Selected by CIO Review as one of the Top 20 Most Promising Automotive Tech Solution Providers in 2014.
By Dave Meyer, Executive VP
Gone are the days when a bunch of oversized balloons and giant inflatable gorillas would be enough to attract customers into your dealership. Today’s savvy consumer does most of their car shopping online — before ever setting foot inside a dealership. They’re hitting websites to look for dealer locations, inventory and even pricing, as well as schedule test drives. To capture today’s digital consumer, dealers must have a strong online presence. Your website may be the first thing your shopper sees of your operation.
So, what kinds of features and functionality should your website have to attract this digital customer into your dealership? Beyond your location and hours of operation, ideally your website should provide a way to interact with car shoppers. There are plenty of available widget, apps and content management systems out there that can equip your website with live chat capabilities that allow you to provide directions to your dealership, schedule a test drive, offer discounts and specials, and show videos of your vehicle inventory.
While these tools may sound like they’d be expensive, they’re actually a lot more cost-effective than paying $30,000 a month in weekly newspaper, radio and TV ads. And often, online customer relationship tools are much more effective.
Along with your website, you should also be building your social media presence. While social media is fairly new territory for dealerships, research by CNW shows that 41% of dealers now have Facebook pages. There are plenty of compelling reasons to have a presence on Facebook. For starters, that’s where you’ll find a lot of your younger customer base — those car shoppers with more disposable incomes looking to upgrade their rides. Younger customers are used to communicating with companies through social media channels like Facebook. In fact, they’ve come to expect it.
Another compelling reason to build that Facebook page is cost. Social media marketing doesn’t cost much, especially compared to traditional marketing. If you’re managing and monitoring your Facebook page yourself, your only investment is time.
So now that I’ve made a case for creating a Facebook page, let’s talk about what you should do with it. Having a Facebook presence is about more that accumulating as many “likes” as possible. It’s about building relationships and loyalty with your customers and community. A Facebook page won’t instantly translate into leads and sales. But it will strengthen your presence, reach more people, increase your relevance, and in the end, this will all work to build your business and bring in the customers.
The great thing about social media and Facebook is that it’s a two-way conversation. Which means you’ll need to do your part to keep that conversation going. Regularly post relevant, interesting content on your Facebook page to keep your followers and customers engaged. Highlight a weekend sales event or a service promotion. Feature new inventory or older inventory you’d like to get rid of. Introduce new models, including a video tour of its features. Introduce members of your sales team or spotlight your top sales person. Post information about the soccer league you sponsor, or a food drive you conducted, or an infant car seat installation service you provided for free. Create a profile for your dealership on YouTube, complete with a tour, and post links to it from your Facebook page.
Use your Facebook page to encourage your customers to interact as well. Ask them to post photos of them in their new car they just purchased from you. Put out a call for the best first-car purchase stories and photos. Ask them what kind of events they’d like to see at your dealership. Have them vote on their favorite sales person or service technician. Give away free iPads for anyone who writes a good review on your dealership. Ask them to like your page and share content with their own friends and followers. Get them involved and build a community.
Most importantly, be sure you’re monitoring your Facebook page multiple times a day. Promptly answer questions people post. Address any complaints or concerns that pop up on the page. Your responses will go a long way to protecting your credibility while building your reputation as a dealer that offers excellent and personalized customer service.
If you haven’t yet ventured into social media territory, now’s the time to do it. There are professional companies who can help you build, implement and manage a social media communications strategy. But there are also plenty of dealers who are doing it themselves, and doing it well. See what your competition is doing on Facebook. And then do it better.