Automotive brands have embraced social media as a way to keep their brands in front of people. But auto dealers and service centers are not necessarily seeing the benefits. In fact, even the New York times highlighted this problem in an early 2015 article titled, “The Gap Between Auto Dealers and Social Media.”
The gist of the article was that dealers don’t see enough return on their investment in social media.
Why do you think this is?
Is this because people aren’t interested in their local dealers on social media, or is it because campaign effectiveness in social media lacks?
A 2014 survey of more than 10,000 active car buyers found that social media ranked far below dealer websites, web searching and the automotive news media as a source of information when they are shopping.
In the NY Times article, Hyundai of Huntsville General Manager Matt Howell is quoted as saying that personal relationships are more important than social media, and that he is yet to attribute any meaningful impact on his business to social media.
Could it be that this manager does not truly understand the role of social media, or is he simply taking the wrong approach?
In the aforementioned article, another dealer is quoted saying, “I don’t even bother wasting my people’s time posting all day.” By focusing on ads, including ones that target car buyers when they are near rival dealers, the dealer reported an increase in sales while cutting marketing expenses per car sold to $90 from $500.
Are Facebook Ads the answer to dealers’ woes with social media? What about producing quality content that engages people, like other brands do, which marketers continue to stress importance?
What is “quality” dealer content anyway?
Is it happy customer videos? Is it warm fuzzy photos and videos that make people feel good?
When I encounter dealers producing this type of content, engagement is low, e.g. single digits. This is no way to market your dealership. Do you see other local retailers do this?
Which brings me to my point…
Dealers are local multi-million dollar operations that are unique in the retail world. You can’t really equate franchise dealerships to any other entities in an apples-to-apples comparison. However, they are franchises, they are retailers, and they do thrive on repeat customer business much like other local franchises and retailers, so many of the same basic principles do apply:
- Always strive to provide an exceptional customer experience that people will talk about
- Provide useful informative information that your customers will appreciate
- Offer your customers meaningful incentives and promotions
- Make sure your dealership is easily accessible across multiple platforms, networks, and devices
While all four of these suggestions are equally important, each of them requires its own strategy to achieve.
1. Exceptional Customer Experience
The customer experience is a byproduct of the integrity of the dealership, which begins at the ownership level and works it way through the fabric of the organization. Most dealerships in my experience do provide a good customer experience, but no organization is perfect. There is always room for improvement. Without this, everything else is in vein. If your dealership isn’t reaching or exceeding your standard on customer experience then you need to strive to be a change agent there or else move on.
2. Quality Relevant Content
This is a challenging objective, especially over time. My philosophy is that dealers need to lean on whatever resources they can to consistently provide quality relevant content. By “quality and relevant” I mean information that is published by the dealership on dealership resources, e.g. the dealership blog and social media profiles.
The information does not always have to be produced by the dealership, but the more that can be, the better.
Here’s a resource; check out Jason Stum’s Ultimate Blogger Resource Pack on his site MarketPunch. Here you will find multiple resources that Jason has produced to give dealers powerful useful resources for producing blog content which of course can then be used in social media. This could be a terrific starting point for you.
3. Meaningful Incentives and Promotions
Take my word for it, people aren’t interested in videos of your happy customers and they aren’t interested in gimmicky information such as cute pet videos. People want to know what’s in it for them and when you can save them time and money and give them a great value then you don’t want to be shy about letting them know that.
Put together exceptional offers, make them look and sound fantastic, and then let as many people know about them as possible. The great thing about digital media today is that it gives us insights as to who might want to know about what, and when, and how. Leverage today’s advanced tools and data and partners to execute smart and effective marketing and advertising campaigns.
4. Multi-Channel, Cross-Platform
As I just mentioned, leverage today’s advanced tools and data and technology. Dealers today have access to incredible resources, giving you the ability to reach people across multiple channels and different platforms and devices. But you need to harness these resources through key vendor relationships.
If you are tuning out vendors because you don’t want to be bothered by the noise then you are doing you and your dealership a disservice. If that’s the case then you might want to consider a vendor visit protocol. You are not a data or computer technology company, you are a car dealership; you sell and service vehicles.
- Is your dealership incorporating Social Media in its marketing strategy and if so then how effectively?
- If so, are you able to measure and/or justify the ROI accurately?
- Is your Social Media strategy focused on sales, service, or both?