Consider the following reality: There are 70,000,000 monthly aftermarket searches conducted on Google representing 525,000 customers EVERY MONTH! These 525,000 customers also represent potentially an additional 100,000 referral customers.
These are staggering numbers. The independents are more than happy to accommodate the needs of these prospects. As front end sales gross has evaporated, dealers should absolutely focus more energy on driving their fixed operations. I recently participated in a panel webinar tied to video pre-roll, Lightbox display advertising and new initiatives from Google. The spokesperson from Google focused on several areas including service and parts. The narrator for the webinar conducted polling questions in advance of each topic. One question focused on whether the dealers had a digital strategy in place. The strong majority of the 220 dealerships involved with the webinar indicated that they didn’t have a digital marketing strategy for service. I have discovered similar results as I travel across the country and meet with dealers, general managers, and Internet directors. The answers that I typically hear to the question of whether their dealership has a digital strategy for fixed is as follows:
- Our service team is so busy that we don’t want to waste our money with digital initiatives.
- I, as the Internet Director (and in some cases the GM) only focus on the sales side. We have a separate team focused on service and parts and they like to focus on the basics.
- Our service director is a traditional guy and he doesn’t understand or like digital.
- We are just starting to talk about a digital strategy as a team but we are just starting.
For the dealers that fall into the first response, hire additional people. Perhaps you need another shift or another building located away from the main dealership. If you can’t keep up with the sales traffic, you hire additional sales people. Do the same with your service team. Customers will get tired of waiting to get their unit into your service department and they will find an alternative.
Response to excuse #2: As an Internet manager, put together a written strategy for the service department and present it to the GM/dealer. Many dealers will not say no to test a logical plan. If you are a general manager and you don’t have any influence over service, I would suggest the same approach.
Response to excuse #3: Send your parts and service managers to a Digital Dealer conference. The sales team didn’t develop a digital strategy overnight. It was a slow process. Chrysler is sponsoring some digital dealer conferences which will just focus on fixed. Educate your people so that their entire strategy isn’t focused on direct mail pieces and SEO provided by the website company.
Response to answer #4: Congratulations, you are in the minority. Designate a point person who understands the digital world and give that person a budget. Don’t be afraid to try new concepts. Here are some points to focus on: video email service specials (added to your website and the newsletters) video will increase the open and conversion metrics, video email campaigns geared at different mileage levels (based on the manufacturer’s recommendation), service SEM campaigns, video pre-roll campaigns focused on promoting your service operation (one idea is promoting free loaners and pickup for anyone within a certain radius of the dealership).
For the dealers that fall into the last category, an easy first step is starting an SEM strategy specifically for service and parts. Here are some key points to consider as you develop your SEM strategy, as suggested by Google:
- Use non-branded search to acquire customers and build brand engagement. Non-brand terms drive brand demand, engagement and sales, even when drivers don’t click.
- Bid non-brand to higher positions to drive new customers.
- Re-market to in market consumers searching on your brand.
- Re-think attribution for non-brand incremental brand demand from non-brand search improves ROI by 54%.
The first point is obvious if you think through the logic. A prospect interested in purchasing tires for his/her Toyota Camry doesn’t search: Toyota tires. Instead, the search is tires. The same holds true with the majority of the people searching for service related types of services. Prospects are searching for brake repairs or transmission or AC service, not brakes Ford or Chevy transmission.
The impact of having an SEM strategy with non-brand terms is dramatic, as tied to engagement and sales, even when prospects don’t click on the ad. A prospect that clicks on an SEM ad is 5 times more likely to visit a dealer website than those prospects that weren’t exposed to the ad. The impact of conversion (spending money) jumps up 28 times. Even the value of an impression is impressive. Site visits are increased 2 times and conversion is increased four times to rate of prospects not exposed to SEM ads.
A final key suggestion is developing a mobile strategy for your parts and service departments. Service prospects that conduct searches on their phone are great prospects. A strong percentage of these prospects are actively looking for a specific solution to an immediate problem. Make it easy for those prospects to both find your operation and get quick answers through phone calls. Spending time on these points should produce significant results. The key is developing a plan to get the process started.