (including SEO, PPC, website investments, and Online Reputation Management) significantly outperform third-party leads. For us, they deliver nearly 400% more leads/calls at less than a third of our monthly spend - and our closing rates on first-party leads are twice as high. But SEO plus Online Reputation Management outperform any marketing tactic: generating more than half of our web traffic and Net-generated calls, at 7% of the Internet budget. Don't get me wrong, we still use third-party providers, as they can deliver a relatively cost-effective stream of leads. But with these new campaigns driving so much business, we've been able to really refine our third-party spend so they perform more cost-effectively. Up Next...Social Media Campaigns in 2010 This year we're putting the third piece of our puzzle together: getting our social media strategy right. Yes, we've been Twittering, on Facebook, and have a great, female-friendly auto blog called 'Live, Love and Drive' ...but our management team has put their heads together, and hammered out a game-plan for what we want to achieve at the social media sites next. Our philosophy: no direct 'selling' on any social platform. Everything we do is about building strong community relationships and great content. From helpful and fun videos - to our new blog 'Life in the 'Couv,' which dives into everything great going on in our town - to ongoing contests at Facebook/Twitter - to great content at our partner TV/radio sites. With core fans and followers, every twelfth communication is a very soft sell, i.e., pretty amazing discounts just for them, etc. And to really execute, we've hired a dedicated in-house professional to build out our social media campaigns and SEO-friendly content. At Dick Hannah Honda we talk about our 'digital dealership' all day: how to drive more traffic to it, to sell more cars. Our approach: a bedrock in advanced SEO - and then adding powerful Online Reputation Management and pro-consumer social media campaigns. They represent the highest ROI and most cost-effective advertising we've ever done, period. Joe Orr, General Manager of Dick Hannah Honda.