Dealership Employees Blogging in the Land of Unicorns and Rainbows

Wouldn’t it be great if your dealership had a staff full of employees that could not only sell and service each customer with excellence, but also create optimized engaging content for your dealership’s blog?

I was reading a post by Kathi Kruse over on DrivingSales earlier this week.

The article is titled “Poof! Your Last Excuse Against Blogging Just Vanished

While generally a fan of Kathi’s posts, unfortunately, this particular article had me shaking my head and rolling my eyes.

“In the dealerships of the future (read: 2013), every front line employee will be trained and be regularly submitting blog content.”

image of unicorn in the land of social media

Kathi, I’m a advocate of your writing and it’s rare for me to not link to one of your shared articles in my twitter stream. This article is another example of your passion and forward thinking (maybe too forward). With 15 years of dealership experience, I feel confident in saying that asking a dealer’s sales and service staff to contribute to a blog (long or short copy) is living in the world of rainbows and unicorns.

While a noble dream, this would be a complete waste of time and resources on the dealer’s behalf. Not only would this likely result in a high failure rate, but there’s a good chance the one in charge of orchestrating this project would become very frustrated with their employees.

Please note – I speak from experience. I, too, thought this would be an easy and effective strategy. It failed, miserably, and for many reasons.

Let’s think about this for a minute. How many people are truly committed enough to write content for a blog? An individual that understands consistency, engaging copy, keyword optimization, and the audience. I’ll guarantee it’s a small percentage. Yet, here we are thinking the typical dealership has a sales floor or service lane full of these unique individuals.

I’m sorry, but NO.

Instead of dealerships wasting time trying to involve their sales or service teams, I’d like to suggest a couple, more effective, approaches.

  1. Outsource
  2. Hire “that” individual

Outsource: Find yourself an Ad or PR Agency that offers content writing. Ideally, one that would have the opportunity to visit the dealership on a frequent basis and build relationships with key individuals. This provides the agency with a feel for the dealer’s brand, access to content, dealer highlights, local news, etc.

Hire “that” individual: Possibly the better choice here.  Maybe, just maybe, this one individual already exists at the dealership. If that’s the case, good luck getting this individual to contribute consistent content to the dealership’s blog. Eventually, they’ll tune into WIIFM and want compensation for their writing (rightfully so).

FYI – Dealers struggle with paying their sales employees for “additional services”.

If you’re a dealer that understands the value of social and content marketing, build a solid job description for this position (full-time or part-time depending on your goals and needs) and hire the right person. Choose someone that understands content writing and leverages local, industry and dealer news in order to build optimized content for your blog and other social media outlets.

A full-time content writer could hold other marketing responsibilities for the dealership as well: video blogging, reputation management, website content, social media, etc. Both of these approaches will yield the dealer a much higher success rate for their content / blogging strategy.

With all that being said, I’m in no way totally excluding the sales and service department from contributing to the store’s social and content strategy. But let’s keep it simple.

For example, items the sales and service staff could contribute to are:

  1. Photos of happy customers beside their new car.
  2. Positive reviews from sales and service customers.
  3. Video testimonials from service and service customers – even this can be a stretch.
  4. Feature / benefit walk around video (wrap this into an employee contest).

My purpose of writing this isn’t to be Debbie downer or to rain on anyone’s blogging parade. I’m just very much a realist. With my years on the front line of the dealership, I have a keen understanding of how most dealerships operate, specifically, the mentality of the sales and service floor. That being said, I wanted to place a more realistic spin on the topic while also providing more attainable goals for a dealers blogging strategy.

Kathi, please keep doing what you do. I’m an advocate and admire your passion to help dealers with their social media content strategies. It’s an important component of any dealers marketing mix.

After commenting below, be sure to follow Kathi on twitter, like I do.

DealerRefresh readers, am I Right or Wrong?

How may sales and service individuals do you have that would be willing, and able, to contribute engaging articles for your dealership’s blog?

Guest Poster

I’m the founder of DealerRefresh. I got my start in the dealer business when I was 18. From there I've worked throughout several departments within fixed to variable ops. Whether it’s managing the desk, perfecting internet sales process or studying online marketing trends, I absolutely love this business and the challenges it brings. I’m currently VP of Sales for HookLogic, Inc. Additionally, I continue to consult to dealerships. My passion has been and continues to be helping dealers leverage the Internet to sell cars and improve customer service.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

54 comments
Wikimotive
Wikimotive

Almost anything is possible... That doesn't make it a good idea. If it isn't duplicatable, then it isn't a business model. Jeff is amazing. What happens if Jeff get's hit by a bus? Now I know his very small family store happens to have great culture that comes from a very engaged owner.    But what about a dealer group of 7 stores where no one has ever met the dealer principal? What about stores that are run via committee who never engage with customers?    The car business is too diverse for this to be a sustainable business model. It falls on vendors to provide service alongside great products.   Something I wrote about after being inspired by this post. See that here: http://www.automotivedigitalmarketing.com/profiles/blogs/who-s-lazy-car-dealers-or-vendors

Jim Bell
Jim Bell

I read this article the other day and Kathi does have valid points as she always does.  I will agree with you Jeff that it is reaching for the stars.  It would be difficult to have a manager or salesperson contribute consistently on a weekly basis.  We do have an outside source a local writer do our blog and does a great job with it.  We do all brainstorm the ideas that are to be written about.  

 

As far as doing it in house, it is possible. I will say that Jeff Cryder and the Lebanon Ford store do an outstanding job in doing in on site with employees there at the store.   

Jim Bell
Jim Bell

I read this article the other day and Kathi does have valid points as she always does.  I will agree with you Jeff that it is reaching for the stars.  It would be difficult to have a manager or salesperson contribute consistently on a weekly basis.  We do have an outside source a local writer do our blog and does a great job with it.  We do all brainstorm the ideas that are to be written about.     As far as doing it in house, it is possible. I will say that Jeff Cryder and the Lebanon Ford store do an outstanding job in doing in on site with employees there at the store.   

Mason DeJarnett
Mason DeJarnett

This is a great post. It is obvious that consumers are hungry for more information. They constantly google "how to buy a car at the best price" and similar terms. The problem is many of the people providing the info are not dealership personnel. For example, a Kia dealership should be blogging about what to bring in to take advantage of the competitive bonus. If dealerships stepped up and began to provide information openly on blogs/Facebook, a trust begins to be established that breaks down initial barriers that occur on the lot. The dealership should have a sole person doing this. This person should market the dealerships personality, and not try to sell cars. That is why your average car salesman can't and won't participate in this, because it is hard to turn off the switch of selling the car.

Mason DeJarnett
Mason DeJarnett

This is a great post. It is obvious that consumers are hungry for more information. They constantly google "how to buy a car at the best price" and similar terms. The problem is many of the people providing the info are not dealership personnel. For example, a Kia dealership should be blogging about what to bring in to take advantage of the competitive bonus. If dealerships stepped up and began to provide information openly on blogs/Facebook, a trust begins to be established that breaks down initial barriers that occur on the lot. The dealership should have a sole person doing this. This person should market the dealerships personality, and not try to sell cars. That is why your average car salesman can't and won't participate in this, because it is hard to turn off the switch of selling the car.

VelocitySales
VelocitySales

There are lots of reasons (excuses) why we CAN'T do something, rarely are they anything more than a lack of will. I'd submit that the reason here, is top management doesn't see / understand the value of the thing. Much like some still don't understand the value of the Internet in general.

 

Socialmediaexplorer.com has a great post today entitled; How to Get Content Marketing "Buy-In". It looks at some concrete, actionable ideas to get buy-in.

 

http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/how-to-get-content-marketing-buy-in/

VelocitySales
VelocitySales

There are lots of reasons (excuses) why we CAN'T do something, rarely are they anything more than a lack of will. I'd submit that the reason here, is top management doesn't see / understand the value of the thing. Much like some still don't understand the value of the Internet in general.   Socialmediaexplorer.com has a great post today entitled; How to Get Content Marketing "Buy-In". It looks at some concrete, actionable ideas to get buy-in.   http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/how-to-get-content-marketing-buy-in/

IanDavis
IanDavis

As an SEM/SEO consultant/internet manager for a major car leasing website, I must admit that I am asked to put testimonials on our website pages. This is not a believable forum that I would think our customers would trust in the least. 

Unfortunately, if I am to entertain the thought of even mentioning a social media blog, the owner would throw whatever was close to him at me.

At least people trust other previous customers comments socially, that is if they bothered to check.

 

I agree, it's going to take years more before dealership mentality changes in this regard. Oh well....

 

IanDavis
IanDavis

As an SEM/SEO consultant/internet manager for a major car leasing website, I must admit that I am asked to put testimonials on our website pages. This is not a believable forum that I would think our customers would trust in the least.  Unfortunately, if I am to entertain the thought of even mentioning a social media blog, the owner would throw whatever was close to him at me. At least people trust other previous customers comments socially, that is if they bothered to check.   I agree, it's going to take years more before dealership mentality changes in this regard. Oh well....  

Wikimotive
Wikimotive

Jeff, couldn't agree more. Having just left the automotive retail world after 20 years, I can emphatically state that this is not going to happen anytime soon. The fact that companies that blog get 55% more web traffic and 70% more leads doesn't track with decision makers when it comes to producing compelling consistent well optimized writing. At least not when it comes to paying a dedicated employee and FICA, FUDA, SUDA, benefits, ad nauseum...

 

While I haven't found an abundance of companies that provide high quality content writing, we do exist. Outsourcing works when companies provide quality through passion.

 

Sorry Kathi, I too enjoy most of your stuff as well!

Wikimotive
Wikimotive

Jeff, couldn't agree more. Having just left the automotive retail world after 20 years, I can emphatically state that this is not going to happen anytime soon. The fact that companies that blog get 55% more web traffic and 70% more leads doesn't track with decision makers when it comes to producing compelling consistent well optimized writing. At least not when it comes to paying a dedicated employee and FICA, FUDA, SUDA, benefits, ad nauseum...   While I haven't found an abundance of companies that provide high quality content writing, we do exist. Outsourcing works when companies provide quality through passion.   Sorry Kathi, I too enjoy most of your stuff as well!

ChrisSinden1
ChrisSinden1

@dealerrefresh majority of internal cultures don't support this idea as a "selling" tool. The cultures need to change before behaviors can.

ChrisSinden1
ChrisSinden1

@dealerrefresh majority of internal cultures don't support this idea as a "selling" tool. The cultures need to change before behaviors can.

tuneyfish
tuneyfish

Here's what happens when you try to get your sales staff into the content business..... 

http://youtu.be/GLJhKPrPFcM  [*warning* language in video may be offensive to some viewers, think he drops an F bomb or two]

 

 

tuneyfish
tuneyfish

Here's what happens when you try to get your sales staff into the content business.....  http://youtu.be/GLJhKPrPFcM  [*warning* language in video may be offensive to some viewers, think he drops an F bomb or two]    

BradleyAchard
BradleyAchard

Microsoft has been giving their boots-on-the-ground employees blogs for more than 10 years and they've pumped out millions of pages of additional useful content while also answering questions and comments posed by the public. There are no additional compensation incentives, this is all done because they're passionate about their work. (blogs.msdn.com)

 

While the culture among vehicle salespeople and dealerships may not allow for this, I just wanted to take a moment to point out that other businesses in other industries have had employees blogging to great effect. In 5 or 10 years, I wouldn't put it out of the question that a lot experiments with HR and includes written communication as a hiring requirement in an effort to change the culture gradually to where this sort of thing is common.

BradleyAchard
BradleyAchard

Microsoft has been giving their boots-on-the-ground employees blogs for more than 10 years and they've pumped out millions of pages of additional useful content while also answering questions and comments posed by the public. There are no additional compensation incentives, this is all done because they're passionate about their work. (blogs.msdn.com)   While the culture among vehicle salespeople and dealerships may not allow for this, I just wanted to take a moment to point out that other businesses in other industries have had employees blogging to great effect. In 5 or 10 years, I wouldn't put it out of the question that a lot experiments with HR and includes written communication as a hiring requirement in an effort to change the culture gradually to where this sort of thing is common.

TomKellyOpinion
TomKellyOpinion

Jeff, Good post...Stealing time from day jobs without compensation does not work with social...dealership employees will only do well what they are paid to do. Finding an employee who is able to walk the line, keep good content flowing and interacting with the public without stepping into a pile would be rare in my opinion...I agree totally with you, it is a hired position.

TomKellyOpinion
TomKellyOpinion

Jeff, Good post...Stealing time from day jobs without compensation does not work with social...dealership employees will only do well what they are paid to do. Finding an employee who is able to walk the line, keep good content flowing and interacting with the public without stepping into a pile would be rare in my opinion...I agree totally with you, it is a hired position.

dealerrefresh
dealerrefresh

@EleyDuke thanks Eley. Unless you've "been there and done that" it's hard to understand. You know what I'm talking about.

dealerrefresh
dealerrefresh

@EleyDuke thanks Eley. Unless you've "been there and done that" it's hard to understand. You know what I'm talking about.

Alex Snyder
Alex Snyder

And thanks for finally getting the unicorn with the rainbow.  That is a worthy image.

Alex Snyder
Alex Snyder

And thanks for finally getting the unicorn with the rainbow.  That is a worthy image.

Alex Snyder
Alex Snyder

If you're a writer, you'll write a lot.  You'll take the time to improve and adapt to new methods (SEO writing for example).  If you're not a writer you're not going to pick up a pen nor peck on a keyboard.  

 

The vast majority of dealership employees are not writers.  I have found that most are scared to communicate with another human being in any other way than in person.  Pasch mentioned dealers struggling with updating specials pages, about us page, etc...  I'd just be happy if we could get them to send a meaningful email or pick up the damn phone! 

 

Jeff - great article.  You're spot on with the idea of hiring an outside agency.  It is a great way to get over the blogging hump and then transition into using something in-house.  hmmmm......I think a know a blogging dealership who did that ;)

Alex Snyder
Alex Snyder

If you're a writer, you'll write a lot.  You'll take the time to improve and adapt to new methods (SEO writing for example).  If you're not a writer you're not going to pick up a pen nor peck on a keyboard.     The vast majority of dealership employees are not writers.  I have found that most are scared to communicate with another human being in any other way than in person.  Pasch mentioned dealers struggling with updating specials pages, about us page, etc...  I'd just be happy if we could get them to send a meaningful email or pick up the damn phone!    Jeff - great article.  You're spot on with the idea of hiring an outside agency.  It is a great way to get over the blogging hump and then transition into using something in-house.  hmmmm......I think a know a blogging dealership who did that ;)

tuneyfish
tuneyfish

Jeff,

 

I just noticed the title tag for this post is "4 Ways Your Staff Can Contribute To Your Dealerships Blog"  

 

Was that the original post, and then frustration took over thinking they'll never follow the advice?

 

 @VelocitySales makes a great point, that although it will take some editing, the information, content, raw data, etc, from within the dealer can be very valuable in terms of content.  

tuneyfish
tuneyfish

Jeff,   I just noticed the title tag for this post is "4 Ways Your Staff Can Contribute To Your Dealerships Blog"     Was that the original post, and then frustration took over thinking they'll never follow the advice?    @VelocitySales makes a great point, that although it will take some editing, the information, content, raw data, etc, from within the dealer can be very valuable in terms of content.  

Manny G Luna
Manny G Luna

The bottom line is dealers don't have the time to do all the work, It's not in their job discription or payplan. One person in the dealership cant handle all the blogging for all depts and the salepeople.

VL Automotive Marketing
VL Automotive Marketing

The bottom line is dealers don't have the time to do all the work, It's not in their job discription or payplan. One person in the dealership cant handle all the blogging for all depts and the salepeople.

VelocitySales
VelocitySales

Allow me to play Devil's Advocate here for a moment, Jeff it sounds like you want to set up yet another silo within the dealership. You and I both know a number of dealerships that silo'd the "Internet" 10 to 15 years ago, and struggle to this day.

 

By placing all things digital in a silo - out of sight and out of mind - this allows the 'Floor' to go on pretending the Internet doesn't exist. As @automotiveseo mentions, many dealers still struggle with providing the basic content to merchandize their website. These tend to be the same dealers that ghettoized the Internet a decade ago.

 

I'm not saying your Service Manager or your Used Car Manager might not need some editing and some prodding, BUT I am saying it's better to get them involved today than to let them pretend the internet doesn't exist for another decade.

VelocitySales
VelocitySales

Allow me to play Devil's Advocate here for a moment, Jeff it sounds like you want to set up yet another silo within the dealership. You and I both know a number of dealerships that silo'd the "Internet" 10 to 15 years ago, and struggle to this day.   By placing all things digital in a silo - out of sight and out of mind - this allows the 'Floor' to go on pretending the Internet doesn't exist. As @automotiveseo mentions, many dealers still struggle with providing the basic content to merchandize their website. These tend to be the same dealers that ghettoized the Internet a decade ago.   I'm not saying your Service Manager or your Used Car Manager might not need some editing and some prodding, BUT I am saying it's better to get them involved today than to let them pretend the internet doesn't exist for another decade.

Layton Judd
Layton Judd

Jeff, Great post and spot on. Writing for seo, social content or marketing is not any easy task and takes time to master. As Brian pointed out, many dealership sites lack specials and even worse are the emails that come out of their CRMs. Focus on what you do best and you will be successful.

Layton Judd
Layton Judd

Jeff, Great post and spot on. Writing for seo, social content or marketing is not any easy task and takes time to master. As Brian pointed out, many dealership sites lack specials and even worse are the emails that come out of their CRMs. Focus on what you do best and you will be successful.

tuneyfish
tuneyfish

Hi Jeff,

 

I agree that most dealers aren't equipped to see a blog through to it's fullest potential. However, if they are active in their community, doing positive things and helping others, that's a good way to get the ball rolling with a blog.  

tuneyfish
tuneyfish

Hi Jeff,   I agree that most dealers aren't equipped to see a blog through to it's fullest potential. However, if they are active in their community, doing positive things and helping others, that's a good way to get the ball rolling with a blog.  

Joe
Joe

Anyone can write a blog. But can you write a blog that people will actually read? That's the real question here. 

dealerrefresh
dealerrefresh

@tuneyfish Ha! What's his favorite word of the day?

EleyDuke
EleyDuke

@dealerrefresh oh yes, I know all too well. Service doesn't have time, sales people, LOL! Better off having 1 person do it= better control!

EleyDuke
EleyDuke

@dealerrefresh oh yes, I know all too well. Service doesn't have time, sales people, LOL! Better off having 1 person do it= better control!

dealerrefresh
dealerrefresh

 @Alex Snyder You're very welcome. I know how much you like unicorns. 

dealerrefresh
dealerrefresh moderator

 @tuneyfish  No - "4 Ways Your Staff Can Contribute To Your Dealerships Blog"   is the optimized title. The 4 ways for your dealers employes to help contribute content is something all dealer employees should be and can be doing with little to no difficulty. 

 

If it's going to take editing, then just hire someone to get it done from beginning to end. Waiting around for your employees to contribute to your blog or even your dealers newsletter on a monthly basis isn't going to happen 99% of the time. Some dealers might have that one or two individuals that are willing to help contribute some raw data. If you're lucky.

dealerrefresh
dealerrefresh

 @tuneyfish  No - "4 Ways Your Staff Can Contribute To Your Dealerships Blog"   is the optimized title. The 4 ways for your dealers employes to help contribute content is something all dealer employees should be and can be doing with little to no difficulty.    If it's going to take editing, then just hire someone to get it done from beginning to end. Waiting around for your employees to contribute to your blog or even your dealers newsletter on a monthly basis isn't going to happen 99% of the time. Some dealers might have that one or two individuals that are willing to help contribute some raw data. If you're lucky.

dealerrefresh
dealerrefresh moderator

 @VelocitySales  you said "Jeff it sounds like you want to set up yet another silo within the dealership." Not at all. Content marketing is for the marketing department. Sales people are not being paid to market for the dealership as a whole. Siloing the "internet department" isn't the same as outsourcing your content marketing / blogging. I'm not viewing the writing of articles for your dealers blog as something we do for the "interent". It's marketing - no matter the channel. 

 

As I pointed out, I'm not saying they can't be involved on some level but writing content isn't one of them. As I explain in my article - keep it simple.

 

Photos of happy customers beside their new car.

Positive reviews from sales and service customers.

Video testimonials from service and service customers

Walk around videos

 

If you would like your marketing department (outsourced or internal) to have a relationship with some key individuals at the dealer to help gather and structure content, then have it. But as soon as you ask these individuals for pen to paper - forget it! 

 

My main point here - it's a waste of time and resources to try and orchestrate a content / blogging strategy around your sales and service staff. I'm telling you to save your time and energy and find another way of getting it done.  

 

 

dealerrefresh
dealerrefresh

 @VelocitySales  you said "Jeff it sounds like you want to set up yet another silo within the dealership." Not at all. Content marketing is for the marketing department. Sales people are not being paid to market for the dealership as a whole. Siloing the "internet department" isn't the same as outsourcing your content marketing / blogging. I'm not viewing the writing of articles for your dealers blog as something we do for the "interent". It's marketing - no matter the channel.    As I pointed out, I'm not saying they can't be involved on some level but writing content isn't one of them. As I explain in my article - keep it simple.   Photos of happy customers beside their new car. Positive reviews from sales and service customers. Video testimonials from service and service customers Walk around videos   If you would like your marketing department (outsourced or internal) to have a relationship with some key individuals at the dealer to help gather and structure content, then have it. But as soon as you ask these individuals for pen to paper - forget it!    My main point here - it's a waste of time and resources to try and orchestrate a content / blogging strategy around your sales and service staff. I'm telling you to save your time and energy and find another way of getting it done.      

dealerrefresh
dealerrefresh

 @tuneyfish It sure is - but don't expect your sales and service employees to write about it. 

tuneyfish
tuneyfish

 @dealerrefresh  I love that video.  

 

I think it's exactly what may happen if you push your people to blog, so definitely, outsource it, but use the agency as the extraction team to get the right stuff on the blog.  That ensures authenticity and accuracy in what people will expect when they visit in person.

 

For example, Barry loves selling MB and I thought the detail about being able to put a MB next to a BMW and educate the customer about the differences could be an interesting content strategy.  

 

tuneyfish
tuneyfish

 @dealerrefresh  I love that video.     I think it's exactly what may happen if you push your people to blog, so definitely, outsource it, but use the agency as the extraction team to get the right stuff on the blog.  That ensures authenticity and accuracy in what people will expect when they visit in person.   For example, Barry loves selling MB and I thought the detail about being able to put a MB next to a BMW and educate the customer about the differences could be an interesting content strategy.