In October, I unveiled an updated ACES (Automotive Continuum of E-commerce Success) chart at the well-attended 9th Digital Dealer Conference in Las Vegas. With the 2011 edition of this popular chart, we asked dealers to focus on thirty core activities/products/processes to truly drive short- and long-term success with their e-commerce efforts. Of course, “focus” is probably the wrong word to use when one is describing how to attack thirty anything. It is hard enough to focus on two or three activities, how can anyone focus on thirty?
Anyway, the idea is that there is a proven plan of attack out there for dealers to follow if they want to grow their online revenue and profits in the coming year. The trick for these dealers is not necessarily what we included in the new ACES chart, but rather their own ability to properly and regularly execute a place – any plan. The rub is this: going from bad to good or good to great takes time and, moreover, it takes discipline.
Consider the 2011 ACES chart, for example. This updated chart includes thirty items on which dealers need to place focus. Plus, we don’t recommend dealers attack more than one of these thirty items in any one week. This means that if a dealer chooses to use ACES to turn around their Internet sales efforts – and if they start on January 1, 2011 – they won’t finish with all thirty items until the end of July. Holy cow, who has until the end of July to complete their turnaround? (Patience please – real, sustainable change takes time, and there are no magic bullets.)
Your dealership’s 2011 goals
The point of this article is not to tout ACES, but rather to get you and your team to understand what it takes to move the needle in 2011. As we wind down another year, December is often a time when dealer principals and their senior managers reflect on the year that is ending and finalize their plans for the one ahead. During December 2009, I spoke with a couple of dealers with similar challenges and needs. Both showed mediocre results with their sales execution, very little E-commerce buy-in from the sales managers, mixed reviews online, poor website search visibility and both had a strong desire to grow their social media footprint.
I provided these two dealers with the same advice and the same set of “priorities” to accomplish over the next six to nine months. Specifically, I gave them both a copy of the 2009 ACES chart and also advised them to place special focus on their search visibility (SEO) and online reviews ahead of their social media efforts. (Because they weren’t regular clients, we didn’t have an opportunity to work with their teams on culture or processes, though these activities would have been assigned the highest priorities had we been delivering in-dealership consulting.)
If you’re an average dealer, I would probably be giving you the same advice this year. That is, let’s focus on the ACES chart and let’s attack one item a week for the next 30 weeks.
What a difference a year makes
As I look back on the accomplishments of the two dealerships from December 2009 – let’s call them Dealer A and Dealer B – I am a little amazed at their respective evolution. Amazed, you see, because both dealerships had equal commitment from their dealer principals and both had dedicated adequate budget and staff to make some serious progress. Today, Dealer A enjoys high closing percentages, month-over-month and year-over-year record Internet sales, great morale throughout the store, real buy-in from the sales managers, great online reviews and very good search visibility. Their Facebook execution is just starting to take shape and they are going to focus on adding the Facebook “Like” button ahead of continuing to grow their “Fan Page.”
Dealer B? Oops, they’ve had some struggles.
Year-to-date, Dealer B “enjoys” a pedestrian nine percent closing ratio (just like 2009). Their employee turnover has been steady (just like 2009), and their Internet manager still fights with the desk to get any deals done (just like 2009). As you can guess, their online reputation has gone downhill and their website is virtually invisible to Google. On a good note, they do have over 200 Facebook fans and they religiously post about five updates each week to their Facebook “Fan Page.”
I’m hopeful you’re as curious as I was to learn what happened at Dealer A that did not happen at Dealer B. Moreover, what was Dealer B doing for the past 12 months that showed little or no progress?
One year from today
Without getting into all of the ifs, ands and buts of Dealer B, I’ll just tell you that when I asked the dealer principal why he thought they hadn’t made strides with ACES in 2010, he said he thinks his team thought that the process of fixing those 26 items would take too long.
Hmm, like perhaps up to a year?
Whether or not the Dealer B team worked on the ACES chart or their own well-thought-out plan or simply did nothing, the reality is that we are now looking back exactly one year later and they are reaping what they sowed. (Since they sowed nothing, they are reaping nothing. They are exactly where they were one year ago today.) Dealer A, conversely, had the discipline to create and follow-through with their plans for growth. For both dealers, it took just 365 days to get them from where they were last December to where they are this December.
This begs the question: Where will you be one year from today? Whether you decide to follow the 2011 ACES chart or your own plan or even do nothing, the calendar will still creep forward at the rate of one day every 24 hours. Before you know it, it will be December 2011 and you will be reaping what you sowed.
Do yourself and your team a favor. Create a real plan this year and commit to completing it – even if it takes you a year to master all things you wish to master. One year from today you will thank me.