The time has come to promote the Internet Director into a much larger role
It was announced yesterday that America went into a recession in December of 2007. We have now reached a full year in a down market. By now, all of us in the automotive industry are feeling it on some level. I’ve heard some people saying they just want to break even and hope things will get back to at least 50% of what it was before 2010. A lot of businesses are trying to save their way into a profit. I’ve taken Econ 101 and even some 200 level classes, but I’m not an economics expert. I do think the notion of saving your way into a profit is silly. If you down-size, you down-size everything. So the real question is, where should investments be made in this recession? Where can a dealership get the most bang for the buck?
To everyone on Dealer Refresh, there’s a very simple answer when it comes to marketing: the Internet.
However, let’s take “the Internet” in a different direction. We all know online advertising has further reach than traditional media and costs much less than traditional media as well. However, traditional media is still a very viable marketing tool. Television, radio, and even the newspaper still have a place in the marketing mix. The mix has just shifted.
There are a few hang-ups in dealerships right now when it comes to truly utilizing the new marketing mix:
- People who do not know how to use a computer are still pulling the major strings – the “HIPPO”
- Internet marketing is too cheap to be taken seriously
- People spend so much time online that it is taken for granted as an advertising source – customers don’t mention it like they would a newspaper ad or radio spot
- Online measurements are different than traditional media and so precise that some people cannot comprehend them
- Online marketing changes too often
- Online dealer marketing is also internal – it is a CRM system and it can be IT driven
Some of these points are obvious. Let’s look at number 6 for a minute, “Online marketing is also internal – it is a CRM system and it can be IT driven.”
Yes, your internal software usage is part of your marketing mix. Before I expand on that, I should say that if you’re not using your CRM to direct your sales staff’s work days, you’re wasting your money on that fancy CRM. Did you ever think you could use your CRM to direct the message your sales staff is delivering? You can, and you should. If you’re doing that, sending email blasts, automatic emails, scheduling follow-up calls, printing letters, or doing some sophisticated data mining through your CRM, then it is a marketing tool. What about products like vAuto, Auto Exchange, Manheim, ePencil, HomeNet, or any of the other tools you’ve probably invested in? Guess what, they’re part of your marketing mix too. If one of those systems is a chore to use because your IT department has strangled bandwidth for security or blocked useful websites with Websense then your people are probably not using those products. Guess what, that makes IT part of the marketing mix too.
If you’re a large dealership or dealer group, then you probably have a hard time getting all of these elements working together:
Traditional media message + Online advertising displays + Internal software usage to drive the message
Are all of these areas spouting the same message? Are they pushing your clearance sale this month? Are they helping to let the public know you’re giving away a free Garmin with every car purchase this Christmas?
If not, here’s why…
I’m making a major assumption here, but I assume your dealership has someone (or someones) who decides what the marketing message is going to be this quarter/month/week/day. Then that message is passed to the creative people (ad agency perhaps) who will turn it into a PDF for the newspaper, a recording for the radio, and video for the TV…and maybe even a banner for a website. After the creative is done and scheduled for this weekend it is shown to the sales staff in the Saturday morning meeting…where it is forgotten 5 minutes later in lieu of a Starbucks run and the toughest question of the day: “what’s for lunch?”
Maybe you’ve got someone proactive in the Internet department who decides to turn this message into an email blast. Maybe you’ve got someone proactive with the CRM who sets up calls for the sales agents to make informing recent customers of the new specials. Maybe…maybe…maybe…
Why wait till Saturday morning to do all of this?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a central person who understands how all of this stuff works? Someone who can put an internal software campaign together with a television ad? Someone empowered to get through all the red tape with the vendors, General Managers, and IT departments to get that marketing message out. I believe the time has come to promote the Internet Director into a much larger role. And it will need to be the Internet Director because the most crucial part of the whole mix is the technology/online side. This Chief of Marketing needs to know how all these systems work. We need some glue.