COVID-19 has changed and will continue to change the way consumers approach everything from simple grocery shopping to buying a new vehicle. Dealer Inspire strives to help our dealers stay ahead of the curve by ideating and implementing connected marketing strategies that will provide car dealers the best path forward given current and future consumer trends.
One area your dealership might not be focused on in the moment is the marketing of your Service Department. For many car dealers, the Fixed Ops side of your business doesn’t always get the same kind of digital strategy and budgetary considerations as the sales side of your business. However when you combine a lack of digital attention to service with the immediate and long term effects of COVID-19 — you’ll find that the gap between you and your service competition is wider than ever, and growing.
To keep your service bays full in the long term, you’ll need to step up the marketing game for your service department beyond publishing service coupons on your website, sending e-blasts to your customers, and dropping the occasional direct mail piece.
The national service chains are winning the marketing game and are profiting from being proactive right now. However, if you start treating your service department like a separate entity from your sales department, then you’ll find yourself not just competing with the big chains, but overtaking them in the long run.
So how do you do it? It just so happens we have a connected strategy that’ll give your Fixed Operations the edge it needs to succeed. The five pillars of this strategy are:
- Showcase Your Stars: Build your Service Reviews so you look amazing online.
- Optimize Your Website: Enable your website to answer service questions and convert.
- Dominate the SERP: Strive for visibility in Paid, Map Pack and Organic search results.
- Own the Inbox: Step up your email marketing game beyond “e-blasts” .
- Win The Mindshare: Stick with customers and shoppers across multiple platforms and devices so you’ll always be top of mind.
Because we’re taking a deep dive with this topic, we’ve put together an extensive webinar that’ll give you the step-by-step actions you need to take to implement these five pillars for fixed ops success at your dealership. There’s no fluff here. This is real info that you can put into place today brought to you by a team of subject matter experts right here at DI.
To get a look at the trends, data and findings that informed our webinar, you need to look no further than the rest of this post for the best practices you can begin to implement for your service department today!
SERVICE RELATED SEARCH TRENDS
Our SEO and Digital Advertising teams are constantly staying on top of current trends for service keyword volume on Google and Bing. Our friends at Google were nice enough to provide us with an overall interest graph to show how service related keywords have been affected since COVID-19 began to unfold across the country.
Compared to the previous 12 months, we saw a drastic decrease in interest for all types of service keywords, dropping by nearly 25 points as cities and states shut down all over the country. But the most important thing to take into consideration is the distinct trend back to normal search behavior, and today the overall interest has returned to right where it was before the shutdown.
FIXED OPS PAID SEARCH RECOMMENDATIONS
It’s also worth noting that while you may be still deciding on how and when to restore your marketing budgets to their pre-COVID levels, your service competition is already back in the game and dominating the SERP for service shoppers.
When it comes to the modern day search experience, you actually have the opportunity to show up first, three times for a single search.
You can show up in the paid ads, if the search query returns local results you can show up in the map pack or knowledge graph, and you can also show up in the organic results as well.
To illustrate the importance of showing up first (3X!) you need to recognize that mobile users are completely dominating the search market, with almost 70% of all searches happening on mobile devices. It’s also not a coincidence that search engine ads take up the customer’s entire phone screen (and more!) before they get to the map pack listings and organic results.
So it’s not just about showing up with the first organic result, or your dealership being present on the map pack. Consistently occupying the valuable real estate at the very top of a searchers mobile screen is where you need to be today so you can have a comprehensive presence for any service intent related search taking place in your area.
And it’s just not anecdotal data saying that the top spot gets the most clicks. According to Bing, of all ad clicks “websites on the top get 42% of the ad traffic; the second gets 11% and third only gets 8%.”
This is why we use bid adjustments and other optimizations to make sure our clients are showing up in that number one position as the chances of earning the click/tap and conversion are much more likely.
SEO IS IMPORTANT FOR SERVICE TOO
Now you might be thinking, “hmmm…if search ads on mobile take up so much real estate and the top ad result gets the most engagement…do I need to focus on SEO for my Service Department too?”
That’s a relatively common question these days, so thank you for allowing me to ask it on your behalf. To be fair, there was probably a time (during the emergence of mobile) when you could have chosen to invest in just a paid or organic search strategy. But when it comes down to it, the rules of the game have changed and the only way you’re going to remain a competitive player is by having a comprehensive SEO strategy to pair with your Paid Search efforts. Having SEO services is crucial to maximize your exposure with search engines because:
- Google Ads account for < 5% of total search clicks.
- Organic Results can’t “Run out of budget”.
- SEO drives more consistent, long-term traffic.
- SEO improves overall visibility and brand awareness.
- SEO builds your pipeline.
Do search ads take up a lot of real estate? Yes, you can’t deny it. But for Google, less than 5% of total search clicks are taking place on ads making the other sections of the SERP — specifically the map pack and organic results — that much more valuable.
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS SAY?
When looking at 271 of the clients who are running fixed ops campaigns and strategies, we saw some very interesting numbers when comparing May to April. Overall they align with Google’s interest graph above. On average our clients had an increase in overall impressions, clicks, click-through rate and conversions.
The most important stat though was an Average Cost Per Lead of $12.24. This is relevant because our team only counts lower-funnel conversions such as phone calls, form fills and other high-intent conversions—not higher funnel conversions such a pageviews of service related landing pages.
Additional reporting for our Lexus clients running fixed ops ad campaigns revealed some other interesting facts about how our dealers are faring during COVID. Lost impression share from budget (LISB) is a measure on Google that indicates how many times an ad could have shown but did not due to a lack of budget during a period of time. Our Lexus dealers only cut their budgets by 11% from March 16 to May 31 compared to January 1 through March 15 but saw an overall decrease of 40.88% in LISB. This means they showed up more often and at a cheaper rate then the competition who either decided to pause or severely cut their budgets.
BING, BANG, BOOM
One of the biggest search opportunities your dealership has is to expand your reach with Bing advertising.
By doing so you’ll open yourself up to an audience 127 million unique users performing 6.4 billion monthly searches which accounts for 36.9% of PC market share. When it comes to targeting service related keywords on Bing, we also see a 65% lower cost per click than on Google, meaning increased opportunities for your ads show up.
These core Bing users tend to skew older and while they still need routine vehicle maintenance, they may be more cautious about where they go and what they do in order to avoid unnecessary risks. That means it’s important you keep those concerns in mind when creating your Bing ad campaigns. Specifically mention your safety protocols and available concierge services in your ad copy to build trust that your dealership has their health and safety as a top priority.
MAKE YOUR SERVICE DEPARTMENT DISCOVERABLE WITH SOCIAL ADS
When it comes to social advertising, we always advise dealers to get into the sphere if they are not currently focused on it. Not only has social become the new “channel surfing” but people have been spending more time than ever scrolling through their social feeds since the onset of COVID-19.
Since you know who you’ll be targeting, in your ad copy try to be relevant to the current environment. Promote your pick-up/drop-off or touch-free services is a great way to let are residents know that you’re there for them. That added convenience may even convince someone who’s been procrastinating getting their brakes repaired to finally schedule an appointment and get the job done.
And while there are many different types of content that you can use in your social ads, it’s hard to deny the power of video to drive quality impressions and conversions. On Facebook, we’re seeing an average cost per view of .05 cents. That’s right, for a nickel you can get yourself in front of a local service shopper and let them know why your dealership is the best place to keep their vehicle serviced and well maintained.
SERVICE MARKETING TO YOUR CURRENT CUSTOMERS
With an expected 26% decrease in new car sales for 2020 in addition to a tightening of inventory levels for both new and pre-owned vehicles — making the most out of each and every customer relationship to maximize your service retention is critical at this time.
We’ve spoken to many dealers who are wondering how to drive their business forward while navigating these challenging times. One of the quickest and most effective things you can do is to start putting your CRM to good use. By creating segmented lists to target your recent customers you can take advantage of customer match bid adjustments with Google Ads and create custom audiences for Facebook advertising (we cover all of this in our Fixed Ops Marketing Webinar, have you registered yet?).
That said, email is still by far the most targeted way to have a 1:1 conversation with your existing customers — which is a huge opportunity to drive traffic to your service lanes. The key is moving beyond the “E-Blast” and instead implementing specific email campaigns, each built to serve a specific purpose. For example:
Post Service Follow Up: Repeat customers are the best customers, and if you want to retain as many service customers as possible, you need to make sure they’re happy when they get their car back. Consider sending out a follow up email once a RO is closed out and use that opportunity to drive a service related review to DealerRater, Cars.com or your service department’s Google My Business Listing.
Sales to Service Retention Drip Campaign: Implement a drip campaign meant to keep new car buyers engaged with your service department. With a little bit of up front planning, you can create a slate of scheduled service emails that will automatically send at specific times once a customer is marked sold/delivered in your CRM.
Declined Service RO Offers: Whether your customer can’t afford it or they just don’t feel it’s important — you’ll always have declined service opportunities but that doesn’t mean you can’t use these as marketing opportunities. You can segment those customers who have recently declined to have a service performed and market to them via email with a special offer to get them back in the service drive.
Monthly Service Newsletter: Remember, after someone buys or services a vehicle, they really don’t have a reason visit your website so the best way to nurture this online relationship is to publish service related content to your website, and then email it it your customers each month to ensure your dealership’s service department is always at the top of their mind.
MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER
Maintaining a healthy balance between SEM, SEO, Social and Email Marketing is something that every dealer should strive for, and it’s something our team continues to offer for our current and future partners. If you want to review your current strategy with us feel free to reach out — we’re here to help every step of the way through these ever changing landscapes.Let’s Talk Shop