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Where Does Your Dealer Website Fit into the Mix?

If you can't tell, I wrote this on an extremely empty stomach. But enough about me, let's talk about you and your success!

As a provider of dealership website solutions, it almost seems that there are two different categories of clients that I work with. Those that utilize the tools and resources made available to them to which they experience great results, and then there are those that huff and puff determined that “your website doesn't work”.

It's sometimes quite funny to look at from a birds-eye view, because when the shiny new website is delivered the tone is, “Our website is awesome!” but when things are not going as expected it's, “YOUR website...”

With that in mind, I think it's time to dispel some myths regarding the role that your dealer website plays in the marketing mix. Let's look at what it can do for you and what it absolutely WON'T do for your business. There will be some key takeaways here that I'm hoping will help with the success of your digital marketing efforts moving forward.

Largest Source of Traffic

Your website has a unique ability (when done right) to attract more qualified buyers to your dealership by providing them top-of-the-funnel information. Every day, millions of people take to the web to conduct research, read reviews and find products and service that will help shape their own purchase decisions. With that in mind, imagine what would happen if your own website provided consumers with the information that they are searching for. Doing so builds credibility and trust.

Your website is the virtual extension of your dealership, and it stays open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That means that your site has the power to reach qualified consumers when you physically can't. This means that your website can deliver your business to the highest source of consumer traffic available to your business.


Instant Gratification

Here is the first big “WON'T”! You may or may not believe how many people (not just dealers) expect that there will be a big overnight occurrence where the flood gates open and leads come crowd surfing onto their site by the hundreds.

It's important in this instance to remember that your website is one single part of your marketing efforts and is a process, not an event. Like any of your marketing efforts, there are a variety of elements that need to be looked after in order to ensure success. Don't expect that the second your new site goes live that it will be an instant online piggy bank. Remember; process, not event!

Not Getting Any Leads

This one is a catch-22. For the most part (and understandably), dealers often don't see the value in fancy-named a-la carte items like SEO because all they hear are price increases. Having said that, this is where the provider really needs to demonstrate the value of such services and how they will assist the dealership in getting more leads. You see, it's pretty simple: Have your site optimized so that people can find you → increases website traffic → increases chances for leads. This is a good Segway into the next topic which is...

Multiple Websites

Does your dealership have multiple websites that are essentially duplicates of one another? If so, get rid of the duplicates. This will not help you capture more leads! In fact, it is probably causing more damage against your primary web presence. I recently wrote an article titled, “Stop With The Multiple Website Madness” in which I explain that the web can't be treated like traditional advertising. On the web, you don't need to have multiple (duplicated) websites in order to have your message delivered to the masses. One optimized website is more powerful and can reach more qualified buyers that 5 or 10 duplicates.

Without getting into too much detail, I also reference some solutions in the article that will assist dealers looking to maximize their web presence by utilizing micro-sites and other means.

Okay... I'm winding down now!


Process, Process, Process!

The last key takeaway here is the process. There NEEEEEDS to be a proper process in place. Your website can get things moving for you, but what happens when the leads start rolling in? Do you have a process for lead management, phone management, customer follow up – or what about inventory management, reputation management, social media and more?

There is a definite pattern to follow in order to become more successful, and if your sitting there wondering why your website isn't performing according to your expectations; it's time to really determine what your expectations actually are and if they're consistent with what the web will provide you. If others are being successful with the web, then why not you?

Where does your website fit into the marketing mix?

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Tags: automotive, car, dealer, dealership, digital, internet, inventory, management, marketing, myths, More…online, process, rv, sales, website


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Comment by Michael Cirillo on August 14, 2012 at 12:15pm

Great thoughts Jeff. Thanks for weighing in.

Comment by Jeff Simonton on August 14, 2012 at 12:13pm

For those of us who have embraced the Cobalt website platform and made the best of it, the changes over the last couple years have been great. I find it very interesting to note that many GM dealers, frustrated over their "required" website have selected as their solution, while many Chrysler dealers are frustrated by the Chrysler selected website provider... Brian's point in his P.S. below is dead-on... dealers HATE mandates.

Corporate supported websites with "day-one" content come with content requirements and restrictions which make them less flexible (GM does not allow the use of the new Cobalt Flex Website structure yet) and there are many vendors who start their pitch with, "I know you hate your _____ website, everyone does, and our websites are much better."


That said, Cobalt didn't create any restrictions on their websites, GM did, and they're paying. If you really dislike the restrictions, pay for it yourself and remove the GM handcuffs. Cobalt really does have a great platform now... but GM is so convinced that dealers will screw things up that they restrict us from using Cobalt's assets completely.


Removing the restrictions and providing building-block assets would be a brilliant move by all the OEMs! After all, how many of us are looking to make their website less effective?

Comment by Michael Cirillo on August 13, 2012 at 11:20am

Thanks for the comments Ashley - you're definitely not alone. There are strategic ways to use website effectively in order to maximize exposure and key in targetting different types of consumers (i.e., truck customers, car customers, F&I customers etc.)

Comment by Ashley Lopez on August 13, 2012 at 11:16am

I love the info on multiple websites! I have been discussing this issue with my owner for a while now, I'm excited to show him we aren't the only ones and it doesn't work as good as he thinks it may. Thanks!

Comment by Michael Cirillo on August 12, 2012 at 3:35pm

There are so many avenues to explore when it comes to the Internet and how to return a positive ROI. With how fast technology moves, there are so many vendors that offer similar features and products to the market. In my opinion, dealers should pay closer attention to what vendor they can work with; one that is as concerned with the dealers success as they are their own. 

As I mentioned, a website is such a powerful tool in attracting and qualifying customers; but at the end of the day, website features and back office tools don't sell cars. People do.

I appreciate all of your comments so far and also look forward to meeting you fine Gentlemen at AutoCon 2012 in a few weeks.  

Comment by Brian Pasch on August 12, 2012 at 12:04pm


Can't wait to see so many ADM members at AutoCon 2012.  By the way, I love the Hooklogic product.  All our clients who are using it are selling more cars and the ROI is really great. 

Comment by Tom Hawkins on August 12, 2012 at 10:36am

Thanks Brian...I understand fact I had signed up for Hook Logic via Dealers United and planned to use it on my Cobalt site.  But I "fell for" the research and testing DealerOn does to make the VDP pages more likely to cause people to use one of the calls to action.  Plus I have less restrictions on custom modifications with the DealerOn site. 

Looking forward to seeing you at AutoCon in a few weeks....going to "breathe" it ALL in!!  I have a LOT to learn.


Comment by Brian Pasch on August 12, 2012 at 10:29am


DealerOn is a very attractive platform and the company is passionate about serving dealers.  

Just keep in mind that your new DealerOn configuration has both a pop-up entry coupon and a HookLogic incentives program to increase leads. ( Dealers either love these features or hate it, but it does increase leads.


Cobalt by default does not ship with a pop-up coupon for every visitor which if you look at your DealerOn stats, is most likely your #1 or #2 website lead source.

Merchandising hooks like pop-up coupons, incentive pop-ups, and chat can significantly increase lead "counts" for any platform.   So you have to be careful on how you compare lead generation because for most platforms, they are not apples to apples.

Comment by David DeSantis on August 12, 2012 at 7:14am

Michael...great post..what dealers need to wake up to is that, they need to start thinking of their "Internet presence" the same as a physical location.  You don't build a dealership, turn the lights on, and expect the business to roll in.  Something that I've been saying for years, and someone did a post on this forum about it, is that dealers need to have an Internet Marketing person.  That person's only responsibility is to drive traffic to the dealers site, and promote the dealers micro-sites.  It is a separate position, not to be confused with a BDC Manager, or Internet Manager.  There focus is to generate the leads for the dealership leveraging the Internet, the BDC Manager's role is to handle what happens with the lead after it's received.  It blows my mind that dealers spend thousands a year on their Internet presence, and yet don't realize that it requires energy to move it along.  Dealers that are doing very well with their Internet operations are because they aren't just throwing money at it.  They have people or a person whose putting energy into it, and are getting the results of their efforts.

Ralph..I agree 100% with your comment about the "microsites" 

Comment by Tony French on August 12, 2012 at 6:55am

We provide internet marketing services to many dealerships that have a Cobalt site. I see a trend of many of them getting rid of their second website and focusing 100% of their energy on the Cobalt site. I agree with Brian that the Cobalt site is not the site of old. If optimized effectively, it provides the flexibility needed to get great search results. Our dealers that are focusing their efforts and energy towards building out one powerful site are getting the best results.  

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