BROKEN: 9 Car Dealers out of 10 are Missing Out on Digital Retail

Our perception of what Digital Retail (or call it however you want) in the automotive business is broken.

The way I see this, dealers are COMPLETELY missing the boat with online sales because of those 3 things:

  • They think they don’t have the right team
  • They think they are in a tough market
  • They think they don’t have the right tools in place

It’s not your fault, the internet has changed the game big time for dealers and many of you are still understandably confused about it.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve made it a mission of mine to help you create a predictable sales machine from your online retail channels such as your website.

What I’m about to share with you is a portion of the discoveries & case studies I share in my Digital Essentials for Car Dealerships online course. This course was made for car dealerships managers with one goal in mind: Help you cut through the noise and build a sustainable business online.

As you know, the Internet has a huge impact on a dealership’s current and future sales. The decisions you make today can influence tomorrow’s results, profits, and growth

I’ve seen it first hand, you’re being pitched a magic pill solution at least every day as new vendors & products are bred every day.

But as one good client of mine told me a couple of weeks ago: “I could hire someone full-time to meet with new vendors every week, and it still wouldn’t be enough.”

He’s right.

So how can you know who’s actually worth meeting & considering and who’s not?

Way back when I was at D2C Media providing CRMs for car dealers, I realized some people didn’t need my help, because their systems were not broken.

And when a system is not broken, don’t try to fix it with another software. It simply doesn’t work that way.

Now that we’ve covered that part, let’s move over marketing.

Automotive Digital Marketing 

Before we dive into concepts related to the automotive industry, one must be able to understand the power and influence digital marketing has on our business and lives. 

These concepts flirt with human psychology and that may just be why I love this game so much. 

Digital Marketing is related to any effort to influence a car buyer made online. We have an opportunity to reinforce or break beliefs in order to create a win-win situation. 

There are two main kinds of marketing: Regular Marketing & Direct-Response Marketing.

I chose to do Direct-Response Marketing because I like to track, analyze & optimize based on data, not hope.

Any other type of marketing is irrelevant to me. You can build a huge business without going for anything else. Sorry “branding” people, but I like to be able to know if my ads work, better yet, if I’m making or losing money.

By the way, I track profit per click on my end, and it’s changed my business. Not so much how many I spend on different advertising mediums, but how much I earn.

Direct-Response Marketing will make your business sustainable and most importantly, fun for you and your team.  

Digital Marketing includes your message, image, process but not limited to advertising. Marketing is not sales, they are two very different entities & serve different purposes, but when blended together, they can create an explosive sales environment.

The way I see things, Marketing is the foundation of sales. I do believe we tend to mix up the two, maybe because they go so well together. 

From Google to Facebook and Amazon, digital marketing is the base of most purchases we make today, big and small.

You must learn how to intentionally position your dealership with purpose. I can tell you very few car dealership operators and marketing managers do it effectively. Those who can’t achieve clear positioning are the ones left out hoping they’ll meet their sales target. This is not the right way to do this.

There’s something wrong with automotive marketing. Technology has exploded over the last 10 years and it seems like the number of solutions multiplies every year.

We tend to believe the business has changed immensely, but it really didn’t that much. The more I study marketing, the more I realize it’s about psychology and not tools. And the human brain has not changed that much in the last 20 years. You must be after the rule, not the exception. This alone can play a major role

As a result, instead of making everyone’s life simpler, digital tools have created new buyers for us in the industry but also our customers. It has become confusing and complicated for auto dealers who need results today, not tomorrow. And guess what, it has somehow become more complicated for buyers too: more choice = more confusion. 

So many systems are taking over the world every day but there’s a huge problem here: They don’t talk to each other. So to make your business run smoothly, you have to ask people to duplicate everything they do 2 or 3 times. Is this really what we need?

This results in confusion on the dealership’s side as most feel overwhelmed rather than relieved from issues. Like I said, new solutions = new problems.

But the reality is that you can’t throw everything together by simply paying the bills and crossing your fingers. Every change will require a change in habits from your team, and this will take time.

Way back when I sold & implemented CRM systems for car dealerships, I would be very disappointed when dealers would hold back on changing systems. But deep down, I knew the real reason: Fear.

It was the fear of shaking things up, managing changes, potentially losing business in the short term that kept them from making a change. In all sincerity, I get it 200%.

They believed it would be hard, complicated, counterproductive and frustrating.

Marketing is about changing people’s minds, though addressing beliefs from your customer. It does not mean advertising, social media or paid ads.

Theses are simply a VEHICLE for the message. 

At one point, Radio was the main marketing tool because it was the strongest vehicle to reach the mass. TV came with a new visual dimension but also higher costs. Then the internet in the early 2000s

It’s now continuously shifting to digital sources. Marketing is more like a science than a concept. You can apply it to various situations, from business to interpersonal relationships. 

There are many moving parts, variables, intangibles, recipes and mostly, results. All that with extensive, but limited resources to make sure you finish this year in the black (hence the “Black Book” concept). 

Marketing happens online and offline when your customer is browsing your website or in the showroom. Everything in your process from the first touchpoint to the latest has to be thought and delivered in its most perfect way. 

This is so hard because there are so many moving parts come into play. 

It also applies to existing and new customers, two key components of the automotive world. The way you shape your message will have to line up to your customer’s frame of mind if you want to maximize your efforts. Otherwise, it’s going to be a waste of energy on your end and a huge waste of time for your consumer. 

You need to influence the buyer’s intent and control the outcome. It’s a very selfish game to play. You have to embrace it & make sure you’re on point at every step of the customer journey.

Otherwise, someone else next to you is going to beat you to the finish line before you even know what happened. 

If you’re still confused and are losing business because you’re not comfortable with the online sales process in the automotive industry, I suggest you take a look at our free Digital Marketing Fundamentals Course for Car Dealerships: