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Dale Noe

Dale Noe Vice President, Sales

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Rescue your Internet customers from drowning on your website!

When I meet with most dealers today, their website is not only top of mind but absolutely critical to a thriving business. However, most dealers have done very little to ensure that their website visitors turn into showroom or service customers. Yes, most dealers have an Internet person, department or even a BDC today but this doesn’t translate into sales for them. What’s the reason for this breakdown? In a hyper-competitive environment where customers shop an average of 18 websites before purchasing a vehicle, you must have an engaging website for customers to turn shoppers into buyers. How do you do that effectively? So many “experts” tout this way or that way but there are 5 basic rules when it comes to engaging your customers on the Internet and increasing your conversion rates. By the way, don’t feel bad if you haven’t figured it out yet, neither have many of the big names, such as Wal-Mart or JCPenney. But we aren’t talking about them right now. We are talking about you and your store(s). So let’s review the top 5 most important things to customers:

Ease of use: Does your site look like a giant tent event or provide customers with an easy way to engage you at their pace, not yours? Many dealers want a 365/24/7 giant gorilla sale on their site. While this might seem like a proven method, it is often the quickest way to turn away customers. They simply don’t have the time or want to muddle through a convoluted website trying to figure out what you are trying to communicate. If you want to highlight a sales event, service special or coupon, then do so but direct your customers by using a clear and concise way to do so.

Reasons to go further: I am warning you now, if you have all stock photos, then you might as well shut your website down and stick to traditional media! One of the first things I was taught in the car business was to get them in the car for a demo that they were interested in. Not to give them a brochure. When customers are on your lot, they want to touch and see the car. Why wouldn’t you do the same for them on your website? Let them take an online demo by having pictures of the actual car on your site to engage with. Give them extra tidbits of information about the car as well. Build the picture image in their mind of how they will look in the car or how it will look in their drive way. NEVER, I repeat, NEVER sell them by using old auto terms, such as MUST SEE, HURRY IN, EXTRA CLEAN, etc… List the basic specs but then highlight the extras that build value for them and you. Highlight the Car Fax or Auto Check. Be transparent and your customers will dig deeper on your site and spend more time (and ultimately your showroom) than at a competitors.

Set yourself apart: Why should a customer come into your dealership rather than the dealer that’s just a click away? Why should they choose to do business in your service department rather than Jiffy Lube? If you can’t justify it quickly and upfront, then you have already lost. You’ve lost the customer before they even became your customer. Oh, they will be a customer, just not at your dealership. Most consumers today want value and to feel set apart. Why do you think so many cell phones now come in a variety of colors? No one wants to be stereotypical or part of the “in crowd” anymore. What does your website communicate to your customers on how you help them achieve being informed, engaged and unique? Are you using just another cookie cutter site or is yours truly a custom website?

Make it more engaging: The million-dollar question that most dealers ask me about is how they can sell cars through social media? I think the bigger question is, how can you leverage social media to gain more website visitors and dealership customers? Social media is another tool to engage and start a conversation with your customers. It is not meant to be a sales channel but rather an engagement channel to bridge the gap into sales. Social media has its place in the sales process but should not be considered the Holy Grail. One other point to consider on social media, DO NOT just add a manufacturer’s feed or ask trivia questions. Find content that is relevant to your customers and their needs as content to post. Or better yet, post content about why they should buy from your dealership. Now, I combined video with this topic because YouTube has become a close relative to social media. It’s engaging and brings people back time and again. That’s why you MUST have strong video offerings. You must have an introduction video of your dealership on the front page of your website and your social media pages (see now why I included them together). After that, each vehicle, whether new or used, should have videos attached (remember the test drive scenario I mentioned above). By the way, pay the extra money to have a professionally shot video, not the lot guy using his cell phone camera, customers can tell quality vs. doing it on the cheap. ***Stay tuned! This is such a huge topic so you will see more about this topic in future posts***

Have fun: Okay, so I gave you all of your guidelines and rules on what not to do, and now I tell you to have fun? Yes, I did just that. You can create an engaging, informative, off-the-charts performing and fun website, but you need to partner with the right digital marketing provider.

So how do you accomplish all this? Partner with a website vendor that gets it! Don’t settle for a less than stellar experience. Look for companies that have NO long term contract options. That’s important if they are not delivering on what you expect, and with technology changing quickly this can be extremely important to your ultimate success and customer engagement. Finally, look for great customer service. How do you gauge great customer response? Look for a small website to coordinator ratio. Can you reach someone on the phone? How long does it take to make changes? If your site vendor cannot make changes before incentives expire, that’s a huge problem for you and the customer. Not enough to convince you? Then call me to discuss an independent evaluation of you current website. I can show you how to save your Internet customers from drowning on your website.

Justin Duff
Great post Dale!
Jim Bell
Great post and everything stated is something to consider for all dealerships. The more call to actions without bogging down the site, the better. Get the customer engaged with simplicity. One thing I hear a lot of is pop ups annoy the heck out of customers. Is there a time and place for them? Yes, but we as dealers, have to be careful with them.
Bryan Armstrong
Great points here. Even within the tightly controlled OEM website mandates you can use many of these tips to differentiate your Dealership from the cookie cut competition.

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