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David Kain

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If you have not been tightening your budget belt already, I am certain you are planning to do so in the near future. We often hear about cutting budgets so deep we hurt business growth so I wanted to spend some time offering an opinion on things you can’t do without when it comes to your online marketing.

A lead handling process

There is no use in spending the money to drive prospects to your business if your team does not have a lead handling process in place to convert them to appointments and then sales. This simplest of tasks is typically the one most overlooked and yet a solid process ensures that the money spent on leads provides the return on investment your dealership requires to thrive. A process is the Science of deciding what action (email, phone, text, postal mail, etc) and at what time/day/frequency you will complete it. The Art of the process is what you say in an email or phone conversation and how you use links, graphics, video, etc.

An “effective” Lead Management or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Tool

Imagine if we were still working with dial-up in our businesses for Internet connectivity. Depending on web traffic there were moments in a dial-up environment when it would take minutes instead of seconds for pages to load. This led many progressive businesses to abandon committing large budgets to the Internet for communications and marketing until such a time that the speed could make things easier for their customers to shop online. Lucky for us that Broadband Internet speeds make this much less of an issue these days.

Your selection of a Lead Management/CRM tool is as important as your lead handling process and should compliment your employees in such as way that it makes them more productive. Be sure to get your team involved in the decision making process and you’ll find that they will embrace the ultimate selection. An “effective” tool becomes a non-issue and not only increases productivity; it improves morale, lowers costs and improves operating results. One caution – don’t overspend. There are excellent choices available without breaking your budget.

An engaging and productive website

There is not much mystery to this critical item. Your website is your online dealership and as such should allow your customers and prospects to experience your overall operation with little effort and even great enjoyment. Unlike employees your website can always be alert and engaging and when designed right can always anticipate your visitors needs. You might want to consider reading a book about making your sight simple and productive – “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. It’s convinced me that we overbuild sites and the more we do the less effective they become. Focus on the customer experience and look outside the automotive industry to the most productive shopping sites for your models.

Since I am talking about websites I want to mention a few productivity boosters that you should consider that are low cost and high return:

Search Engine Optimization

Interactive credit applications

Interactive service scheduling

Interactive trade appraisals

Live Chat, Click to Call and Text Messaging

Online Classified Advertising for Pre-Owned Inventory

Unlike physical dealership locations that limit your inventory display area – Online you can locate wherever you can afford to place your inventory. You absolutely must display your inventory anywhere and everywhere you can afford to do so. Start with the multiple free sites that are available to you and build your presence on Search engines with effective Search Engine Optimization on these sites as well as your own. The free sites love your inventory because it brings traffic and increases their value in the eyes of the consumers.

Once you have effective placement on the free sites consider expanding to the paid listing sites. Be sure to see if your manufacturer provides co-op funding for your Certified Pre-Owned vehicles to drive down the cost with these sites. In addition, whether you use the free or the paid services, be sure you attend to the 3 key elements – Quality photos, quality descriptions and on the market pricing. Signing the agreement for the service and writing the checks is the easy part! The difficult and most important part is ensuring your listings generate the response you need to generate an acceptable return on investment.

New Vehicle Leads from 3rd Parties

Some manufacturers generate leads for their dealers at a reduced rate and my advice is to take advantage of these options. If your manufacturer does not offer this option it is wise to go to the market and select a provider that gives you the best possible lead quality. Be sure to communicate with your source reps as to whether their lead quality is up to your standards. A good way to determine lead quality is with free lead scoring services that are now available in the market to help you gauge whether a prospect is Hot, Warm or Cold. This does two things for you – It helps you line out more efficient processes and it helps you determine if your lead sources are providing the quality leads you need to grow your business.

Certainly there are many more ideas that are worth considering not the least of which is effective Database Management. Keep in mind that in tight times you need the fundamentals to ensure a solid return on investment and once you get these working for you then you should consider other options.

If we can ever be of help with your Internet Operation please contact us anytime.


David Kain

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