I am sure there are more than a few auto dealers out there right now who are sitting at their desk in the showroom, staring out at an empty lot, wishing they had gone into the insurance business. It is a daunting time right now with most of the public suffering from analysis-paralysis, afraid to buy anything. The good news is that the country runs on cars, and cars wear out. The question is how to hang on until things turn around.
Having spent the last twenty years planning advertising for auto dealers, I can make a few suggestions for this downturn. Take this time to revamp your operation and learn the ins and outs of using online to marketing your dealership and products. We all have to grasp that the world has changed and things are different in all parts of the car-buying process. The newspapers are on their last legs because the Internet and local media websites, like the newspaper site, the television station sites, and radio station sites are now people’s first source of news. If you don’t believe me, tour your own dealership and ask each person if the subscribe to the paper. I predict you will find that some people over 45 still get the paper, and everyone under 30 does not. That makes buying newspaper ads for your dealership a big mistake.
If you don’t know where to start with online, I suggest Google Adwords. Put simply, this is where you “buy” keywords and phrases so that when someone searches those keywords, your Google ad comes up. If the person “clicks” on your ad to find out more, then you pay for the “click.” If they don’t click, you don’t pay. The reason to do Google Adwords is that search is how car shoppers shop now. If you are not in the search results, you’re not in the game.
Want to test it? Go to a computer, type in something that a person would search if they were shopping for one of your type vehicles. If you are a Dodge dealer, type in “Dodge Dakota”. Now look at the screen. Does your dealership’s website come up in the search? If it does, good for you. Your site must be optimized well and the search engines can find it. If your site does not come up, then you can figure you just lost that customer to someone else. One of my account executives has a saying he uses when talking to dealers about advertising. He says the most important three things you need to do are: 1. Turn on the lights, 2. Put up sign outside, and 3. Do Google Adwords. Kind of silly but this is coming from an AE that has been doing television for dealers for years. He knows that car shoppers use search engines first before they ever step on anyone’s lot.
Want to maximize your exposure with as little money as possible right now? Do search engine marketing (SEM), which is the tech way of saying learn Google Adwords. If you want to learn to do Google Adwords yourself, Google has a great course in the Adwords section of their site.
Brett Stevenson is publisher of Dealer Marketing Magazine. Contact him at Brett@DealerMarketing.com