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Gary May

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If there has ever been a time to realize the benefits of creating and executing on new strategies, it is the coming year. For those who went digital, got behind online completely, build their brand and reputation where the public actually spends their time, engaged their clientele via effective software and database activities, you will already have a great look into how your 2009 will sort out. Keep doing what you're doing and don't worry.

Now, if you haven't spent time assessing, looking at, determining and then executing your Interactive strategy, you have one decision with two options. And if you do opt for the 'stay in business' route, be prepared for a significant amount of technology this year, even simply from an integration standpoint. Things on the software, video, mobile and other aspects of marketing are going to accelerate.

Over the weekend, a number of conversations I was around included statements about newspapers, relevancy and readership, none of them positive. Separately, two people will be buying vehicles by March, their impressions already biased by sites they like. Others talked about past experiences being indicative of the future. Many people talked about making brand decisions based on the automotive industry coverage in the media, so I straightened those out at least. But overwhelmingly, people are using the web and not thinking about stepping foot in a dealership that is not in their specific scope of consideration.

Everything points to us having to do a better job attracting and connecting to our customer base online. It's winter, when is the last time you've had a banner ad on the local online traffic reports or weather updates on your local network news' website? Do you have links from local businesses' websites that have purchased vehicles from you? Even though we've focused a lot of attention on this lately: how many customers are providing online testimonials for you? (read: not many! Need ideas to get your customers to do that? here's one: ask them).

Your 2009 results will be based on what you are doing today and have been doing for the past few months. Those leads and customers are going to share their experience with others. The brand impressions people received months ago will undoubtedly affect who walks in your door tomorrow. There is no denying that your 2009 will be build on your ability to create a more significant presence in the areas where people consume media and data. Who's blogging, commenting and Twittering for you?

Challenge yourself to layout a plan for the first quarter that is web-based, create an environment of support throughout your entire store and get everyone to assist in deploying your new brand strategy. Get creative, become savvier, see yourself doing things that are not comfortable but will deliver results and ultimately take back ownership of your future.

There are a number of events that are dedicated to the Internet side of the business at the beginning of 2009. Commit to making those a part of your strategy and don't back out. Go the extra mile to figure out what you are going to do instead of being a victim of current circumstances.

Leave the worrying to others that don't take the time to invest in their future. Be confident in your direction and commitments. Spend your time and energy on things that deliver results rather than doubt. Thank you for reading this, now do something else online to further your business!

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

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