Article

Florida Dealer Weathers The Elements: Pompano Honda Sets Records

January 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Daymond Decker - Also by this author

Despite the devastation wrought by several destructive hurricanes, the dampening effects of high fuel costs, rising interest rates and a failing real estate market, Pompano Honda is experiencing never-before-seen growth at its single-point Pompano Beach, Fla. location.

Nine out of the last 10 months have been record-breaking for the dealership, in terms of Internet sales and total units sold. The robust 21 percent growth of this premier Honda dealership over the last year is clearly tied to the results generated from the decision to invest in the future of the dealership by developing an Internet department complete with innovative digital marketing tools, strategies and the development of a professional staff.

Pompano Honda, serving the southeastern United States and abroad for 32 years, is owned and operated by automotive veteran, Judy Manderson, one of only a handful of female dealers awarded a Honda franchise. Through the years, Manderson complimented her dealership by surrounding herself with an experienced management team including general manager, Sam Assisi who has been with Pompano for the past 15 years. Assisi sold his first car at the ripe age of 20 and was promoted to management by the time he was 25. After spending 11 years at a Ford dealership, Assisi made the move to Honda, joining Pompano in 1992.

Window of Opportunity
According to statistics provided by Honda, 80 percent of typical Honda buyers first turn to the Internet to conduct online research. CSI surveys indicate these customers know more and expect more from their dealers than ever before. Therein lies the challenge and the opportunity.  Pompano Honda is meeting and exceeding these customers’ expectations, expanding at exponential rates and leaving the competition in the dust.

Assisi attributes the phenomenal success of his dealership and the ability to outsell the competition to the collaborative decision of management to complement the showroom with a refined Internet strategy. “Pompano Honda has grown tremendously over the past year, up 21 percent from last year, compared to the other 14 dealerships in our district whose average increase is only nine percent,” explained Assisi. 

Pompano Honda acquired an adjacent piece of property to be used exclusively for an Internet Showroom. This facility was previously an Infinity point and was very luxurious even down to the marble floors. With the new facility in place, Assisi made the decision to hire Peter Vrouhas as Internet director.

When Vrouhas arrived in November 2006, the Internet department was in its infancy, with no real means to measure or track the leads and their results. Basically, the department consisted of two showroom salesmen taking ups and cherry-picking the Internet opportunities that flowed through their Outlook Express—with zero accountability.

With the collaboration of management, Assisi and Vrouhas worked together down to the last-minute detail of purchasing furniture to transform the facility into a state-of-the-art, dedicated Internet showroom.  They created an impressive environment with comfortable conference areas and a covered demonstration/delivery area to make every customer feel like a VIP.

With the transformation complete, the once undeveloped Internet department that generated 15 true Internet units per month just 10 months ago closed on a record-breaking 134 units in August. The Pompano Honda Internet Department is thriving with 33 percent of the entire dealership’s sales volume being generated from Vrouhas and his five highly-trained and seasoned Internet sales managers. “We are expecting this number to rise to 50 percent within 12-18 months,” added Vrouhas.

Challenges
One of the biggest challenges in implementing the new Internet department was staffing. “We kept interchanging staff till we found the right team…four seasoned selling professionals who know how to sell cars,” explained Assasi.

He knows they are seasoned professionals because they were hand selected from among the best showroom sales professionals at Pompano Honda and promoted to Internet sales manager positions in the Internet department. The promotion to what Vrouhas refers to as the ‘Ninja Delta Force’ qualifies the new ISMs to an Internet pay plan, which is a modification of the retail sales pay plan of 25 percent commission on gross profit. The Internet pay plan rewards the staff with 25 percent commission all the way back to dollar one, including both the profit made from the hold back and dealer cash.

Another challenge was their Web site, which lacked luster and results. “Our new virtual dealership is highly interactive with many engaging features like virtual test drives and pop-up coupons, with an average of 150 coupons per month being brought into the dealership,” added Assisi.

The virtual test drives are multi-media Honda product presentations that include both powerful and emotional visual animations, sound, voice, music and links, which turn a normal static e-mail into an engaging experience. The length of time visitors spend on their Web site increased from five minutes to over 35 minutes. “PompanoHonda.com generates more quality leads that have a higher conversion ratio,” added Vrouhas, boasting a 20 to 25 percent penetration.

Powerful Process with Real-Time Speed
Pompano Honda utilizes the technology of automation, combined with their lead management tool, BuzzTrak, to effectively manage, track and measure leads. “Our auto responders automatically respond to all inquiries including price quotes, test drives, financing, trade-in evaluations, parts, purchase requests and more. The ultimate goal of our automated responders is to acknowledge the customer’s inquiry and drive them back to PompanoHonda.com or to have them contact the dealership directly,” explained Vrouhas.

When a prospect submits an Internet lead through the Web site, the staff is trained to keep the customer engaged by asking open-ended relevant questions like, “Is that the only model you are interested in, or would you consider an LX or EX?” or, “Are you going to transfer your license plate to the new vehicle?” It really doesn’t matter what the question is as long as it keeps the customer engaged. This open dialogue helps to build trust in the staff and the dealership.

Pompano uses targeted e-mail marketing campaigns to build its database, including service specials, sales specials, birthday and anniversary cards, and both lease and finance renewals. Another great source for building the database comes from alliances with Costco and some local Credit Unions.                          

“One of the benefits of our system is the Service Suite, which follows up by sending an ongoing series of Buzzmails for service reminders every 90 days, service confirmation, service follow-up and more. The service follow-up drives quality service traffic for no additional costs, and we are currently setting about 60 service appointments per month online with numbers continuing to increase,” explained Vrouhas.
 
Why It Matters
Assisi and his Internet Director, Vrouhas, both agree the Internet department has become the catalyst for the success of the dealership. Pompano Honda is poised to enter another year of robust expansion with the aid of e-commerce, despite the failing trend of the economy. Pompano Honda is no longer just a dealership measured in terms of vehicles sold, but rather a leader setting the pace for the rest of the industry to follow.

Vol 4, Issue 11

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