Dealers have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to online marketing investments. One is knowing where to start.
So take the crawl-walk-run approach.
Crawl: Any dealer planning to make the commitment to market online should consider some these foundational:
- Basic dealer website.
- Manufacturer lead source.
- Used-vehicle lead source.
- Lead management tool.
An initial dealer website can be created by your manufacturer. Although they limit individual dealer branding, they let you display inventory and show up in search engines.
Most manufacturers are now in the lead generating business, either on their own website or in some form of lead aggregation from third party sources to provide leads to their dealer body. Sign up for these leads of usually good quality
Although manufacturers do a good job generating new leads, they usually do not help sell used vehicles. Dealers need to fend for themselves and establish a relationship with an online classified source.
Dealers should purchase a lead-management tool to manage and track purchased leads. It's worth the investment.
Walk: Do this when you are confident you've mastered the crawl phase. Dealers entering this next stage should recognize that every dollar spent on Internet marketing should have a return factor of at least five times. If you spend $1,000, you should seek a return of $5,000. This is pretty easy to achieve when you have a close rate on your leads in the 10% range.
Marketing elements to consider:
- Independent dealership website.
- Search engine marketing.
- Click to call.
An independent dealership website lets you create your own online brand. Many dealer groups do this with their own portal. Even single-point dealers benefit from an independent website so they can communicate what makes them unique.
Search-engine marketing (SEM) is the step above search-engine optimization (SEO), which I didn't mention earlier because every good website builder makes SEO part of their fundamental ingredients. SEM gives your dealership a leg up in the marketplace. Studies indicate 89% of auto shoppers use a search engine.
An e-newsletter keeps in touch with buyers and prospects long-term. It is a gentle method of building brand awareness. It essentially is like e-mailing your website to your database each month.
Click to call is wonderful technology that allows your website visitors to have the dealership call them when they are ready to talk.
Run: Dealers will know when they are ready to run phase, based on the metrics and the marketplace.
If you are closing at a rate above 10% consistently and you are becoming known as the place to buy online, you are ready to run with the following:
- Online chat.
- Video e-mails.
- Online auctions.
A dealership website has become “the showroom” to many consumers. Online chat allows sales teams to “walk the lot” with prospects and stimulate a dialogue. Many dealers find this an excellent method to start a dialogue with prospects.
Video e-mails are the best personalization tool available. Recent advances allow dealers to literally record a walk-around of vehicle of interest and then e-mail it to the interested party.
Online auctions are a bit complicated for the average dealer. First decide if you are going to use online auctions to retail or wholesale inventory. Then assign someone to specifically operate this function.
E-negotiation describes interesting technology that allows the dealer to offer back and forth negotiation very similar to a showroom negotiation. It is still in the beginning stages, but worth keeping an eye on.
David Kain is president of Kain Automotive Inc. He is at [email protected] 859-533-2626.