Five social marketing tips for dealership fixed ops

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Canadian auto dealer introduces a new column to help boost your digital dollars from digital marketing and social media campaigns in fixed operations

I talk regularly to fixed ops managers and their staff who want to know more about social media and digital marketing.

These types of marketing campaigns are considered inbound marketing as the aim is to bring warm, qualified leads into your fixed ops sales funnel rather than reaching outward to cold, questionable targets.

Inbound marketing uses social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs to connect with customers on a deeper level. This is much different than the traditional “outbound marketing” where you’re paying to get people’s attention. It’s akin to “earning your way in.” It entices people to spend more time with your store because of its merit, not how many dollars you spend flooding them with advertisements.

Inbound marketing is new to most fixed ops departments. Using outbound tactics like direct mail are becoming less effective. If you’re new to social media and blogging, you need to know what these terms mean and how they work. Here are five “need to knows” to help you develop sound business reasons for making social media part of your 2012 marketing strategy.

1. What is social media?

Social media is web-based and mobile technology that turns communication into interactive dialogue. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Yelp have grown exponentially faster than radio or even television ever did. People now spend more time on Facebook than watching TV.

Social media is much more than people sharing kitty videos and pictures of their kids. For dealerships, it’s a medium to get found by your customer. You can’t buy attention anymore. Social networks attract your potential customer and support your repeat customer through compelling content and genuine conversation.

2. What is a blog?

A blog is an online journal that establishes you as the “likeable expert.” It’s housed on your website and dedicated to regular entries/articles that come in the form of text, video, audio or images. You provide great information—you get thought of first when it’s time to buy.

Your blog is an essential marketing tool that establishes credibility, creates a community around your brand, encourages selling conversations, and optimizes keywords for SEO. Regular posts feed search engines, thereby increasing your online influence and higher page rank.

3. What is your online reputation?

Your online reputation is the sense that a customer will get about your company just by searching the Internet. It’s an unavoidable fact that there are places online where dissatisfied customers can go to let off steam. Knowing what your customers are saying is crucial to protecting your store’s reputation. Paying close attention allows you to respond to positive comments or criticism quickly, effectively and sincerely.

There are two components to creating a positive online reputation:

Manage: By optimizing your profiles where reviews are posted (such as Google Places and Yelp), you can institute a proactive internal process for online review acquisition. Make sure that all the information you want people to know about your dealership is available.

Monitor: Make sure to pay close attention to the what people are saying and posting about your dealership. Keeping track of the online chatter and responding to it quickly and genuinely is the best way to maintain relationships with your customers.

4. What is social business?

Social business is a term to describe how one’s whole company (not just marketing, but sales, HR, etc.) should be involved in the world of social media, to reflect how your customer buys today. (This is not to be confused with the like term to describe a business with a focus on social issues.)

Customers these days are faced with a multitude of choices, so to cut out all the noise, they turn to their social networks for advice, and give a lot of weight to personal recommendations. They ask friends and family, see who others have recommended and research companies online to look for dealers who align with their values (it is not uncommon for engaged customers to refrain from giving their business to a company that supports an issue they disagree with, even if the company offers the best value and a superior product).

The key is to build your fans and offer compelling, relevant content that establishes your store as credible and trustworthy. Leads are generated right there on Facebook and Twitter. Five-star reviews speak for you the way no advertising ever could.

5. What is the best approach 
for my store?

• Take action now. Today’s fixed ops customer purchases differently than they did even three years ago;

• Seek knowledge from credible experts about social media marketing;

• Move methodically. Information is power — spend your budget wisely;

• Train your staff. They are your brand advocates in the service drive and parts counter; and

• Establish a policy on social media to protect you, your staff and your brand.

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Canadian auto dealer