Out-Marketed by the Aftermarket Chains

October 11, 2012

Source: Dealer Communications Dealer Magazine, October 2012

By Steve Hanson

See original article here.

When it comes to winning business in Fixed Ops, Sun Tzu put it best: “Know thy enemy.” But many dealers still mistakenly believe their competition is the dealer down the street, when in fact; it’s really the aftermarket chains. According to a June 2012 Forbes article, “Pent up demand has been fueling the recovery in U.S. auto sales…But there’s one company benefiting even more than General Motors, Toyota or Hyundai…That company is Jiffy Lube, which operates more than 2,000 franchised auto-service centers across North America and serves about 21 million customers a year.”

The aftermarket chains are upping their game with new aggressive marketing strategies aimed squarely at the modern consumer. Jiffy Lube recently launched a new national advertising campaign titled “Leave Worry Behind,” which aims to highlight the company’s commitment to delivering a worry-free vehicle maintenance experience to customers. The company expanded its award-winning training program, called Jiffy Lube University (JLU), to help ensure that service centers employ knowledgeable, highly trained technicians. Additionally, Jiffy Lube recently completed a system-wide store re-image program to create a more modern and comfortable customer experience. The integrated campaign includes traditional media as well as digital and social media components to deliver their marketing message.

The moral of the story is clear: It’s time for your Fixed Ops department to up its game as well, beginning with your dealership website. Here are some ideas that will help to level the playing field against the aftermarket chains:

Create pricing transparency: One perception of aftermarket chains is that they are less expensive. By addressing pricing on your website you can invalidate this perception. Place your service pricing menu online where it can easily be found and understood by consumers. For example, when the service light comes on with a code of 1B on the dashboard, make it easy for your customer to understand they need an oil change and tire rotation, as well as the cost of that service before arriving in your service drive. Also call and mystery shop the aftermarket chains for basic maintenance items and price your similar services competitively. They don’t necessarily need to be less expensive, just competitive.

Highlight speed and amenities: If you offer a 10 minute oil change then highlight it on your website, or talk about the average length of time services take. Even more importantly, highlight the amenities you offer: shuttle service, loaner cars, free Wi-Fi, coffee, car washes, children’s play area, clean waiting rooms and anything else that most likely won’t be offered at aftermarket chains.

Discuss quality of service: Another perception of aftermarket chains is that their quality of service is just as good as a dealership’s. A recent J.D. Power and Associates report card on service and repairs finds that dealerships actually offer a superior service experience. If you are not talking on your website about the quality of your service department and the certifications and experience of your technicians and advisors then you are helping to make this myth a reality. Dedicate a portion of your website to discuss these things and even post photos and bios of your service staff members.

Increase your online visibility. Today’s consumers are online, and while most dealerships’ sales departments have embraced this with their marketing, many Fixed Ops departments have been slow to change. Type the name of your city and “oil change special” into Google and look at the search results. It’s eye-opening to see how the aftermarket chains are dominating the search engine results page. Have a conversation with your website vendor and allocate some marketing dollars to even the playing field.

Ease of scheduling: Make it easy for customers to schedule appointments online or from a mobile device. Check to make sure that you have a true mobile website with a click to call button so your customers can call you on the go.

If there was ever a time to capitalize on this perfect storm of opportunity, it’s now. According to RL Polk, consumers are now keeping their vehicles on average almost eleven years. That’s an increase of over two years in the past decade. The aftermarket chains understand this opportunity, and so should you.

With consumers keeping their cars longer combined with robust new vehicle sales, there are a lot of service dollars up for grabs over the next several years. Make sure that your Fixed Ops department is prepared to capture this revenue with a marketing strategy that will compete favorably with the aftermarket chains.

Steve Hanson is Cobalt’s Sr. Manager, Performance Improvement Consulting, with over 22 years of dealership operations and consulting experience. Steve’s dealership experience spans from Sales Consultant to VP & Partner. His background helps him deliver digital marketing strategies and processes to top-performing dealers across the country. You may reach Steve at steve.hanson@adp.com or 404.668.5115.