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John Fuhrman

John Fuhrman Senior Trainer

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Are You Doing Business On The Internet, Or Just Online?

BDC, Internet Department, Web Sites.  Yes it seems that dealers are really jumping in on doing business in the 21st century.  Me too.  I am always looking for ways to spread the word, promote, solicit, and generate business using the power and the economy of the Internet.  In fact, just this morning, I sent out a small blast to 500 select dealers promoting a new service offering.  I was amazed and shocked at what I learned.


Our marketing involves the auto industry.  Since the majority of dealers we would be of value to, have web sites, our research time is spent on the net.  We look at web sites to get a feel for the dealer and if it looks like a potential client, we look for the contact information for the right person.  That person goes into our database for contacting at a later date.  But just like other research, you sometimes discover things you weren't even looking for.  Let's put them into terms that are understandable even if you're one of the few who thinks SPAM only comes in a can.


If your used car inventory had 16% of the cars and trucks not working, what would that do for sales?  How would your reputation handle the word on the street?  What would you do about it?  And how long would you wait before you do?  How would you justify that one out of every six vehicles was inoperable and yet still on display? 


For most dealers, you wouldn't.  Those vehicles would be left out back until they were made saleable.  They wouldn't be seen by a customer until they were ready to be sold.  You would never let customers leave and spread the word that the cars they saw were not even safe to drive.  Your reputation is too important.


Then why would you have email contacts on your web site that go to no one in particular?  Why would ex-employees still have their emails up on your site?  Yet, in the emails we send out on a regular basis, an average of 16-20% are not able to be delivered.  We purce our contact list after every email campaign so that the information we keep is current and active.  Yet, in every search for new emails, the results are the same.  Nearly one in five email addresses on dealer sites are no good.  And if you understand the power of the Internet, your customers aren't waiting for you to fix the problem.  They've already gone to a dealer who has working emails.


Look at it another way.  Suppose your Internet traffic increased by 16% each month.  How many more deals would that add?  What amount of more gross profit would you see?  How many more good trades would you be able to take in?  How many more new customers could be referrals for you?  Do you get where this is going?


That brings me to web sites in general.  Keep in mind, I am not a GEEK.  I can barely find my way around the computer.  But, if it's something important to my business, I force myself to learn it or I hire someone who can.  My contact information, product offerings, and general impressions to clients are important.  Because of this, I have the ability to change anything on my web site within minutes. 


Yet, 40% of franchise dealer web sites are nothing more than the cookie cutter sites offered by the factory.  There is nothing to make them different from their competition.  And, they are not very user friendly.  Of those, nearly half have one or more links on the site that do not work.  About one third have outdated or too little information.  I even had one yesterday proclaiming the improvements of the new 2010 models!  We're nearly done with 2011.


You need to understand, the typical Internet user wants to interact with merchants online.  So, it's insane to have a link to your Internet department that goes to a phone number for the customer to call.  If they wanted to be on the phone, you'd have already gotten the call. 


But, here's the topper.  If a customer walked on your lot would you have them fill out a profile sheet with all their contact information before you said hello and introduced yourself?  Not really.  You want to make them feel welcome first.  Make it easy for them to want to give you information.  That makes sense.  Yet, in nearly 60% of the sites we looked at (over 1,000), you could not contact any person at a dealership without filling out a complete contact sheet.  And, even then you had no idea who was getting the information.


In customer service, it's a known fact that nearly 85% of dissatisfied customers never say anything to the vendor.  That means if you're getting 15 complaints, another 85 people will never do business with you and you'll never even know there is a problem.  Yet, by simply taking the time to visit your own web site, click on all the links, and see how your experience is, you'll be able to make some great improvement to your site and your image.


The industry now says 70% or more of every customer is beginning their search on the web.  For old dinosaurs like me, that's like the phone up in the 70's and 80's.  These people are generally serious about making a purchase.  They are using the Internet for convenience.  Don't make it inconvenient for them to do business with you.


John Fuhrman is the Senior National Trainer for Carolina Automotive Resource Services, a unit of The Dealer Resource Group.  His ten books have reached 1.5 million readers and he has trained sales professionals around the world.  For more information on the new "eDirector" service and how it can work for you visit us at http://www.thedealerresourcegroup.webs.comSend your email and complete dealer contact info and we'll send you our top 10 list of things you can do to improve your web site.  You can also see the previous "Choosing" series and other articles.  (c)2011 by John Fuhrman - Permission to reprint this post in its entirety, including contact information, is hereby granted. 

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