Automotive Digital Marketing

When Should Car Dealers Fire The Internet Manager

This may upset some Internet Managers, but those who get it, and are doing a great job, will be delighted it was written. My goal is to inform automotive management teams so they will not make a knee-jerk decision to fire the internet manager. This happens all the time in-car dealerships and it’s not going to make your online sales improve. Internet managers are scapegoats for all marketing in the dealership.  Anything online or digital gone bad is blamed on the Internet Department. Digital Media product vendor’s overwhelm dealerships with software tools that offer no benefit and little ROI.

Most stores need simple structure and process improvements to make a significant difference.

The Internet Department is the heartbeat of your dealership! If 90% of all 1st contacts learn about your dealership and make contact through this department, why does the top job get entrusted to someone incompetent? If I were a Dealer Principal in 2015, this is where the bulk of my marketing budget will be invested. The person who runs the Internet Department will be groomed as a future GM.

Car dealer’s are slowly beginning to understand that an “UP” is no longer chosen by the dealership.

The tables have turned. Now the consumer chooses which dealership gets the “UP”

Poorly informed car dealers may spew marketing dollars into thin air on ridiculous campaigns with little chance of generating any showroom traffic. If prospects don’t arrive on your showroom floor, you stand little chance in ever selling them a car. Yes, branding is important, staying in touch is important, inbound marketing is in vogue, but you still need a system that drives a steady flow of in-market buyers to your   showroom.  So, what is it? Is it a new Internet Department, new Internet Manager’s, what?

Dealerships all struggle to answer this very question. Buyer’s no longer wish to be disrupted. This includes all the advertising that disrupts your life and can be easily deleted and turned off.  Flashing banner ads, email marketing, cold-calls, direct mail, flyers, etc. Car dealers must put more effort into inbound marketing channels to nurture “future” buyers. If you do it now, you will have a future filled with monthly buyers flocking to your dealership because no one else would listen to them.

Every other dealership is yelling and screaming to come down and buy a car today.

First of all, many Internet Manager’s are thrust into the position without any real world experience and training. They are young and display a propensity to learn digital quickly and seem to understand the internet.

How sad it is when dealership management teams expect this person to know what to do next, let alone propel a multi-million dollar car dealer enterprise into the future and compete effectively against all competitors.

Car Dealer Website
Car Dealer Website

When you should fire the internet manager is not really the question, it’s what are you really expecting them to do?

Now that you’ve thrown them into the dealerships most important sales position, will you invest in training? attend Digital Dealer Conferences?, invest in software tools?, and all necessary digital advertising to make the store a strong online player in the car dealers marketplace.

Management will need some reporting features and a basis for reporting results to the owners.

Most ISM’s are competent, but lack basic skills and training to get them to the next higher level. Dealerships typically experience a higher turnover in this position because management does not take the time nor make the investment to ensure this position succeeds.

Sadly, some dealerships mistakenly assign the internet marketing roles to the IT Department? So what does IT have to do with an important marketing functions? I mean seriously, why is this happening?

The decisions made by GM’s and GSM’s regarding Internet Department setup and staffing is not always sound. Why would any IT personnel feel competent in marketing anything?

They are not the right fit for marketing, but for some reason, because they said something about the internet, get thrown into areas that they will surely fail.

When Should Car Dealers Fire The Internet Manager

  • When they stop responding to inbound leads Really FAST. (minutes)
  • When they stop believing in the tremendous value of your database (email marketing)
  • When they stop trying to improve the dealership’s online visibility. (top notch tools)
  • When they stop learning, lose interest in all things digital, and fail to grow. (burn-out)

ISM’s spend hours worrying about car dealer websites that the car dealer’s cannot control.

When I was a ISM, I would spend hours that turned into days perfecting website edits, doing template changes, choosing better photos, moving things around, and more. It was a basic GM Cobalt website our dealership was leasing @$699/month.

That was awhile back, so sure it’s more expensive now. Little did I know, that no matter how hard I tried, nothing would make more people visit the website.

I had very little experience in getting website visitors to convert into email leads or phone calls. I did not have thousands of dollars per month for Pay-Per-Click advertising. We used your basics classified sites as in AutoTrader.com, Cars.com, Craigslist, and EBay. This was the old days and still the very same thing is happening today. How can Internet Departments improve and grow when the tools selected for them are not what’s working for today’s car dealers.

I was your typical ISM, so I know how it feels to have this assignment. If you are a ISM and reading this now, I want you to know this article is designed to help your GSM, GM, and Dealer Principal’s all realize that whatever is wrong at the dealership, is most likely not your fault. They should not be quick to point fingers at the Internet Department and definitely not fire you.

What dealers could do instead is, get some help. Successful online automotive retailer’s attend Digital Dealer Conferences, hire digital consultants to visit the dealership, talk to peer groups outside of trade area, attend Dealer 20-Groups, read articles like this online, and participate in online forums.

The education is available for all who wish to sell more cars online.