Category Archives: Technology and Social Media

Why Isn’t Your Dealership Using Social Media?

Although it’s become a bit of a “buzzword”, social media can be defined. It includes things like networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), forums, and blogs, and basically includes all web efforts in which a conversation is the main goal. It’s great because it’s typically low cost, and because it’s updated so often, these types of web pages typically rank well in SEO results. Using social media sites can help you build closer relationships to your potential customers and brand your dealership. The topic of using social media has been showing up a lot lately on automotive marketing blog posts, and the number of people involved continues to grow every day. It isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

So why don’t businesses, especially auto dealerships, use social media more often? According to 2008 MarketingSherpa’s Social Media Marketing and PR Benchmark Survey, it’s because of a lack of knowledgeable staff. In fact, 46% of organizations surveyed said they weren’t using social media because no one knew enough about these types of sites to do so.

What better way to learn than to do? Dive in to the social networks that you are thinking about using to promote your dealership. This will allow you to learn how they work as well as what features they offer, but most importantly, you’ll learn what the atmosphere is like. Different social media sites are geared toward different types of people and serve different purposes.

There is a lot of literature online about the best practices of social media, so get reading! Try searching online for keywords like “how to use social media” or “social media auto dealership” to find results. A lot of these search results will be social media sites themselves, like blogs and forums.

When you use social media correctly, it will help bring sales into your car dealership. Being knowledgeable about how to use it will allow you to decide whether or not it’s a right fit for your dealership. Ask your colleagues and your vendors, become a user of these sites yourself, and do your research online.
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Written by Chris Deringer

Why Video Is Now an Essential Part of Your Website

Harnessing new media to capture more business

Today I want to take a look at online video as part of a strong trend that’s going to have a lot of influence on which dealers rise to the top and which ones stay where they are.

By “trend,” obviously, I’m not talking about a fad – something that’s here one day and gone the next. There are definitely a lot of fads in the world of Internet technology, but video isn’t one of them. Consider these numbers:

According to Nielsen, last July 81 million US consumers watched online videos and other rich media on a regular basis. Today, that number is over 100 million. That’s a 25% increase in under a year.

Of course the percentages are biggest among younger consumers – the people who are going to be your customers now and into the future.

How is this going to affect your business? It’s simple: video is quickly moving from an exception to an expectation. Consumers see it everywhere they go online – except, perhaps, on your website – and they are beginning to expect it. Compare it to the rise of color TV. For a while, it was a curiosity, then a luxury – and then, all of a sudden, a necessity. B&W televisions were fine up to a point, and then they were obsolete.

And so it goes with your website. Without video, will your website still get traffic, generate leads, and sell cars? Of course, but to an ever-diminishing degree. A growing number of consumers are going to choose to do their research and shopping on sites that meet their expectations – that look and perform the way they expect a website to look and perform. That means sites that offer the excitement and information that only video can provide.

It’s not just a matter of being competitive with other dealers and their websites. Right now, third-party automotive websites are putting more money into video and other rich media that anyone else, and it’s paying off with more traffic, greater consumer engagement, and bigger profits.

Naturally, some of these third parties are your partners, and their success feeds your success. But that thinking will take you only so far. Your success in the near future will depend on your ability to compete with these third parties – to bring car buyers directly to your site and to keep them there. Dealers who find a way to do this – and video is going to be a huge part of it – will enjoy a lower cost per sale, higher margins, and higher close rates. Why? Because these dealers will be moving away from the volume game and up to a level where they’re developing their brand and selling not just a good car but a good overall experience.

The time to get rid of that old B&W set is here. Do it before the neighborhood kids don’t want to hang out at your house anymore!
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Written by Dean Evans
Chief Marketing Officer
Dealer.com.

What’s Wrong With Video?

Thoughts:

Do you have any old pictures from your childhood? Most of us do. Have you turned them into “videos”? Probably not. And the reason is because it wouldn’t really be a video would it? Taking still images and turning them into “videos” isn’t really the same thing as watching a home-movie, is it? Do you have pictures of a special vacation, a major sporting event, a concert or a unique event that means more to you than you can describe? You may also have a video from those events, but they’re two completely different visual experiences, aren’t they?

I think you can pick-up what I’m laying-down by now…you can’t turn still pictures into real videos. Maybe this is the reason why some of you haven’t seen the pay-off that you expected with the “photo-videos”. (I’m sure some of you are already thinking about your response to post on this article, especially if you’re a “video” vendor, but go with me on this for just a minute.)

Memory

If any of you remember the Arsenio Hall Show, you’ll remember a segment called, “Things That Make You Go, Hmm…” Well, here’s one of those for you; if taking still-pictures and turning them into “video” was as good as a real video…why don’t you see them all over YouTube? Why aren’t there tons of “photo-videos” panning-in and zooming-out on still images with a robotic voice on YouTube? I think you’ll agree that they would be lost on most any audience.

Get Real

I’m willing to step into the octagon (UFC reference for the fight fans) and say that most of what I see being sold as “video” today is not really helpful to Car Dealers looking for cutting-edge opportunities. The reason YouTube, Google Video, DailyMotion and others are so popular is based on personal, real footage. I’m not debating the fact that when a video is available, it will result in more clicks and more time spent on a website. I just wonder if consumers find them at all valuable. The same still images are usually on the same page for them to view.

No Question

Video is absolutely valuable today and will continue to be an area of growth for automotive websites. Although, based on this article it may not sound like it, I am a supporter of video usage on Car Dealer websites. I’m simply encouraging an alternative to most of what I see.

Recommendation

Make your own videos. It’s easy and you can get started with a tiny investment. Create your own YouTube channel or use other free resources that allow you to create code that you can embed on your own website or send via email to customers. Start a video testimonial page on your website or on your YouTube channel. I know a few dealers that are taking video into their own hands to provide great virtual experiences for their customers. Like most things when it comes to the automotive internet arena, there are right ways and wrong ways. The right way to succeed with video is to make it personal, creative, engaging, entertaining, captivating, convicting, honest and fun.

With encouragement and hope!
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Written by Shaun Raines
Dealer Advocate

What Experts Are Doing with Technology and the Internet

What Industry Executives and Dealers Are Doing with Technology and the Internet

Like it, love it or hate it, the Internet has changed the way automotive retailers operate their business. It’s changed the way they buy and sell their wholesale inventory. Consumers can “kick” the tires on your lot from 10, 100 or 10,000 miles away. If you have not, your competition has created Podcasts and YouTube videos to market their vehicles to consumers on the Web. You can order just about everything you need to run your store without ever having to pickup a phone. You’re living in a period of a rapidly evolving microchip revolution where changes happen quickly and those that do not adapt wither swiftly.

Shawn Richardson, owner,
Auto Credit Express
Oklahoma City, Okla.

Shawn Richardson, owner of Express Credit Auto in Oklahoma City, Okla., has three retail stores, which move 240-250 units a month. He uses the Internet extensively to drive traffic to the stores as well as his service center.

“We put our Web site, http://www.expresscreditauto.com on everything: license tag holders, stickers, pens, signage on the lot, TV ads, radio spots — everything.”

Richardson said he pays for “clicks” on both Yahoo! and with AT&T phone books. With a one-third or one-half page ad in the phone book, you get 300 paid for clicks on Yahoo!

He does not have any specific Internet sales people.

“I’ve been fortunate to have hired 15 sales people who used to work in call centers,” Richardson said. “All our people are trained on how to handle an Internet customer. They work the leads, gets the customer’s details about the vehicle they want, credit situation and set the appointment.”

The Web site features all the basic information about the dealership, details the warranty, explains financing requirements, and details company history. The site is very up-to-date. It allows visitors to view all current television spots in a quick download format and features a live chat feature.

“We get about 5-7 ‘chat’ ups every day,” Richardson said. “They have usually seen our TV ads and want to find out a little about us. We have the ability to control the sale earlier in the process. For instance, we can provide them details about the materials they will need to bring with them when the come to the store, and that speeds up the process.”

The Web site generates about 1,000 unique visitors and generates about 220 to 240 online credit applications a month. Richardson said the close rate on Internet leads is “weaker than I’d like it,” but he believes it’s a result of his pay plan more so than the quality of the lead.

“If I had to wade through all the numbers, I believe our closing ratio would be about 25 percent on the Internet leads,” he said. “We have a strong program, but I’m sure we can do better.”

As for marketing the Web site, it’s a simple matter of placing the Web site in front of the consumer as many times as he possible can.

“We have one of those vinyl lettering machines and we place the Web address in the car windows, on the glass of all the windows at every store,” he said.

He said he believes dealers need to explore Web site optimization, a feature which allows your dealership to move higher on search engines such as Yahoo!, Google and others.

“Typically it costs us between $100 and $300 per month and gets us as many leads as TV advertising,” Richardson said.

Dale Pollak, Chairman
vAuto Inc.
Chicago, IL

Dale Pollak, chairman of vAuto, Inc., a firm that provides live analysis of used vehicle markets, and author of a new book, “Velocity: From the Front Line to the Bottom Line,” said that digital technology has dramatically changed the way used vehicles are bought and sold.

“The Internet has created a more-efficient marketplace, meaning there is an equal knowledge of choices and alternatives between the buyer and seller,” said Pollak, a former dealer and used car expert.

This efficiency has been a great benefit to consumers who now have access to pricing and vehicle information that they did not just a few short years ago. If they could, retailers would choose to be a seller in an inefficient marketplace, where the knowledge deck is stacked in their favor. Those days, said Pollak, are gone forever.

Today consumers search the Internet for the vehicle they want, in their color and option preference and at their price point. Dealers anxiously wait in the show room for a lead, phone up or lot up, surrounded by scores of depreciating assets.

“This fundamental shift in the marketplace has befuddled many who do not understand the quantification of supply and demand and price sensitivity,” he said.

Pollak believes the market for used vehicles has become a commodities market thanks to the Internet. Despite what many dealers believe there are only small differences in most late-model used vehicles, and consumers have easy access to the choices and prices available to them.

Dealers who have come to understand this “fundamental shift” have been able to boost their profitability by turning inventory more quickly and by pricing their vehicles based on actual market value. To improve inventory turn, which is key to higher profits, dealers have offered buy-back guarantees, warranties and vehicle-history reports.

vAuto markets a dealer inventory management system that helps dealers move their inventory more quickly and as a result improve profitability.

Pollak points to the current situation where dealers are being inundated with SUVs and big pickup trucks as consumers hope to downsize their vehicles to save money in the face of rapidly rising fuel costs.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom there are times when you do want certain large vehicles on your lot,” Pollak said. “You must understand the true market value on the trade and price it aggressively. You have to let loose the notion you have to get a big gross.”

Pollak said his book and his system really teaches a philosophy of inventory management rather than offering a tool. More than 1,000 dealers, mostly franchise dealers, have bought into that philosophy, he said.

Jim Hallett, CEO
ADESA Inc.
Indianapolis, Ind.

Jim Hallett, CEO of ADESA Corp., the national auto auction chain, said there are a variety of technological tools the auctions can provide to help dealers succeed in this marketplace.

“Much of the data we have can be found on the ADESA.com Web site,” Hallett said. “For instance if you have a convertible in Florida and want to know what it’s worth in Pennsylvania, we can provide you the information, as well as run lists and inventory evaluation tools.”

These tools, Hallett said, can help dealers determine which vehicles have the shortest turn in terms of color, equipment and pricing.

The level of sophistication at the auctions has improved tremendously in the past 10 years, and while many dealers sign in, buy cars and check out, there are plenty of value-added services the auctions now bring to the retailers. For instance, if dealers enter their profile into ADESA’s database, they can be notified via e-mail if vehicles they desire or fit the parameters they’ve requested are coming to auction.

“Where a couple of years ago dealers were unfamiliar with the technology, today most everyone understands how to use the services and are asking for more all the time,” Hallett said.

As a result of the new technology, which allows dealers to buy wholesale vehicles over the Internet using ADESA Live Block, dealers are using more post-sale inspection services and auction reconditioning, all of which have the net effect of moving the inventory more quickly once the vehicle hits their lot.

“Dealers need to consider using the actions for their reconditioning needs,” Hallett said. “Because of the volumes we do for the major consignors, we have the ability to offer better quality services, less expensively.”

With more and more dealers getting into the buy here-pay here marketplace and more consumers qualifying

for their services, many would argue that vehicles that fit that model in the $3,000 to $6,000 actual cash value range would be hard to find.

“These cars are typically the vehicle a new car store has taken in on trade and is not likely to keep for its used car lot,” Hallett said. “They are out there. There has also been a surge in repossessions, and these vehicle usually fit this model as well. Dealers need to make better use of the e-tools the auctions provide.”

Just as consumers shop around for vehicles before they head out to the dealership, dealers should look over vehicle run lists and find out where the vehicles they need are going to be run.

“You just can’t show up at your local auction and hope what you need is going to be there,” he said. “The more savvy dealers are buying these vehicles before they hit the lanes using a variety of tools available to them from the auctions and in some instances from the consignors themselves.”

Hallett believes $4 a gallon gas is here to stay and as a result transportation costs will be higher.

“ADESA has tools for this as well,” Hallett said. “We can help you secure a transport company to move your vehicles across the state or across the country.”

He said dealers must be willing to negotiate with their transport provider and that buy using the Internet to schedule transportation, the companies can haul full loads and take advantage of every back-haul situation.

“You have to be a partner with the transport company and using technology to forge that partnership makes better sense for everyone involved.”

If transportation costs continue to rise, will it reduce the number of dealers looking for vehicles from long distances?

“I don’t believe so,” Hallett said. “Dealers need vehicles on their lots and if they feel they can turn a profit on a vehicle, they’ll buy it and pass along the cost to the consumer. If they can’t pass along the entire cost, they’ll eat part of it and cut their gross.”

Recently, Black Book USA announced it would produce a Daily Guidebook value for its customers.

Hallett said he couldn’t endorse one guidebook versus another, but noted that ADESA’s market guide is a valuable tool.

“I believe a daily value could be a great help to dealers, but remember these are average prices based on sales from a specific region or nationally,” he said. “Dealers often need specific data from their region, and auction values are very good tools to help make that determination.”

Chuck Redden, president
AutoTec/Auction ACCESS
Birmingham, Ala.

AutoTec president Chuck Redden recently announced a promotional partnership between AuctionACCESS and Black Book. The offer gives AuctionACCESS members the latest premium-level Black Book Daily Internet or Hand-Held subscription at the lower weekly rate. This ensures that AuctionACCESS members have the latest vehicle pricing data, and represents a savings of up to $99.

“It’s a perfect match,” Redden says. “AuctionACCESS and Black Book are both essential tools for used car dealers and managers as they search farther and look harder to find the inventory they need to maintain profitability.”

“When we heard that Black Book was introducing daily pricing updates, we thought it was something AuctionACCESS members could really use to make better, more-informed buying decisions in the lanes,” Redden says.

Tom Cross, president of Black Book, agrees. “Information is power, especially with margins tightening,” Cross said.

The Black Book Daily offer joins other AuctionACCESS member benefits, including auction travel accident insurance through Chubb and an identity theft protection service through Travelers.

AutoTec introduced AuctionACCESS ten years ago to help dealers and their representatives register at auctions quickly, so they could get into the lanes faster. Today the AuctionACCESS product is in its third generation, offering more-powerful tools to ensure member security and providing streamlined access to more than 180 wholesale auto auctions and online channels across North America.

“Some of our member benefits have been there for years, like making it easier for dealers to do business at more auctions,” Redden says. “But every day, we’re working to add more member benefits, looking into programs and discounts that we think will be of value to dealers.”

Curtis Kroeker, director vehicle sales
eBay Motors

Curtis Kroeker, director of vehicles for eBay Motors, said given current economic conditions dealers must continue to make even more efficient use of the Internet to take advantage of the cost savings which can be incurred by using the Internet as a marketing tool.

“Consumers are more than ever searching for value when it comes to buying a vehicle,” Kroeker said. “We feel the eBay Motors brand stands for value, and in these tougher economic times dealers using eBay will benefit from the relationship.”

Kroeker said to make their dollars go further consumers are spending more time on the Internet to find the vehicle they want.

“Our traffic has increased significantly in the past few months as consumers are shopping for value,” he said. “The improvements we have made to the Web site are now beginning to pay dividends as both consumers and dealers can get more value in searching and determining vehicle values.”

To help drive home the value message, Kroeker said, eBay Motors has increased its Buyer Protection Coverage from $20,000 to $50,000.
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Peter A. Salinas is a career journalist who has been covering the used-vehicle industry for more than six years. He is the managing editor of Dealer Business Journal.

Leedom and Associates, LLC – Sarasota, FL
peter@dealerbusinessjournal.com
800.966.8733 x313

What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You!

As an owner or manager we always do our best to stay on top of every aspect of our business. Unfortunately, there are always things that slip through the cracks. One item that many times stays off of our radar regularly is one of the most basic building blocks of our business, and that is what your sales people are saying to your customers.

It’s simply not realistic to sit next to every salesperson every minute of the day and listen in on every word they say — as much as we might like. Experience tells us that even the sharpest and most well-trained salesperson will eventually and inevitably resort to some bad habits, if left to their own devices long enough.

Fortunately there is technology available that can help to keep you on top of your staff. Several companies such as “Who’s Calling” and “Call Source” have been around for years now and many dealerships use them. Surprisingly, I still run into dealers who do not subscribe to these services, and many dealers do not realize they exist and are very affordable. If you are one of those few who are still not familiar with call and lead tracking services, spend some time and do some research.

These companies and many like them utilize toll-free numbers that you can list in your advertising and track the number of inbound calls you receive. Many of these services also record the calls so that you can listen in on them later and see precisely how the call was handled. The benefits services like these have on your advertising budget and management is tremendous, but that’s another article altogether. Today, I want you think solely about what it means to be able to listen in on these calls.

The first thing I would encourage you to do is if you own a firearm, be sure to unload it. Secondly, if you take medication for high blood pressure, make sure you take it. Third, press play and listen in.

The sheer amount of mishandled calls in the average dealership will make your head spin. What you as an owner or manager “think” is being said or asked on the phone, usually isn’t. Often it’s the exact opposite. When you manage to get your head wrapped around the sheer volume of customers that get blown off on the initial call it often times is a very unpleasant, if informative, experience.

I hear dealers complain all the time about how hard it is to drive clients to their store or how expensive it is to advertise today, but the reality is many do not invest the necessary time and training to monitor what happens when the phone finally does ring. Simply throwing money at the problem by upping your ad budget is rarely the ideal solution. A far better course of action is to maximize the effectiveness of your advertising by monitoring the results, and the phone is your first line of defense.

Even worse is when dealerships do subscribe to services like these, but don’t take full advantage of the variety of tools and services. Your call logs and recorded calls are every bit as important of a management tool as your inventory reports and P&L statements.

Watching these logs, listening to the calls, making your staff accountable for the calls you give them and providing the necessary, ongoing training and tools to make the most of them is one often overlooked, but very necessary aspect of managing our business. Failure to do so is quite probably costing you more money than you know!
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Bob Selby has been in the automotive business for 13 years in both retail and finance. He began his career with one of the largest special finance lenders in the nation handling dealer advertising campaigns, Internet marketing and software systems. He has also worked with both independent and franchise dealers as a sales trainer specializing in lot-up and phone-up techniques, as well as a consultant addressing issues such as inventory management, reconditioning practices, and pay program structures.

Leedom and Associates, LLC – Sarasota, FL
bob@twentygroups.com
800.966.8733

What’s Your Digital Regimen?

Every morning we wake up-shower-dress-fix our hair(if we have any) and hopefully get a protein based breakfast light on carbs. ;) We abide by a schedule.

This daily regimen is ultimately about doing the little things. You can’t be great without nailing the little things. Without a solid "daily regimen" and consistency of achieving it, we are doomed to be inconsistent. Inconsistency is the father of failure.

As a cardog, your thinning wallet may be attributable to inconsistent marketing. You’re bigger than the economy right? Now matter ‘how bad it gets’ you must still advertise…. You must go on by investing in the places where you customers are most likely to find you: ONLINE.

[list:1mqtcvmk]- Do you have a solid “Digital Regimen” that carries you through the day?
– Are you Geo-targeting your store on all the Local Auto Portals with relevant ad campaigns?
– Do you have pictures of your Inventory(New and Used)across all shopping verticals?
– Do you have Video Content engaging both the eyes and ears of your consumers?
– Is your website interactive and measurable by engaging and involving your visitors?
– Are you positioned to benefit from the traffic of the search engines?
– Are you reaching the millions of eyeballs offered by the consumer generated content sites-Facebook-Ebay Motors-Craigs List-Youtube-Myspace? [/list:u:1mqtcvmk]
If you said yes to at least HALF of these things, then YOU’RE ALMOST THERE. If you said yes to all of the above…. You’re a ninja, and I apologize for wasting your time.

If you are deficient in any of the above mentioned criteria, you should investigate further
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Written by Jay Campbell

Top-10 Reasons Why Customers Follow You on Facebook

We all know Facebook is right now for dealerships around the nation the #1 choice when trying to engage with customers off-site, next to the biweekly or monthly ownership email marketing “blast” (my God do I hate this term “blast”) and/or dealer newsletter provided by IMN, Outsell, 3Birds Marketing or OnStation.

But I could discover throughout my held trainings and seminars that we as dealers very rarely know about the motives of consumers, why they are following us or a brand – why do they like us. What make fans and followers click?

A recent conducted research of Co-Tweet and ExactTarget came closer to provide an answer. The following motives and answers will possibly help dealerships to adjust their engagement level on Social Media Networks. It will help us further in creating new approaches to “catch” potential customers’ attention.

Here the Top 10 Motivations why Consumers “Like” a Brand on Facebook and Follow

[list:2g2ab0gq]1. 40% want to receive discounts and promotions

2. 37% want to show support for the brand/company to thers

3. 36% hope (want) to get free samples, a coupon (a.k.a. freebies)

4. 34% want to stay informed about the activities of the company

5. 33% want to get updates on future products

6. 30% want to get updates and information on future sales

7. 27% like to get fun and entertainment out of it

8. 25% want to get access to exclusive content

9. 22% mentioned they were referred by someone to follow this brand/company

10. 21% want just to learn more about the company[/list:u:2g2ab0gq]
Wow, would you have guessed it. Consumers actually like to receive update and information on future sales!

And by the way, don’t feel bad when you do not have too many interactions, shared thoughts and ideas or provided feedbacks from your “fans, followers and likes”.

The survey found out that indeed only 13% want to interact directly with the company.

So, my suggestion would be: Take the numbers, share them with your sales and management team and start to tailor a Facebook Marketing plan around the findings.
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Volker Jaeckel
Internet Sales Director
Jim Ellis Volkswagen and Audi of Marietta

Turn Your Cell Phone into a Sell Phone

Keep Shoppers on Your Lot with New Mobile Tools

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:

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.

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:

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 en 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.
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Written by Cars.com

Understanding Reputation Management

Reputation matters regardless of the industry that you are in or what goods or services that your company provides. Perceived issues with your trustworthiness or the quality of your product most definitely can impact your bottom line. In short, little matters more than your reputation. The digital era hasn’t changed this fact. But how you deal with reputation issues most definitely has changed, thanks to the internet.

Important Facts You Need to Know About Your Reputation Online

There is no doubt that the internet is an incredible tool, however, there are some very substantial concerns. A lone individual can cause a good deal of havoc with anything from half-truths to outright lies to a skewed perspective. This can of course put a car dealership in a very bad position as one unhappy person out of hundreds can negatively impact your dealership and perhaps even do so in a profound way. Should this frighten you? Yes, it should and it should motivate you to take action. The action that you should take comes in the form of active reputation management.

What Does Reputation Management Look Like?

There are a couple of different ways you can handle reputation management online. The first, and inferior option, is to adopt a reactive posture. This approach means that you wait until there is an attack on you and then you react. Of course this approach is very flawed. Once you realize that there is a problem, well, damage has likely been done and that damage comes in the form of lost sales. Moreover, if you don’t properly address the issue, then the problematic statements made online regarding your company could impact sales for months or even years to come.

The Best Approach for Protecting Your Reputation and Image Online

A better approach is to adopt a proactive reputation management service. A service of this kind will monitor and keep an eye out for mentions of your dealership and jump into action to address false and problematic statements. You should never allow your dealership to be damaged by a tiny percentage of unhappy customers who may or not even be in the right. This is especially true if you have taken proactive steps to remedy a problem when it arises. Reputation management may not catch every single problematic issue or posting online. However, with the right reputation management tools in place, you will know of a problem and then you can take steps. Again, what is more important than your reputation? In short the answer is, “not much.”

[img:35ph4ev4]http://inticeinc.com/images/facebook-intice.png[/img:35ph4ev4]
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By David Farmer

Web Traffic is Up

Analysts and dealers alike are saying this spring will be great for business. Traffic to dealership Web sites is up across the country. During the past year, reduced expenses affected many dealers’ marketing and advertising efforts, including their Web sites. Marketing and advertising your dealership has gone from mass channels such as radio and TV to a more personal and on-demand approach. Instead of repeating a broad message, today you need smaller, more people-centric messages. It’s not that marketing your dealership has died; it’s just changed. Today people have more power and more choices. So what’s the best way to reach them?

Be Accessible.
Whether it’s your Web site, your Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube or any other number of sites, there are more ways to reach more people than ever before. Can your prospects and customers engage you on multiple platforms? Some people prefer to submit a form, others prefer to call, many still use e-mail, and an increasing number would rather use Facebook or other social media sites.

Has your dealership setup a Facebook page? No other Web site is growing like Facebook. It allows family and friends to stay connected and share with each other easily. Be sure to get your staff members and their family members to become fans and get your own page URL. Remember, according to the Facebook Terms of Service, profiles are for people and pages are for businesses and groups. At some point, Facebook will terminate business profiles.

What about YouTube? Have you setup a YouTube Channel? YouTube is rapidly growing as a search engine. Videos provide a very entertaining and easy-to-use format for visitors to get information. Have your staff provide the most common questions that they get asked. Then answer those questions in short videos and upload them to your YouTube Channel. You should also upload them to your Web site. For an extra boost to your Web site’s SEO efforts, index the videos on your Web site.

Are you on Twitter? It is easily one of the most misused online tools at your disposal. The point here is to be involved, and therefore be a part of the ongoing conversation. Remember the conversation is already occurring. It’s not like it will or will not happen simply because you decide to get on Twitter. By being on and monitoring Twitter, you show prospects that you get the way people today choose to engage the businesses they deal with.

The lesson here is simple; don’t limit access to your dealership to your Web site and phone.

Be Active.
You don’t have to sit at your desk and “tweet” all day. However, do post something regularly. I would suggest at least three to five times a week. More importantly, set up alerts to notify you when your dealership is mentioned.

By posting regularly, I do not mean that you post your inventory at regular intervals. Remember, people choose to follow you or become a fan, not the other way around. Why on earth would someone follow you if your posts are a steady diet of pitches?

Instead make your posts interesting, entertaining or informative. Get a press release by your OEM? Post it and add your take. Remember the most frequently asked questions that we talked about? Those make excellent posts as well. How about posting information about local community events?

The point here is don’t just create accounts. Use them.

Be Short and Sweet.
Because of all the ways to reach people today, this is more important than ever before. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to send long e-mails or post lengthy updates on your social media sites. Use just 10 percent of your message at a time, so if you want tell prospects about a car and your description is 500 words, send it to them in 50 word increments. Brevity is king; when people see long e-mail messages they tend to put off reading them.

This is an exciting time to be in the car business. A lot of people have been waiting to buy that new car, waiting for the economy to settle down, waiting for credit to open back up. This spring should be one of the best times in a long time. Now is the time to make sure that your dealership is ready.
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Richard Valenta
CEO and Co-founder
TK Carsites
RValenta@AutoDealerMonthly.com