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How to move your “Brick and Mortar” store where the customers are: ONLINE

  The problem: The focus of most internet endeavors on the table for dealers is on the wrong thing, and also the reason the results are unpredictable. For dealers they think the internet is a race to cut in the “up” line and have the first crack at the next customer. This is how we do it on the lot;  but the reason you want to have the first crack at a customer – no matter what- on the lot, is that you have a system in place to be reasonably confident that:

  • If the customer has payment expectations- 
               you can still sell the car
  • If the customer likes another car a bit better -  
              you can still sell the car
  • If the customer thinks your price is a bit high -    
             you can still sell the car
  • If the customer heard something bad about you-  
             you can still sell the car


  • If the customer was told to wait until summer-  
             you get the idea.

The point is this: if you are NOT putting effective messaging on your website, if you cannot be reasonably sure you can convert the customer – then the traffic you receive on your website is nearly wasted. Not entirely wasted mind you, but about as effective as the traffic that flows onto the lot on Sunday for states with no Sunday sales. There is a chance there to sell a car, but ultimetely there is nothing you can do to control that sale.

Slowing the customer down”,

We have all seen the impossible as salespeople, and now we don’t trust anybody that’s says that they aren’t a buyer, or aren’t interested. We have many times over seen the customers that did several 180 degree turns, and a 270 degree turn before eventually deciding to take the car home. This is the same customer that will convince your salespeople there is no chance of selling them a car, and send them back to the desk -  to try and convince you of it. This is what separates the managers from the new guys: Faith in the process. “Just bring them inside.” – Right?

So why are managers and dealers acting like the “new guy” when it comes going out and snagging these “elusive” customers online? The opportunities are there, and the tools needed to do the job are the same tools dealers are already using, “inside”.

…Just like you would tell the new guy, “Run out there and say HI… “, what matters is to engage the prospect in the PROCESS, not consider or even acknowledge the fact that they are already driving away. “just bring them inside”. There is a way to make your internet “showroom” work the same way and be just as sticky as the “inside” of your store. Here is how…

Effective messaging is just about starting that same process one step sooner, ONLINE. Doing what we do in the store, ONLINE. Giving the customer an expectation of what the process will be like with our company, showing them who they will be working with on the deal, showing them previous satisfied customers, featuring a bit of our understanding of the product, maybe some about the product itself,  etc. If you expect to give the customer an “experience” at your site, the results will be greatly worth the effort.

There are several types of messages you can deliver online. Too often dealerships rely on either strictly informational messages, or completely on SALES messages. There is nothing new about either of them in the eyes of a prospect, or in the reality of the marketplace. The first thing about effectively communicating your brand online is understanding what types of messages are available to you, so that you can understand what each type is intended to do, and even how they can work together.

Here are 6 different types of videos or messages that you can deliver for you customer:

  #1: Testimonials

Testimonials should be specific.  You should search for things that are specific about each deal (location, vehicle chosen, credit situation, trade amount given) and turn each customer statement into both a “vote of confidence” from the customer, and an affirmation of one of your brand or department statements.

Start your questions to the customer saying things like:

                “Talk a little bit about the car, and why you picked it”      -rather than,

What do you like about the car?”

Get the customer talking, and smile at them while they are giving the testimony, keep your head nodding and keep smiling, they will do the same. There is often no one better to speak for your business then a previous customer.

  #2: Brand Statements

Brand Statements are given by either the most visible, or the leader of the dealership but could be anybody from the lot guy, to the receptionist, to customers. These statements are specific to your dealership and are the practices that you feel separate you best from other stores in your marketplace. These could be things like the history of the dealership, condition of used vehicles, experience of staff, volume of inventory, more for your trade because…, easy pricing, community oriented, family owned etc. These statements are VERY important for customers trying to decide where to do business.

There are over a hundred brands of RUM, and they all have loyal customers, because all they pitch heavily, “what it is that is unique about their brand”. Dealerships need to do the same thing so that customers will have other reason to identify with your dealership then your inventory. These messages are key to getting referrals, repeat customers, and a higher internet price point.

  #3: Product Features

Product Features are videos made using the people at your dealership, or a spokesperson to give the best demonstration of the products that you sell. These videos do not aim to tell everything about the product, rather a few things that are useful and specific, attempting to lend the impression that we have these products and we know more about them than our competition. This could be anything from a used vehicle video, a walk-around on a new Model vehicle, an overview of some of your aftermarket products, or even a service program or special. The point of these videos is the same as it is on the lot, to build as much value as possible in our products before the customer starts to consider “what it is worth”

  #4: Department Statements

Department Statements are made by the manager of each department. They address what that Manager feels like are the concerns of the customers in their individual departments. Things like speed of service, price and quality of service department, loaner cars,  relationships to banks in the Finance Department, ease of pricing and inventory and knowledge of the staff in the New Department, cleanliness, and size of the inventory and amount for trades and pricing structure in the Used Department. These videos show the customer three things: Your staff, your store, and hopefully what to expect out of their next car buying experience.

  #5: Event/Charity Coverage

Event Videos cover any charitable contributions the dealership has made and any unique events that involve customers, or something the dealership is doing for customers. Charity videos should be produced so that the Charity can use the video for their own site and publicity after the event, with the dealer’s logo on the video. These videos are the best because they get shared for free by your customers! These videos help your store build or repair your reputation to new and old customers alike – dollar for dollar better than any other money you spend on reputation management because these videos will get hosted for you, not by you.

  #6: Top Salesperson Bios

After the sale of a car most customers admit that the salesperson was the #1 factor in where they bought their new car. Every customer has an ideal salesperson. Letting a customer pick the person that they think they would mesh with before they pick out a car, will set more appointments for the dealership, funnel more customers to your best salespeople, and sell more cars… for more gross.  Also, an intelligent salesperson can use their video as a massive closing tool for new and old customers alike.


There is no limit of effective messages you can give your customer, they WILL watch these messages and they WILL have an effect. There is also no shortage of ways to broadcast these messages once they are produced. This distribution is FREE online – using your own sites and sites like: Youtube, Facebook, Google+, Vehix, Autotrader, CarFolks, Google, CarWoo, Review sites etc.

When it comes to building value online, make sure your focus is on the RIGHT thing. Building value in your store, your process, and your product… Don’t get caught racing to front of the up-line, just to come back inside and tell everyone that “you didn’t have what they wanted”. Don’t expect your cars to sell themselves online – SLOW the customer down and  allow your store to make the difference for every customer – even the “smart” ones online.

Andrew Metcalf
Great read. Agree completely with creating a real personal message through video and utilizing every facet available to create your brand. Video testimonials are a great way to syndicate and reach current and new customers. Any thoughts on service / fixed ops related videos?

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