December 2013, Auto Dealer Today - Feature
Matthew Welch (right), owner of Auburn (Wash.) Volkswagen, shoots a video with the help of Interpolnik’s John Polnik and Debbie Christian, executive director of the Auburn Food Bank. Welch describes the food bank as “a real blessing” to King County, noting that it had served meals to more than 107,000 needy residents as of October as well as providing shelter, job training and a women’s self-defense course.
There are 113 Volkswagen dealerships in California, Oregon and Washington, but Auburn Volkswagen in Auburn, Wash., has distinguished itself with a successful, long-term multichannel marketing campaign. Owner Matthew Welch credits the campaign with a 300 percent increase in website traffic over the last three years and a corresponding increase in sales.
“Our biggest challenge is getting people to drive to Auburn from Seattle and Tacoma,” Welch says. “We’re doing that through digital strategies and relevant content.”
To produce videos he knew people would watch, Welch partnered with Cobalt, an automotive marketing services firm owned by ADP Dealer Services; and John Polnik, owner and head of creative production at Interpolnik, a social media marketing firm. “We’re making videos that are engaging nonprofits, showing who we are, why we care,” Welch says. “Our philosophy as a team is to give back to the community. So we engage through YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook, and try to be as authentic and relevant as we can.”
The secret, he says, is realizing that a multitude of information sources — an average of 18.2, by Welch’s calculations — will influence each buyer, and dealers must tap into as many of those touchpoints as possible. That strategy has paid off for Auburn Volkswagen. Today, Cobalt ranks the dealership among the Top 5 Volkswagen dealers in the Pacific region for website visits, and No. 2 for inbound phone calls, inventory searches, vehicle views and time on site.
Welch recently joined forces with Rob Campbell, a Cobalt consultant, to co-host “Mastering Your Marketing Mix,” an hour-long webinar that can be viewed on Cobalt’s website. Based on his experience and Campbell’s know-how, Welch developed a list of the five best practices for multichannel marketing.
1. Be Strategic
Auburn VW’s commitment to the community is apparent on the dealership’s home page, Facebook profile and Twitter feed. In November, owner Matthew Welch bought a local spot on Monday Night Football to help promote Team Tracy, a 50-member team in the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which raises money to fund breast cancer research. Welch planned to donate the profits from the sale of a pink vinyl-wrapped 2013 Beetle to the cause.
The first step is to decide who your audience is, how to engage them and the message you want to send. Welch says the message should be unique and tailored to increase car sales and service retention. Auburn Volkswagen started with the demographic the staff knows best.
“Our first audience was Volkswagen enthusiasts,” Welch says. “We held a barbecue attached to a Volkswagen show for them. As the show started growing from year to year, we filmed a video, and even went to other shows in the area for more videos. The enthusiasts love it. This year we had over 400 people on our lot for the show.”
The dealership’s next target audience was Generation Y. Consumers in their late teens, 20s and early 30s make up 40 percent of the car buying population and 76 percent of them spend over an hour on Facebook every day. The dealership decided to utilize “social video” channels to reach its target audience. They made sure the content was relevant, the videos were tagged and placed on YouTube, Vimeo and other channels, and that they worked on mobile devices.
“We found that videos work best if they are 30 to 60 seconds,” Welch adds. “Anything over a minute, people will tune out.”
Welch also found it beneficial to review the trends and data from past marketing efforts. “Always build strategies around the dealer’s voice, target audience and local market,” Welch says. Monitoring the results of the marketing efforts is just as critical, he adds, as it allows room for dealers to adjust the strategy as needed for those three components.
2. Deliver a Consistent Message
With a rise in the number of people with a connected device, it is important that users see a consistent message across all their devices. “Figure out your brand and who you are,” Welch says. “Our consistent message is ‘authenticity.’ Having that message across all our mediums lets people know where we stand.” That theme carries through Auburn VW’s website, ads, e-mails and videos. It also carries through Welch’s online and offline responses to reviews on Google, Yelp and SureCritic.
Welch estimates that about 70 percent of shopper influencers occur online, but he says it’s important to not neglect the other 30 percent. This year, the dealership launched a giveaway extravaganza and that included 16 prizes and a trip to the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The dealership announced the launch in a newsletter, on Facebook, on its website and on TV. The staff delivered the prizes to each winner and took pictures to post online. That month, Auburn reached the No. 1 spot in sales in its market.
Research by Cobalt has determined that dealers who market their stores across multiple platforms enjoy increased levels of customer satisfaction, customer lifetime value and customer retention.
3. Align With Your Manufacturer
“Seventy-five percent of shoppers visit both a brand and dealer site within the same day, and most do that within the same 30 minutes,” Welch says. “It makes sense to align with your OEM.” Welch decided to add a layer to Volkswagen’s campaigns rather than duplicating them. “The customer already saw the OEM site, so we want something different so we can leverage what they are doing. If they get to your site and don’t like what they see, then they will go to the next one. You have to have something engaging on your site.”
4. Differentiate Your Store
In order to make Auburn Volkswagen stand out, Welch had to decide what his operation stood for and what his managers and staff are passionate about. Their core mission, he says, is to “deliver an experience in each relationship with our team members, customers and community that exceeds all expectations. Our tagline is ‘Making lives better one VW at a time.’”
Auburn VW created videos for the various nonprofits the dealership supports. “We just try to do the right things in all of our interactions,” Welch says. “Dealers are generous people and the public doesn’t know that. … Instead of writing a check or telling the public that we support a certain nonprofit, we make videos to show our support.”
To boost the dealership’s core value of authenticity, Welch became the face of the brand. He appears in videos and pictures throughout the website. “We are authentic throughout our organization and that’s why our customers and team members love being here.”
Welch says he also trains team members to be “ambassadors” to the store and the brand and maintain constant communication between management and staff. Everyone receives an internal monthly newsletter and attends one-on-one meetings as well as department meetings. Welch also borrowed a page from communication guru John Maxwell and encourages staff to spread “true rumors” about their co-workers’ performance to encourage positive thinking.
5. Trust Your Partners
The dealership’s marketing team meets twice a month with the website provider, ad agency and production team. “This [concept] is not ‘set it and forget it,’” Welch says. “Stay engaged, review results and adjust as needed. It’s daunting and frustrating and some of it goes over your head, but sitting down for an hour to discuss your efforts makes a huge difference,” he adds.
It’s important to be transparent during the meeting, as well. Auburn’s marketing partner helped steer the dealership in the right direction when they requested a second site. “They provided dos and don’ts for our strategy in the second site,” Welch says. “It’s something we wouldn’t have done if they weren’t there.”
“At the end of the day, it comes down to trust,” he adds. “We’re all working toward the same goal of selling more cars and getting more results.”