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The broad term “Internet Marketing” encompasses a fast-changing industry. In the past two years, “new” developments such as mobile, social and reputation management have quickly become mainstream, while the effectiveness of “old” methods such as banner ads and e-mail marketing have been debated.
While dealers should be aware of the latest technologies, ensuring that perceptions about the Internet and its capabilities is extremely important too. Here are three things every dealer should know about Internet marketing:
1) The Internet Creates Buyers, Not Shoppers
Given a choice between greeting a showroom customer and working an Internet lead, most salespeople would choose the former; simply because they believe they have a better chance of closing the showroom customer in the short term. Many dealers (and salespeople) still view Internet leads as “Internet shoppers” who are potentially difficult to work with or even reach.
The reality is that, whether they’re in your virtual showroom or your physical showroom, they’re a buyer. Maybe not today, but statistically the Internet customer is highly likely to buy within 90 days.
94% of car buyers begin the process online, according to recent estimates, yet most dealerships attribute less than 30% of actual sales to Internet leads. Why the discrepancy? Most consumers do research online but instead of submitting a lead, they decide to call or walk into a dealership when they’re ready to buy. Because of all the research they can do on their own, though, customers today visit only 1.4 dealerships before purchasing a car, down from 4.5 in 2005, according to J.D. Power.
And, according to a recent study by CAR-Research XRM, only 25% of people leave showrooms because they are “still shopping.” The rest leave because of inventory, financing or some other issue. These customers are ready to buy, the only question is, are they buying from you?
2) Internet Marketing is More Than a One-Person Job
If I asked you, “Who is in charge of your Internet marketing,” would you answer, “The Internet Sales Director?”
To be effective, Internet marketers need to have knowledge of and take advantage of all facets of the Internet. This means managing the dealership’s website and SEO, e-mail marketing campaigns, and being the resident CRM expert.
In addition, Internet marketers should know how to properly leverage and manage the dealership’s presence on independent auto shopping, research and review sites, the manufacturer website, social media sites and reputation management sites. Finally, they need to keep up with the latest trends and create strategies for search marketing, payment marketing, mobile marketing, banner advertising, e-mail marketing and video marketing.
That’s a lot for one person to keep up with, let alone the time needed to work the leads that come in as a result of all that work. To stay competitive, dealers need to allocate the appropriate budget, training and resources for their Internet departments. According to a recent article in Ward’s Auto profiling the top 100 e-dealers, successful Internet dealers typically spend 40% or more of their overall advertising and marketing budget on digital.
3) Evolve Your Communication
Most dealers are probably not Internet gurus; nor do they want to be. Several years ago, the perception was that this was okay. Hiring an “Internet nerd” who could run the Internet operations was the norm. But staying competitive today—and maybe even survival tomorrow—depends on how successful your dealership’s Internet marketing program is.
Every manager needs to understand that customers can engage with the store and its sales staff anywhere online. They need to stay abreast of trends, direct strategies, manage processes, hold teams accountable and respond to customers’ online concerns and opportunities—wherever they arise. One click, one call, one person doesn’t work any more.
What do you think dealers need to know about Internet marketing?