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How Smart Dealers Can Market Themselves in an Inventory Crisis

This article originally appeared in the July edition of OPE Business

Do you remember last year when the pandemic hit, how much fear swept across small retail businesses? Nobody knew how the pandemic would affect sales and ultimately their livelihoods, causing many of our dealers to pause their marketing and advertising efforts. And while COVID was certainly unkind to many small businesses, many of the dealerships we work with reported better than expected sales volumes. The smart dealers who continued to advertise in the early stages of the pandemic, reaped the benefits of being proactive in their messaging.

Fast forward to 2021 and the lasting effects of the pandemic are starting to manifest in inventory scarcity, resulting in a different type of crisis. Again faced with uncertainty, we’ve heard from many dealers who are pausing advertising programs, which is understandable if there is no inventory to sell, but the most proactive dealers can still position themselves to be top of mind when supply finally catches up with demand.

Here are three ways you can keep your dealership visible to potential customers.

Utilize Google My Business
If you’ve sat in any marketing webinar in the past two years, every dealership marketing consultant has likely driven home the importance of utilizing your Google My Business (GMB) profile and I am certainly no different. Why? Because it’s free and it’s extremely powerful. Here’s are two new features that will hep you make the most of your GMB profile:

  • Turn on GMB Messaging: Google recently turned on the ability for customers to message you directly from your GMB profile. Make sure you go into your GMB settings and turn on this functionality. Eliminating any friction between you and your potential customer is important, especially in this competitive space.
  • Add products to your profile: In 2020, Google gave businesses the ability to manually add products directly to their profiles, complete with photos and pricing information. So if a potential customer is searching for “Cub Cadet Ultima ZT1 42” and you’ve added that product to your local profile, you’ll boost your chances of being discovered for that product.

Engage Your Existing Customer List
In the OPE industry we find that dealers will spend tens of thousands of dollars per year to acquire new customers and ignore (or just take for granted) their existing customer base. According to Marketing Metrics, the probability of converting an existing customer is between 60 – 70%, but the probability of converting a new prospect is only between 5 – 20%.

The way our industry is structured, especially with how co-op ad dollars from OEMs work, the majority of our focus tends to be on new customer acquisition. And while acquisition is extremely important, think about where your business really makes its money and its margins. Most would say it’s in service and repeat purchases.

Every dealership has a customer list, but do you have contact information for your customers? An email address? A cell phone number? Maybe buried in your DMS somewhere? Smart dealers can take control of their data but utilizing a CRM (Customer Relationship Management). If you don’t have a CRM or a DMS capable of exporting your customer list, making this a priority for the second half of 2021 is a good move. When coupled with an email marketing and text automation tool, creating and maintaining a robust CRM pays dividends multiple times over by allowing you to communicate with existing customers in real time, informing them of service promotions or other incentives. And if you DO happen to have good inventory on a particular model, you may be in a unique position to sell quickly to a captive audience.

Once you have a system in place to capture and nurture those contacts, consider driving more people to sign up to join your list. Be creative by creating a “wait list” for customers to sign up to be informed when new inventory arrives you can have them sold by the time they hit the floor.

Don’t Stop Spending
If you decide to completely stop your advertising programs during slow times, remember that there is always a competitor out there who is maintaining some level of spend to make sure that their name is the first one found when customers are searching. You should definitely cut down your ad programs from your usual peak spending highs, but make sure you maintain a presence to keep your dealership in the spotlight. You can stop video ads, banner ads and even social ads during this time, but consider keeping some budget in the Google network, either utilizing Search ads or Local ads. These ad types appear when someone is specifically searching for you or products you provide so this tactic allows you to be present when a potential customer is showing some intent to find you. Best of all, if they don’t click, you don’t pay.

It is important to spend any “down time” preparing for when inventory starts to arrive because this forced shift in seasons won’t last forever. If you are proactive now, you won’t be scrambling to move late-arriving inventory before selling season is completely over.

Local Inventory with google merchant Center

Promote Local Inventory for Free

Promote Local Inventory with Google Merchant Center

While physical stores are now open, many folks have moved their shopping to digital channels. Online stores are seeing a huge surge in online buying behavior, and even brick and mortar stores are more likely to have orders placed over the phone or on their site after seeing an ad.

With millions of searches coming through Google each day, businesses have what customers are looking for in stock, they just need to connect with those customers. Merchants  just need to get the word out about what they have in their stores. 

Google noticed this trend, and opened up the Shopping section of their Merchant Center. They announced in a recent article that they’re aiming to make it free for Merchants to share stock on Google. Retailers can now upload products directly to their Google My Business, promoting inventory and specific models they currently have in stock. 

 

Local Stock Becomes Free Advertising

While Google My Business is usually used as a free listing to let customers find driving directions, contact a business, or learn their hours, this new change means businesses can also push local product options to nearby customers without paying extra for online advertising. 

 

To put it simply, if someone searches for “Cub Cadet Ultima Lawn Mowers in Lexington” then a local business like Central Equipment, who sells Cub Cadet mowers in Lexington, can have their individual mower listings show up in that Google search along with their store’s location. Since that person is searching for Cub Cadet Ultima mowers, Central can show them specific Ultima models, and show ‘In Stock!’ at their local store using Google’s Merchant Center.

Lawn mowers are a pretty expensive ticket item for most folks, so seeing that a specific model is in-stock to physically check out and test at a local store makes it more attractive than just shopping online. After all, many Outdoor Power Equipment dealership websites act like a catalog, showing all the possible items rather the ones they have in-store.

Example of Google Merchant Center Local Inventory

Here’s an example of what product in the Merchant Center Local Inventory Feed looks like. 

You can see individual models of shovels, their price, and whether they’re comfortably in stock or the current stock is limited. 

This is especially useful for hot items during peak season sales – one store may be out of stock, but you can advertise that you DO have stock of it. 

It may be winter now, but this is an excellent time to get this system set up and become accustomed to it before the real rush hits. 

If you want to learn more about how you can upload products into Google’s Merchant Center, or if you want us to take care of it for you – feel free to reach out! Dealers Digital offers Business Listing Management services. 

Importance of local Reviews

Importance of Local Review Generation

Review Generation is the process of gathering (hopefully positive) customer reviews for your business. Whether it’s about a great product selection, or a stellar customer service experience – you want folks to share what you’ve got. 

Testimonials in local directories means people are voluntarily offering the most valuable form of marketing there is – word of mouth. As reviews stack up, your business looks more and more reputable, and new customers will be more likely to give it a chance. 

Especially when customers had a bad experience with a previous dealer, seeing good reviews at your location can tempt them away from the competition. 

Benefits of Review Generation:

  1. 70% of consumers trust personal reviews as much as professional reviews
  2. Positive Reviews attract more customers
  3. Good recent reviews can counteract bad ones left by unhappy past customers. One or two bad reviews in a sea of good reviews tells new customers that a bad experience is unlikely.
  4. Positive reviews encourage clickthroughs. While search users tend to be less likely to click on sites they’ve never visited before, positive reviews lure them in with a promise of good results.
  5. 4-5 star businesses are given priority by Google and all other search engines. In other words, if you want to rank highly in SEO, you’ve gotta rank highly in people’s reviews. It’s absolutely vital.

Google itself has officially confirmed the importance of reviews in local search. 

 

“Interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business. High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location. Encourage customers to leave feedback by creating a link they can click to write reviews.”

With all these reasons, it’s clear you need to be proactive about acquiring positive new reviews for your business. It helps build trust in your brand, majorly improves your organic SEO, and has a strong connection to your public image, 

 

Your review generation plan needs to be practical, timely, and effective for a range of different reviewer types and customer happiness. 

 

In a recent Online Reputation Management Survey, While 87% of respondents classed reputation management as being very important to their business, just 17% of their time is actually spent on reputation management tasks. 

With such a strong importance placed on positive reviews and online reputation, why are so many small businesses putting forth such a small effort to manage their reputation? 

 

Maybe it’s confusing. Maybe it seems like a lot of work. Maybe they haven’t made the time, or simply don’t HAVE enough time. 

Generating reviews is a time-consuming project, after all. 

However, it’s one that is deeply worthwhile.

If you have questions about review generation or you want to schedule a demo of the Review Generation and Management services we offer, please feel free to contact us directly. We’re happy to answer any and all questions.

Dealership Listing Accuracy

6 Reasons Your Dealership’s Business Listing Needs to Be Accurate

The Importance Of Business Listings

As a business, how likely is it that potential customers will come through your door if there’s no way for them to know if you exist?
The whole point of an online presence and digital business listings is to entice customers into your showroom so you can convert them to paying customers rather than just browsers online. Anything else is just a waste of time.

Nothing is more frustrating as a customer than finding out that you have been given the wrong information about where a business is located. As a customer, how likely are you to give this company your business? Not very. In fact, according to Placeable, 73% of consumers stated that they lose trust in a brand when the online listing shows incorrect information.


1. Missing hours of operation information can be a dealbreaker

There are many things that people look for in listings, whether they are looking at that search engine on a PC or on a mobile device. The top piece of information that most people look for is the hours of operation, especially with mobile searchers who are highly likely to visit a business within 24 hours of searching..

In fact, in a study conducted by local data aggregator Localeze, hours of operation were noted as the most helpful feature in selecting a business during local search. 76% of respondent reporting that they expect this information when searching and 61% believe that it is a feature that helps them to select a business.

 

business listing hours of operation

Even if people are new to your dealership, it doesn’t give people a good impression if the business hours are not listed and they don’t know that it’s only open from 11 a.m-6p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Imagine that potential customer who is ready to spend their money on a fancy new zero-turn mower, but shows up on Monday at noon only to find it closed. That customer is likely going to do another search on a mobile phone to find a different store and spend their money there.

2.You can’t spell NAP data (and score a citation) without an A(ddress)

While most people would assume that the number one reason people do a search online is for the address or location of a business, the address is actually behind hours of operation as the second most desired information. But, of course, the whole point of being in business is to make money doing what you love or selling what you love. And that happens by attracting foot traffic and increasing customer base.

It bears repeating that if a business address is incorrect on listing sites such as Google or Bing, then customers will not be crossing the threshold. A simple thing such as the wrong number on a street address, or even the wrong town, can mean that a customer cannot find you. The US Postal Service relies on a complex system of checks to verify and standardize addresses, and many of the search engines will default to the USPS for correct mailing addresses.

What this means for the average dealership is that unless a business is in an established location, getting the correct address on their listing means that both the address from City Hall and the information on USPS must be consistent. If USPS doesn’t recognize that address, then a business owner must contact them to verify their new address and get that information updated on USPS’s online database.


3. Local searchers are mobile creatures

According to Localeze, mobile-phone-based searches drive in-store purchases with more than 75% of searches ending in a purchase—if a business has their listing details correct. Now if half of the people searching for a business listing on a local search engine, such as Google Local/Maps, can’t find the store’s business listing details, then the business is going to lose 100% of their business.

For ease of use for potential customers, some of those details need to be as readily available as possible in a mobile-friendly manner. This can be accomplished with a responsive website that supports cellphone and tablet-specific versions. Is your website responsive? We can help.

4. Updated, accurate websites still serve as a first impression

At the same time, more than 60% of searches on PC platforms have a similar chance of ending in a purchase. While mobile searches are becoming more of a standard in where a customer searches, you can’t discount the power of a consistent and accurate listing that is reflective of the business website.

Any listing should be linked to the business’s website and feature the exact same information, but more of it. While a website should be enough to entice a customer to visit or buy, if those inconsistencies exist, then trust issues may arise in a business’s practices before a customer ever crosses their threshold.

preview of business website

 



5. Local searchers mix it up across multiple devices, situations and times

People who search for listings are doing it in many more ways than when the Internet first coalesced into existence about two decades ago. In that time, we went from working on desktops to laptops to PDAs to Blackberries to Apples to tablets—and in each iteration, the methods of search have changed.

However, that has slowed over the last five years or so as web developers realize that they need to be smarter. Rather than designing three different sites for three different platforms, they have created websites that are scalable to the search device. And that has been helped along by the proliferation of types of devices in use everyday.

According to Pew Research Center, In 2015, smartphone ownership in America was at 68%, with tablet and computer ownership at 45%. Statista says that almost half of American adults use their smartphones the most to search for local information online, the other half being split between computers (40%) and tablets (11%). According to Localeze, like the types of devices used, what we are searching for varies by the time of day and device. Entertainment is searched for during work hours on computers, restaurants during evening using phones and health/fitness evening using tablets.

The most important part of those mobile searches is accuracy. If someone cannot find your business in a local search or find inaccurate results whilst out and about, then your business has lost the chance for that browser to become a customer. So having those business listings correct in all of the device formats is a must as we, and our technology, continue to evolve in the way we interact with local businesses.


6. Local search results are trusted sources of information

Last but certainly not least is the fact that local search results are considered the most trustworthy. In a study by Neustar, it was determined that these searches, such as “zero turn mowers Batavia, NY”, are what people do the most since they put that trust in local business more than big box, big website stores.

Local searches lend themselves to instant gratification and that interaction between browser and salesperson will convert that browser from someone who might get just the minimum to a loyal customer – a customer who brings their equipment back in time and time again for parts, service and repair. Acquiring a customer is a big deal. And local search visibility is the first step to earning that business.

Those interactions are what lead people to local searches and the absolute necessity of getting your listings correct. Trust leads to loyalty, which leads to more business, which leads to happy customers and business owners.

And it all starts with that correct business listing in that customer’s local search.

Dealership Listing Accuracy
a negative reveiw

Social Media Tips: Responding To Negative Reviews

According to research, most people leave negative reviews to inform future potential customers about a business – not to lash out or get the final word. They want a response, and want it in a public space in order to show future customers what you’re made of. 

How you respond to an unhappy customer shows your company’s values, both to the customer, and all future potential customers. Seeing a company handle a tricky complaint, or offer a reasonable solution suggests that the management is proud of their business, and want to go the extra mile to provide good service. 

If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry – A simple apology and empathy with a customer’s experience can go a long way.

negative reviews response

There are 4 things to keep in mind when responding to a negative review. 

Empathize | Solve Simple Issues | Keep It Short | Stay Private

Empathize

The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging that it happened, and showing that you understand their point of view.

Regardless of why they’re upset, the first step is to show you understand their problem, sympathize, and avoid being angry or defensive.

Learning you made a mistake and owning up to it, apologizing, promising to learn from it and improve future experiences can show professionalism and an earnest desire to grow. 

Solve Simple Issues

Is the solution to their problem incredibly obvious?

If someone complains about store hours, and you know the day they’re referring to was a holiday, gently remind them where to find your store hours during holidays. 

If their problem can be simply, directly, and politely resolved, it’s smart to get that taken care of. 

If their problem can’t be fixed, sometimes it’s best to just apologize and move on. 

Keep It Short

Don’t ask questions in response to negative reviews. Don’t argue that they’re wrong. 

Ideally, you should only ever give 1 comment to a negative review. If it’s not that simple, bring the conversation offline.  

If you think their complaint can’t be solved, or their expectations are too unreal, stick to the apology and invite them to contact you through phone or email for further assistance.

Stay Private

When a customer is especially angry, or has a complex or sensitive problem, speaking to them offline is a good move. 

Let them know you want to help resolve their problem, and offer a point of contact for them to reach out to you privately, via phone or email. You don’t want to air dirty laundry, and openly arguing about a legitimate complaint or mistake doesn’t look good.

Keep your business’s name and location out of this! You don’t want a search engine like Google showing people all your negative reviews to a new customer who is researching your company. 

There’s also software you can use that pulls all your reviews from across the internet into one spot, so you can respond to them quickly and easily. If you don’t have the time to handle your reviews, or don’t know how, you can also ask us for help!

Dealers Digital’s Social Media Management package offers review management as an essential aspect of keeping your public image a positive one.