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Larry Bruce

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Automotive News Microsites And Acton Toyota, Done Right and Done Wrong

Read an article yesterday in Automotive News about Microsites and Acton Toyota "1 Web site? Why Stop there?". I was absolutely thrilled to see that Post-Click-Marketing is finally getting some long overdue credit in the space and from Automotive News to boot.

However Acton hasn’t even scratched the surface with Microsites and Post-Click-Marketing and in fact in many cases is doing it the wrong way and is wildly successful even when handicapped. This should prove without question that your dealership needs to consider a strategy around microsites and conversion optimization.  

The good news is Acton is beginning to understand the basic premise behind what a Microsite is supposed to do:

"Focus the visitor on a specific offer and message"

However to do that there is so much more that should be done and isn’t being covered in the Automotive News article. Below are a few rights and wrongs about what can be taken away from this article and microsites.

·         Doing It Right – Acton is using a Microsites focusing messages on Warranty offers and Lease Specials, Great but there is so much more, product specific offers, social programs, push marketing offers I could go on but I don't want this post to get out of control.


·         Doing It Wrong – These sites cost as little as $2000…WHAT THE?… if you have $2000 invested in a site you can’t walk away from it if its not working, that much money also indicates too much time investment in the Microsite and changes are not going to be easy all very bad for a Microsite. A Microsite, Landing Page or Conversion Path needs to be light, agile (created in an hour or 2) and most of all disposable.


·         Doing It Right – They are separating the sites as stand alone, not as pages within their RAW (Random Access Website). This does help the sites with their own individual SEO and it does help the main website with back links increasing its SEO value.


·         Doing It Wrong – The main value of an offsite Microsite is that you can eliminate distraction and guide the customer down the path to conversion, that’s what microsites do they convert. As you can see from this image of the lease site this is a copy of their main site with all the Random Access distractions and navigation of the main site. How many people get lost and pulled away from the message of the site with this distraction? Answer…A LOT!  


·         Doing It Right – Acton has dedicated people handing the lead conversions that come from their three sites that are getting 14000 visitors per month according to Automotive News and this staff is on a separate floor from the main sales staff. According to GM Mike Hills “It’s a business with in a business”. The team at Acton is made up of 9 dedicated Internet Sales People, 2 Online Sales Managers, an e-Commerce Manager and a fulltime graphics designer. This is a good staff size for a store this size.


·         Can’t Say “Doing it Wrong” here as I don't know what the specific duties of each of these people, I will offer a bit of experience here instead, 3 managers are “Over Kill”. According to the article the store is selling 350 to 400 units per month and only 35% of the leads are handled by the Internet team, so what do these 3 managers do?


A suggestion: Instead of having 3 managers have one in that team be a data analytics director and the other be the team lead, this will give you a significant advantage assuming you are setup to capture all the Web Session data needed to optimize each Microsite. The e-Commerce manager should work with the analytics director and the Team Lead weekly to get the data analysis and cross reference that with what the Team Lead is seeing and hearing from the team to plan test waves, site offers and changes based on visitor behavior.


·         Doing It Right – Acton Toyota is updating content virtually in real time. A great advantage of Microsites if they are set up right is that dealership personnel can update the content in a matter of minutes.


·         Doing It Wrong – Form what I can tell from these sites that Acton has, without some significant back end tools to change the content on these sites it will require a developer to do it. Ideally you want to be able to change your site without IT involvement, “This puts marketing back in control of  the online marketing process”


·         Doing It Right – Clearly from reading the article Acton’s e-Commerce Manager has thought about the content from the perspective of the user. All too often I see dealers go into this process thinking “What do we want to tell our audience?” instead of thinking “What does our audience want to hear?” Kudos to Brun for having that perspective and approach.


·         Doing It Wrong – It’s not enough just to think about the content from the user perspective you have to know it’s what your users want. A 4% conversion rate is ok and double what the most in the industry are getting but there is much more conversion available when you start letting the visitors tell you what's working using split testing instead of trying to guess.

To wrap this post up while there is no doubt that Microsites are expanding the reach of Acton Toyota and will expand the reach of your dealership, don't get pigeon holed into thinking that that’s all microsites do. Expanding your reach is a side benefit the real benefit in microsites is conversion optimization, customer experience management and the ability to produce, test, optimize and repeat with minimal effort in virtual real-time time and ideally no involvement from development.

This is a great start but there is so much more potential. A dealership needs to be looking at having hundreds of microsites not just few.

Hope that helps,

Larry Bruce @pcmguy

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