While most people slow down and unwind a little during the second half of December in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season, car dealers work harder than ever to close as many deals as possible before the big ball drops to ring in the new year.
So that means right about now you’re hopefully finally catching your breath and reflecting on how your dealership dealt with the challenges that 2020 presented, and how your business can grow in 2021.
If 2020 was good for anything, it showed us that your digital platform is your most valuable asset and taught us a lot about the good digital habits that are helping dealers win in this changing landscape. If we can all take what we learned and really commit to those habits year-round, we can take dealer ROI to the next level in 2021 while future-proofing the dealership experience for years to come.
So without any further ado, here are some New Year’s Resolutions that’ll help your dealership win 2021!
1. LOSE 10 LBS. (ON YOUR WEBSITE)
In the past two decades, we’ve looked to our websites to just generate leads so your team could then reach out and set appointments after they’re gone. But with customers now expecting and sometimes needing to complete more of the car buying process remotely, 2020 proved your website needs to be so much more to make the most of every opportunity.
Your website truly needs to be a digital dealership, where shoppers can quickly find vehicles, get their questions answered, and connect with friendly experts on your team who can start guiding them down the Road To The Sale to purchase, just like in-store.
That starts with having the right messaging (with live video) and digital retailing solutions that work seamlessly with your website experience — as well as the right commitment to using those tools — but assuming you already have those, let’s resolve to make sure shoppers can easily find them.
As dealers added new solutions in 2020, websites have put on a lot of excess weight with buttons and widgets that get in the way of guiding shoppers down clear paths — wasting opportunities on shoppers who give up trying to find instant, easy answers to their questions like “can I afford it?”. This excess weight is something that happens to all of us, especially around the holiday sales events, but now is the perfect time to reevaluate your website experience to foster a healthy conversion rate in 2021.
Not all buttons have the same value for you or the customer, so funnel your traffic to the buttons that are more likely to drive sales (not just form-fills). For example, a shopper who quickly filled out an [Unlock Extra Savings] form to see how it affected the price (someone will be in touch to tell them later) is not as valuable as the shopper who clicked [Explore Payment Options] and instantly personalized their payment, valued their trade, saved an account on your website, and started to add accessories and insurance products — so send more shoppers that way.
By taking a deeper look to discover website design mistakes like too many conflicting CTAs, or disconnected shopping experiences that are causing your customers to bounce instead of converting, you can make a serious impact on your business KPIs without spending more advertising dollars to acquire more traffic.
2. START WORKING OUT (YOUR DEALS ONLINE)
Once you have shoppers clicking the right buttons to start the buying process on your website — make sure your team is there to help them! These engaged shoppers exploring payment options online are just as valuable as the opportunities that physically walk into your store, so it’s important to staff your digital showroom and build the habits that will continue and close those deals that start online.
Instead of creating a dead-end to their online experience and forcing them to come in for an appointment to learn more, you have the tools to keep up the momentum and guide them closer (or all the way) to purchase online. Of course, many customers will still want to visit the dealership before signing, but the further you can get them into the process online, the more likely they are to follow through and stick with your dealership. They may have submitted leads with other websites, but you’re clearly positioned to win if they’re actively working a personalized deal with you.
Whether they’re on your website at the moment or just left, watch how easily (and instantly) you can pull online shoppers back into the buying process by simply texting the kind of personalized question or recommendation you would offer in the showroom.
No matter what digital retailing solution you have, it needs to be backed up by your dealership’s people and processes, so now is the perfect time to re-acquaint your salespeople and BDC agents with your tech stack to ensure they understand how they can quickly close more deals like these, more efficiently.
The days of “just get ’em in” are officially over. In 2021, resolve to stop saying “just get ’em in” and instead say “let’s go Online to the Sale!“. You’ll have happier customers and a happier team.
3. BE SMARTER WITH YOUR (ADVERTISING) MONEY
By the end of 2020, something else that became clear was that targeting audiences in your Digital Advertising campaigns was about to get a tad trickier than before.
With Google updating their Personal Advertising Policies restricting your ability to target specific zip codes, combined with the impact of COVID-19 on your business — it’s critical that you reevaluate not just how you’re spending your budget — but on what platforms, and which geographical areas you’re targeting.
The first thing you can do is reassess which areas your dealership did the most business in last year, so you can ensure you have optimal coverage with your paid search campaigns. You don’t want to start the new year by overspending in geographical areas that are no longer providing a sales ROI due to shifts in consumer behavior, and underspending in areas that have historically proven to lead to sales.
The easiest way to do this is to use your CRM or DMS customer data to plot your sales on a map to visually highlight your highest converting areas. You can then use that visualization to work with your Dig Ad provider to adjust your targeting as needed to maximize your spending.
Another recommendation is to use that data from your CRM or DMS to add a customer match layer to your audience targeting on your Google and Facebook ads that’ll help ensure you’re staying in front of all your sales and service customers when searching or surfing. Keeping your dealer’s brand top of mind is going to be more critical than ever in 2021.
You’ll also want to consider how to maximize the reach in your defined geo-targets by diversifying the platforms that you’re advertising on besides Google. For example, dealers who have been advertising on Microsoft Bing have seen a 36% higher Impression Share and a 77% higher Click-Thru Rate compared to their same ad campaigns on Google.
Lastly, 2021 will officially usher in the era of true in-market audience targeting with highly valuable first-party data. It’s critical that you understand what audience data you’re using to power your advertising because it can be the difference between guessing and knowing that you’re targeting people who actually want to buy a car.
For example, powered by Cars.com’s 25 million monthly active shoppers, FUEL: In-Market Video has a 100% pure in-market audience, so you know every penny spent is getting in front of local shoppers who are looking for a new vehicle in the short term. Watch the difference that made for Julie Chisum’s advertising ROI at Toyota of Cedar Park!
As we start the new year, it’s a perfect time to rethink and refine where your dollars are going — and resolving to continuously optimize through the year.
4. BE MORE PRESENT (FOR SERVICE KEYWORDS)
COVID-19 brought many challenges, but in a weird silver-lining kind of way, it also helped reveal some opportunities that you have to improve the overall operations of your dealership.
If your dealership had to shut-down the sales side of your biz because of the pandemic and you were only able to operate your service business for a period of time — you probably focused on your Fixed Ops marketing in a way you haven’t in years. And as a result, there’s a good chance you had your eye on the local big box and independent service centers that are aggressively marketing to steal your market share.
Make this the year that you finally fix that leaky fixed ops marketing and resolve to build up your service department’s digital marketing to the same level as your sales department, so you can fend off these competitors and win back customers.
The first step is making sure you’re set-up to capture the local high-intent searchers who are looking for service providers like you. By having the right paid, organic, and local search strategies in place for your service department, you can show up the first three times in front of these valuable customers.
Considering upwards of 70% of searchers are on mobile, that top placement is critical for capturing those valuable customers — since only the very top placements are visible without scrolling down.
To take your strategy to the next level on the SERP and beyond, check out our Fixed Ops Marketing Strategy Webinar so you can get the tips, tricks, and info you need to get up and running with a comprehensive cross-channel digital marketing strategy. This year you can optimize your dealership’s service presence to not just fend-off, but overtake, the competition (and without breaking the bank to do it).
5. SPEND MORE QUALITY TIME (WITH YOUR HAPPY CUSTOMERS)
A decade ago, review generation was all the rage because we recognized just what powerful (and free!) positive reviews could and would do for our business. However, it’s possible that over the past couple of years you may have lost sight of keeping your reviews fresh because you felt that your dealership had “enough”.
It’s understandable if your focus shifted from generating new reviews to other matters you felt were more pressing, but you really can’t ignore the fact that 97% of shoppers use reviews to choose their dealership, and 86% of shoppers don’t consider reviews over 3 months old helpful (BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey Dec. 2019).
Those two stats should tell you that you need to constantly be driving new, positive reviews each and every week. But it’s 2021, so don’t think you can rely on the same tactics you did a decade ago to drive new reviews, because this year it’s not just the review that will matter — it’s the actual words in the review that will give your dealership the boost it needs.
BONUS RESOLUTION: MAKE YOUR BROWNIE DIFFERENT
Oh good, you’re still reading! Remember way back at the beginning of this blog post when I said that your digital platform was your most valuable asset? Well, I should probably amend that statement to say it’s your digital platform AND your people that are the two most valuable assets your dealership has.
When it comes down to it, consumers often see dealerships as all being the same because many dealers tend to look the same, and say the same things. For example, I personally worked for three different dealerships that each claimed they had the largest inventory in the state — and I can assure you, for two out of those three dealers, that wasn’t the case.
If you virtually attended REFUEL 2020 then you had the opportunity to see famed entrepreneur, Jesse Itzler, tell the story of how a college marketing professor changed the trajectory of his young life by asking him one simple question during his final presentation — “what makes your brownie different from all the other brownies on the market?”.
The point Jesse goes on to make is that no matter what you do, there are thousands of other entities doing the exact same thing. So how are you going to do to stand out? How will people know that your dealership is different than all the rest?
To answer that question, we say that in 2021 you should embrace (and market) the people and processes — the customer experience — that truly make your dealership different. Don’t settle for the same old USPs that you’ve been relying on for years. Develop your real “Why Buy” message and tell the world what it is that you and your people do and offer that no one else does, and why should that matter to car shoppers in your market.
That unique ingredient will make all your marketing efforts perform better, all year.