“Hey Siri, where can I get an oil change?”
This type of search takes place more than one 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 actually a far cry from reality.
Per the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association and NADA, Fixed Ops was a $310 billion market in 2013, accounting for 53 percent of a dealer’s gross profit. Yet, 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 all comes down to visibility. Traditionally, dealers have been absent in local search for fixed ops services. Start searching for things like “brake service” and “battery replacement” on Google and you’ll find a SERP dominated by national service brands with a speckling of Tier 1 representation.
Understanding the Local Service Market
The first step to re-aligning your marketing strategy between sales and service is to assess the current fixed ops digital landscape. There are two important questions to ask:
- How much of your Website content is dedicated to service, parts and accessories?
- Who are the players in your local fixed ops search market?
This research project should take you no more than an hour. Define the primary services that you offer within your dealership and do a simple Google search for those items from both desktop and mobile.
Tier 1 is Taking Notice
Although dealership awareness of the fixed ops problem is low, you could be getting a much-needed assist from your OEM. In 2016, Toyota Dealer Digital Services (TDDS) launched a fixed ops digital advertising program. Seven vendors comprise the program that aims to produce SEM and display advertising solely for driving more click traffic to dealer Websites. If the Toyota program is a success, you can bet that other OEMs will begin to follow suit.
Fixing Your Fixed Ops
While the overall perspective here appears to be negative, there is a silver lining. Most dealerships are so far behind the curve when it comes to fixed ops marketing that there are two distinct advantages: competitive conquest (not a lot of dealers to compete with) and campaign development (you’re starting from scratch).
Here are the three keys to jump start your fixed ops marketing plan:
- Build and Optimize Service Content — Per Google Automotive Insights, the dealership Website is now the No. 1 source for all consumer research. Take a few minutes to assess your current service, parts and accessories content. Are your services clearly defined? Do you have explicit “next steps” for consumers to ask a question or schedule an appointment? Your Website should function as your “service storefront.” All off-site marketing will be directed here, so your base needs to be built and optimized.
- Capitalize on Mobile Search with Digital Advertising — Mobile maintenance queries grew five times in two years (The Mobile Movement, 2011), further pushing the “need-it-now” mindset of consumers. When starting your campaigns, there is no reason to pipe budget into desktop searches. Conserve your spend and invest in mobile-optimized ads that allow shoppers to call your dealership directly from an ad, or get directions to your dealership. Also, include effective value propositions within your keywords and text. Focus on specialty services, specials and coupons.
- Give Your Service Department Character with Reviews — There is a reason why sites like Amazon invest so heavily in review quality: They understand that shoppers want to get info on a product based on other’s experiences, not technical details. Make sure to direct your resources to third-party review sites like Google and Yelp, as there is nothing more discrediting than reviews on your own Website. Look at your service retention for new customers. Approximately 67 percent of car buyers went to the same dealership where they bought their car (2015 DealerSocket Dealership Action Report), so use the power of your CRM to create lists of repeat service customers to target.
What Does Your Success Look Like?
Automotive is full of KPIs that seem to change almost monthly, so it’s important that you define what your success looks like before you begin to 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 and adjustments, especially when it comes to content marketing.
If you are just starting out, keep it as simple as possible with a three-step analysis:
Step 1: Visibility
Step 2: Click-Through
Step 3: Conversion
Each of these steps can contain their own metrics of success, everything from impression share and CTR to lead form fills. But, if you set those KPIs aside for a moment and strip everything down to its frame, you’re left with the following:
- Are we showing in search for the services we provide?
- Are we directing shoppers to the most relevant pages of our Website for their search?
- Are we providing a “next step” opportunity to shoppers once they reach our site?
If you’re an average U.S.-based franchise automotive dealer, it means that more than half of your gross profit is derived from fixed ops. Imagine what your profit could be if you re-allocated even 10 percent of your current variable ops budget. By spending one hour over the next week assessing your current market, you can put your dealership on the fast track to gaining visibility over national brands.