I was so happy to see that one of the best words ever, “ginormous,” introduced to me by Will Ferrell in the Oscar-rebuffed movie Elf, gained the credibility it deserved and made the Webster’s dictionary in 2007. It was one of the highlights of that year for me, which should tell you that it doesn’t take much to make the list.
In this case, it is an appropriate word to describe the absolute disconnect between how dealers seem to view the internet and how it relates to their websites. Having been an early internet automotive marketer, I have always been struck by how complicated our industry makes the internet. Over time, it has gotten worse, and even though I have been intimately involved in this industry since Brian Pasch and Ralph Paglia invented it, it is more overwhelming than ever.
To that end, I like to simplify all the confusing jargon and view the internet as another way for dealers to advertise to their customers. Advertising is the method by which we influence people to take an action that we would like. So, if this is just advertising (I understand some of my more intellectually competent peers may find this an over-simplification, but they’ll get over it), how does your website fit into your ad strategy? Really think about this—thousands of potential prospects visit the average dealer’s website and now mobile site on a monthly basis. Is it just me, or would that be the best place to put compelling, interactive advertising? Is it really enough to have an automated listing of inventory with stitched video and cheesy music? Is this alone going to make a prospect say “I choose to do business with you?” I doubt it.
The irony here is that dealers are spending huge dollar amounts driving people to websites which do very little to advertise to them once they are there. This should change; your website must be viewed as the cornerstone of your advertising. Where once you sat weekly and decided what to put in your print ad, now that same emphasis needs to be put on your website. Make your specials pages and home page something that would do your store justice if it was an ad in the newspaper, or a direct mail piece for service.
Help your prospects connect the dots—if you run a commercial promoting, a $199 monthly payment, but when I go to your site there’s no mention of it, could I maybe be confused about the offer (well I might not be a good example because I get confused easily). But could the average shopper wonder if maybe they have the wrong dealership and go look at your competitors?
Good advertising is usually simple and easy to understand. Keep this in mind when you create your strategy. Just don’t forget that the prospects coming to your website aren’t there for their health (we hope). Advertise to them!
Christy Roman, the self-described “Queen of Auto,” has been in or around the internet and automotive since a little start-up called AutoConnect.com became AutoTrader.com. Her claim to fame was developing and monetizing the Partnership Program (now the Premium Program) dealer initiative at AutoTrader.com which turned them into a classified advertising powerhouse and now generates hundreds of millions of dollars. She spends her time helping dealers maximize the internet as advertising, and annoying as many industry professionals as possible.
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