“Hey Siri, where can I get an oil change?”
This type of search takes place more than a million times per month. In fact, according to Google Automotive Insights, service- and parts-related searches have increased by more than 400 percent over the past five years and now account for 28 percent of the total automotive search market. With all this consumer demand for service, you’d assume that dealerships are building a direct pipeline between their marketing budgets and fixed ops marketing strategies, but that’s a far cry from reality.
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Unaware of the Disconnect
The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association and NADA have found that fixed ops was a $310 billion market in 2013, accounting for 53 percent of a dealer’s gross profit. However, only 3 percent of dealers’ total marketing budget was dedicated to promoting service, parts and accessories. This misalignment of marketing dollars has allowed companies like Pep Boys and Midas to take full advantage of an in-demand market with minimal effort.
The key to national brands taking advantage of the market comes down to visibility. Traditionally, dealers have been absent in local search for fixed ops services. Searches for things such as “brake service” and “battery replacement” on Google turn up an SERP dominated by national service brands with a speckling of Tier 1 representation.
Understand the Local Service Market
The first step in realigning your marketing strategy between sales and service is to assess the current fixed ops digital landscape. There are two important questions to ask:
1. How much of your Website content is dedicated to service, parts and accessories?
2. Who are the players in your local fixed ops search market?
This research should take you no more than an hour. Define the primary services that you offer within your dealership and conduct a simple Google search from both desktop and mobile.
Fixing Your Fixed Ops
While things may seem negative, there is a silver lining. Most dealerships are so far behind the curve in fixed ops marketing, there are two distinct advantages: competitive conquest (not a lot of dealers to compete with) and campaign development (you’re starting from scratch). You can jumpstart your fixed ops marketing plan through three strategies:
1. Build and Optimize Service Content — Google Automotive Insights shows that the dealership Website is now the No. 1 source for all consumer research. Assess your current service, parts and accessories content. Are your services clearly defined? Do you have explicit “next steps” for consumers? All off-site marketing will be directed here, so build and optimize your base.
2. Capitalize on Mobile Search With Digital Advertising — When starting a campaign, there is no reason to pipe budget into desktop searches. Conserve spend and invest in mobile-optimized ads that allow shoppers to call or get directions to your dealership directly. Include effective value propositions within your keywords and text. Focus on specialty services, specials and coupons.
3. Reviews Give Your Service Department Character — Sites such as Amazon invest heavily in review quality because they understand shoppers want to hear other consumers’ experiences, not technical details. Direct your resources to third-party review sites such as Google and Yelp; nothing is more discrediting than reviews on your own Website. Look at your service retention for new customers and use your CRM to create lists of repeat service customers to target.
Define Your Success
It’s important to define what your success looks like before you implement a full-scale fixed ops marketing plan. At first, your service appointments might not see much of an uptick, but just like any other marketing effort, you need to allow time for assessment.
If you are just starting out, keep it as simple with a three-step analysis: visibility, click-through and conversion. Each step can contain its own metrics of success — everything from impression share and CTR to lead form fills. Strip everything down, and ask the following:
• Are we showing in search for the services we provide?
• Are we directing shoppers to our Website’s most relevant pages?
• Are we providing the “next step” for shoppers on our site?
If you’re an average U.S.-based franchise automotive dealer, more than half of your gross profit is derived from fixed ops. Spend one hour next week assessing your current market and put your dealership on the fast track to gaining visibility