Stephanie Hernandez McGavin

Automotive News | Fixed Ops Journal | April 2018

April 19, 2018

Fort Bend Kia has made Facebook an essential tool for advertising service promotions — so much so that the suburban Houston dealership has slashed its spending on traditional advertising.

Dealer Principal Virgil Skinner, 63, initially used his personal page on the social network as a public profile for the Rosenberg, Texas store. He added customers as Facebook friends and posted often about the dealership and special offers.

Yet when Skinner created a dedicated Facebook page for Fort Bend Kia, he had little luck getting his message out. So in 2014, he adopted Social Roots 1:1, a program developed by Chicago marketing technology company Affinitiv.

Since then, he has turned his Facebook guesswork into tangible service revenue.  The dealership has garnered more than 4,000 “likes” and “follows” on its Facebook page.

Skinner notes that Facebook lets him target particular customers. By contrast, he says, TV ads were “almost impossible to track the results of” and “intrusive” direct mail yielded “hits and misses.”

“The beauty of Facebook ads is it’s not like a junk email that I’ve got to delete,” Skinner told Fixed Ops Journal. “It’s on the feed one day and gone the next. The other thing I like about using Facebook is that Social Roots can serve these ads directly to targeted individuals, reminding them about service due.

“I quit doing direct mail for service and, for the most part, quit doing email blasts,” he adds. “We’ve done a couple of targeted direct mail pieces specific to recall campaigns, but that’s about all the marketing I do outside of Social Roots.”

The Social Roots program combines its own targeting algorithms with Fort Bend Kia’s dealership management system customer database to create timely advertisements for Facebook users, such as service reminders.

A spokeswoman for Affinitiv says the vendor uses a proprietary method to track how many Facebook leads turn into customers. Although other suppliers work with dealerships to advertise on social media, the spokeswoman says Social Roots’ automated process for dropping reminders onto service customers’ Facebook timelines is unique.

Affinitiv works with about 5,500 franchised dealerships across the United States, says Affinitiv CEO Scot Eisenfelder. The cost of the Social Roots program to dealerships varies by market, goals and budget, he says. Skinner’s dealership pays about $20,000 to $30,000 a year for Social Roots.

Eisenfelder says Fort Bend Kia goes the extra mile to customize advertising to its community. “Dealership engagement and input is a huge benefit for them and for Affinitiv,” he says.

“We can work together to provide not only OEM-based content, but also more localized content that really speaks to not only who they are as a dealership, but who they are as people,” Eisenfelder adds.

Skinner’s dealership was in the path of Hurricane Harvey, which slammed into the Houston area late last August. Fort Bend Kia leveraged its Facebook reach after the storm to offer free flood inspections to owners of all makes and models of cars and trucks.

The dealership lost 11 days of business, as many employees dealt with Harvey’s aftermath. Facebook was instrumental in getting customers to return to the store, Skinner says. “

“The easiest thing we could do for all these people was to do these free flood inspections,” he says. “If you’re not sure if your car has flood damage, we can tell you. Many people have cars with water in them and don’t realize it because you don’t see it.”

Skinner says the weeks immediately after the hurricane were so hectic, he never counted how many people came in for the flood inspection. But he adds that many customers whose flood-damaged vehicles were declared total losses by their insurers bought new cars and trucks from Fort Bend Kia.

As a result, Skinner says, the dealership sold 90 new vehicles last September — a monthly record and 18 percent of its new-vehicle sales in 2017.

Bottom Line

How Facebook affected the economics of Fort Bend Kia in 2017

  • The dealership generated $146,950 in service revenue from customers who responded to promotions on its Facebook page.
  • That figure represented about 8% of the dealership’s $1.94 million in service and parts revenue.
  • As a result of the success with Facebook, dealer Virgil Skinner reduced his $60,000 in annual spending on direct mail ads.
  • He also eliminated his $128,000-a-year budget for TV commercials.

Source: Fort Bend Kia

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