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Kevin Root

Kevin Root President

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You read the newsletters, go to the conferences and are thoroughly convinced that social media is the answer to slow sales, low grosses and chronic bad breath. You’ve drank the Kool-Aid and have created a Facebook page for your dealership. You’re even cranking out tweets a couple of times a day. 

So, just how is that social media strategy working for you?

If your answer is anything other than “KICKING BUTT,” then chances are you might need a little social media strategy tune-up. Here are four common areas where dealerships get tripped up in executing their strategy. 

1.    Focusing on the Wrong Thing 

Let’s set the hype aside for just a minute and think about how people shop for cars today. Know of anyone who says, “I think I’m going to buy a new car. I better go to Facebook and see which dealership has the best deals.” What customers do today is research, which includes doing homework specifically about each dealership. A recent study* found that one-half of Internet users research online before making any kind of purchase – on the Web, in a store or through any other method.

The study goes on to note that existing customer reviews had a strong influence on purchases by 71% of respondents, while only 25% said the same about Facebook fan pages. What is really interesting is that the same study polled a variety of retailers to learn what tools they were planning on deploying for their social strategy, and the number one response (91%) was a Facebook fan page. 

Don’t get me wrong. I think Facebook has a place in your strategy, but it should be primarily centered on connecting with your existing customers, not primarily focused on acquiring new ones. Put the focus on growing your reviews instead.

2.    Focusing Only on Sales Reviews

Ratings and reviews play a significant role in driving new sales; that’s not new news. If you’re like most dealerships today, you are doing all you can to increase sales department reviews – but don’t forget about service department reviews. They are critically important for two reasons: first, your service department has the opportunity to obtain a significantly higher number of reviews, and more importantly, the reviews actually help drive new car sales. You read that correctly. Service reviews impact car sales. 

New data by DriverSide/Kelton Research reveals that over six in ten (61%) Americans would opt for a specific dealership to buy a new car from if they read positive service department reviews about that store – assuming price and location criteria had already been met. Think about that the next time the guy down the street has you beat by a few hundred bucks. Could your positive service department reviews compared to their lack of service department reviews make the difference? You bet they would.  Grow your service reviews. 

3.    A Sales-Centric Website   

What’s the biggest problem with most dealers’ social media strategy? It’s their website. Most everything we do with social media is created to get people to visit our site, right? The problem is most dealer websites are 80% focused on sales. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you consider that fixed operations drive 80% of the profits for most dealerships. 

Sure you might have a “service page” with a service scheduler or even a generic coupon or two, but what percentage of overall content on your website is focused on topics of interest for owners versus prospects? If your site is sales-focused, what reason are you giving your existing owners to visit it?  

Owner-focused website content will improve customer retention.

4. Conquest versus Owner Focus 

Want your social media strategy to really take off? Think relationships. That’s the core of a successful strategy. It starts with leveraging your existing customer base.

An ongoing service and maintenance reminder and customer communication program, like DriverSide, is the easiest way to automatically stay connected with your existing customers. Don’t make the mistake of sending impersonalized non-service specific communication either. Remember it’s about building and then maintaining a relationship, and to do that you need to send relevant, timely information – not generic “one-size-fits-all” spam. 

Remind them when their car needs its 50K service, tell them what is included in that service and give them a discount coupon as an incentive. And don’t stop there. Provide articles relevant to owners of vehicles with 50,000 miles – like how to save money on new tires or how to cut car insurance costs. 

Do this via your newsletter and your automated service reminders with tie-ins to your social pages and watch your social media results grow.

Strong existing customer relationships will attract new prospects almost on their own. How? Your customer base will communicate their satisfaction with your dealership to their network socially to the benefit of both your service and sales departments. 

 

*Source: The e-tailing group & PowerReviews, 2010.

Eric Miltsch
Kevin, Wonderful points; our own focus has shifted so much in the past 6 months - more to the point of listening and responding as needed to provide the value and positive experiences. Overall acceptance grew & the presence has become familiar. This lets us to move forward with next-level concepts (as you know) such as the service/fixed-ops initiatives. I'm looking forward to an entirely different type of interaction & relationship building among our customer base with these concepts... Nice post Kevin.
Daniel Boismier
Doing nothing (after you begin) can be the easiest but yet most dangerous mistake. For our customers it really is a paradigm shift, since most have not trusted us (some with reason) and now we are saying, "hey let's be social and friends".
David Greene
Kevin as always you provide intelligent insight that is right on the money. Your suggestions for correcting the "fatal flaws" described in your post would immediately improve any dealerships social media marketing plans. I would suggest there is perhaps one more fatal flaw to be added to this list and that is "hearing but not listening". Social media presents the voice of the customer more effectively than any survey or study ever has. And the information doesn't cost anything... unless you're not listening.
Brian Pasch
@Kevin I am pleased to read your encouragement about leveraging the service and maintenance aspects of car ownership online and with respect to website design. If a consumers purchases a car every 3 years, they will service their car most likely 9 times in that same period. So the service department and the customer experience they deliver has 900% more facetime with customer or owners who did not buy at the dealership. This can great a compelling reason to consider the dealership when they do need their next car. Imagine the impact if post service, the service advisors stayed connected with their customers? I've been focusing on making fixed operations website pages more engaging by adding videos that present the value add of servicing a car at the dealership. Mac Haik JCD and Checkered Flag has done a great job of creating videos that speak to the consumer and address their unspoken concerns. Check out this video on the home page of: http://www.virginiabeachcarrepairs.com/ With a focus on Fixed Operations for both customer service, social media messaging and SEO, car dealers can touch more customers at a lower cost because their is less competition. That is until more dealers wake up and see that they can compete with local independant service franchises.
Mike Sheehy
I completely agree with #1. Some people focus on Facebook the wrong way. Less customers will use Facebook because they know that companies and dealerships have the ability to delete comments, whether they’re favorable or not. Instead, the Facebook fan page can be used to connect with, not just previous customers, but also current employees. -Mike J&L Marketing, Inc. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Louisville-KY/JL-Marketing-Inc/31166092696?ajaxpipe=1&__a=6

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