Archive for January, 2011

Leveraging Your Automotive Service Waiting Area to Reap Rewards

Monday, January 31st, 2011

If it’s not the most visited area in an automotive dealership, it’s arguably one with the most captive audiences.

No, it’s not the sales floor; it’s your automotive service area.Missy Jensen - DMEautomotive

Whether it’s waiting for a vehicle to get prepped for delivery or waiting for it to get serviced, the automotive service area—more specifically the lounge—is home to the section of your dealership that has few distractions for customers, i.e. an audience that has little to do but wait.

What can your dealership offer as a distraction to not only entertain them while they wait, but also become an opportunity for creating a positive experience on your dealership?

  • Pass the Time. Time is always an issue at the dealership’s service department.  Let’s face it, no one really enjoys sitting around a cold, uninviting waiting area.  When sitting around waiting for something—anything—to happen, your customers want something to do while they wait.  Why not offer your customers access to computer workstations equipped with free Internet access and/or outfitted with games or movies?  Not only can you help them pass the time, you can also make their experience pleasurable and positive, connotations that may not always be applied to an automotive service department experience.
  • Service is Job 1. It goes without saying that your customer service experiences should heavily skew towards the “kill them with kindness” approach. However, the little things can go a long way to improving an experience.  Offering such free items like premium coffee, cold beverages, snacks and frequent updates on their vehicle’s progress give your customers the feeling that they’re special and unique.  Besides, you never know who is watching – it could mean a great review at an online site like DealerRater.com that boosts your dealership’s online reputation.
  • Sales! Sales! Sales! Unfortunately, not all visits to the automotive service area are filled with great news – the customer’s vehicle may require significant and unexpected (and sometimes very costly) repairs or recommended services.  Or perhaps the customer is tired of putting money into their older vehicle.  In either scenario, the door is wide open for a sales opportunity.  Simply installing something like an interactive kiosk or small LCD screen by that premium coffee maker that displays some of the latest and greatest vehicles in your dealership line may be a catalyst for a new vehicle purchase.  Another option is to offer a Vehicle Buy Back program to entice the in-equity customers who have a particular vehicle your dealership is interested in purchasing from them.  Via a kiosk or board, you should display the individual’s name, a call to action (i.e., “Mrs. Wilson, we want your 2004 Ford Explorer.”) and address the customer when they enter the service area.  This process will facilitate additional sales for your dealership.
  • Expand Your Reach! When a customer is sitting in your service area waiting room, there is no better time to capture their email address and engage them in your social media efforts.  As mentioned above, your dealership could set up a kiosk that allows Internet access.  However, in order to access the Internet, the individual must input their email address.  This process is quite common in hotels and coffee shops around the country.  In addition to Internet access, you could offer exclusive discounts to all customers who “like” your dealership on Facebook.  If you choose to implement this, you could use your service waiting area to promote your Facebook page by hanging posters, placing postcards at checkout and enabling your kiosk to display a Facebook screensaver.

In leveraging your automotive service area, you’re giving yourself a prime opportunity to create a positive experience for your customer, enhance communications with them and in the long run, create future sales opportunity as well.

~ Missy Jensen, Social Media Manager at DMEautomotive

Bio:
Missy designs, deploys and maintains the social media initiatives for DMEautomotive in an effort to increase brand awareness, distribute company and industry news, provide updates on products and services and promote consumer engagement. Missy enjoys the process of learning; researching and watching projects come to fruition!

Prior to her transformation into a web specialist and work with DMEautomotive, she has 10 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry. Missy served as the Director, Handicapping & Communications for a regional golf association and helped successfully launch and maintain a cutting edge technology-based ticket resale program on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Missy attended St. Lawrence University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Psychology. She also holds a Master’s Degree from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She can be reached at missy.jensen@dmeautomotive.com and check her out on LinkedIn.

Customer Loyalty: It’s What Drives Dealer Relationships

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

“Welcome to the dealership! How may we help you today?”

You may not think it, but a simple greeting when you first walk into a dealership can lay the groundwork for keeping a customer for life.   In today’s competitive environment, the lengths a car dealership goes with their customer service can help determine how they can keep their customers.Missy Jensen - DMEautomotive

What can an automotive dealership do to establish a long-lasting relationship with their customers?  Here are a few simple reminders to help nurture customer loyalty.

Promises are more than just words. When trying to close a sale, making promises comes with the territory.  Sometimes these can go beyond the basics of quality automotive service and fuel price guarantees.  Keeping core promises simple and developing them as time goes on helps establish long-term customer loyalty.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This scenario may seem rather basic: a customer comes into your dealership, test-drives a vehicle and after mulling the numbers, they decide to purchase it.  As a rule of thumb, whether it’s after a vehicle test-drive or post dealer delivery, a salesperson should take the time to write a handwritten note of “thanks” and send them out promptly.   This simple consideration provides a personal touch and shows the customer you’re more than a number.

Be accessible. Whenever an issue crops up—a dead battery, a blown tire or even an engine service issue—being available and willing to help customers is key.  Providing service to your customers at their convenience rather than your own shows customer loyalty.  Why? You’re available to them when they need you.

Dissatisfied customers require attention, too. Let’s face it: customers aren’t happy all the time.  Whether it’s a complaint on your dealership’s Facebook page or a complaint via phone regarding service they received, a dissatisfied customer complaint requires a swift response.  Handling the issue by going the extra mile can help service the relationship for both parties – the customer’s issue is handled to their satisfaction and the car dealership can help foster a lucrative relationship. In the best case scenario, they may take notice of your extra effort, and become an advocate rather than an enemy.

“Thank you for stopping in…we look forward to seeing you soon!”

~ Missy Jensen, Social Media Manager at DMEautomotive

Bio:
Missy designs, deploys and maintains the social media initiatives for DMEautomotive in an effort to increase brand awareness, distribute company and industry news, provide updates on products and services and promote consumer engagement. Missy enjoys the process of learning; researching and watching projects come to fruition!

Prior to her transformation into a web specialist and work with DMEautomotive, she has 10 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry. Missy served as the Director, Handicapping & Communications for a regional golf association and helped successfully launch and maintain a cutting edge technology-based ticket resale program on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Missy attended St. Lawrence University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Psychology. She also holds a Master’s Degree from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She can be reached at missy.jensen@dmeautomotive.com and check her out on LinkedIn.

The ABCs of SEO for Car Dealer Marketing

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

In the highly competitive environment of automotive marketing, online search results for your car dealership can potentially make or break you.—The quality of the links, however, versus the quantity of the links is what will have a true impact on prospects making a purchase decision. Missy Jensen - DMEautomotive

With that in mind, the following points can help give you a good start in putting together a search engine optimization (SEO) plan that can yield positive results and improved page rankings for your dealership.

Map that site. In the web design process, mapping out a site for navigation is crucial.  It is that step that helps enable search engines to find your dealership’s pages.  The site map also serves a mental roadmap for online users.  Having a clear, concise map of your website serves as an important starting point in SEO planning.

Properly labeled, sized images. If you’re in the business of selling vehicles, it’s a given that you’re putting pictures of your vehicles online for viewing.  Finding bold, clean images is important in selling.  For SEO and web purposes, however, the images should also be properly labeled and sized.  By using a keyword-rich alt tag, search engines get a sense of what an image is about.  The labels will help a dealer’s SEO results; the size of the images will aid in website load times and user experience.

Optimize it. This is perhaps the nuts and bolts of SEO for automotive dealerships: the optimization of your content.  Website content should consist of relevant key words and phrases that web users utilize when searching for a vehicle.   Using a tool like Google Analytics can help fill your content with relevant search terms that improve your SEO and page rankings, putting your dealership in the driver’s seat.

Keep it up to code. Cascading style sheets—or CSS—sets the stage for improving the SEO friendliness of your dealership’s website design.  Utilizing CSS reduces the amount of unnecessary code on the backend of your web pages, improving load times and navigation for users.  It also aids search engines as it allows for its search mechanisms to scan your content at an improved pace.

SEO planning is an important tool for improving your dealership’s website traffic.  These four important points will certainly help in enhancing your dealership’s web presence and help establish it as a place to visit and buy a new or pre-owned vehicle.

~ Missy Jensen, Social Media Manager at DMEautomotive

Bio:
Missy designs, deploys and maintains the social media initiatives for DMEautomotive in an effort to increase brand awareness, distribute company and industry news, provide updates on products and services and promote consumer engagement. Missy enjoys the process of learning; researching and watching projects come to fruition!

Prior to her transformation into a web specialist and work with DMEautomotive, she has 10 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry. Missy served as the Director, Handicapping & Communications for a regional golf association and helped successfully launch and maintain a cutting edge technology-based ticket resale program on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Missy attended St. Lawrence University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Psychology. She also holds a Master’s Degree from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She can be reached at missy.jensen@dmeautomotive.com and check her out on LinkedIn.

Customer Retention: What Can Technology Do For You?

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

When it comes to choosing a customer retention marketing provider, car dealerships need to evaluate the technology behind the programs.  In looking at this technology, three of the following topics must be addressed:

(1)   Will this technology seamlessly integrate your customer data?Missy Jensen - DMEautomotive

(2)   Will it be compatible with your operating system?

(3)   Will it be able to pull current, actionable customer data?

In a perfect world, you could buy a software solution and implement it without any customization necessary.  In reality, that is rarely the case.  Finding a program that provides seamless integration, therefore, is a primary selling point.  It means that you can avoid data integration glitches, keeping costs down and timelines on track.

Another factor that should be considered is how compatible this new software solution will be with your dealership’s operating system.  The compliant software will save much needed time, money and resources that would otherwise be required for ongoing maintenance.  As time goes on, the software will need to grow with the business, and compatibility would allow for key additions to the software’s functionality and other improvements.

Finally, the technology behind your customer retention marketing program must be able to pull actionable data.  Due to the exceptionally high volume of phone calls into a dealership, any plan that has flawed data collection leads to poor revenue. Therefore, the collected analytics should encourage interaction based upon actionable customer data with the goal to attain desired results.

Today’s dealerships see offers from countless marketing vendors.  Understanding the three factors most important to finding the best the best technology match can help.  Remember, seamless integration, compatibility and actionable data help ensure that your dealership’s retention marketing programs can get up and running faster and be most effective in reaching your customers.

~ Missy Jensen, Social Media Manager at DMEautomotive

Bio:
Missy designs, deploys and maintains the social media initiatives for DMEautomotive in an effort to increase brand awareness, distribute company and industry news, provide updates on products and services and promote consumer engagement. Missy enjoys the process of learning; researching and watching projects come to fruition!

Prior to her transformation into a web specialist and work with DMEautomotive, she has 10 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry. Missy served as the Director, Handicapping & Communications for a regional golf association and helped successfully launch and maintain a cutting edge technology-based ticket resale program on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Missy attended St. Lawrence University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Psychology. She also holds a Master’s Degree from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She can be reached at missy.jensen@dmeautomotive.com and check her out on LinkedIn.

Customer Relationships: Putting It To Work for Your Dealership

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

In the automotive service marketing realm, customer relationship programs are essential to successful car dealer marketing.  From new vehicle sales to automotive service, dealerships are always looking for ways to reach out to their customers and improve upon customer loyalty.

By initiating customer relationship campaigns, a car dealership can augment their car dealer direct marketing plans and enhance their bottom lines.Missy Jensen - DMEautomotive

To do so, automotive dealerships can utilize the following tips as a solid foundation for their customer relationship initiatives.

  • Get back to your customer. All too frequently, customer relationship marketing can be a one-way street:  all talk and little response often leaves a dealership without a sale.  Dealerships can break through that wall and follow-up by any means available (email, direct mail or phone) to help foster a relationship.
  • Relevant updates. The key to any campaign is to keep your customers informed on any upcoming special, new car rollout or manufacturer-backed sales event.  But just remember one thing: it’s the quality of the message, not the quantity.  Flooding mailboxes and email inboxes can have a negative impact on current and future direct marketing campaigns.
  • Be involved. A locally owned dealership comes with a set of civic responsibilities.   Being an active, visible member of a community creates a sense of trustworthiness and dedication.  By taking part in charitable causes and other area events, you can help put your dealership in a positive light and generate local goodwill.
  • Document, document, document. When prospecting, data is collected to help shape future campaigns.  By compiling additional information (what vehicle they bought, when it was purchased and what brought them there, for example), your dealership’s future campaigns can be finely tuned and personal – helping you improve customer response and make repeat customers.

Creating a lasting relationship with your clients is a vital tool in any business plan.  Following up with your customers, providing relevant updates, being involved in the community and documenting additional data are just some key points to keep in mind when putting together a customer loyalty campaign for your dealership.

~ Missy Jensen, Social Media Manager at DMEautomotive

Bio:
Missy designs, deploys and maintains the social media initiatives for DMEautomotive in an effort to increase brand awareness, distribute company and industry news, provide updates on products and services and promote consumer engagement. Missy enjoys the process of learning; researching and watching projects come to fruition!

Prior to her transformation into a web specialist and work with DMEautomotive, she has 10 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry. Missy served as the Director, Handicapping & Communications for a regional golf association and helped successfully launch and maintain a cutting edge technology-based ticket resale program on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Missy attended St. Lawrence University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Psychology. She also holds a Master’s Degree from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She can be reached at missy.jensen@dmeautomotive.com and check her out on LinkedIn.

Reach for the Stars: Using Reach To Improve Online Visibility

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Establishing an automotive dealer’s online presence can be a difficult proposition.  There are a number of elements to think about in assembling a plan to make your dealership more visible in the online world.

As part of our ongoing series on building an online presence for your automotive marketing initiatives (link to first blog here), we’ve offered a few key points that serve as a foundation for your strategy.  In this edition, we’ll delve into how making a connection with your client database serves as a vital component of those efforts. Missy Jensen - DMEautomotive

For starters, active listening is a great way to gauge what your customers are saying about your product or service.  It requires a listener to have the ability to comprehend what is taking place and serve in the role of customer relationship manager.  In doing so, you’re establishing yourself as a knowledge leader, a person that online users go to when they’re seeking information.  Active listening requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear.  To do, utilizing such tools as Twitter, industry forums and blogs can help in getting a better understanding of what people are saying about your brand.

Ideally, the next step is instituting relevant email campaigns that use the gathered data from the listening activities.  If people are saying your store has great customer service (for example), play that up.  If people are saying your store doesn’t, then be sure to emphasize service changes you may be instituting.  Using the data you accumulated via active listening in your messages shows your customers you’re proactive in meeting their needs.

One last point to consider is creating those messages and crafting them in a way that spurs a call to action.  For instance, an automotive service marketing initiative should be crafted in a way that can either serve loyal customers or ones that are unresponsive (remember active and inactive customers?).  For loyal customers, an offer of a discounted oil change or service could drive traffic into your dealership.  On the flip side, non-loyal or unresponsive customers will probably require more aggressive pitches.  Additionally, deeper discounts may be needed to entice them to use your automotive service department.

With these tips in mind, your automotive marketing campaigns can effectively reach all facets of your client database and improve your ROI.

~ Missy Jensen, Social Media Manager at DMEautomotive

Bio:
Missy designs, deploys and maintains the social media initiatives for DMEautomotive in an effort to increase brand awareness, distribute company and industry news, provide updates on products and services and promote consumer engagement. Missy enjoys the process of learning; researching and watching projects come to fruition!

Prior to her transformation into a web specialist and work with DMEautomotive, she has 10 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry. Missy served as the Director, Handicapping & Communications for a regional golf association and helped successfully launch and maintain a cutting edge technology-based ticket resale program on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Missy attended St. Lawrence University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Psychology. She also holds a Master’s Degree from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She can be reached at missy.jensen@dmeautomotive.com and check her out on LinkedIn.

Rules of Engagement: Helping to build your online presence

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

In order to build an automotive dealer’s online presence, there are a handful of points to consider.  A recent blog on building your dealership’s online presence highlighted such tips as engagement, reach and choice as valuable techniques in establishing that existence.

In this blog, we’ll tackle the practice of engagement as a key component in your marketing efforts online.  In future blogs, we’ll delve into the other components that can help establish and maintain a dealer’s online presence.Missy Jensen - DMEautomotive

First thing’s first: what is engagement?

By definition, engagement is the act of an encounter between two or more individuals or companies that can be a positive, negative – or even neutral – experience.  Simply put, it’s a level of interaction that can either leave a prospect satisfied or dissatisfied with a dealership’s offerings.

In the online world, there are a number of ways to put you in front of customers and engage them in the sales, customer service or relationship building processes.  Facebook, Twitter and automotive-branded video channels offer three potent portals for online engagement.

Book ‘em, Dano. As of this writing, Facebook’s online community consists of over 500 million active members.  Of that number, it’s estimated that 50 percent log into their accounts every day.   With those statistics in mind, it would stand to reason that this social media platform is a critical piece in customer engagement.  Facebook provides an important and active communications portal to relate and interact with your customers on issues ranging from customer service to important dealership announcements.

Tweet, Tweet. With over 190 million visitors per month and users generating over 65 million “tweets” per day, Twitter has become the little social media engine that can.  Despite its 140-character limit, Twitter offers both reach and immediacy to those seeking automotive information.  Moreover, its search function and active user base allow automotive marketing professionals to seek out conversations and engage potential customers in discussion, thus developing relationships and putting a product or service top of mind in the decision process.

Branded and Ready. When not researching and reading blogs, video channels like YouTube and Hulu provide car dealership marketers with a medium that can offer terrific reach.  Having a branded video channel can offer identity and brand association.  It can also provide potential consumers reviews and relevant information in a quick, direct format that’s easily consumable.

By using these three important outlets in your direct marketing efforts, your dealership can create a high level of online engagement with your customers.

In an upcoming blog, we’ll discuss how reach can improve sales and offers a better return on investment.

~ Missy Jensen, Social Media Manager at DMEautomotive

Bio:
Missy designs, deploys and maintains the social media initiatives for DMEautomotive in an effort to increase brand awareness, distribute company and industry news, provide updates on products and services and promote consumer engagement. Missy enjoys the process of learning; researching and watching projects come to fruition!

Prior to her transformation into a web specialist and work with DMEautomotive, she has 10 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry. Missy served as the Director, Handicapping & Communications for a regional golf association and helped successfully launch and maintain a cutting edge technology-based ticket resale program on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Missy attended St. Lawrence University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Psychology. She also holds a Master’s Degree from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She can be reached at missy.jensen@dmeautomotive.com and check her out on LinkedIn.

New Year’s Resolution? Setting Up Goals for Your Car Dealership

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

When it comes to setting up sales goals for your car dealership, there is no magic equation.

Some dealers use prior sales data, consider any changes in personnel and then make a reasonable guess as to how many vehicles they should sell the next month.  Some dealers compare last month’s sales data to the same month from last year.  Others use methods that require adding the number of vehicles in stock to calculate inventory Steve_Dozierturn rates.

No matter the tactic, the point is simple: there is no simple solution to project your sales goals.  Whatever equation you implement, the key to achieving those goals is to calculate the activity needed.

Tracking and reporting activity is a vital aspect in understanding exactly where in your sales process each associate needs help and it will help each of your associates achieve their goals.  The equation will remain the same but the numbers in the equation must be unique to each individual.   We’ve all heard the cliché that “sales are a numbers game.”  Most dealers track their close ratio by comparing the number of logged ups to sales.  In order to use statistics to help achieve your goals, the equation can be and needs to be more detailed and tailor-made for each associate.

For example, you set a goal of 10 cars next month for one of your sales associates (for this discussion, we’ll call him “Ben”).  Let’s work backwards from there to track Ben’s activity.  First, you’ll need answers to the following questions:

  • How many “write ups” does it require for Ben to sell a vehicle?
  • How many test drives does it take Ben to complete a “write up?”
  • How many people does Ben need to greet on the sales lot to complete a test drive?
  • If you rotate “phone ups” track those statistics too.
  • Of those “phone ups,” how many does it take for Ben to set an appointment?
  • Of those appointments, how many does Ben need to set in order to get a “lot up”?

Now you have Ben’s activity stats to help Ben understand what activity he needs to generate in order to meet his goal.  For example, let’s say his numbers are the following:

  • 10 sales = 20 write ups
  • 20 writes = 30 test drives
  • 30 test drives = 35 lot ups
  • 5 shown appointments = 10 scheduled appointments
  • 10 scheduled appointments = 20 phone ups

So, Ben will need 35 lot-ups each month to reach the 30 test drives and 20 write-ups to ultimately reach his projected goal of 10 sales.  For phone ups, he will need to answer the phone 20 times next month to reach his projected goals.

When your dealership starts to create associate-specific goals, you’ll need to keep measurements like this in mind.  There will also be other factors at work, like the “40/60 Rule” (which states that 60% of vehicles are sold in the final 2 weeks of the month).

The other key to successfully using statistics to achieve your goals is to drill your equations all the way down to daily activity.  After a few months, give your associates their sales goals and let them calculate the activity needed to accomplish their goals.

So before setting up next month’s projections and goals, take a look at the stats from your activity for your current month and grind away!

~ Steve Dozier, National Director of Training @ DMEautomotive

Bio:

Steve Dozier brings 15 years of experience in the automotive industry to DMEautomotive (DMEa). Before joining DMEa, he held upper level management positions in the retail industry. Steve also owned a consulting company that specialized in CRM and direct mail, which brought in $2 Million in Sales for approximately 5 years. While serving as a consultant Steve was consistently recruited by the top 3 CRM firms of that time. Steve started at DMEautomotive in a managerial position overseeing the Direct-to-Dealer team, and is now responsible for developing and growing DMEa University; DMEa’s in-house dealer training organization. Steve is married with two children and enjoys scuba diving and boating in his free time.