Category Archives: General Internet Sales

Working with Women Car Buyers

I’m certain you’ve heard by now about countless studies indicating that women make and/or influence the majority of car-buying decisions. Yet, for many women, this authority still fails to translate into a pleasant shopping experience. Stop me if you’ve heard their concerns before:

[list:33kumf29] * I felt like I did not receive a fair price for the car I purchased.
* I felt like I did not receive a fair price for my trade-in.
* The salesperson made assumptions about or seemed to know the car I really should buy.
* I felt like the salesperson did not listen to me or answer my questions.[/list:u:33kumf29]
Speaking on my own behalf – and most likely a significant number of your customers and prospects – it’s time that women felt as welcome and comfortable in the showroom as do men – this is the 21st century after all. Along those lines, here are a few tips to help you work effectively with female car buyers and hopefully make the process more pleasant for both of you:

1. My eyes are over here. Some women feel they need support while shopping for a car or negotiating a deal, so they bring along a man they trust. Unless this person raises questions or makes comments you need to address directly, resist the temptation to focus your energy, attention – and eye contact – on this person. Beyond providing information about the car, this is the perfect time to establish credibility and rapport with me as a consumer along with building a case for why I should buy from you specifically.

2. Follow my lead. While I may, in fact, be in the market for a minivan, don’t assume you know a) the car I’m considering or b) the car I should consider. Like most car shoppers today, I’ve spent plenty of time online researching cars that I believe fit my needs and budget. If you feel you have a vehicle that may be a better match, I’d love to hear all about it – but only after I’ve had an opportunity tell you about my vehicle criteria and preferences. I’m open to other options, as long as my priorities are taken into account – and not your need to move aged inventory.

3. Show respect. As with most car buyers, this vehicle represents a large investment for me. I want to purchase the vehicle at a fair price and, if I have a trade-in, receive that vehicle’s fair value. I want you to listen to and answer my questions, providing accurate information and clarification when I request it. Please don’t assume I can’t drive a manual transmission, don’t understand towing capacities or know the difference between four-wheel and all-wheel drive.

Ultimately, the process of selling a car shouldn’t vary with gender. Whether the prospect is a man or a woman, your role is to help your customer find the right car in a professional sales environment. By incorporating this advice into your sales practices you stand to win not only the deal at hand but also the loyalty of your customer and the strength of her referrals.

Write Phone Scripts That Seal the Deal

There’s a good chance you’ve been in this situation before: A shopper changes her mind about the car she’s considering and prepares to leave your store, until you offer to show her another vehicle that you believe will meet her needs. She likes the car, agrees to a test drive and, afterward, seems interested in taking the next step — only she hasn’t had the opportunity to research this particular model or calculate the monthly payment. While you feel confident that you can address these questions, some shoppers prefer to negotiate only after they’ve done their own homework. So which will it be: Deal or no deal? In this month’s Tips & Techniques, find out how you can put the mobile web to work for you to turn this undecided shopper into a sale.

Thanks to the growing popularity of the mobile web, undecided shoppers no longer need to leave your lot to do their homework. With any web-enabled mobile device, such as a cell phone, shoppers can now access mobile versions of sites such as Cars.com to read reviews, calculate payments and research Kelley Blue Book used-car values. By directing shoppers to online information sites they know and trust, you can build potential buyers’ confidence and help them get the information they feel they need before signing on the dotted line. Here’s how to turn your cell phone into a powerful closing tool:

[list:18njfj0y]– Save shoppers a trip: When a shopper gets ready to leave your lot stating his or her need to go home and do more research, offer to save the customer the trip. Let shoppers know they can do more research right from their phone if they subscribe to a mobile web service. (A growing number of consumers subscribe to such services. In fact, 71 percent of all cell phones in the United States are web-enabled, and 41 percent of U.S. consumers already use their cell phones to surf the web).

Direct shoppers to Cars.com mobile, where they can gather all the information they need to make a purchase decision. If the shopper doesn’t have mobile web access, you may also consider offering internet access from a kiosk in your dealership.

– Use mobile pricing data to your advantage: Consumers trust online vehicle pricing data such as Kelley Blue Book. In many cases, these values exceed the pricing of cars on your lot. Assuming your vehicles are priced at or below Kelley Blue Book, direct consumers to online applications so they can see for themselves that they are getting a fair deal. [/list:u:18njfj0y]
As more car shoppers turn to the mobile web for vehicle information, this trend will bring more opportunities for your dealership to connect with quality, in-market buyers. In addition to using such applications as a closing tool to build confidence with shoppers on the lot, you must also take steps to ensure you don’t turn off mobile shoppers. The experts at Cars.com recommend the following to ensure you’ll be successful with mobile automotive researchers:

[list:18njfj0y]– Keep it fresh: With access to your online inventory right from their phones, shoppers can find the car they want and click to call you for more details, perhaps while on route to your store. Few things will upset these shoppers more than to find out that the car they are inquiring about is no longer available. In the mobile age, it’s critical to keep your inventory fresh.

– Be consistent: With online access in hand, it’s essential that details such as price and mileage are consistently presented to shoppers, online and off. Imagine a consumer accessing an online listing from his or her mobile phone while standing on your lot and seeing a different price and a different reading on the odometer than what was advertised. It can damage your credibility and your opportunity to earn the business.[/list:u:18njfj0y]
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Written by Cars.com

Your Internet Success Plan

How many of you like to fail? I will assume that no one raised their hand… that’s what usually happens when I ask that question to a group of highly successful salespeople. Now, please think of anything you have attempted to do, that was new and complicated, that you were successful at the very first time you tried it… walking, talking, hitting a baseball, skiing, selling a car… anything. And even now, with experience and skills, isn’t it true that when you receive an Internet lead, you fail far more frequently than you succeed?

What I want you to do is to embrace failure, manage failure and finally succeed through failure. I want you to accept the fact that most of the people who contact you using the Internet will NOT buy a car from you. That’s okay… most of them don’t need to buy a car from you in order for you to be successful. The truth is I want you to fail. I want you to fail in order to achieve your goal. I want you to fail to achieve your goal 40% of the time, four separate times and you will be successful.

Let me explain. Selling a car through the Internet is no different than anything else; there is a process involved. When you first learned to sell cars, you probably learned the 10 or 12 steps to a sale that began with the Meet and Greet and ended with the Delivery. The same applies with the Internet, except there are only four steps, once you have received a lead.

Step One is contact – that means that using any means available, you achieve two-way communication with your clients. Step Two is to set an appointment to visit the dealership. Step Three is to do all in your power to assure that the client shows up for their appointment. Step Four is to sell the car, probably using most of the 10 or 12 steps to a sale that you first learned when you started your car-selling career.

When I stated earlier that I wanted you to fail at these four steps, I was serious… I want you to fail 40% of the time, four different times. Of course, that means that I want you to be successful 60% of the time! And that will get you to where you want to be.

Step One: Contact.
When I stated that you must use every means possible to establish contact, it is because this may be the most difficult of the four steps in which to achieve a 60% success rate. As you already know, there is a phenomenon in Internet Automotive Sales where the customer clicks ‘send’ on their lead information form, from whichever source they are using to send a lead and then they immediately go on a vacation to MARS! You reply by email, hopefully within less than 30 minutes and there is no reply. If you rely on email alone, you may never reach this buyer. You need to send an email that means something to the buyer (more on that later) as soon as is humanly possible. Then you need to follow that up immediately with a phone call. Then you need to send another, different email with content that is also worthwhile to the buyer. You need to vary the time of day that you call and you need to keep calling and emailing until you get a reply… not so frequently that it becomes obnoxious, but frequent enough to be called ‘persistent’.

Step Two: Set an appointment.
Why would anyone be willing to set an appointment to visit a car dealership? Simple… because the dealership has something that they want. And I am not only speaking of the car or truck… with a few exceptions they can get one of those almost anywhere. What I am talking about is that not only does the dealership with which they are willing to make an appointment have the vehicle that they are interested in, they also offer something more. You decide what that ‘something more’ is. Is it the best price, the best service, the best selection? IS IT YOU? The buyer has to have a good and valid reason to set aside time in their lives to visit a dealership. I call it… “theygottawannameetya”. The buyer has see value to them of coming down to the dealership and meeting with you, or someone else, and it has to be compelling enough to overcome whatever is holding them back.

Step Three: The buyer shows up for the appointment.
While this seems to be the simplest part of the equation, believe it or not, it is a very common point of failure for a LOT of salespeople. I mean, after all, in order to get a 100% appointment show rate, all that has to happen is that the buyer does what they said they would do in the first place. So why is this so difficult… who knows. Perhaps they set the appointment just to get you off the phone. Maybe something came up. Maybe they stopped by a competitor on the way to you. Lots of things happen. You need to do all you can to be certain that it happens with 40% of your appointments and no more. This includes sending a separate email, after the appointment is made, with turn-by-turn directions to the dealership. It means that a manager from the dealership calls to confirm the appointment either the day of the appointment or the day before they are scheduled to arrive.

Step Four: Sell the car.
This is the easy part… the ‘no-brainer’. Of the people that send Internet leads, most of you currently sell 50-60% of those that show up at the dealership.

So… those are the steps. I want you to fail 40% of the time in each one of those steps. If you receive 100 leads in a month and 40% disappear with no further contact, it means you will talk to 60 buyers. And, if 40% of them refuse to set aside time to visit the dealership, then you will have 36 appointments. If 40% of those people fail to show up for their appointments, then you will have 21 buyers arrive at your dealership. And you are probably selling 60% of those who show up so you will have a 13% close ratio.

If you aren’t currently closing 13% of your Internet leads, figure out which step is weak and work on that one. If you are selling 13% or more, then you should be looking for ways of getting even more leads than you currently are, because you are already very successful and you need to make more money than you are now!
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Written by Paul Rogers

Your Offline Message Versus Your Online Presence

Your Offline Message Versus Your Online Presence: How Do They Measure Up?

You have done a lot of work on your showroom. Dealerships have gone green, become involved in the community, developed excellent standards, as well as created mission statements and lived by them. The question is: With 90 percent of car shoppers starting their search online, how well are you displaying your hard work in that space?

Your message needs to be catchy, consistent, and comprehensive as well as competent and customer-oriented. Make sure your slogan/mission statement truly reflects your dealership…specifically. You want a message that is specific to you. That message has to also reflect your value to the consumer and touch the major points on which you pride yourself. Then, make sure it’s online.

According to the sales funnel, in order for a sale to take place, both awareness and familiarity must be created in the mind of the consumer. This implies your potential consumer must experience multiple impressions from your dealership. In the past this has been done through television and print advertising. Your television advertising builds awareness, while the repetition of your ads in print and radio breed familiarity; the Internet, however, has proven itself capable of spanning the entire sales funnel! This won’t work to your advantage until you’ve infiltrated the Web.

You have to use the Internet if you want to benefit from it. This means you should have plenty of online advertising and a good looking Website to direct that advertising to. You should be just as detail oriented with your Website as you are with your dealership. Make sure your Internet efforts are well managed and never forgotten or left behind. How much more effective will your impressions be if they all repeat your branding?

In other words, brand consistency, coupled with awareness and familiarity shouldn’t stop inside of your dealership. Make sure your Website reflects who you are with offline accuracy.

One often overlooked way to increase your online brand consistency is to make sure your email address reflects your Website. Rather than JoeDealer@yahoo.com, your email should be Joe@Joedealer.com. This pushes your consumers to your Website and strengthens the name of your dealership at the same time.

The look and feel of your Website should match the look and feel of your dealership. Do you have a brand new beautiful showroom? Good for you, it’s important to display your goods in their best light. You want to create the “Wow!” factor. Your Website should inspire that same “Wow!” Remember, your Website is probably the first glimpse consumers will have of your dealership. They will never reach your beautiful showroom if they’re not impressed by your Website. If you have an old broken down Website, many consumers will pass you by without even realizing you’re the same dealership they just saw on TV. All the impressions you make on the consumer should clearly state your brand, online and off.

I have made this illustration in the past, but it still rings true today. When everything you do screams “Your Dealership,” your leads and ROI increase. Think of your dealership as a rope tied to your consumers. If your rope has only one strand, you don’t have much pull. The more strands in your rope (i.e. the more consistent your message is) the stronger your pull.
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Aimee Romero is the marketing writer and analyst for Dealerskins. She can be reached at 877-707-5467 or email aimee@dealerskins.com.

When the “Best Price” May Not Be

The best approach In-person meeting proves the best forum for sales negotiations

“Do you still have it? What is your best price?” Sound familiar? Chances are, you receive countless emails from used car shoppers like this every day. How you handle the pricing question can make the difference between a successful negotiation and a lost customer.

While the answer to the first question merits a “yes” or “no,” how to respond to the second is not always obvious. As we discussed in the May issue of dealeradvantage, car shoppers hold strong perceptions about price. If the figure is too high, they think they will not get a good deal; too low, and something must be wrong with the vehicle.

By the way, the answer to the first question should never be a flat “no.” Be sure to provide information about a similar vehicle that is available, or ask if the car shopper might be interested in alternatives. Given that 61 percent of Cars.com shoppers who contact a seller will purchase a vehicle1, the extra effort might be rewarded with a sale.

At this stage, the car shopper likely has not provided any information about his or her requirements or timeframe for making a purchase. To create an opportunity to learn more about the shopper’s needs and to sell the value of the vehicle under consideration, continue the qualification process just as though the person were in the showroom and be sure to schedule a test drive. After all, a car shopper may get interested in a vehicle that they see online, but they fall in love with one that they have test-driven.

Here’s an excellent sample response developed by a successful Cars.com dealer:

[list:2xtcdzje]Dear [Car Shopper Name],

Thank you for your interest in the [Vehicle Year, Model] we have advertised for sale at [Dealership Name]. The Internet pricing for that vehicle is [Advertised Price]. I will be calling you shortly to discuss all of the information you requested.

Best regards,

[Name]
[Dealership Name, Address, Phone Number][/list:u:2xtcdzje]

Providing the “best price” eliminates the basis for a productive conversation going forward. Unless the car shopper insists on the best price in a follow-up email, the best approach is to save negotiations for an in-person meeting. If you cannot reach the car shopper via the telephone within 24 hours, you must provide a best price in an email or risk losing a shopper to another dealership.

1 Experian Automotive, Auto Leads Analysis, September 2004 – August 2005
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Written by Ralph Ebersole @ Cars.com

Why Didn’t They Buy That Car from Your Dealership?

We all know that statistic that says up to 80% of people who raise their hands (submit an inquiry) will buy within eighteen months. But, on average, 45% of our leads don’t convert. So, if they actually bought a new car, why didn’t they buy it from you?

Yes, this is a trick question. Because you’re probably sitting there listing all the reasons YOU think they didn’t buy. Things like:

[list:1p5kp49i]- the price was too high – but they won’t find a better deal elsewhere
– there was no car that was going to satisfy that guy
– her credit was shot
– we didn’t have the right model
– they just couldn’t pull the trigger
– he wanted a payment plan nobody was going to give him
– at the last minute they just flipped out – go figure[/list:u:1p5kp49i]
Okay, now ask yourself how you know that’s really what happened.

Buying a car is an emotional experience and a big investment choice for most people. Even if they take the attitude that they’re negotiating a monthly payment rather than the total vehicle cost, they’re still making a long-term financial commitment. Which a lot of times is not rational.

You need to find out why they didn’t buy. The outwardly visible reasons a salesperson may see or interpret may have no bearing on the catalyst for their decision not to buy. All those reasons above most likely have some basis in fact, based on exhibited behavior, but unless you know for sure, you won’t be able to stop the cycle from happening—or to make the adjustments in your sales process that impact closing ratios.

Insight—and hindsight—is everything when adjusting your processes and strategies. So you need to go get the information. Send them a survey and try to learn what really happened from their perspective.

Everyone won’t fill them out, but if you get a 5% return from everyone who passes through your dealership, you’ll have a lot of information to go on. Use email and direct mail to give them the option that is easiest for them.

But, here’s the trick. You have to go beyond the questions that basic customer satisfaction surveys ask to get to the heart of the matter.

This means that just seeing an "unsatisfied" check box about their experience at your dealership doesn’t give you any insight. You need to know why.

Think about what kinds of insights you want to learn about. Limit the survey to 5 – 7 questions so it doesn’t seem overwhelming. And make sure the questions are designed to actually help you learn something you can use to improve the customer experience. Like:

[list:1p5kp49i]- At what point during their visit with you they decided not to buy?
– What happened?
– How would you have liked to see us handle that situation?
– Could we have done something that could have changed the outcome?
– How can we make you feel more comfortable buying from us in the future?[/list:u:1p5kp49i]
You can give them some options to check off, but also invite open text answers so they can really tell you. We all get surveys that have us rate a completed purchase—probably because we’re now customers. How many times does anyone ask you why you didn’t buy from them?

One final thing. If you’re going to ask, then you have to listen. And, you have to show them you’re listening by taking action inspired by their comments. It would also be a nice touch to say thank you. In fact, send the survey within a thank you card. That might just get them to fill it out.
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Written on dealerrevenue.com

Winning the Online Game in a Down Market

Your ISM’s are sitting on go. Your process is perfect. Leads are responded to within minutes via email and phone, easy to do you are not getting many. You and your sales people realize that customers are shopping online before they get to the store. You already know how to handle the customer that has the KBB print out in their hand on how much their trade is worth, just not as many of them walking through the door.

Every time your cell phone rings from friends in the industry you are trying to guess who is closing next or what other bad news they are delivering. You may even have some pools running on it. Your marketing expenses are cut to the bone because people are not buying cars and you are wondering how much longer you will even hang on.

You have two dozen deals sitting in finance that you would of spotted six moths ago. Paralysis is starting to kick in and all you can think about is what can we do to attract more customers TODAY!! You have the team in place and the inventory just no tire kickers or leads.

The facts are you have two types of buyer in a market like this. Need buyers, the projects in F&I, and people who really don’t care how bad things are economically, decent income retirees, civil servants and rich people. The big fat middle is not buying anything….

If you are reading this it should not matter to you!!!

You can easily capture today’s in market car buyers and the buyers who will be in the market when things start recovering, like they always do, by building your Internet presence today. Chances are you found this page because you are looking for way to improve your business today and in market car buyers will find you if you put it out there for them to notice you. If you have read this far you have noticed me, did I do a decent marketing job?

While your competition is sitting back worrying and your staff is pissing and moaning about how bad things are what are you doing to generate traffic to your inventory and your unique selling proposition, if you don’t have one why not?

Cars are widgets, customers know that, they don’t believe the adds 40% off MSRP and below invoice. Employee pricing means nothing to them if they are 8 K buried in a SUV that gets 14 MPG. You are not solving their problems and creating yourself one.

You can win in this down market!!

Make the web your marketing friend not a nemesis you do not understand. Process and used car descriptions is not Internet marketing. That is sales. The Internet is a marketing tool that creates sales. To win in the Internet game with any widget you need:

Traffic > Leads > Follow Up> in car lingo Tire Kickers > Interested in Buying > Chase ‘em ’til they buy or die.

Massive traffic gets massive leads which give you warm bodies to follow up with. The ends of the equation are the only two you have control over. You can create traffic and manage the follow up, if you get enough traffic the leads will be there.

Create traffic where none existed before

Become a problem solver, today’s buyers have problems solve them and make it easy for them to find your solution. While your competition is worrying about all of the crap this post started with, you will worry about how to attract more traffic.

You can generate traffic on your competitions makes and brands, competing market areas, perfect conversion tools and brand yourself online with people not in the market today or you sit back and create processes with without leads to run through them.

Internet marketing is not setting up a BDC and having a website, they are just a part of the equation. It is not about launching dozens of dealer micro sites, with no real purpose, shady video search engine optimization, creating blogs with keyword stuffed content, buying leads, spamming social networks and email databases.

It is finding customers who want what you have, want to do business with you and you solving their problems. You can do that faster, with less expense and more effectively with a well planned Internet marketing plan that you can any day by using spaghetti marketing through traditional media. (Traditional Media is a bad term to use. The web is today’s traditional media)

Execute this now and reap the benefits today and create a base that your competition will never catch when cycles do as they always do, turn for the better….
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Written by Paul Rushing
912-266-1629
http://www.drivingsales.com
projects@parushing.com
http://www.ismintraining.com

Without Traffic Everything Fails

You can have the best trained certified staff, excellent process, the ideal inventory and all the lenders in the world, a high converting website and barely move metal because you rely solely on antiquated media to drive prospects to your dealership and online property.

On the other side of the coin you could be using an old (insert website vendor name) site, not really work your leads that hard, rely on customers to secure their own financing and move more cars than those in the first example because you make it easy for people to find you and your staff online.

The key difference is you have traffic and understand that without traffic EVERYTHING fails.

Online traffic comes in many forms and using only one method to generate it is limiting, like buying the back page of the phone book as your only advertising source. Just as you use many methods to deliver your message using antiquated methods of advertising, (print, radio, television, billboards, grocery store benches, you get the picture) you should explore all methods of generating online traffic.

It is not just about dealership website traffic, that is just one aspect of online traffic, even though in my opinion you should take care of home first and all online traffic generation sources should point back to your main website.

You must have a dealership website where all online roads end, even without all of the other necessities. A high dollar ILM/CRM, 200 tracking numbers, process training, email templates, phone scripts, online sales training, a huge properly priced inventory and the best converting website in the world are worthless without traffic.

There are many ways to generate online traffic for car dealerships:

Highest cost online traffic generation sources:

[list:39f7pdqd]- Type in Traffic – Radio, television and print website mentions. Targeted customers are not using these methods to find cars on the web, however you can and should use these methods to brand your stores web address if you are still relying heavily on these mediums.

– Search Engine Marketing (SEM) / Pay Per Click (PPC) – While the cost of using this form of traffic generation is dropping in today’s economy it still is one of the most expensive ways to drive traffic to your stores website. While cost per click can be reduced with proper keyword research the offset to obtain these lower click cost is finding the proper long tails to target. You either have to find someone who will invest the time in your market to find these gems, cheap clicks, or use broad matching, expensive clicks, one offsets the other in the near term. Over the long term having a huge keyword base to work from with proper A/B testing, which generates more traffic and higher conversions at lower cost, improves ROI. Often used as a band aid for a poorly search engine optimized site or instant traffic for a fresh website.

– High Cost Used Car Classified Providers – They can and will provide more than one type of online traffic. Leads and phone calls directly from the source and referral traffic to your website. You may even experience walk in traffic from these sources, rarely properly tracked. Unless you have a large inventory or the right cars your ROI will probably be dismal.

– Purchased leads – While they do not normally generate traffic to your website without follow up they do provide instant online traffic. [/list:u:39f7pdqd]
The leads are generated on another online property so they qualify as online traffic. ROI fluctuates from provider to provider and your process is critical in making the most of them.

Medium Cost Online Traffic Sources

Almost all of these traffic sources can be executed in house if you have the right people in place. For dealers to try to execute these strategies in house they need to be prepared. A person who is paid only on sales, theirs or a departments, it places too many hats on their head and to hire someone who will perform these services properly from the store will require the dealer to write bigger checks as salary than most are comfortable with. Where as having someone manage it for them is cheaper and more cost effective.

[list:39f7pdqd]- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – This is free traffic from the search engines if your site has intelligent design, regularly updated content and a proper linking strategy on site and off. A good SEO will continually study their art. With the search engines continually changing algorithms and ranking criteria it is an ongoing process. While winning some basic terms such as your store name and brand and market area is a good start it is just the beginning of a well optimized site.

– Dealer Micro Sites and Landing Pages – Having other properties to generate leads and referral traffic to your main website can effectively lead to huge online presence and make it impossible for online shoppers to not find you via the search engines. You can promote them just as you would a main online property and therein lie many points of debate on top of fair cost, value and diluted branding issues. They have huge value if executed properly.

– Intelligent Email Marketing – Reworking your database of leads and customers is a great traffic generation tool and does not really require outside vendors to execute, but does require software applications, usually leased, and can also open up legal issues if not properly executed. The legal aspects and bad publicity that a poor email campaign can generate is an area that is not well documented in the auto industry. I get spammed from vendors who sell these solutions to car dealers. Mass email marketing via rented lists is not intelligent email marketing if you do not understand the ramifications. Today I was approached from a vendor who offers these services and was interested in digging deeper into their product for my clients until they claimed 100% delivery rate. When you hear this from a vendor, compliance is not a concern and they are lying.

– Banner advertising buys – Almost all classified providers, local papers with websites, television stations, radio stations and local interest sites offer banner advertising at varying rates. The click through on banner advertising can vary from nil to around 5% depending on how targeted the traffic is. A banner on a car portal that caters to people looking for cars will be higher than people reading the obituary on your local papers website, which provides long term branding. You have to determine the real mission of the banner, the cost of the creative, market prices and the CPM (Cost Per 1,000 impressions) to make a judgment call on the value. [/list:u:39f7pdqd]
Free or extremely low cost online traffic sources

All of these items listed below can deliver traffic and SEO benefit to your main website. Some require a lot of work to effectively use them and there are companies and individuals that can help you start leveraging them versus managing it in house.

[list:39f7pdqd]- Directories – Some are very low cost and most are free. You have local directories, search engine directories, local search directories, yellow page directories, car dealer directories and general web directories. Directory submissions to the major search engine directories is crucial.

– Free Classified Vendors – Many of your inventory solution providers post to various free classified sites like vast.com. Many have applications that allow posting to places like craigslist.org and backpage.com but it is very time consuming. I just started a service that gets car dealer inventory on craigslist and the traffic stats that have been seen so far exceed traffic from major classified vendors in leads and refferal traffic.

– Blogging – There are many free services that will allow you to set up a blog. Blogger and WordPress are two. You can set up a self hosted blog for less than $100 a year and you set your own terms of service. A much better option than using free blogs for car dealers. If any of your employees or vendors blog get them to link to you.
User Generated Content – You can get traffic from hundreds of sites that allow you to create pages on them. They also provide huge SEO benefit. I love Squidoo.com

– Social Networking Sites – Does your dealership have a facebook group, do your sales people connect with customers on linkedin and plaxo, do you have a myspace page, have you checked out vox (blog and social network)? You could also start your own dealership social network for your customers and dealership personel to interact, I have not seen a good example of this yet.

– Social Media – Using it to promote a dealership website may do more harm than good but they are great for landuring links to your main online marketing properties. (A story for another day) Subscribe to my blog to make sure you do not miss it.

– Forums – Visit and contribute to forums where your customers go. Local forums, brand forums, enthusist forums, if you are daring create your own. Also local forums may be good place to buy cheap banner advertising. Make sure you make use of your forum signature with links to your website.

– Links from suppliers – Most OEM’s and inventory providers have portal sites that will link back to you but think beyond that. Does your dent repair vendor, cleaning company, Chamber of Commerce, local BBB, Radio Station or anyone you do business have a website? This will provide traffic and SEO benefit.

– More than one store – If you have more than one store you should have a group portal and create an intelligent linking scheme among all of the stores websites.

– Free or Cheap OEM Sites – Most OEMs give dealers free sites or very low cost sites for their dealers. I have not found one yet that will not allow you to point your own domain to it. For example if you are a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep 5 Star Dealer you actually get four free sites from Chrysler that you can point domains to. Don’t ignore these free or low cost properties and brand them fully with custom top level domains, content and links back to your other site(s). [/list:u:39f7pdqd]
Having the tools in place for when the traffic arrives is noble. Having the traffic then deciding which tools you need is better. It is a matter of prioritizing your online marketing efforts then tweaking and adjusting to acheive maximum ROI. The return on investment for a whiz bang website, high end crm and process are ZERO if you have no traffic
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Written by Paul Rushing
912-266-1629
http://www.ismintraining.com

What Car Buyers Want

Timely, Accurate Response to Internet Inquiries Helps Win the Sale

When you receive a new-car inquiry from an online prospect, do you provide a quick, quality response that addresses the customer’s request? Terrific. The problem for car buyers — and the opportunity for you — is that many of your competitors do not. A high percentage of new-car lead senders participating in a recent Cars.com survey reported dissatisfaction with dealer follow-through. In many cases, these consumers say they received no answer or a reply that contained inaccurate or incomplete information. As a result, these ready-to-buy shoppers tell us that they took their business elsewhere, rewarding it to dealers who invested the time to provide a quote and help them find the right car. We know that the majority of quote requestors will buy a vehicle from someone; that someone could be you.

Consider Customers’ Concerns
No response. No price. No follow-up. And, ultimately, no sale.

Time and again, we heard these complaints from car buyers about their experience submitting a new-car quote request online. Although they spent a fair amount of time configuring the car they wanted, the responding dealers often sent little more than an automated email with a phone number for the customer to call. In essence, the study revealed that while the process worked smoothly for many shoppers, a significant amount of business was being left on the table.

Representative comments include:

[list:13ur0c4n]“I never was contacted by a sales rep. Incredible.”[/list:u:13ur0c4n]

Dealers with the highest close rates tell us that they respond to internet inquiries within an hour of receiving them. This initial email typically acknowledges receipt of the shopper’s request, provides information about the relevant car and commits to a telephone follow-up within the next several minutes. The purpose of the call is to confirm the customer received the email and to quickly review the details of the vehicle in which the shopper is interested. Unless the prospect wants to proceed with a purchase at this point, the best approach is to focus on answering any questions the person has rather than attempting to move the merchandise.

That isn’t to say you can’t sell the appointment or promote the dealership. In fact, this initial conversation is an ideal time to ease the buyer’s transition from the internet to your store. Begin by explaining how your sales process works and outline the next logical steps — which ultimately should include a test drive. Conclude with an agreement on how you will communicate going forward.

Do not underestimate the importance of this outreach. Among car buyers, more than one-fourth* cited a timely response as a motivating factor in contacting the dealer in the first place.

[list:13ur0c4n]“They tried to sell me a car that did not meet what I asked for.”[/list:u:13ur0c4n]

This approach, as you might imagine, falls flat with customers. Among car buyers, 27 percent* say the availability of the "exact vehicle that I want" led them to submit a lead through an online configurator or price request form.

That isn’t to say you can’t be creative in merchandising your inventory. To increase the likelihood of a sale, successful dealers tell us they offer information on three cars: the new car in which the prospect is interested and a similar certified used and a used vehicle if they are available. Suggesting these alternatives establishes a basis for a conversation going forward and provides the customer with options should payments or financing unexpectedly become an issue. Presenting these choices also demonstrates to prospects that you are interested in helping them find the right car rather than landing a quick sale.

[list:13ur0c4n]“Several dealerships … refused to give quotes over the phone/online and will only give price information once you are in the store. This defeats the purpose of the online quote request process.”[/list:u:13ur0c4n]

Some dealers prefer not to include pricing in this email; others include MSRP or a price range for the model selected. Some dealers offer their bottom-line, out-the-door price to encourage prospects to buy now. While each tactic has its merits, you must provide a price if the customer doesn’t answer your response within 24 hours. Rather than preventing the prospect from shopping the competition, failing to provide a price often backfires and motivates the customer to find out what other dealers have to offer.

Dealers who utilize these strategies recognize that the sales process begins when a car buyer takes an interest in their listings. The customer has identified a vehicle he or she believes to be appropriate and is looking for professional guidance. By using online configuration and quote request tools, they’re signaling to you a fear of the process that you can easily address and then use to your advantage. While many dealers perceive that these shoppers are only looking for the lowest price, the shoppers themselves say they are simply looking for a dealer they can trust and who will offer them a fair price.

In other words, the dealer who appropriately responds to the inquiry and works with shoppers will likely land the sale. Not only do you establish the level of credibility against which your competitors are now judged, but the value you add to the process and the vehicle often translates into higher gross and a favorable consumer experience that opens the door to repeat and referral business.

* JupiterResearch, U.S. Automotive Consumer Survey, 2007
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Written by Dealer ADvantage and Cars.com

What Car Buyers Want

Timely, Accurate Response to Internet Inquiries Helps Win the Sale

When you receive a new-car inquiry from an online prospect, do you provide a quick, quality response that addresses the customer’s request? Terrific. The problem for car buyers — and the opportunity for you — is that many of your competitors do not. A high percentage of new-car lead senders participating in a recent Cars.com survey reported dissatisfaction with dealer follow-through. In many cases, these consumers say they received no answer or a reply that contained inaccurate or incomplete information. As a result, these ready-to-buy shoppers tell us that they took their business elsewhere, rewarding it to dealers who invested the time to provide a quote and help them find the right car. We know that the majority of quote requestors will buy a vehicle from someone; that someone could be you.

Consider Customers’ Concerns
No response. No price. No follow-up. And, ultimately, no sale.

Time and again, we heard these complaints from car buyers about their experience submitting a new-car quote request online. Although they spent a fair amount of time configuring the car they wanted, the responding dealers often sent little more than an automated email with a phone number for the customer to call. In essence, the study revealed that while the process worked smoothly for many shoppers, a significant amount of business was being left on the table.

Representative comments include:

“I never was contacted by a sales rep. Incredible.”

Dealers with the highest close rates tell us that they respond to internet inquiries within an hour of receiving them. This initial email typically acknowledges receipt of the shopper’s request, provides information about the relevant car and commits to a telephone follow-up within the next several minutes. The purpose of the call is to confirm the customer received the email and to quickly review the details of the vehicle in which the shopper is interested. Unless the prospect wants to proceed with a purchase at this point, the best approach is to focus on answering any questions the person has rather than attempting to move the merchandise.

That isn’t to say you can’t sell the appointment or promote the dealership. In fact, this initial conversation is an ideal time to ease the buyer’s transition from the internet to your store. Begin by explaining how your sales process works and outline the next logical steps — which ultimately should include a test drive. Conclude with an agreement on how you will communicate going forward.

Do not underestimate the importance of this outreach. Among car buyers, more than one-fourth* cited a timely response as a motivating factor in contacting the dealer in the first place.

“They tried to sell me a car that did not meet what I asked for.”

This approach, as you might imagine, falls flat with customers. Among car buyers, 27 percent* say the availability of the “exact vehicle that I want” led them to submit a lead through an online configurator or price request form.

That isn’t to say you can’t be creative in merchandising your inventory. To increase the likelihood of a sale, successful dealers tell us they offer information on three cars: the new car in which the prospect is interested and a similar certified used and a used vehicle if they are available. Suggesting these alternatives establishes a basis for a conversation going forward and provides the customer with options should payments or financing unexpectedly become an issue. Presenting these choices also demonstrates to prospects that you are interested in helping them find the right car rather than landing a quick sale.

“Several dealerships … refused to give quotes over the phone/online and will only give price information once you are in the store. This defeats the purpose of the online quote request process.”

Some dealers prefer not to include pricing in this email; others include MSRP or a price range for the model selected. Some dealers offer their bottom-line, out-the-door price to encourage prospects to buy now. While each tactic has its merits, you must provide a price if the customer doesn’t answer your response within 24 hours. Rather than preventing the prospect from shopping the competition, failing to provide a price often backfires and motivates the customer to find out what other dealers have to offer.

Dealers who utilize these strategies recognize that the sales process begins when a car buyer takes an interest in their listings. The customer has identified a vehicle he or she believes to be appropriate and is looking for professional guidance. By using online configuration and quote request tools, they’re signaling to you a fear of the process that you can easily address and then use to your advantage. While many dealers perceive that these shoppers are only looking for the lowest price, the shoppers themselves say they are simply looking for a dealer they can trust and who will offer them a fair price.

In other words, the dealer who appropriately responds to the inquiry and works with shoppers will likely land the sale. Not only do you establish the level of credibility against which your competitors are now judged, but the value you add to the process and the vehicle often translates into higher gross and a favorable consumer experience that opens the door to repeat and referral business.

* JupiterResearch, U.S. Automotive Consumer Survey, 2007
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Written by Cars.com