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T J Houghton

T J Houghton Corporate Director

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“I feel your pain.” The Importance of Service Marketing on the Dealer Website

 

It started simply enough... 

Get some service and parts specials posted on our new website. Nothing too complicated. Just offer something to our web customers that may help them choose us for service or parts. It turned out to be anything but SIMPLE. I will explain later, but now that our specials/coupons are complete, service and parts pages are the second most-visited pages on our website, excluding the home page.   I know our customers are reading our site content, because we now receive online appointments that include requests for the coupon special. 
 
I want you to know that I do feel your pain. 

If you are a Dealer or GM, and you think your website is a monthly expense created personally by Al Gore when he invented the Internet, you probably aren’t going to get much out of this article. You probably leave it to other people in your store to keep up with your website, and your idea of marketing your website is to post your television commercial on the home page. 

If you dig in, you’ll be the better for it.

Don’t be a dinosaur! You remember what happened to T-Rex, right? It wasn’t too long ago that to be a good Dealer/GM, you had to be a traditional marketing expert. It was all about reach and frequency. And, oh yeah, to make sure to put your web address on all of your ads. That’s not enough anymore. If you think that this may be you, it’s past time to learn something new.  If you dig in, you’ll be the better for it, but sadly you will then no doubt find that your people know less about your website than you. That’s some of that pain I was telling you about.
 
Did you know that approximately 90% of your customers go to the web before they visit your bricks and mortar store? Loosely connecting the dots, I figure a guy can build a (your?) website so that when a customer Google’s: “Toyota Service (insert your town)” or even “Toyota Service (insert your competitors town)” you can show up and draw web traffic. And depending on what your customer finds when they get to your site, can and will schedule an appointment online on the spot! You know the kind of stuff you like when you surf for something. Ease of use, information that’s easy to find, deals...

Parts and Service Managers not even looking at our own website!

I learned a new term the other day from a factory friend of mine during a discussion of web-marketing ideas: Repurposing. It’s a nice word, and a very polite way of saying I stole something from another website and now I’m using it. It came up when I was showing her some coupons on my website that I found on another dealer’s website. I noticed the URL for the coupons had the dealer number in it and copied the URL and replaced their dealer number with ours and BAM!, instant dealer personalized coupons. I was able to do the same thing with incentives too. I had said something like, “I’ve still got my Internet training wheels on, but I’m getting there.” She said that she thought we were miles ahead of the norm and she was still just trying to get service managers to put specials on the website. I decided to put that to the test.
 
A week later, I went to our parts and service managers and asked them for input on marketing ideas for their departments.   A couple of hours later the parts manager came be-boppin’ into my office with a print out from another dealers website with some coupons that were identical to the ones that I had “Repurposed “ and were currently listed on our site!   I really wanted to kill them, but I didn’t. I said thank you for bringing me stuff that we already have on our website. I asked him if they had even looked at our site and the response was a sad “NO.” I wanted to build on what we had. I wanted to get feedback and input on how we could grow and what was working on our own site and what we could do to make it better! And I have guys that are so busy playing solitaire on their PC, they can’t even look at our own site. It’s my own fault; I should have done a better job of leading. 
 
I let a little time pass and I decided to climb back on the horse and try again. Back to the parts guy I go… “Hey buddy, have any ideas for specials I can put up for you on the website?” I asked, with a big ol’ grin.
 
He said that he would think about it and get back with me. When he came by my office to let me know about his specials, he made sure that I knew that he had gone to our own website first to see what was there. He said that he wanted to “think outside of the box this time.” You know what I got? Beam style wiper blades for an Avalon for $37.38. “Frank,” (his name is Frank and has not been changed to protect the innocent) “tell me what a beam style wiper blade is?” He replied, “It’s the oldest part that I have.” I really, really wanted to kill him again, but I remembered when I first started fooling with the web and I thought marketing our site was just putting our commercial on our home page and making sure the URL was on all of our traditional advertising. I took a deep breath and decided that maybe this would be a better time to teach and lead. (I told you, I FEEL YOUR PAIN.)
 
I told him thanks and I wondered how many Avalon’s come across the drive. Maybe there was something we could do that would appeal to more of our customers. I asked, other than the service department, who do you sell parts to? He said that we get a lot of do-it-yourself’ers. Then his eyes got big and as he was leaving he said that he needed to look something up and would be right back. On his return he brought me four do-it-yourself specials.   Replacement wiper blades for all models, non-synthetic oil change kit, synthetic oil change kit, air filters/cabin air filters for all models. Now we’re cooking!

Your website provider should help you in your marketing efforts.

Here is another possible pain point. You need a website provider that will help you do stuff like this so it looks good. I called my website provider and said that I was going to try and build coupons for parts and was in need of a little advice. What I got was “send me what you need and we will be happy to build them for you.   We will build them on a template so you can change expiration dates, prices etc. Here are the links if you would like to take a look.”
 
http://www.jimmcnatttoyota.com/parts/parts-mcspecials-and-coupons/
 
http://www.jimmcnatttoyota.com/deals/service-mcspecials/
 
We have five different franchises and we are putting coupons up for all of them! I called my website provider and let them know of our success and that I wanted to do it for everyone. I said, this one falls under the NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED axiom. They really don’t mind and I feel like I have a real partner when it comes to our sites.
 
It’s a learning process and I still have my training wheels on. Now my parts manager has training wheels too and that is nice. :-)

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