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7 Key Digital Strategies

Seven powerful digital strategies that when implemented correctly will improve dealership performance.

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Working hard and taking care of the customers within your brick and mortar operation should always be the priority and are critical to every dealer’s success. However, to be successful in today’s market requires more than just hard work; it requires working hard and working smart. Just as systems and processes must be put into place to handle the customers coming into your store, key systems and processes must be put into place for the digital side of your business. At the 2008 Dealer Expo, Paul Leinberger, Ph.D and founder of Tdi Consulting gave a presentation for the MIC members in which he stated that to thrive and survive in 2008, one of the key components would require making "Digital Strategy" the heart of your business. Let’s take a look at seven powerful digital strategies that when implemented correctly will improve dealership performance.

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Chalk Talk

While recently performing a live training session for a major OEM, I had an attendee raise his hand and ask a very simple question: "Do you feel that a website is really necessary?" I was flabbergasted… this question should have been asked in 1988 not 2008, right? But then I put myself in his situation: My office manager called in sick, the floor checker has shown up and wants someone to hold his hand, I’ve got a customer in service who is upset, three sales people in a ‘huddle’ smoking on the front sidewalk and two customers on the showroom without anyone assisting them. The deposit needs to go to the bank, and I really need to look at cash flow to see if I can pay the floor checker. Oh yeah, my wife just called to remind me that I have a dentist appointment that I’ve already cancelled three times and swore I wouldn’t miss. "Don’t forget Kylie’s game tonight, you promised you wouldn’t be late," she says. Now that I had put myself into this dealer’s perspective, I realized that maybe his question wasn’t that absurd after all, and perhaps he was putting first things first. But then I came to my senses — that was still an absurd question!

 
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Website & E-mail

The percentage of customers visiting OEM and dealer websites prior to purchase is staggering. Not only must you have a website and e-mail account, your site should have current model information, easy-to-print brochures, a quote request interface, and most importantly, your site should be updated regularly. Many strong third-party providers can handle your website and e-mail for a reasonable amount.

Internet Lead Management

You can generate Internet sales leads from your website and the OEM sites, but you can also generate leads from third-party sources such as cycletrader.com. According to a recent study by Smart Revenue, more than 70% of Internet shoppers will look for alternatives if they do not receive a timely response to their online quote requests. Internet lead management is here to stay and a great way to dig out an extra five to 10 units per month, but it requires focus.

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Search Engine Optimization

Do you Google? SEO is a process designed to attract search engine "spiders" to a website. Spiders "crawl" the web to match consumers search terms with relevant content. SEO increases the odds that your site will get high rankings in "organic" search results. Although this may sound complex, with a little bit of Google time on the couch, you would be surprised at the references available to assist your store at coming out on top.

Online Training

A professionally trained sales staff will sell more units and hold higher gross profit than a sales staff with little or no training. Without expensive travel and time out the dealership, you can still get training for all departments in online formats. With an industry-wide turnover ratio of more than 30%, and a tough market, we must have strong training systems in place if we are going to improve dealership profitability. For less than the cost of a print ad in the local paper, you can have a professionally trained salesperson.

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Electronic Banking

Online banking allows your dealership the ability to perform real-time accounting. With contracts in transit, OEM holdback, inventory, warranty, other receivables, and then add payroll and sales tax — cash flow management is tough! Daily bank reconciliations assist in cash flow projections as well as reduce the end-of-month workload so financials can be delivered in a timely manner.

DMS

Sure, everyone is using a Dealer Management System, but how many dealers are utilizing it to its fullest potential? It’s just as difficult learning to maximize a DMS as it is any other computer program, but the benefits are well worth the pain endured. The best way I’ve found to dial in your dealership and your DMS is to learn how to print and analyze every standard report available, as well as how to create custom reports. This gives you the ability to focus your efforts in the most productive areas.

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CRM

This stands for Customer Relationship Management. This is a software or web-based tool that allows you to manage relationships with your customers. Paper traffic logs are a step in the right direction, but don’t provide the systematic follow-up with both sold and un-sold customers that a digital CRM can provide. There are many powersports industry-specific CRMs that provide too many benefits to list. Some even offer telephone follow-up integrated right into the CRM with real-time customer feedback.

I feel that embracing digital strategies can have a positive impact on Dealership Performance in 2008. However, none of these digital strategies are easily implemented or quick fixes for your dealership. But hey … if it were easy everyone would be doing it right?

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