I read through 4 blogs daily and there are a lot of great posts all with their own spin. From social media to mobile marketing to video, everyone is promoting the next SILVER BULLET and its killing me. Guys get a solid foundation down first, you’re off in web 2.0 and you haven’t even leveraged 20% of web 1.0.
I look through dealer websites that are a complete disaster you got flash widgets jumping out at customers, cars driving around on the page. On many websites you can find everything but a car to buy or make a service appointment. What else do you think customers are coming to your site for? To be your friend on Facebook? Give me a break!
All I am absolutely wore out with all the people pushing things on car dealers when they don't even have a solid basic online foundation. You're confusing dealers you’re making them focus on things that don't matter right now and generally giving good communication channels a bad name when dealers are not ready for them.
Dealers, PLEASE get the basics down before you get into web 2.0 initiatives. They are great things if you have a good solid foundation; they are total distractions if you don't.
The solid foundation:
1. A good website simple home landing page easy to search inventory, easy to make an online appointments, you don't need any more than that and the less movement the better. You should go by the soft boiled egg rule; the customer should be able to get in and out of your site with what they want within 3 minutes. Your site is there for information…its not a destination and you can’t make it that way, no matter what you do.
New and Used inventory searh is easily available, there is nothing moving ad they have customer testomonials right on the home page GREAT! What's missing, online service appointment and their ebay rating with a link to their ebay store (good for SEO and will sell more cars) If you really want to take a lesson on a Customer Optimization take a look at the search guru's web home page Google...it does'nt get any more simple than that.
1. SEO – here are the 15 core things you should to do.
a. 1. Google Webmaster Registration (sitemap) 2. Install Google Analytics Code 3. Yahoo Webmaster Registration (sitemap and rss) 4. Bing Webmaster Registration (sitemap) 5. Create Yahoo Local Business Listing (free) 6. Create Google Maps Listing - one per physical location (free) 7. Create Merchant Circle Listing and add your first blog post (free) 8. Create Insider Pages Listing (free) 9. Create Yelp Listing (free) 10. Create AboutUs.org Listing (free) 11. Create JudysBook Listing (free) 12. Create Yellowbot Listing (free) 13. Create a StumbleUpon Account and add your website (free) 14. Create a Digg Account and Digg one of your best articles. 15. Put out a free press release that has a link to your website or blog.
2. Inventory listing – you need to have REAL pictures of each vehicle and not just one or 2 pictures please have one of every angle of the vehicle inside and out there should be a min of 30 pictures up to 60. Don't leave this to 3rd parties to do IT’S TOO IMPORTANT! This is the single biggest reason a customer will decide to buy your vehicle, you might as well be outsourcing your sales dept. Take real pictures of new cars as well NO ONE WANT TO BUY A STOCK PHOTO.
3. Service appointments – make it a real service appointment not a request and if you just have to make it a request then you should follow-up on that email with the same sense of urgency as an internet lead. Within minutes but certainly less than an hour. SERVICE IS ABOUT CONVENIENCE NOT PRICE.
4. Get a Microsite network – sending search customers to your mammoth random access website is a waste of money they will not research long enough to get you the conversion and that is what is about nothing else, It’s not about traffic, traffic with no conversion is YouTube.
a. Here are the microsites to have up all the time
i. One for every model you sell and if you really want to go to the next level have one for each model in each color with real pictures of the vehicles.
ii. One on each used car connected to the online listings where they are being displayed you’ll be one of the few that is doing this and you will give the customers the information and access they want to buy your car.
iii. Have a social / community Microsite this where the people that do want to be your friends and fans can go to get the information on why they want to do this.
iv. Dealerships history Microsite
v. Service Dept Microsite – with online service payments
vi. Parts and Accessories Microsite – with an online store
If you do the SEO basics along with the back links from multiple microsites your SEO will be as good as it gets and your customers can get WHAT THEY WANT… WHEN THEY WANT IT… THE WAY THEY WANT IT which is the reason they are online in the first place.
SEM – this is the number one way to conquest new customers it’s also the most abused channel in the car business followed closely by social media. When done right this can yield many new customers to the dealership but if you're sending these respondents back to your random access main website then you are wasting your money please stop. You are not creating brand awareness as some would have you believe the respondent forgot about you as fast as they clicked the back button to get back to the Google search page.
Deep link landing pages are certainly better that sending a search respondent to your home page but a one page conversion that tries to talk to everyone will actually talk to no one in particular, average people are good at ignoring you.
These respondents need to be sent to a conversion path that allows the respondent to choose what they are interested in and follow that to the information they want. when you do this you will see double digit conversion rates then you know you're getting it right.
An example of a SEM campaign with a post-click conversion path:
· Landing page – Model introduction
o 3 paths for the respondent
§ Safety – one page bullets on safety
§ Performance - one page bullets on performance
§ Fuel economy - one page bullets on fuel economy
o Thank you – displayed after the conversion
This is a simple example but you get the idea. With pre-conversion segmentation even if you don't get the conversion 70% plus of respondents with segment and that gives you valuable insight into what your customers are looking for in that model.
Get these basics down and you will be well on your way to a solid online foundation. Once you have these in control you can start layering in video, flash objects, widgets and all sorts of advanced online sales tactics that will take you online marketing to new levels.
The last thing I will leave you with is this…the automotive sales landscape has changed in the last year right before our eyes. No longer is the internet a department in your dealership it is the sales department of your dealership. If you take nothing from this post please take that. It’s not a sideline the internet is now the game.
Hope this helps,