Happy New Year!
We all know how it goes, “New Year, New You” but the simple truth is that all-too-many dealerships are making the same mistakes year-in and year-out by not evolving their automotive SEO to mirror changes within the industry. As digital marketers, we see it all the time; even if a dealership’s marketing team are reallocating sufficient budget to transition their initiatives from tradition to digital platforms, they’re all-too-often doing “just enough to get by”. Blame a lack of awareness, blame a lack of initiative, blame a lack of empowerment. Whatever the root cause, all the continuation of this trend does is render a dealership less-and-less visible to both existing and prospective clients, while more ambitious competitors step and chip away at market share.
Which brings us to the primary question: what are YOU doing in 2019, to ensure that your digital marketing strategy is working to improve your SERP rankings, allowing you to convert more customers, create more relationships and generate more revenue?
If reading this makes you feel like you’re on the spot, don’t take it personal. Actually, scratch that. If you’re reading this, and it’s hitting close to you, you should absolutely take it personally. More importantly, if you take anything away from this article, it’s that you should be making it personal from this point out.
Confused? That’s okay…just remember that you’re only continuing to hurt yourself, and the success of your dealership, if you don’t make the change that marketing experts are calling the most important transition in digital marketing to-date.
If you’re a regular reader of this content, you’ll inevitably hear similar messages repeated over-and-over again, albeit in different contexts. That’s because we’re reporting, and providing guidance on marketing trends and (as we all know too-well) trends aren’t here one and gone the next. They develop, gain momentum, reshape the industry (even temporarily), evolve and eventually serve as either the impetus, or the foundation, for the next trend to emerge.
For the sake of this article, our focal trend of ‘personalization’ began to transcend the industry about 18 months ago. Sure, there were other industries which had practiced it for years, and certainly some businesses (take Amazon, for example) which had defined themselves by employing better practices of ‘personalization’. But when it came to the automotive industry, especially the segment related to dealerships themselves, it has been less-the-norm.
In recent years, prompted by the (now primarily ‘adult’) Millennial consumer base, consumer expectations have evolved to focus on two major components: immediacy and personalization. No answer can be provided too quickly, and no situation can be tailored too much to the individual needs of a consumer. And at the risk of sounding redundant, this is not a recommendation but an expectation.
Fueled by the immediacy and personalization offered by technological leaders such as Google, Apple and Amazon, it’s no surprise that the game has changed – by default – for everyone. And if you don’t realize that your dealership is burdened with that same expectation then you’re further behind than you might think.
With that in mind, there isn’t a single area of your business that shouldn’t (or couldn’t) be personalized. By creating a customer-centric experience, one that welcomes your customers and reiterates the importance of their business to you, you are embracing the most important tool in the continued success of your dealership. We might have called it a ‘trend’ earlier in this article, but the simple truth is that the expectation of a personalized experience isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. In fact, you should just assume that it’s here to stay, and will only grow more intense with time.
The days of a corporate image representing strength and reliability are long past us. Look deeper and you’ll notice just how many major corporations are retiring their celebrity spokespersons, and replacing them with their actual CEOs. And while some companies are more successful in making that an appealing change than others, the point is clear. Things are getting personal.
That same motivation can and should be applied to all areas of your digital marketing strategy. From web design to the creation and curation of superior content, to management of your social media profiles and online management, you are presented with a number of ways to engage your customer, increasing the esteem with which they hold you. You can increase your value to them through offering helpful and easy-to-use tools, information tailored to their needs, all while establishing yourself as a go-to resource. Why wouldn’t they want to come to you?
Consider your website, for a moment. What does it consist of? A few blurbs about your business, perhaps touching on its history, using any number of principal-approved power terms to assert yourselves as the best dealership in the area? News flash: no-one cares. Is it easily navigable, responsive regardless of the device that a visitor uses to access it? Do your inventory pages include a wealth of specialized information for each vehicle, maintained in real-time? Does it offer customer-centric shopping tools, designed to simplify one’s search for a vehicle? Do you departmental tabs (be it Finance, Service or Parts) add any real value in the eyes of someone visiting the page? More so, do those tabs represent your desire to create an individualized experience – not just in words – but in actual content?
It continues in the challenge to create insightful, information and appealing blog content. Remember, you’re the expert (or at least, that’s the expectation). The willingness to compose and share information that could prove helpful, or informative to your customers adds value. The by-product, of course, is that by creating a more immersive experience, you will gain greater valuation in the all-seeing eyes of Google.
Moving over to social media, are your profiles managed with diligence, as an extension of your customer service department? Hell, do you even utilize social media (you’d be surprised how many don’t, or at least do the bare minimum). Content and engagement are key, as is response time (remember the expectation of immediacy). Also, a personalized approach, designed to satisfy the customer is no longer an option (economy of out-sourcing be damned). Simply put, the burden placed upon you is one of funding, resources and time… but the potential for ROI is incalculable.
Because, although technology may have created this monster of expectations, it also provides solutions in the form of tools. You now have more ways than ever to deliver customers to your dealerships, but it begins with the decision to make use of those tools. It continues in the willingness to create engaging content, be it through posting and responsiveness, or through original video content (scripted or freeform) that puts a face, voice and name with the dealership.
So, if you’re looking to make 2019 as successful as it can be, set aside the potentially outdated image of your company that you’ve composed in your mind and embrace the chance to evolve. Not only is it a great way to breathe new life, and new opportunities, into your operation but we’re fast approaching the point where it’s a necessity for those operations to continue. Don’t paint yourself into the corner of being obsolete. All it takes to survive, and thrive, is a personal touch.