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Extinction? Scientists say the fossil record of bones indicates several sudden mass extinctions of life during the history of the earth, called "extinction events", possibly due to large meteor impacts. Even if that’s eventually determined to be wrong, I believe we are poised at a real extinction event for dealers who do not get aboard the Internet. 2011 will be the beginning of that.
And don’t think this is the “chicken little” cry you heard over ten years ago—it’s real, and you can see it today at our conferences: Who is there talking about “starting the Internet” and who is doing business ON the Internet NOW? Who is the dinosaur in threat of extinction and who is not?
The Internet is not something you write a check to someone about and say “Handle it!” It’s as fundamental to a dealership’s business now as any advertising and sales effort has ever been. As fundamental as the need for air. It cannot be ignored by any modern dealership, and it cannot be misunderstood by any modern dealership. At least, not dealerships that are ready for in 2011 for the fullest impact of the Internet on their business that they have ever seen.
Who will survive the Internet meteor? Who will succumb and be extinct? Really, which do you want to be? The survivors, of course.
How to survive? Get your website, online inventory, social media, online reputation, mobile website, and SEO/PPC modernized and in place. Get rid of as much newspaper as you can stand. For any direct mail, do targeted direct mail to the right customers ONLY. Get email blasts going for sales and service. Install the best CRM/Internet Lead Manager (CRM/ILM) that you can. Film and host short video testimonials from happy customers, as well as videos of your cars for sale. Focus on your fixed ops Internet presence, allowing customers to get online for appointments, status, and sales/offers. And learn to answer the PHONE the right way: Stop answering phone calls that cost you $2-300 to get with an $8-an-hour receptionist who answers/routes wrong, and if your sales staff is answering the sales calls then train them AND hold them accountable. And just give up that blue inflatable gorilla on your roof for good.
Otherwise, you’ll soon join the fossil record of dinosaur bones in the transportation retail business that already includes those who couldn’t understand the change that the telephone brought. Or print advertising. Or that the automobile was taking the place of the horse!
Bones are like that: Some scientist may dig them up and study them one day. Who knows. However, for now in 2011 it’s not too late to survive the Internet meteor. I have one word to help you with that: