My team has regular discussions around the office about what we think the dealers should be doing with their websites and online marketing efforts. We certainly do our fair share of griping, mostly because it’s difficult to get our message across above all the noise that is coming at dealers.
But then, when we visit a dealership, we get a whole new perspective. Online marketing vendors (many of them crooks) are crawling out of the woodwork. Dealers are finding themselves inundated by calls, direct mail and email from marketers claiming to the be the end-all-be-all in website search optimization, local search, pay-per-click — you name it.
Dealers must be totally overwhelmed, annoyed and downright frustrated. Welcome to the club.
Today we are going to work through these issues together, so we can make sure your hard earned marketing dollars are delivering ROI.
Here are the top six marketing efforts I would spend my budget on If I was a dealer.
1. I would be a big time blogger
Blogging is hands down the best way to 1) improve search rankings 2) leverage your social media efforts 3) grab eyeballs.
I’ve been blogging since 2006, and it’s been a long, exciting journey. Those who know me would say that if you get me talking about blogging, you better have a free afternoon, so I’ll make this short and sweet.
There are very few powersports dealer bloggers, so the field is wide open for you. Your blog posts (which only need to be a sentence or two) can auto feed to Facebook and Twitter, and you’ll reach three social media channels for the time and effort of one. The blog platform to use is www.wordpress.com.
2. I would kick the Yellow Pages to the curb
Ok, this is a topic that burns me up. I hear stories from dealers all over the country who are being sold Yellow Pages/Superpages annual contracts for upwards of $1,500 a month! That’s insane seeing that the return is like zero.
Here’s the deal: if you want to keep your basic yellow pages listing in the book, do it. It probably does garner some leads (from all the little old ladies who buy your bikes). But that’s it, don’t invest in Superpages.com or any other dinky local search portal.
Google Places grabs 70 to 80 percent of all local search traffic. Yahoo Local and Bing Business Portal garner another 10 percent. This leaves a measly 10 percent for all of the other little guys.
3. I would think long and hard about any investment in Pay-Per-Click
The money spent on Pay-Per-Click or PPC is completely out of hand. The problem is we are seeing dealers investing thousands (yes, I said thousands with an “s”) in campaigns that are not converting.
The goal of any campaign is to achieve conversions. A conversion is a sale, a lead or other specific action you want a user to take on your website.
Impressions (views of your ad) and clicks (clicks on your ad) are lovely – but they don’t pay the bills. Do not spend a fortune month after month while you are garnering no conversions! Read your reports from your vendor (likely buried on the last page) and ask point blank “what is my conversion rate?” A rule of thumb is you should earn double what you invest, for example if your spend is $5,000 a month, you should see $10,000 in sales through your website shopping cart.
Here is what to do instead, run a little test campaign on your own. Log on to Google Ad Words at www.adwords.google.com. Set your monthly spend at $100 to $200. Select your keywords and let the campaign roll. This test and see approach makes more sense than diving in the deep end right off the bat.
4. I would bite the bullet on social media and get serious
Two simple things to remember about social media 1) it’s not optional 2) you don’t need to get it. Seriously, just trust me when I say social media is here to stay. The longer you cop out, the farther behind you’ll be.
Everyone wants to know how you make money off of social media? You don’t – at least not for a while. Consider this a wise investment — you’ll be thanking me next year.
You need to just do it, slow and steady, consistent and real, and over time the leads come in because you have been showing your genuine personality on your channels and people have grown to like you and trust you because you haven’t been acting like an “in your face” salesperson.
If you remember one thing from this article, remember this — if you invest in social media with dollar signs in your eyes, you’re dead. Pretty simple.
5. I would protect my hard-earned reputation like gold
The majority of dealers have not yet been informed about local search, and how it can destroy the reputation you have built over 20 years in a matter of months.
Here’s what you need to do today:
• Claim your Google Places page at http://places.google.com. Check the existing reviews on the page, respond to the good, bad and the ugly.
• Claim your Yahoo Local page at http://local.yahoo.com/ and check the reviews
• Claim your Bing Business Portal page at http://www.bing.com/businessportal/ and check the reviews
These three sites will have you pretty well covered, but this isn’t a one time and you’re done proposition — you need to keep an eye on these sites. Be sure to set your pages to be notified when new reviews come in, so you can read them and respond appropriately. Keep the pages updated and take advantage of the ability to create coupons on these sites. Set the coupons to be valid “in store only” so you can track how many customers come to your dealership from these online portals.
Set up Google Alerts at http://www.google.com/alerts. Enter your company name and your name. You will then receive an email anytime you or your business are mentioned online. It’s kind of like your own personal stalker alert.
6. I would submit my products to Google Merchant Center
I’ll end with one of the best-kept secrets in the industry. As a dealer, you can submit your product information to Google for free. Trends are showing that users are bypassing Pay-Per-Click ads and going right for the organic listings with images. As it stands now, most of the listings are from big box retailers, but Google has localized their search (meaning as a local dealer you will receive priority ranking).
Here’s the trick; you need to submit the data exactly according to Google’s specifications, which can present a few hurdles if you are not a techie. The Powersports industry leader in this area is http://edgenet.com. Contact Craig Cervenka at [email protected] for more info, or give me a holler if you want to get in on our beta test.
Award-winning blogger and CEO of Duo Web Solutions, Heather Blessington is a web technology veteran and a certified PMP with the Project Management Institute (PMI). Her company provides monthly columns focused on best practices in web marketing for powersports dealers.