Article

On The Road To Success: The Walser Way

August 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Daymond Decker - Also by this author

The automotive retailers’ path to success is probably one of the most volatile, vulnerable and obstacle-strewn challenges in today’s economy. The road leading to success for dealerships can be full of roadblocks, requiring navigation through construction zones and detours. This is especially true with regard to the implementation of new technology. Dealers are pressured to respond to increasingly demanding customers and this is coupled with the internal pressures of enhancing and optimizing the entire value proposition of their business at minimum costs.
Caution: e-Construction Ahead
Change is difficult for most industries, but as we know, it is especially challenging for dealership personnel. One of the most complex and intricate challenges relating to e-commerce marketing strategies for a large dealership group is the successful implementation and execution of core processes. The Wasler Group wanted a new solution that would centralize the communications support for all franchises and dealerships in order to capture valuable marketing data from all sources. “Our most challenging obstacle with several franchises in multiple locations was to develop centralized and consistent processes in each store,” explained President and COO Andrew Walser.

Mapping the Way to Success
Recent acquisitions have expanded the group to include fifteen franchises at multiple locations based in Minnesota. Established in 1956, Walser Automotive has successfully developed a network of top-quality dealerships committed to offering the best service in the industry. In an effort to meet the increasing demands of today’s internet-savvy generation, the Walser Group joined the uprising of premier dealers striving to develop innovative digital marketing strategies to attract the ever-growing majority of consumers now utilizing the Internet to begin the buying process.

The vision of Andrew Walser and his brother, CEO Paul Walser, was created when the foundation for an integrated e-commerce strategy was laid with the help of CRM specialist Paul Long, president of the re:member group and the technology provider, BZ Results. They provided the solution for finding the correct routes that allowed Walser Automotive to begin their journey to a destination of increased traffic, more quality leads, higher conversion ratios and increased sales—all while building a family of loyal customers.

At the foundation of every digital marketing strategy is an effective high-impact Web site designed to engage customers and promote all profit centers within the dealership. Walser.com has informative, media-enriched features that customers appreciate. According to CRC Director Dana Meredith, “Our customers give us great feedback on the Virtual Test Drives which provide virtual walk-arounds that showcase the vehicles they are interested in.”

In this highly competitive industry, top-performing dealers capitalize on innovative search marketing strategies to ensure that their Web site appears ahead of the competition on the most popular searches. Since implementing advanced SEO/SEM strategies, Long said that Walser.com has produced a 48 percent increase in traffic.

One of the greatest benefits of a fully-automated CRM tool is the ability to track and measure the effectiveness of leads. According to Long, the five most important metrics to measure are:
1. Number of leads generated
2. Number of appointments set
3. Number of appointments that show
4. Number of sold appointments
5. Total closing ratio

“The installation of new processes provided unique challenges at each location. However, with our lead management tool, Buzztrak, we are able to track important metrics, and based on the outcome, we look to see how we can tweak pieces of the process,” explained Long, “For instance, if we notice a low sold-to-show ratio at any location, we know that more training is needed because the team is not adhering to the process.”
 
A Successful Journey
Just like electricity could not be harnessed until the invention of the outlet, Walser management realized that the potential of the Internet could not be fully realized without innovative and advanced digital-marketing strategies, fully-automated CRM tools and pioneering online initiatives, including search marketing and optimization. Strategic boot camps were conducted to analyze dealership processes and benchmarks to assess the groups performance and to create high-level strategies to maximize results.

Once a centralized customer relation center was established, the results began to emerge, as is evident by appointment-to-lead ratios increasing from 13 percent to 32 percent in just a matter of months. “We understand the importance of process and execution, and as a result have built a great foundation in terms of percentages and closing ratios,” said Walser.

“The opportunities are just endless,” said Meredith, “We’re amazed at how far we have come in such a short time.” Meredith added that there is definitely an increase in customer satisfaction. “We get great feedback from customers who experience the Walser treatment. Each lead is immediately responded to via auto-respond e-mail, followed by a phone call, a ’thank you’ and a Virtual Test Drive presentation. Our consistent execution on processes has generated a huge appointment-show ratio of 80 percent.”

The Walser Way
Forging into the ever-evolving world of e-commerce isn’t the only innovative marketing strategy for one of the fastest growing franchises in the nation. Walser Automotive is changing the way America buys cars. Because of the consumers stereotypical opinion of ”old school” car salesmen, the Walser brothers wanted to create an unprecedented initiative to fundamentally change the way the group would serve customers, so about three years ago the management team of Walser Automotive Group collectively decided to develop a car-buying experience that would give customers straight-forward and ethical award-winning service, top selection, and fair-competitive pricing without high-pressure harassment. Today, Walser associates utilize a customer-centric consultative approach designed to enable the buyer to achieve his/her goals. Gone are the high-pressure dealership images of yesteryear. Insert a one-price, hassle-free, negotiation-free environment where the customer and the sales specialist have the complete autonomy to make a deal, and you have “The Walser Way”.

Walser Automotive is clearly positioned to capitalize on the opportunities that exist in new marketing strategies by utilizing the power of digital marketing, and at the same time, they create a unique experience for a growing family of loyal customers. The future looks prosperous for this extraordinary network of franchises that are blazing new trails—The Walser Way.

Vol 5, Issue 7

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