CRM software is only one component of Information Technology.
Information Technology (IT) should comprise all hardware and software data solutions; marketing and communication systems; and most importantly the design, testing, application and refinement of the methods of implementation.
In other words, IT is not just software and hardware, it is the central philosophy and methodology underlying the coordinated application of technological assets in the search for efficient growth.
- Maximize the capitalization of internet prospects
- Maximize the capitalization of global corporate data
- Minimize the Internet and/or BDC departmental overhead
- Reduce third-party lead referral costs
- Increase captive lead frequency
- Strengthen ancillary revenue streams – parts, service and merchandise
- Exploit horizontal market opportunities
As such, a CRM platform can not be considered – in itself – an efficient vehicle for growth. Rather, the coordination of CRM with all other IT assets, in concert with a comprehensive marketing and communications strategy – across all franchises (and beyond) – remains the key to attaining and sustaining a superior level of efficient growth.
With this in mind, the evaluation of any piece of hardware or software should include it’s the ability to:
- Work properly
- Accommodate strategic goals and processes
- “Talk” to other systems
- Be easy to use and understand
- Work quickly
- Work securely and privately
With regard to personnel, the ideal IT manager should not only possess a reasonable knowledge of hardware and software systems but also a strong grasp of the retail marketplace, in addition to marketing and communications strategies. The IT manager will consolidate all technological assets and (working in conjunction with the principal(s)) develop new strategies facilitated via this nascent consolidation of data sources and communications systems.
Moreover, the IT manager is the most important piece of the puzzle; for it is through this key employee that all data and communications pass, all systems unite; and the successful, efficient utilization of this amalgamation via strategic marketing initiatives is dependent. No other single employee has the potential to control so much, and through doing so contribute so much.
In closing: Where most have welcomed and quickly capitalized upon technological advances in communication, the automotive retail industry – obstinate and myopic – has barely capitulated.
Hence, the opportunities just over the horizon may be considered for those who endeavor.
Do you have a social media page for your dealership? Do you have an active social media page? Dealers use social media in one of three ways: they have engaging social media pages which spread their brand and attract customers, they have social media pages that are not used very much and do not attract customers, or they have no social media pages at all. If you have a reason not to use social media, you may want to read on and reconsider.
Why You Should Use Social Media
Social media can help you reach more customers, build loyalty and grow your business. You can gain valuable feedback from customer comments, engage new potential customers with great posts and even (shocker!) have fun with your dealership marketing.
There are lots of automated social media solutions that dealerships can use effectively to reduce time and cost, provide valuable data for analysis of their customer base and increase customer interaction. There’s really no good reason for dealerships not to be on social media.
1. But I Already Have a Great Customer Base! (It Can be Even Better)
Even if you already have dedicated customers, you can always grow your business and further engage your current customers. Social media enables you to reach out to an entirely new audience who may never have found out about your dealership otherwise. It helps spread the word about your great customer service, awesome sales and promotions, featured vehicles and so on. Social media posts can be easily shared by visitors to the page so you can quickly increase the amount of people who view your messages.
You can also use social media to build loyalty with your current customers and encourage them to come back for regular maintenance. Provide helpful resources like vehicle guides, maintenance tips, recall information and more in order to establish yourself as a trustworthy automotive expert. Offer exclusive social media coupons, discounts and contests to get customers interested and drive business.
2. But I Don’t Have Time! (You Don’t Need Much)
Maintaining an active, engaging social media page doesn’t take that much time out of your day anymore. Whereas you used to have to post messages manually and take time to update your page every day, it’s now very simple to automate the entire process. With an automated social media solution, you can create a series of messages whenever you have a few minutes then schedule them to go out throughout the month.
Automated message posting helps you keep your social media pages active while dramatically reducing the amount of time it takes to build a strong social media presence. In addition, an automated solution provides useful report data so you can see when the best time is to schedule your posts to go out.
3. But it Doesn’t Have a Significant Impact! (Actually it Does)
Many dealers don’t believe that social media really makes a difference to whether or not they gain more customers and grow their business. In today’s automotive industry, this is no longer true. Most customers now expect dealerships to have a social media presence.
It’s similar to a dealership not having a website, which makes customers wonder if it’s a legitimate business. If your dealership is not active on social media, customers often interpret it as your dealership not being successful or serious, or not focusing on growth. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with customers. Show off your dealership on social media!
And, as we have mentioned, you can review your report data to see exactly how much interaction each social media post is getting and who is seeing it, liking, retweeting and commenting. This means that you can see exactly which posts are making an impact and which posts are being passed over.
4. But I Don’t Know How! (It’s Really Simple)
Social media is not a mysterious puzzle. It’s basically about creating messages that will inform your audience with relevant information, engage their interest and entertain them, or promote your dealership in an indirect way. Think about what you would like to read about or view.
- Pictures and videos are great and get high interaction rates
- Customer reviews and customer success stories are useful for building trust
- Contests and coupons get customers interested, draw business and steer them away from competitors
- Links to relevant resources that will help customers manage their vehicles or make automotive decisions help build loyalty and establish trust
- Event promotions increase attendance at dealership events
If you use an automated solution, it’s easy to create, edit and post messages. Managing your social media pages with automation doesn’t take time out of your day, and automated solutions are designed to be simple to use for non-technical users.
So, are you active on social media yet?
Dozens of customers visit your dealership every day, but only a portion of them actually make a purchase. What about those other customers, who were interested enough to come in to the dealership but did not purchase anything? They may still be valuable leads, but the challenge lies in reengaging them and nurturing the lead with highly relevant resources that will hook their interest and keep them connected to your dealership.
Step 1: Signup Forms
When a customer comes in to your dealership, as you’re talking with them, ask if they would like to sign up for your email newsletter. You can collect their information on simple paper forms or, even faster, on a tablet. By having the tablet (or paper forms) close by, you can easily gather customer contact information. That is the first step, because then even if the potential customer leaves without purchasing you can reconnect with them through personally targeted email messages.
Step 2: Find Out More
The key to building a trusting relationship with a new customer is showing them that you care about their needs. In order to target their personal needs and interests, you need to know more about them. Send them an introductory email with links to several helpful resources, such as maintenance tips, buying guides, comparison charts and so on. The email should also include an exclusive promotional offer so the customer immediately knows that your dealership offers great deals.
Step 3: Review and Retarget
Use your email reporting tools to track which links the customer clicks. You can then use that information to target future emails. If the customer does not open the email within a specified amount of time (let’s say, within a week) then a second email can be sent with a survey. Explain that the survey is meant to better understand the customer’s needs. The survey should attempt to gather the customer’s approximate location, vehicle needs, what type or model they are looking for and so on. You can also offer a limited time promotion to try to reengage the customer.
Step 4: Use Your Information
Once the customer takes some sort of action, such as clicking links or filling out a survey, you now have additional information to work with. You can send better targeted emails to each customer, based on the information you have gathered. Now you can start sending emails targeted to each customer’s interests and needs. You can send resources and specially tailored promotions, and you can do it all automatically if you have an automated solution which sends messages based on specific triggers.
Step 5: Stay Connected
Check your email report data frequently. Your automated email solution will help you identify who is a hot lead and who is not engaging at all. If a customer is continuing to open your emails, you can continue to use the resulting data to send personalized messages and even ask if you can give them a call to try to build more of a connection or arrange a dealership visit. If a customer has not opened your emails or taken any action in several months (you should decide what your time limit will be), send them an email asking them if they still wish to be a part of your email campaigns. Unless they confirm that they still want to receive emails, take them off the email list and focus on other leads so you’re not just spamming an unreceptive person with irrelevant messages.
Did you know that while many emails go unopened and unnoticed, the majority of text messages are opened within just five minutes of being received? That means that text messaging, also known as SMS, is a highly effective and immediate way to communicate with your customers. An automated text message solution makes it easy and efficient to personally connect with customers. So now that you know, what are some of the best ways you can use text messaging to stay in touch with your customers and bring in more business?
How to Get Customers to Sign Up for Texts
Getting customers to sign up is the first step. You should advertise the benefits of signing up for your text message marketing campaigns everywhere: on your website, at the physical location of your business, on your social media pages, and in your email marketing campaigns. Also, think about this: why would a customer want to sign up? Advertise the benefits that will entice people to want to receive your text messages. Examples?
- Never miss an automotive appointment again with our convenient text message reminders.
- Receive instant text message notifications as soon as your vehicle part arrives.
- Gain access to personalized text message promotions and exclusive contests!
Engage Customers from the Very First Text
Once customers have signed up, your automated text message solution should send them a thank you text, confirming their subscription and offering them a special promotion to get them interested. The promotion can be small, for example, a 15% off coupon for an oil change or tire rotation. The main idea is to provide immediate value and reassure the customer that signing up was a smart idea.
Provide Helpful Automotive Tips
A great way to build trust and loyalty with your customers is to send them helpful text message tips they can actually use. These tips serve to keep you connected throughout the year, even when the customer has not been into the shop in a while, and to establish your business as one that is always thinking about its customers’ needs. These can include safety tips, maintenance advice, links to buyers’ guides or industry news and so on.
Send Automatic Maintenance Reminders
Text message reminders can be sent automatically to each customer based on their vehicle type and history, date of last appointment, and time of year. Reminders make your customers’ lives easier because they don’t have to remember when to book an oil change, routine maintenance or inspection. They will be automatically notified at precisely the right time. These text messages encourage repeat business. Once the appointment has been booked, the customer will get an automatic reminder on the day of the appointment so they don’t forget, reducing no-shows and increasing your revenue.
Offer Personalized Promotions
Customers love to feel like they are getting an exclusive deal. Personalized promotions bring in more business and also grow customer loyalty and satisfaction. Your automated text message solution will keep track of each customer’s birthday, purchase date and other individual data so that promotional messages can be sent out on important dates.
Try using an automated text message marketing solution and track how much additional business comes in due to personally targeted text message campaigns.
Automated marketing is a huge industry (and growing) and it’s also a hot topic for businesses. Is it really necessary? Will it truly benefit my business? The only way to know for sure if marketing automation is the right choice for your dealership is to try it out, but before you invest the time and money there are some questions that can help you make that decision.
Do you send out personalized campaigns?
Marketing messages are much more effective when they cater to each customer’s personal needs rather than vaguely appeal to a wide range of customers. If you do offer personalized campaigns to your customers based on information like vehicle history, location, date of purchase, seasonal promotions and more you know that these campaigns can bring in a lot of business. However, it can also be extremely time-consuming to organize the information and contact each customer.
If you do this type of targeted marketing or you want to do it in order to bring in more business, an automated marketing solution can save you hours each day and also enable you to connect with more customers than is possible manually. The automated solution can pull information from your DMS in order to provide a highly personalized message campaign for each one of your customers.
If you want to send out specific messages to groups of customers (for example, a different campaign for each different vehicle model), this is a quick and simple process as well with marketing automation.
Do you send out maintenance reminders?
This could include sending out notices to each customer based on their vehicle history such as when it’s time to change the oil, or it could be simply to remind customers of their appointment time once it’s scheduled, or both. Sending reminders to customers can consume a big part of your day.
With automated marketing, the automated solution tracks each customer’s vehicle: date of purchase, date of the last appointment, any issues with the vehicle and so on. Automated messages go out to each customer letting them know that three months have passed since their last oil change, or their maintenance appointment should be booked soon, or they need to get their tires rotated.
This is the one that will probably speak most immediately to you. Yes, it’s great that automated marketing can help bring in more business but will it reduce my daily workload? Automated marketing can take care of all the little tasks that eat away at your time and reduce productivity.
Making a personal connection with a customer over the phone or in an email is a great way to show customers that you care, but you don’t have to manually contact them for every little thing. There is no need to go through your database to find out who needs an oil change and call each customer. Automated marketing frees up your time and staff resources while also efficiently reaching out to more customers than would be possible manually.
Do you have an accurate way to survey your customers?
Gaining honest feedback from a wide range of customers is essential for improving your services. Do you regularly survey your customers? If so, collecting, organizing and analyzing the data can be complicated.
An automated survey tool sends out surveys based on triggers such as when a customer visits the dealership. It organizes all the data into easy-to-understand charts and graphs and keeps track of it for future reference.
Do your customers keep coming back to you for maintenance?
Often, customers will make their initial purchase at a dealership but take their car elsewhere for maintenance because it’s cheaper. This takes away a source of recurring revenue from the dealership. Studies have shown that customers will pay more for services if the services are better or more convenient. How can you capitalize on that?
Excellent service is your specialty, but automated marketing can help with the convenience. Also, how many shops do you know that keep in touch with their customers each month with messages that are based on their personal automotive needs? Now that’s customer service!
Automated marketing helps build customer loyalty by keeping your dealership in the forefront of customers’ minds and also making their days simpler by providing relevant messages, reminders and promotions. Automated messages help keep your customers on track by looking out for their vehicles’ needs right on time.
So, do you need automated marketing?
If you have a small dealership and you have enough staff to handle all your communication needs then you might not want to invest in automated marketing. But if you’re finding it difficult to connect with all your customers, if organizing data is a challenge, if your days are busy because you’re always trying to contact customers, you might want to look into automating certain processes.
And personalized campaigns are proven to bring in more business. Automated marketing makes it simple to create personalized campaigns for each unique customer. Imagine the possibilities!