9 Clouds Automotive Marketing Blog
Where automotive meets digital marketing.
For auto dealers, reputation management can feel like a never-ending battle. With the right methods, any dealership can portray a responsive brand image, grow an impressive star rating, and have its best foot forward when people search online.
Action today. Strength tomorrow.
It's January 9, 1958, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower steps up to the microphone in front of the nation, and he puts his reputation to work. It's his fifth State of the Union Address. Up to this point, he has served his country through WWII, launched the U.S. Interstate Highway System, diffused several Cold War crises, passed the nation's first Civil Rights Acts, and balanced the nation's budget three times – setting the U.S. on a course for prosperity in the 1950's.
He's on a roll. Later in 1958, he will authorize the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which will eventually invent the Internet. (That's right; it wasn't Al Gore.)
In this incredibly influential time in history, Eisenhower deliberately focused his address on something that any auto dealership manager can relate to: Stabilization and growth.
“Our real problem, then, is not our strength today; it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Take it from a five-star general: A solid reputation is the product of integrity and honesty. And while it's easy to scoff or ignore the downfalls, it's another to own up and resolve them in a professional manner.
Sometimes, getting positive feedback can feel like pushing a heavy rock up a hill. Additionally, it's hard to deal with your mistakes when your store's brand is on the line, but it's much easier to turn a bad review into a good opportunity for displaying your brand. The context is key. An honest, respectful response to a one-star review can be more valuable than a 5-star review with no substance.
Who's gonna help you get those stars?
For the thousands of auto dealers in the U.S. (who are helping us all make good use of Eisenhower's Interstate system), reputations are key, and they're on the line every minute of every day. At any second, someone can decide to hit your store's listing on Google, Yelp, Facebook, or any other rating site and hack away at your star rating with a seething, negative review. It's something that grinds on the nerves of any dealership marketer and – with the right response – it's also something that can put your store's reputation into a very positive light.
One of the leading reputation management vendors is DealerRater.com (known simply as DealerRater). This standalone service sends out email surveys to your customers and yields reviews about sales, service and any other aspect of your dealership.
DealerRater was founded in 2002 and was actually the first website to gather and list dealership reviews worldwide. The service allows you to list your store for free, but a paid subscription – branded as their “Certified Dealer Program” – unlocks a box of tools to help you reconcile negative reviews and also gain insight into the areas of your business that could use some improvement. With the Certified Dealer Program, you can actually show your store's various DealerRater ratings on your own site. For example, you can show your staff page along with their own individual star ratings on DealerRater.
Pros of DealerRater
When people search things like “ford dealer in bismarck” or “eide ford reviews,” DealerRater.com will give the store some real estate on the SERP, including star icons that visually show your store's DealerRater rating.
The real ROI of DealerRater comes from filtering out the bad reviews before they go public. Plus, you can “push” positive reviewers to leave additional reviews on Google, Yelp and other popular sites. So, ratings on DealerRater will generally appear much higher than the organic reviews that you'll see on the dealership's Google listing.
Another plus to DealerRater is that it allows reviewers to easily give more detail than Google or Yelp reviews. So, for example, the reviewer can identify the specific salesperson with whom they did business, and that salesperson can have his or her own review within your store's account.
Cons of DealerRater
Because DealerRater takes up SERP real estate, they also steal traffic from your own site and show other “related” dealers within DealerRater.com.
Since DealerRater essentially traps the organic traffic from Google and Bing, it refers almost no traffic to your own site – even with a paid subscription. In the past year, DealerRater.com sent an average of only 15 visits to our own clients' sites, and no inbound links. That's right. None.
Plus, DealerRater uses a split system for people to review service and sales separately. So, people searching for reviews will get “funneled” into one of those two sections, even if they aren't the right place.
How does 9 Clouds work with DealerRater?
9 Clouds helps dealerships manage their DealerRater accounts to ensure that they accurately portray the store's branding and services. Additionally, we help monitor those listings (along with other reputation sites such as Google, Cars.com, Yelp, Facebook and Foursquare).
Nearly all of our clients have previously set up DealerRater accounts before they contracted with us, so there's a good chance that you already have a listing with a handful of reviews coming in for your store.
A few of our clients have paid for DealerRater's premium services at some point with inconsistent ROI. To us, it appears as though the DealerRater system is worth the cost – but only if you're willing to own up to your mistakes. A negative review, for example, can lead to more negative reviews which are integrated directly into your own site.
For that reason, 9 Clouds helps all of its customers monitor reviews, we deliver feedback to the appropriate people at the store, and we help the dealers craft constructive responses to both positive and negative reviews.
Be like Ike
Reputation management is hard and it isn't going to get any easier. That's why 9 Clouds is happy to help dealers find the right methods and tools they need to protect their brands and to grow their star ratings.
Getting value from DealerRater – and any other form of reputation management system – takes courage, teamwork and leadership. In his 1958 State of the Union address, Ike said it best:
“Accomplishment will prove to be a journey, not a destination.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Has your dealership used DealerRater? What are your thoughts? We want to hear from you in the comments below!