Nov. 5, 2020—We may have fewer opportunities to engage face to face these days, but all hope for connecting with new customers need not be lost.
That’s the message veteran digital and customer experience design experts Corey Perlman and Katie Mares stressed to attendees in their virtual SEMA360 discussion focused on the steps shop owners can take to convert digital leads to long lasting customers, outlining key takeaways operators can put into practice today.
Organize Your Ad Budget
Both Mares and Perlman agree the first step in tapping a digital audience for potential customer leads should be investing in social advertising.
“There’s no more free organic growth online anymore. You have to actually get your story out there and you have to do it through paid advertisement,” said Mares.
And as shop owners begin to boost their social ad spend, Perlman advised investing those dollars in remarketing (which uses web visitor data to track potential customers from one site to the next).
”If someone comes to your site, you’re able to drop a Facebook pixel, [follow] them around, serve them specific ads and stay in touch with them or top of mind with them,” said Perlman. “It’s a pretty powerful strategy.”
Mares also recommended remarketing as a way to cut through the noise in a digital landscape where potential customers are being bombarded with digital ads from businesses of all kinds.
Build a Digital Database
Perlman also advised that businesses expand their potential digital marketing base by creating “lookalike audiences.”
"By integrating your site with Facebook, allowing Facebook to analyze who is visiting your website, the platform can use the audience you already have to create an audience of users for you that are similar to your original, but new to you,” said Perlman.
After selecting demographic specifics like age range, location, or median income, businesses can expand their potential customer base in just a few clicks.
But Mares advised businesses that don’t already have a solid following online focus their efforts on core audience engagement and growth before creating new iterations of that group.
“Building a lookalike audience is great … if you have something to build it from,” Mares said.
If you don’t already have a solid digital following, Mares recommends starting at the source. “You need the folks that have raised their hand and decided to walk through your door to connect with you on your digital and social platforms on every single channel, or you won’t have data to build a lookalike audience with, so you have to be connecting those digital touchpoints when they’re in the shop with you.”
Show. Don’t Tell.
Social media done well can help give visitors a behind the scenes look at what makes a business unique, connecting followers to the real people behind the brand and luckily for shop operators in the auto industry, day to day shop life is full of engaging content in the making.
“I say this to my SEMA audiences year after year—don’t tell me, show me. Tell your digital story, be transparent, be authentic and don't phone it in,” said Perlman. “The work operators are doing in the exciting stuff. It’s not all calls and paperwork. Use that. People want to see it.”
Perlman and Mares both highly recommended creating video content, from weekly check-ins to quick clips of a repair the shop’s working on, or a walk around a car that’s just come in or a customer testimonial.
Followers are much more likely to watch a video than read your newsletter so the experts recommended keeping videos at the tops of the pages you’re directing your audience to and launching an episodic series with consistent updates will also help build an audience as followers check back to see the latest.
“Hopping in on things like video can scare some people. They might think everything needs to be perfect, but that’s not what people are looking for anymore,” said Mares.
The experts are finding that polished content is starting to feel contrived and unrelatable. Mares and Perlmen both advised shop operators to be genuine and transparent. Customers make decisions based on an emotional connection and the more your digital followers can feel that they’re getting a look the real you, the more likely they are to engage and follow through.
"Just be you and if you mess up, it shows that you're human. They want to hear real stories right now,” said Mares. “Especially in the middle of a pandemic, people are craving that human connection. You may not have a ton of followers just yet, but getting to see your best tech replacing some brakes builds that confidence and connection to the shop that potential customers want before they take that next step and physically walk in.”