Running from Training?
Just as some top athletes train by running, many senior managers in the automotive industry run from training.
Perhaps it’s due to the way most managers came up in the car business; or maybe it’s simply a fear of technology, but it seems that more often than not, Dealers, GMs and other senior managers avoid even the mention of digital marketing or Internet sales process training.
From the free webinars offered by companies like Cars.com to the informal in-store vendor visits to the full-blown Internet workshops and conferences, it is rare to ever see a General Manager or Dealer Principal in attendance. Are they really too busy to learn what’s happening in the medium that attracts at least 90 percent of their customers?
What makes this phenomenon the most troubling is that the Internet is no longer a “specialty” reserved for the “computer literate” among us. Regardless of age, background, or income; virtually every consumer in the US has a high IQ (Internet Quotient) – this includes the very GMs and Principals who leave the basic understanding about arguably their most important asset – their online persona – to the “techies.”
It’s Not That Difficult
Interestingly, digital marketing and the tools that drive great Internet sales processes really aren’t that difficult to comprehend. This is especially true when you realize that most senior managers in the automotive business can whiz through green screens at mach speed using every sort of nonsensical shortcut and outdated DOS prompt. It’s enough to make an Internet manager’s head spin when they see a parts manager checking inventory, a service manager closing out an RO, or a GSM running reports for his save-a-deal meeting.
Ninety-nine percent of the tools used by Internet managers aren’t half as complicated as those used by other departments in the dealership. Learning to master these new tools, however, is vital for today’s GM – that is, if he/she still intends to be in the car business in five years.
Learn Now or Suffer the Consequences
If today’s desk managers, new car managers, used car managers, GSMs and GMs don’t learn how to manage sales activities using their dealerships’ CRM tools, for example, their Dealer Principals will soon have no use for their services. Likewise, if these same leaders don’t understand the basics of Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media and Reputation Management, they will forever be at the mercy of unscrupulous vendors out to take their money or younger managers out to take their jobs.
That’s the bad news for these managers. The good news is that learning about digital marketing is cumulative: the more you know, the easier it is to learn new concepts. This means that those managers who learn some basic website design strategies today will more easily grasp the concepts of how small changes affect visitor counts and conversion rates later, for example.
From CPM to PPC
Internet marketing concepts, even those in the so-called realm of Web 2.0, are often so intuitive and practical that most older managers who finally learn the basics generally go through the following three phases:
- The Huh, that’s it? Phase – This phase occurs when you explain how simply something on the Internet works, like how Google decides which website to rank 1st and which one to rank 10th. GMs will often lean their heads slightly to one side and utter, “Huh, that’s it?”
- The Wow, that was easy. Phase – In this phase, the GM learns how simple it is to make a huge impact on their store’s overall sales just by employing some of the rudimentary concepts of digital marketing. You’ll hear them exclaim “Wow, that was easy,” in a moment of great self-satisfaction and triumph.
- The Why didn’t you teach me that sooner? Phase – In this phase, the GM realizes that they were foolish for ever being afraid to learn about the Internet, and so he will often blame the messenger for having hid this great and powerful knowledge from him.
Actually, blaming the messenger isn’t too far off from what should happen. While there are certainly plenty of GMs who have had no desire to learn anything about the Web, the fact is that many early Internet managers (and even some today) squirreled away their wealth of knowledge to improve their job security.
It’s now time to share the wealth – senior managers and Dealer Principals who get a taste of Internet skills training aren’t going to want to stop.
This is the case with every dealership I work with, as I find it silly not to include the Dealer Principal, General Manager and any other dealership leader we can find to join in the training. Once they understand how simple the Internet concepts are – and how a pragmatic approach keeps them from overspending or overreacting – they want more.
So Where Should I Start?
Dealership vendors are the most logical place to go for some basic skills training around the tools you’re using. Chances are that in-dealership training might be something you’re already paying for, yet underutilizing. Even if in-person training isn’t included, nearly every vendor will provide regular webinars or an online library of training. Seek out the free stuff first.
Of course, if you don’t know what you’re looking for when you read a Google Analytics report or a Daily Activity Sheet from the Lead Management Tool, simply knowing how to produce these isn’t doing you any good. In cases like this you likely should seek professional help. (Hint: professional help doesn’t always mean costly.)
From online resources like blogs (such as the one you are reading now) and e-newsletters to great conferences like Digital Dealer and even your own 20-Group meetings, you can always find Internet sales experts willing to share their knowledge. Additionally, most of these folks love their opinions so much that you can often engage them for some free advice. Of course, with these methods you don’t get the whole picture all at once, so you have to be diligent about seeking out the next expert or topic.
If you’re in need of something more in-depth and complete, NCM (the company that started the 20 Group concept) is rolling out the most robust eCommerce Management training ever offered. It’s a two-session, full week comprehensive immersion into the Internet. Coursework includes everything from developing a proven Internet sales process to leveraging social media to drive more sales. The curriculum is intense, but promises to be delivered is a way that even the uninitiated will easily grasp.
The NCM Institute is offering four separate sessions in 2010, and GMs and Dealer Principals can attend for free (provided they have at least one paid attendee from their dealership). The best part is that you don’t have to be an NCM client to attend. For more information, visit NCM at www.NCM20.com and click on the Education link.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of the trainers conducting these seminars. Of course, that’s also why I know how valuable these sessions will be to senior leaders in our industry.)
About the Author: Automotive industry veteran Steve Stauning has served on both the dealer side and vendor side of the business. He is the former director of eCommerce at the Asbury Automotive Group, and he currently heads up both a digital marketing solutions firm Pladoogle and an automotive ecommerce consulting firm Kain-Stauning.