Speaking at conferences across the United States and Canada gives me the chance to connect with hundreds of dealership owners and employees. The dealers who attend Automotive Digital Marketing events tend to be progressive and aggressive when it comes to online marketing. They are always looking for the newest, latest and greatest thing to grow their dealership.
The fact is, you don’t need to focus on what’s new and shiny. There are more immediate concerns, and the numbers prove it. When dealers ask me where they should focus their budget and resources, I always suggest looking at the data. Perhaps the biggest mismatch between where they spend their money and where they should spend it is in marketing the fixed-operations side of their dealerships.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s NADA Data 2013, the average franchised dealership had net profits that broke out roughly like this for 2012:
- New-vehicle sales: $100,000
- Used-vehicle sales: $100,000
- Service and parts departments: $300,000
That means roughly 60 percent of the average new-car dealer’s net profit comes from fixed ops. However, as the CEO of a dealership website company, I can tell you that perhaps 5 percent of the average dealership’s website content is targeted to fixed operations, and practically no portion of a dealership’s proactive digital marketing (paid search, SEO, banner/display or social media) is focused on their service department.
Not only does fixed ops drive the most profit for a dealership, and not only is it the most neglected profit center when it comes to a dealer’s time and resources, but Google searches for fixed operations are up more than 400 percent in the last five years. And according to a 2012 study by YellowPages.com, two of the Top 6 local search categories for consumers are focused on a dealer’s fixed operations:
- Auto parts
- Building contractors
- Physicians and surgeons
- Legal services
- Auto repair and service
Remarkably, despite all this data, the typical dealership site has very limited information about its service department. Dealers would like to compete with national service brands such as Firestone, Goodyear, Jiffy Lube and Pep Boys. Unfortunately, these companies have thousands of pages of website content devoted to their services. If you want to step in the ring with the heavyweights, you need to start by building service content within your existing site. Or you can do what many of our most successful customers have done: Create a standalone fixed-operations website.
Some of our top dealers are competing with the national brands by creating sites that market all of their fixed-ops services. This is no small task. You must create dozens of pages of content, each focused on a particular service or part. Oil changes, batteries, tires, brakes, tune-ups, alignments, inspections and diagnostics, to name a few examples, each get their own page.
Next, if you can create and frequently update a service-oriented blog on your website, it can quickly improve your competitive standing against the national brands. If you are cost-competitive, you should build out “Dare to Compare” pages for some of your most compelling offers and incorporate those into your marketing efforts.
Showing up on Google’s first page isn’t enough. Your dealership needs customers to bring their cars and trucks into your service bays. The calls to action appropriate for your service department are completely different than the lead forms on your current site. That’s because the goal is to generate calls, appointments, coupon prints and chats.
Remember, the buying cycle for someone getting brake service is days or hours, not weeks and months. You are not looking to capture e-mail addresses from these consumers so you can nurture them over time; you’re trying to get them into your service bays this afternoon, if possible. Every page on your dedicated service website should be focused on driving service-type conversions, not traditional leads.
Once you have strong online content that markets your fixed-ops services with the appropriate calls to action, you can begin fighting the national brands with paid search campaigns. Make sure your campaign landing pages incorporate the appropriate conversion elements (e.g., phone numbers, coupons, chat, service scheduler tools) so you get the full value of your paid search spend. Keep in mind the search terms consumers use for service are different from those they use to shop for vehicles. For example, “coupons” and “offers” are some of the most important keywords for service-related searches. Incorporating these types of phrases into your landing page and ad copy is imperative.
Whether you decide that a standalone service website is the right course for your dealership, you need to start allocating a much larger share of your online marketing budget and resources to your fixed operations. It’s the shiny object you should be focusing your time and budget on as 2014 approaches.
In August, Google released results of a survey that sought to uncover what influences car owners when shopping for service. The main conclusion: quality service trumps price. But the study, “The Road to Winning Drivers: What Drivers Want in Automotive Aftermarket Service,” also revealed several online opportunities to capture the attention of service shoppers.
According to the study, 70 million searches on Google are for aftermarket services. And what car owners are looking for is information on how to change oil filters and brake fluid, as well as fix fuel pumps. “These topics alone represent one year of video content,” the tech firm noted.
As for where car owners are conducting their research when considering a service outlet, Google found that 43 percent of drivers perform a search online or on a smartphone. “It’s critical to connect with drivers whenever and wherever they are searching for their next service,” the report stated.
Despite the potential opportunities it uncovered, Google noted that 62 percent of consumers will research a technician’s service recommendation. The company also found that 51 percent of service customers are watching online videos when conducting that research, while 15 percent contacted another shop. Additionally, 13 percent of respondents said they visited another shop’s website and searched on a phone or tablet, while 8 percent said they searched on a computer.
Ali Amirrezvani is the president, CEO and co-founder of DealerOn Inc. He has spent the last 10 years helping DealerOn customers dramatically increase sales and profitability from their websites and online marketing efforts.