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Extinction Event Sale!  Every Weekend in 2011!!  With some dealers, that’s the business they are in, and they don’t even know it.  And they need to adapt to instead survive!  Here’s what I mean:

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:


By Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

Views: 33

Tags: automotive, dinosaur, event, extinction, internet, marketing, ppc, sem, seo


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Comment by Keith Shetterly on March 11, 2011 at 9:44am
Thanks Ed.  That's one of the more thoughtful responses that I've seen here!
Comment by Ed Brooks on March 11, 2011 at 6:31am

Impressive post Keith (and I love the graphic!). The line that really caught my attention was, “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.” Never have truer words been spoken. The “Must-Do’s” you list are dead-on as well; shifting budgets from print to online, implementing CRM, becoming more targeted in advertising and more effective when that advertising generates a response.


Any time there is a major change in any business category, there will generally be two groups of folks; those who accept, and indeed embrace the change and those who fight it tooth and nail. I understand the urge to fight it. The car business has been great to many of us for years, for generations. There is a desire to “stick to what’s worked in the past”. A desire to say “the car business hasn’t changed – not really”. I’ll submit to you that the two groups aren’t just defined as those that accept & embrace and those that fight; they will also be defined as those that survive and thrive and those that perish.


I’d like to add to your “Must-Do” list. The item I’m adding is by far the hardest to accomplish. For a dealer to really embrace the internet there has to be a fundamental change in the dealership’s culture and philosophy.  A recognition that today’s customer comes in armed with more information than any auto customer in history and leaves with the power to make or break your business.


Until a few years ago pricing and traffic were unrelated. We could price our cars however we liked and so long as we ran a full page ad in the paper, had our front line looking sharp and enough air in the inflatable gorilla, we’d have traffic. With a sizeable mark-up on our cars we could afford to negotiate down and still walk away with a very respectable gross. So what happened? Our pricing and traffic are now tied together at the hip. When pricing goes up, traffic goes down. This is a fundamental change. There is very good news here for dealers that embrace the Internet. The same transparency that makes it very hard to price cars high and still generate also makes it very easy to justify your asking price and reduce or eliminate negotiation. The culture shift is to lower advertised prices, but also to lowered negotiated discounts once you get the customer in the door.


This is one way the empowerment of the customer affects dealers, another is what happens when they leave the store. They have the power to impact a dealer’s reputation today in ways they never had in the past. Reviews are getting more and more prominent online. Whether it’s Google, or, how your past customers feel about their experience will impact your ability to draw future customers to an extent that we’ve never had to deal with before. Now some dealers will try to fight this with “Reputation Management” but others will embrace it by actually putting processes in place to earn a good reputation. On average, who will get better reviews; a dealer that prices high and conducts an excruciating negotiation, or one that prices to market and then justifies the asking price with hard data?


Again Keith, great post and a great deal to think about. There will be winners and there will be losers. There will be those that thrive and those that don’t survive.

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