Automotive Digital Marketing

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Forgotten more than most have ever learned….

Before you get out the razor sharp pen and begin to craft your devastating critical comments about my title statement… Please let me clarify….


In fact, I am writing about a conversation with a Northern California Toyota dealer today in which he made a statement that went like this….

“After 34 years in the car business.. the amount of (expletive goes here) I have forgotten is staggering in comparison to what I currently know”…. In fact, he went on to compliment me along with an invitation to come back and visit with him sooner rather than later… His compliment was based upon my visit with his store in which we did an “Advanced Training”..

Every time I say that.. I get a crooked smile and an internal laugh showing through on my face… Somehow, I decided to call my trainings and store visits ”Advanced Trainings”. I think it fulfils an internal need to seem important or smarter than I actually am… There goes that laugh again!! You see.. I’m just not that smart… In fact, nothing about me is advanced.. I am just an ”Old School” car dealer… With my 44th birthday and 20 year Wedding Anniversary just around the corner… I have realized that while technology has carried dealers to incredible heights, it has also separated them from the very basics that in most cases… we all seemed to have forgotten and have generally kept us from attaining our sales goals…

Forget or forgotten are funny words, as I mention some of these forgotten traits, in my “Advanced Training”, people realize that they really never forgot them… they just don’t do them anymore… They have just been taxed by lower sales, less customers and cost reduction measures that have reduced staff and added countless hours to a typical dealers work load… Technology is supposed to increase our ability to do more work with less people while automating many of the day to day tasks.. The problem with technology is that is has no way to measure intent!!! whether it is a “reply all” email that takes on a life of its own (Trust me, I have been on the receiving end of plenty of these) or a search engine that somehow never knows I have 5 kids, a wife and 3 dogs when I type in Mazda Miata…. These very technologies have created roadblocks that dealers today need to overcome to get back to the ”Hay Days” of years past….

By the way, I don’t have 5 kids… Just one, a 15 year old going on 24 who has mastered the art of that “Give me money while I think you’re STUPID philosophy”… (Eyes roll or extreme exhale followed by silence goes here) Put that pen back away… My son is 10x the kid I was in school. 20x the athlete I was and is generally just a great responsible young man!! Probably wouldn’t hurt to mention he got his looks from his Mother!!

Back to my story before you doze off…

You see car dealers all agree that 82.54672% of their customers start their search on the internet… They all say the car business has changed but then grudgingly agree that it hasn’t.. Just the way a customer finds you has… yet these very car dealers who used to tell their stories in a full page paper ad or via really cool TV commercials (The Badger is by far the best!!) just take 6 to 12 pictures of used cars. No pictures of new cars.. They use description builders instead of custom comments and they somehow have determined that customers only come to our sites to get our contact info.. (Please call Bill or Mike for the best internet price)

CHILD PLEASE!!! (I stole this quote from Ochocinco) is my only response that would be printable here…

Customers come to our site because they are looking for information about what is important to them not what we think is important… We build our websites based upon what we like and fill it with carnival like advertisements that we think are important.. Not wanting to listen to what our customers are really seeking by visiting our sites. A quick study of your analytics will show you that several buttons on your home page basically never get clicked or when they do… the bounce rate is staggering…. The trick to today’s car business is real simple my friends..

Act Like a Customer!! We all are one!!

“Make” or “Take” the time to be a student of the game… If you really agree that a crazy high percentage of customers start their search on the internet.. why not put as much effort into your online customer experience as you do your post funnel business model.. The answer is simple… Most people just don’t know what to do.. when in fact they just FORGOT!! Here are a few ideas based around some areas of your dealership..

Dealership Facebook page:

A. It’s a social site.. Be Social.. Don’t spam your friends with inventory specials, they will get bored…

B. Ask your FBF’s to take a poll about your website and get them to give you ideas… If they do… Reward them with tons of cash or free services for the best ideas and comments…

C. Ask your FBF’s to ask their FBF’s to join the game and give them cash too!! Lord help us if we actually increase our friends on FB while increasing visits to our website. hmmmmmm

D. STOP TALKING or JUSTIFYING and LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY!! Perception is REALITY…. And their perception is all that counts!!

Vendor 3rd Party Classified Sites:

A. Go to actual site and act like a customer. Search, submit, shop and explore… Find your store, your cars and your comments!! See how many clicks and how long it takes.

B. While you’re there… CALL THE PHONE NUMBER!! See if anybody answers!! Ask your spouse or significant other to do the same and listen to what they say.. That’s right, LISTEN!!

C. Have your rep bring you lunch!! We all know you like to eat!!! while they are there, ask them to research your site and give you 3 things that you could do better to maximize their sites use.. Have them teach you those things and don’t ask them to do it for you!! Make them explain WHY!!

D. LISTEN to them!! They really do know what works best on their site.

F. Don’t change you’re store process for 1 site. You then effect all the others. They’re all different.

(Certified, AT, Cars eBay and your website).

Oh… I almost forgot!! BE A STUDENT OF THE GAME. (Ooops, already said that!!)

Remember… Most of us have forgotten… More than we currently know….

Take two steps back…. Before you make that Giant Leap forward!! Your momentum will carry you further with less effort.

Thanks and please send me your thoughts…



To read, vote and follow my other posts please check out my blog site.

I would really like to know what you think.



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Comment by Elaine Harper on April 5, 2010 at 10:07am
Outstanding insight! The only thing I would add, don't forget the customer service aspect is so much stronger than the bulldozing sales attack. I will take your advice on taking a FB poll to help improve our site. Thanks!

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Comment by Tobias Sedillos on April 1, 2010 at 3:07pm

Here's the best method I have found - and it is more of a culture, really.

1. Be nice to people - always; and work with integrity by doing what you say you're going to do. "No" is an easy word to understand - and for many questions we encounter, it is the truthful answer: so use it when it's appropriate, without hesitation.

2. Share with them the good info, and let them decide for themselves. They will appreciate you for this; and this is another component to being courteous and nice.

3. When they meet you in the workplace - they know what you do. If you followed rule #1, they will pass your name along to people they know you will help and take care of. They are confident in you - because you follow #1 & #2; and you can be confident in them - because youfollow rule #3. Make sure they know how much you care by remembering to stay in touch. Badgering doesn't do it - Sorry, but incessant phone calls, impersonal email blasts, and junk mail about promotions doesn't make them want to refer you - in fact it makes them remember not to. I use greeting cards ONLY for short and long term follow-up; because it forces me to be mindful of the recipient - not "me". The rule is simple: If it doesn't belong in a greeting card, then it shouldn't be said.

4. In regards to the internet - there are some sites that are made to promote products, and there are some that are there to let you participate and connect with others. Use them for what people expect and you won't disappoint - or ruin a valuable friendship.

5. Never ask for referrals - instead focus on earning them; and you'll get a lot more of them. I learned this from Jeffrey Gitomer, and you can take it to the bank as far as I am concerned: be nice & show your concern by looking out for them - they will recognize your sincerety. Let them see the solutions you offer, and they can decide for themselves. Appreciate them by remembering them - not just for doing business - but also for the opportunity to know them as a person and do future business. You can't forget somebody that makes sure you know you're unforgettable.

6. Develop your relationship building skills instead of your product knowledge. There's a good chance they know more than you, and why they want it - they just want to see if you're worthy of doing business with... and if you do things the way I have lined out here - the answer will be a resounding "YES"!

"The biggest and easiest opportunity in our line of work is in the one everybody else missed." Please, if you don't understand this - get in touch with me, and I will explain it to you!



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