Automotive Digital Marketing

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The Dealers’ Web Site is their baby. Whether it is generating leads or attracting traffic or neither, it is what the Dealers believe to be #1 on the net. The majority of leads may be coming from third party sites or software, with the possibility that the consumer never links to the dealers’ actual www.

You can ask any dealer if they are using the internet, and they will tell you yes. Though to many, that means “yes, we have a website”. Unfortunately, there are still hundreds of cookie-cutter auto dealer websites that are nothing more than a presence on the internet. It’s just a newspaper ad to a potentially larger audience.

Regardless, this is what the dealers are most proud of as far as the internet goes. It is their child. It bears their name. Yet the majority of them are not up to the potential they should be.

Technology today offers instant and continual communication that many auto dealer websites or auto dealers in general, for that matter, seem to ignore. I may find interest in a vehicle on a dealer site that I have a question on. I must then find the ‘Contact Us’ page and submit my question to a generic email form that asks me first for all of my personal information, too much information. Not information that I probably wouldn’t give anyways, but too much that I want to bother over a simple question. Many times this leads me to ignore the question and move on (this is the websites’ source for lead gathering). I may fill out the information. Then I wait, possibly for days, for a response. That is of course, if I receive a response.

The scenario above is not at all unusual. As well, some dealers claim to have an Internet Dept. That dept. is a person who submits vehicles (more than likely though it is done through a data-feed) to a third party site and answers emails.

Looking at the two, we must first figure how the website can keep up with technology. How do we use the dealer website efficiently? How do we answer questions and more importantly, negotiate a vehicle sale in real time? The dealer website should not just be a presence. Not in today’s age. It should be a continuously active channel with data and information being exchanged and monitored at all possible moments.

· Negotiation Tools

· Simple Information Gathering

· On Line Text or Instant Messenger

· SMS/MMS text information

· Blackberry and Smartphone Contact information

· etc

Secondly, the Internet Dept. should be its own sales channel, not an extension of the New Car Dept or Used Car Dept. The Internet Dept should not gather leads to be dispersed to sales staff on the floor. Nor should it be a person or two who answers questions on the dealer website as well as maintains all third party sites, contacts leads, takes photos and emails event notifications. The Internet Dept. needs to be a structured force that dedicates itself to its position.

For example, eBay Motors, if used correctly, will be the largest lead gathering tool and could possibly be the dealers’ largest sales force. This should be a dedicated position.

As a last point, let’s look at the mindset. The dealer website states the dealership has been in business since 1947(for example). Franchise dealers should realize this is no longer 1947 or 1977 or even 1987. Business has changed from the outside though continues to stay the same on the inside. Independent dealers have struggled for years to compete against the franchise dealers. Many independent dealerships had no choice but to find a way to survive. With this struggle, many have taken on the internet and many have learned how to use it to their advantage. As many franchise dealers were/are struggling during the unfavorable economic times of recent, many independent dealers were pushing forward. With this head-start and know-how, these guys have learned and established most of the rules and standards. To play the game successfully, you too must move forward and leave some practices behind. You must learn the places to make your profits. If you want to continue making the big profit margins on the vehicle price, this game is not for you. Buyers have all the access to pricing that you have if they take the time to study it. Fair deals are the winner every time on vehicle pricing.

Almost every day, I stand in the show room of another dealership offering free consultation and a way for the dealer to gather qualified leads. Surprisingly I am often turned away or put on a back burner as I’m told “we’re too busy right now to do this”(as every salesperson sits quietly at their desk) or “I’m interested but the timing is no good”(because they’re struggling to make a buck the old fashioned way and refuse to invest in something different),or “My internet Dept has their hands full now” (the internet dept is probably moving three cars a month) and if they are doing so good that they’re too tied up to handle more business for you then you need to do one of two things…

a.)Get the salesman that’s at his desk reading the sports page to go help the internet dept.

b.)Re-evaluate your sales structure.

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