When I was selling cars, I noticed something that was consistent at all of my dealerships. When the Internet first started taking hold, car dealers were reluctant to spend money on it. The scale was off for some reason. They would cut corners and pinch pennies when it came to spending thousands of dollars on their website, marketing, online classified sites, and third-party lead providers. While they were figuring out ways to spend less on the Internet, I was spending more... and smiling all the way to the bank.
For years, car dealers had no problem with dropping tens of thousands of dollars on television, radio, and newspaper, yet there was a stigma about marketing on the Internet, their virtual dealership, a marketing platform that people trusted that would draw more traffic in a day than their physical dealership could get in a week, even a month. I always had the advantage over my competitors because I believed in 3 letters: SGS.
Now that I'm out of the retail end of the industry, I am happy to share my experiences. Thankfully, more and more dealers are starting to listen.
SPEND LESS MONEY
With the economy in the position that it's in, most dealers are already in the process of doing this. They are pulling back on their marketing budgets to compensate for a stale market. Those who are not pulling back, who are attacking the issue with more marketing, may or may not be getting the results that they want.
The key to spending less money is to spend it well. Return on investment (ROI) is the absolute key to success in these tough times. With all of the options out there, no form of advertising has a stronger ROI than the Internet and specifically a dealer's primary website.
GET MORE LEADS
Leads are step one of a two-part goal for car dealers. For the Internet or any aspect of advertising to be effective, it has to turn into leads. Phone leads, email leads, walk-in leads -- whatever it takes to get a customer in contact with your dealership gives you the opportunity to convert that person from a shopper to a buyer.
People use the Internet in every phase of their car-buying experience until it is time to take delivery. A study last week shows 75% of people use it. It just makes sense that your website is the best possible place to get more leads.
SELL MORE CARS
Step two of the two-part goal is to make the sale. Leads are great, but if you can't convert them into a sale, what's the point? Again, this is where your Internet presence, your primary website, is the true path down the road to success. This is where it amazes me the most. Dealers will spend a ton of money on advertising mediums that cannot be tracked and do not produce results, yet they get conservative when it comes to their websites.
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The bottom line is this: the key to making it through these tough times and even exceeding all expectations lies in having the best possible website available. You need one that converts, that can be found on the search engines organically, and that will portray your dealership in a way that makes people comfortable working with you. It's the Internet. A shopper can surf 10 websites and 10 inventories in an hour. You cannot miss the opportunity when it's presented to you.
In my years in the car business, I was an early adopter of the Internet as my primary marketing source. It just makes sense. There is no reason to get cheap with your website. A $500 website is a $500 website. Take a look at all of the options and make sure that your current or future website provider has what it takes to meet the criteria. If it means spending more money, then so be it. Pull back from television or radio if you have to. Drop your newspaper advertisement down from a full-page clip to a half-page clip.
Whatever you do, find a way to put the best website out there. It's your virtual dealership. It represents you online. Make it count.
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Read more automotive articles by Joe Turner on this blog.