Best PracticesOpinions & Advice

Why Dealers Should Protect Their Time More than Anything Else

At most dealerships in North America, there is a huge gap in the free time available to people in different roles. Some people such as General Managers and eCommerce Directors could probably count the free minutes they get in a day on one hand. Other roles seem to have a hard time staying busy at all.

When I sold cars, the salespeople often fell into the category of those who had plenty of free time. Many would sit around waiting for the next up. Things have changed and many dealerships keep their salespeople busy with follow-up, online prospecting, training, and logistic activities. That’s not every dealership, but it should be. Before I get into the meat of this article, let me say that there is plenty to do in the digital age rather than waiting aimlessly for the next up over a cup of coffee and discussion about last night’s game. If you still have idle salespeople, fixing that is the first step.

Now, let’s talk about your time…If you’re reading this, chances are you are an internet manager, sales manager, eCommerce director, GM, DP, or someone who has a vested interest in improving your dealership’s profit and your own performance. If you’re not in one of those roles and you’re reading this, chances are you should be in one of those roles. Send this article to your GM and let them know that you’re keeping up with the latest and greatest on Dealer Refresh. The promotion will be on its way.

At the dealership, I cherished my time. I protected it. I looked for any ways to make performing my responsibilities more efficient. There was always more to do and it was challenging to keep up with everything that was thrown at me. It’s for this reason that I wonder why so many people, particularly internet managers and eCommerce directors, still tell vendors, “I can do that myself.”

Of course you can. There are very few things that any vendor can offer that cannot be accomplished manually by a dealership employee. There are dealers who have built their own CRMs, website platforms, and PPC management tools. Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. Some things are better handled by people at the dealership. Other things are better handled through tools or services. When determining whether a tool or service is a good investment, you shouldn’t just ask whether or not you can do it yourself. You should ask whether or not the investment into the tool or service is going to save you a sufficient amount of time to justify the cost.

Dealers are getting much better at looking at the return on investment of a product, but it’s usually only viewed as a quotient of cost versus reward. A true calculation of ROI must include the time-saving factor of the product. Only then can you get a real understanding of whether or not the cost is worthwhile. Your time is valuable. Spend it wisely.

Let’s take a look at some of the time-saving tools or services that I would invest in if I were at a dealership today.

PPC Advertising

In 2006, I opened my first Adwords account and started running search ads for my dealership. I was forced into the situation because the dealership had only allocated $300 per month. I had to dive in to make the most out of it if I had any chance of convincing the skeptical DP that Google could help us sell more cars.

I read blog posts, went through the tutorials (they were terrible back then but exceptional today), and experimented. By the end of it, I was competent at best.

Today, I have much more skill, understanding, and strategic grasp of Adwords and I would definitely outsource it to a specialist. As long as there’s a decent budget involved, the cost to have a company like Dealer.com or Showroom Logic doing your PPC management is normally well-worth it. One needs to watch the management costs, of course, but if it’s reasonable and associated with good customer service, it’s much better than trying to do it manually.

Are there dealers who can manage it themselves? Absolutely! I know one in particular whose expertise makes them more effective than any vendor without much time spent on it. However, this particular dealer is the exception.

Craigslist

First and foremost, Craigslist is better today than it was when it was free. I’ll have that debate with anyone who doesn’t believe it. The reduction of automation spam and the longevity of the ads makes them better at $5.

Unfortunately, the cost has made many dealers determined to “save” money by posting to Craigslist manually. This is a bad idea. It’s not consistent. Manual posts normally don’t look as good. Most importantly, it can easily become a hassle to the point that it doesn’t get done at all. With easy and inexpensive tools like LotVantage out there, dealers can get much more bang for their buck by saving time while still getting the posts out regularly.

Reputation Management

Now we’re getting into some controversial territory. I could make a very valid argument for the fact that dealers should be handling their own reputation management. They should be contacting their customers, both sales and service, and discussing their experience. They should be encouraging them to leave reviews on the various review sites to help spread the word about their experience. It doesn’t take much time, especially if everything is done through email and with scripts.

With that said, I would still encourage dealers to use reputation management solutions like Dominion. Just like with Craigslist, it’s a consistency issue. This has to be done. It cannot be overlooked. You can’t take a break. You can’t get too busy to make it happen. Every customer’s satisfaction must be checked and the most successful dealers in our industry take this issue very seriously. They want to know about every bad experience and they want to make sure their happy customers are posting publicly.

If your dealership has dedicated some BDC bandwidth to the process, then I can see a dealership doing it themselves. If it’s someone in the internet department trying to remember to pull the emails from the day, week, or (gulp) month so they can send form emails and check off the box, then it’s better to hire a company to do it.

Content Marketing

I wasn’t going to include this since it’s technically self-serving, but it’s too important to leave out. I’ll recuse my company from the recommendation and tell dealers that you should hire one or more content specialists for the dealership. They don’t have to be full-time, though that would be nice. One might say, “but that’s not outsourcing”, and it’s not. However, I want to make it clear that this role should not be someone at the dealership who has other duties. I’d rather see you pay a professional writer to post on your behalf regularly rather than having someone in the BDC write an occasional blog post or start posting a batch of 4 iPhone videos in between the 5-month lulls on your YouTube channel.

So many aspects of modern automotive digital marketing revolve around high-quality content. SEO, social media, PR, brand exposure – they’re all tied directly into a dealership’s ability to post high-quality content in abundance. I won’t go into too much detail because most of you already know this and it would its own blog post to go over the specifics for those who do not.

Chat

More controversy. I’m ready for the hateful comments. Yes, I’m a proponent of managed chat. Even if you have the right people manning the chat for you during the day, it’s important to have a backup chat operator at night.

Chat is not an art. It’s not like speaking to someone face-to-face. The vast majority of chats revolve around the same basic topics and the science behind chat scripts makes me a firm believer that a good service like CarChat24 will yield better results than doing it yourself. Some say that chat is a waste, but with the rise of mobile and the necessity to communicate with potential buyers through the methods that they find most comfortable, I don’t believe that anyone should dismiss it. Many do, even people here on Dealer Refresh, but to me it’s something that plays an important role on your website.

Email Marketing

For once, I don’t have a solution I would recommend. I do know this: dealers should not be doing their own email marketing, even if it’s through their CRM.

This will probably be another one that ruffles feathers, but there are too many nuances surrounding proper email marketing that requires specialists. Wording, format, servers, targeting, appending, purging – it can be a mess if handled improperly. The biggest risk with email marketing that many dealers have had to deal with is getting blacklisted by the various spam filtering services out there. Believe it or not, it’s much easier to get blacklisted than most people know and when it happens, it can affect the way you do operate your business.

Time is More Valuable than Money

Our industry is loaded with wasted talent. So many people at dealerships are not able to do the most productive activities that can benefit their dealerships the most because they have too much on their plate that could be handled by others. We all have to deal with budgets that are not what they should be. We all have to cover for people who get sick, go on vacation, or leave the company.

When I debated Ralph Paglia at DSES last year, I knew I had no chance of winning. It wasn’t because Ralph is such an incredible orator. It wasn’t because I’m such a bad debater. I knew I would lose because I was tasked with arguing to a group of savvy dealers about why they should outsource a good chunk of their work rather than doing it all in-house. As dealers, we do not want to rely on anyone. We aren’t the ones who want to watch from the sidelines. We want to be in the game and we better get handed the ball or we’ll get mad. It’s in our DNA to want to take charge of situations. That’s what makes our industry so great.

Those who are able to put aside our type-A personalities for long enough to realize that there are better uses for our time than configuring email servers or manually inputting negative keywords into Adwords are the ones who can focus on the high-value activities that deserve our attention.

Money is important, but your time is precious. Don’t let menial tasks take any of it away from you.

Do you feel there are other areas at the dealership that should be outsourced rather than done in-house?

Is it better to rely on yourself and others at the dealership rather than using vendor specialists?