Sponsored by:

Higher Turnover Websites

the #1 Provider of Car Salesman Websites and Dealership Sites

Please note that comment moderation is being used on this blog. This means that you are free to comment on any posts, however they will be reviewed prior to being posted on the live site. We welcome any legitimate comments, but comments including links to your own sites (i.e. "link spamming" or "comment spam") will be marked as spam and will not be published. If you have comments that will be useful to other readers, feel free to post them, otherwise go spam someone else's blog!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Focused Marketing for Empowering Car Salespeople

What would happen to the car sales industry if it changed it's focus to begin marketing with the sales representatives, rather than the dealership? According to Auto Alliance, in 2015 there were 1.65 million Americans working at car dealerships. Just think of the the untapped resource of marketing individual salespeople as well as the dealerships.

The majority of time customers spend during the car buying process is with their salesperson, and 71% of customers say they bought their vehicle because they liked, trusted and respected their salesperson, according to Jeff Kershner of Dealer Refresh. Now imagine fostering those relationships before the customers even walk on the lot.  

With a personal website, regular blogging, emailing, and social media integration a salesperson can do just that. It is a win for the dealership too, as all leads and sales through their reps ultimately come to them. Failure to encourage and help their salespeople to do so means the dealer is not maximizing their advertising dollars. Remember, buying a car is one of the most expensive and personal purchases that people make, so focusing on building a rapport between a customer and their salesperson is really a no-brainer. Why do you think most dealers don't embrace this potential?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Call-to-Action Recommendations for Automotive Websites

It's no secret that mobile device manufacturers are in a highly competitive market. So many options, and most people only pick one device every couple of years. I don't pay that much attention to the latest phone coming out, unless I'm actually in-market for a new one. When I am in the market, I spend some time researching what's available at that time (or within the months that follow) to see if it makes sense to wait. More on this in a minute.

As someone with a degree in psychology and who is, shall we say, heavily involved in marketing, I don't see advertisements like most people do. The average person listens to what the advertiser says; I pay more attention to how they say it. Sales is a process of skillfully guiding a prospect down the path you want them to go. If you've ever been in sales, you've likely heard the saying that the #1 thing that kills a sale is that the salesperson never actually asked for the sale.

From the standpoint of a website, a call-to-action is essentially "asking for the sale". It may not be an actual purchase, but let's look at a car salesman's website as an example. Let's say you're car shopping and end up on an auto salesperson's personal website. You learn a bit about the sales rep, how they grew up in the area, have 3 kids, and whatever else they present through their personal branding. Once you become comfortable with that salesperson and decide to enlist their services, what do you do next? Most people will say "head to the dealership", but that's only because you're reading this and imagining a page with a bunch of words on it, describing who the rep is. Imagine if the biography of the salesperson you just read also has a form on that page to schedule your personal appointment with them, or even a "click-to-call" button. Such a "call-to-action" is a logical "next step" for the website visitor, and helps to guide them where you want them to go. A call-to-action is essential.

In this case, the sales rep wants to collect that person's info. Doing so enables them to, at a minimum, follow up by email, phone, etc. If they can show their manager at the dealership that they had been working the lead when the prospect arrives at the dealership, that sale goes to them. If the prospect had simply learned about the sales rep then drove to the dealership, the prospect will most likely end up with another rep because they probably (1) forgot the sales rep's name, (2) forgot to ask for them, or (3) was simply approached by the hungriest rep at the store.

So what does all this have to do with mobile phones? I'll bring it home for you. I was recently on Twitter and noticed a pay-per-click ad from LG, promoting their new G5 smartphone. I'm not in the market for a new phone, but curious, I clicked on it and then the link they posted for info about the phone. It brought me to a decent micro-site for the G5 phone, complete with great photos and features. And that's it. No way to request more info, no way to pre-order one, and no way to even follow LG on social media for that matter. So I'm supposed to think of LG when I'm in the market for a new phone 3 months from now. With everything else going on in my head. And all the other ads I'll see between now and then. A simple form to submit an email for a reminder when it's available, or better yet, a form to pre-order the G5 would likely result in more sales. Even if it only generated one extra sale, the 10 minutes it would have taken to add that form to the site would have been worth it.

LG G5 Marketing Micro Site

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Personal Branding for Car Salespeople, It's PERSONAL!

It's the new year, and many people use this time of year to set personal goals including the classic "I'm going to join a gym and lose that weight I've been meaning to lose." Last year one of my family members paid $750 for a half-price gym membership with good intentions and only used it twice. Those were some pricy workouts! Seems crazy, right? Is it the gym's fault that their client didn't gain VALUE? Of course not. In fact, they contacted my family member and encouraged them to use the membership they had paid for. My family member knew he wanted to lose weight but apparently wasn't willing to put in the work. At the end of the year he was disappointed and exactly where he started a year ago.

So what does this have to do with a car salesman or personal branding? A lot, actually. At least based on what I see almost daily. I got a call from an automotive salesperson client this morning who has been using our services for only about 6 months. He has a great website, he's motivated to sell cars, and he takes all his own photos to manually upload vehicles to his site for his customers. So what's the problem, you ask? Simple: his personal branding website is "just another website."

It's great that his site contains vehicle inventory to show his clients, an online credit app to get the financing started at the dealership he works for, directions to his store, contact forms, etc. While evaluating his site this morning I noticed a very important piece missing, content. You would think that over the course of six months he would at least put a sentence or two on his "about me" page but to my dismay, it's still completely blank. For a site that's intended to help a salesman with personal branding, there's not much personal about it. Just like the gym example above, just having a personal website is one thing; it's another thing to use it.

Unfortunately this is quite common with our clients. We try to beat it into their heads that the site is all about YOU and people want to get to know YOU before they hand over large sums of money for a vehicle purchase. Being able to view the inventory is great but without any personal touch, the site is just another dealership-style site that provides the same info to the shopper they can find elsewhere. As a salesman you don't want to compete with the dealership site because that's a battle you'll never win. It should compliment the dealer's site. In other words, there's no real value that sets it apart from the dealership site itself.

We'll keep badgering our clients to write a few sentences about themselves, and we'll keep seeing heightened success by those who take the 5 minutes to do so. Remember, personal branding is personal!

Monday, November 09, 2015

Car Salespeople Should Take Accountability for their Social Media Marketing

We speak with thousands of car salesmen each month. Naturally, our prospects and clients come from all walks of life and enjoy various levels of success. We provide the same tools to each client, so why would one be more successful than another? Usually it boils down to how the rep handles self-promotion, and a large part of that is through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Sometimes we see "red flags" when prospects want to sign up for our services, and one such red flag as an example is when we're asked if we manage a client's Facebook page. Could we do this for clients? Sure. There are companies that offer services specifically for this purpose. The problem is that social media is supposed to be exactly that, SOCIAL. If someone is relying on a 3rd party company to promote them on social media, the company is essentially pretending to be the rep. If someone isn't going to bother managing their own Facebook page for example, why would they hold themselves accountable for any other self-promotion? This has the ingredients for failure.

Sales reps can be busy, I get it. I have a hard time myself keeping up with our company social media profiles, this blog, and any other PR that I'm responsible for. An important thing to remember is that nobody knows you better than yourself. Trusting outsiders to "be you online" for the sake of convenience isn't a marketing strategy, it's a lazy way out. Think about it: if someone else is managing your fan page on your behalf, how often do you actually login on your own and interact with fans? If you're not engaging fans, what exactly is your hope that social media will accomplish for you, other than being able to say you have a fan page?

Friday, November 06, 2015

Proper use of Social Media for Car Salesmen

As time goes on, more and more car salesmen are utilizing social media to generate extra leads which they ordinarily wouldn't get from the dealer's marketing efforts. When used properly, it can be tremendously effective. We sometimes have salespeople sign up for personal websites who naturally want it connected with their social media profiles. After viewing a forum post on DealerRefresh recently, I decided that one aspect of social media use by sales reps is important enough to mention here: using a personal page vs. a professional page.

There are actually many advantages of using a professional "fan page", but one of the biggest reasons I've seen is that most reps probably shouldn't mix their personal lives with business when it comes to what they publicly display. As an extreme example, we've actually had a salesperson sign up for services with us and link his salesman website to his personal Facebook page. The first time I visited his page to ensure his link was set up properly, I was surprised to see photos of strippers and other scantily-clad women. I may appreciate a woman's body, but if I'm shopping for a car and am considering one particular sales rep, that would be a turn-off, and I'd say more so for any female car shoppers that may visit his page. Perhaps this cartoon sums it up better:

Rule of thumb: if you're using social media to generate more leads, use it as if you expect your grandmother to follow your page. Keep the unfiltered version of yourself for close friends to avoid alienating people that want to give you thousands of dollars for a new car.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Traditional Marketing to Compliment Internet Marketing

We’ve been hearing it for years: online marketing continues to gain market share over traditional advertising media. For some people, this means shifting marketing activities from more traditional outlets (print, radio, TV) to online advertising. The operative word here is “shifting”. Someone who completely leaves traditional marketing for digital is putting all of their eggs into one basket so to speak, and while it has the potential to improve revenue, it also means they may not be getting the best return on investment. I’m a firm believer in efficiency - getting the most bang for the buck. How can you get car shoppers onto your website or using your other digital sales tools when some of those people aren’t “online regulars?” By using “old school” marketing to compliment your digital marketing.

Think about the last trade show, business conference, or networking event you’ve attended. Name three things you’ve (physically) taken away from that event. Chances are, you probably brought home a handful of business cards. Think about what those cards do. They provide you with a quick way to either contact the individual directly, or to check out their company, products, or services by visiting the website which is presumably on that card.

Higher Turnover has introduced business cards for salespeople because we believe that promoting your website offline can help drive traffic to your site which in return, helps with closing those leads.  Most car salespeople have business cards provided by their dealership, but those cards brand the dealership, not the rep. Just like a salesperson website is meant to extend the reach of the dealership by branding the rep, the business cards we provide accomplish the same thing and are meant to compliment the dealership-provided business cards.

We are in the age of the text message and many people don’t really like using the phone if they don’t absolutely have to, so what’s the next best thing?  Probably having your website address on a business card you give to a lead or previous client so it gets them in the habit of visiting a particular URL when they are looking at buying something.

For example, Craigslist.org is a popular site for looking for apartments and a lot of people get into the habit of just going to that site in particular to find what they are looking for. It becomes the "go-to" site for apartments. Given you have one of our car salesperson websites, we want you to get people in the habit of visiting your website when they want to look for a car to buy.

Having business cards also helps you brand yourself and can help bring back existing customers or leads.  It also makes you look professional and serious about what you do.  So having a business card serves two purposes; one being it can drive traffic to your website and the other being it can help retract previous people who have been in contact with you in the past. Business cards are an inexpensive investment in yourself as a sales rep, and Higher Turnover offers to provide them for each client.

When you sign up with Higher Turnover for one of our salesperson products, we aren’t in the business of providing salesperson websites. We’re in the business of providing the education and tools for your complete self-promotion strategy.

Friday, February 06, 2015

An Open Letter to Fellow Vendors in Support of Creating Industry Standards

As anyone else in the technology sector of the automotive industry can attest, every vendor has their own system and wants things their way. Just look at inventory data feeds for example. Our company, Higher Turnover, LLC, maintains approximately 100 inventory feeds between data imports and data exports. Most companies like ours have a dedicated team with the sole purpose of creating and maintaining these feeds. This is necessary in today's world because again, every company wants something different. Out of 100 inventory feeds that our company manages, probably about 99 of them are unique. The system most vendors use is archaic from a technology standpoint; ASCII text files sent from one vendor to another which are then parsed based on how the fields in the data file are mapped to that particular vendor's own structure. Some files may be comma-delimited, others may be pipe-delimited, tab-delimited, XML, and anything in between.

As vendors, we should seriously consider creating a standard format that satisfies the needs of all. This would greatly reduce the amount of time and effort we spend making sure each feed is consistent, and at the same time enable quicker deployment of new feeds which are popping up every day as new classified sites are launched that our clients want their vehicles on.

There's really no reason NOT to have an industry standard format that simply contains ALL available fields that we as vendors may need. If one vendor doesn't have a particular field available in their database (let's say "Down Payment" for example), that field could simply be omitted as an optional field or left blank. There would be a minimum amount of required data such as VIN, year, make, model, trim, etc. and a large amount of optional fields.

An industry standard was created years ago for web leads (ADF-XML) and has certainly simplified things on that front, but vehicle data files remain as an assortment of varying file specs.

I know I'm not the first person to suggest this, but little discussion has ever come out of any suggestions in the past, so I hope to change that.

On a side note, another beneficial tool would be to have a database of known customers who have either committed fraud (i.e. signing up for services when they are a non-dealer and found to be operating a scam) or who have become delinquent in their payments before moving on to the next vendor and doing the same to them. Not a "blacklist" per se, but more of a low-level background check based on info supplied by previous vendors. Something to let each other know "hey, this dealership used services for 3 months then disputed their credit card transaction for payments". The info would be available to vendors as more of an "FYI", and the vendor can choose to do with that information as they wish.

If any of our fellow vendors want to participate in creating industry standards for data feeds and/or a "red flag" list, please feel free to contact Jake at Higher Turnover, LLC through our website, www.higherturnover.com.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

F&R Auto Sales in Westport, MA and the Lessons of Reputation Management

The news about F & R Auto Sales in Westport, Massachusetts is still pretty fresh, but I suspect the backlash over their highly-publicized treatment of a local pizza delivery driver Jarrid Tansey will sink the business in the coming weeks/months.

In case you haven't hear the news yet, several employees at the car dealership appeared on security camera video belittling and harassing the driver over, wait for it...a $7 tip. Apparently the staff tipped Tansey approximately $7 on an order just over $42. They called Palace Pizza afterward and indicated they wanted their change. Upon returning to the dealership, Tansey returned the $7 as they requested, but the story didn't finish with him taking the high road. The dealership staff verbally harassed him, wanting to call the pizza shop to get him fired, and at one point a staff member can even be heard saying she would "put my foot in your ass".

In a moment of bad judgment, someone from the dealership thought the exchange was funny enough to upload to YouTube. That decision, along with the other decisions (calling the driver to return the tip money and harassing him when he returned) are not exactly inconsequential. Not only do local residents (i.e. car shoppers) now get a glimpse into who these dealership employees really are, but the video has gone viral and put the dealership on the international stage for the whole world to see exactly how rude they are.

Reputation management has become an important segment of a car dealer's list of things to worry about. Review sites such as Yelp! are popping up everywhere, and when something bad happens to a customer, they often take to these review sites to express their displeasure. Smart dealerships address customer complaints in the same public forum they are lodged. This shows other potential customers that the dealership truly wants customers to have a good experience, and that they want to work with people to make them happy whenever possible. I don't think there's any amount of reputation management that can help this dealer. I suspect they'll change their business name very soon to help mitigate some of the public backlash. As of the time this post is being written, there are around 2500 reviews on Google, over 1700 on Yelp!, their Facebook page has been taken down, and obviously most of the reviews are one star or otherwise negative.

Lesson: If you're going to do something stupid, don't upload the video of you doing that thing, and certainly don't expect it to help business. RIP F & R Auto Sales. At least we have a video to remember you by:

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

How Long Will It Take for a Website to be Indexed by Google?

We receive this question almost daily. People build a nice new website and know it's important to be ranked high in the search engines, but how can someone tell how long it's actually going to take?

Google and other search engines have complex algorithms which determine what site gets ranked first (and second, third, etc.) for any particular search. The search engines don't inform the public of what they use to rank sites because let's face it, if they did, everybody would be ranked #1 for whatever they wanted, and it would detract from the relevance of the results. Imagine searching for a new car dealer and the first 20 pages of results were for credit card offers. If that were the case, not many people would use the search engine anymore because it doesn't give them the results they expect.

The truth is, there are too many factors to consider when trying to figure out how long it will take a site to be indexed by a search engine. Sometimes our clients sign up for a website and if they have unrealistic expectations, they'll call us a week after their site goes live and ask why they aren't the #1 search result for "used cars". At the time of writing this post, that search yields more than 235 million results on Google, so why should ABC Autos be #1 out of 235 million?

Our best advice is to be patient, while at the same time ensuring the site is set up to be indexed as best as possible. This means you should have a sitemap to help the search engines find every page of your site. Do you have content on your pages? A website with no content is pretty much worthless, therefore the search engines won't rank it very high. After all, the crawlers "read" the content to help determine what the site is all about so they know when to include it in their search results. The site should also follow some standard guidelines. Google has made available a very handy document for beginners which can be found here.

With a little patience and using documented strategies (and likewise avoiding similarly documented "bad" strategies), you can typically have a site indexed within a month or two, and over time the ranking will increase for keywords that your site targets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Vehicle Descriptions - Do You Want More Leads or Fewer Leads that are Better Qualified?

Whenever I buy or sell a vehicle, I like to consider things that a dealer would normally face when marketing their vehicles. One such topic (which I've actually touched on in previous posts) is the age-old question of which is better, receiving a high number of leads (including, in large part, the tire-kickers), or receiving a much smaller number of leads that are better-qualified? Selling a vehicle recently I evaluated this question and have come to my own personal conclusion: more leads are better, even if many of them seem to be people who are bored and want to talk on the phone.

I had my 2004 Jeep for about 3 and a half years. For the past year and a half, I've had it listed on Autotrader with a high price on a run 'til sold listing, simply because even though I loved the car, if someone wanted it at my high price, I'd be willing to part with it. I'd get an occasional email about it, but nothing ever materialized. A few months ago I purchased a newer Jeep, so it was time to get serious about selling mine. I dropped the price so it was below Kelley Blue Book, wrote up a nice description, and had it listed on both sites.

Once I got serious and had a more reasonable price, the calls/emails ramped up a bit. Exactly what one would expect. I let the ad sit on both sites with the new price/description, but I still wasn't impressed with the results. I'd get people contacting me that were serious buyers, but nobody actually pulled the trigger on the purchase. I thought the price was right so maybe it was likely due to a lengthy description (credit due to my girlfriend for pointing this out too, and making me change it). I changed my 2-3 paragraph description to just a few sentences, being intentionally vague, and all of a sudden the phone began ringing again. Long story short, the shorter ad generated an immediate response, and the car sold within 48 hours of making that change. The take-away from this is that as a general statement, people are pretty lazy. People didn't want to read about all of the new parts I had installed, the difference between an Overland and a Laredo, or anything else I had written. Getting more leads meant I at least had the chance to sell them, whereas fewer leads meant many who may have been interested, simply didn't initiate the sales process.

What I learned from this (or more accurately, what I confirmed) is that for me personally, it was helpful to generate more leads, even if many of those were just asking questions that could have been answered by a long narrative description. It meant that it was on me to sell the vehicle, not the ad. In a dealership setting, I would recommend a balance...tell enough about the car to begin building value, but don't try to sell it before the customer even contacts you. For those dealers who write a lot as I'm inclined to be somewhat long-winded, you're going to turn some legitimate buyers away simply because they don't want to read everything you wrote. Just as price point is very important when selling, the description is equally important, and that includes the length of your description. Again, this is not really a revelation, but confirmation to me.

On a side note, I ran an experiment several years ago in the post "Will Cars Sell Better on Craigslist or Autotrader?" in which my vehicle ultimately got better response (and sold) as a result of Craigslist. That was many years ago, but it appears that Craigslist still outperformed Autotrader for my vehicle in 2014.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Simple Website Designs Outperform Their Counterparts

I wrote about this topic years ago with an actual client example (original post here). In that analysis, I had one client who was over the top when it came to design requests. If it could be done, he wanted it on his site. Eventually the site became cluttered and went against every convention I knew of. Music playing, animation, blinking text, etc. It was crazy but as long as he was paying his bill and I did everything I could to convince him NOT to do those design things, that was all I could do. After a year and many discussions about how his website wasn't accomplishing his goals, I convinced him to let me rework the site the way I thought it was best. If he didn't like it, fine, we could revert back. The website leads increased by 400% almost overnight.

Dealers shopping our products on higherturnover.com sometimes ask why our designs are very simple. At times we have even had dealers choose another provider over us because they preferred the look of the other provider's designs. Is an aesthetically pleasant design important? You bet. Is it the most important thing? That just depends on what your priority is. Would you rather have people comment on how "cool" your design is, or would you rather have those people coming onto the lot to buy cars? Ideally there is a balance between the two, and that's where Higher Turnover Websites can help dealers who don't know much about web design principles.

Interested in hearing more about this? Check out this post from November on the ConversionXL Blog.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sometimes I Think the Auto Industry is Corrupt

Yup, the title of this post is intentionally sarcastic in nature. The fact is, a high percentage of car shoppers believe the auto industry is overloaded with dishonest dealers, sketchy salesmen, and an almost endless supply of people/companies who want nothing more than to see the shopper separated from their hard-earned money and to sign on the dotted line for delivery. A 2012 Gallup poll listed car salesmen at the bottom of their list of perceived trustworthiness, right below members of Congress. Whether you agree with that assessment or not is irrelevant; it's not what this post is about. This is about the same (or maybe worse) level of corruption within the industry from a vendor perspective.

First some background. For every Rolls Royce Phantom there are many more Chevy Cavaliers, yet people buy more Cavaliers than Phantoms. That makes sense based on affordability. Why then would someone who can afford a Rolls Royce go with the Chevy? This happens all the time on the vendor side. There is no shortage of companies in the auto industry that push crappy products, due in large part to the fact that there's no shortage of dealers who buy those crappy products. What about when a dealer or salesperson is under the false impression that their vendor is legitimate though? The short answer is that it doesn't matter. Whatever the impression, there are some bad companies out there, many of which haven't been called out by their competitors. I'm not about to call anyone out by name, but I am going to expose a few practices which dealers may not know about.

Let's start with one of the dealership rating/review sites. My last vehicle purchase which was not from a client did not go very well. I fought for 3 full months to get the dealer to honor items which were agreed upon in writing at the time of delivery. I visited the service dept. at least 5 times during those 3 months too. All in all, not a good experience, which is why I wanted to let others know about my personal experience. I submitted a review to a well-known dealer rating website and to my surprise, it was removed by an administrator the same day with no explanation why. Maybe it wasn't "moderator bias" or the fact that the dealer was a paying client of the rating site, but it sure seemed like it. My review was completely objective and truthful, but the site moderator apparently did not want my negative review to hurt the dealer's already poor reputation.

There is another company who publishes an annual report of dealer website providers. We (Higher Turnover Websites) have received decent reviews in this publication on a consistent basis, so clearly that's not my issue. My issue, which I brought to the publisher's attention last year, is that their publication which is presented as an objective review, is not always apples to apples in their comparisons. They will do a "quick review" of a company's products/services, but if a company wants to pay them a fee (if I recall it's a few thousand dollars), they can be more fully reviewed. If their objective is to provide a good source for unbiased comparisons of companies, they should not be taking money from a small portion of those companies they are reviewing. To me that's not far off from presidential campaiging...ever been to one of those $25k per plate dinners? Me either. I don't know that I can really categorize this company as being "corrupt", but unbiased as they say they are? I don't think so.

The third and final gripe I have is with another industry website/blog. I have respect for the creator of the site, but I think it has evolved over the years to become something that I'm not happy with. Occasionally I get inspired to comment on a post when I feel I can contribute something positive to the community. The past 3 times I've left comments, they were deleted by the moderator. These weren't comments that were hurtful, no foul language, or anything else of the sort. They were literally just me weighing in to discussions that I found relevant and that I could offer some helpful advice to other readers. I have to wonder, since the site owner knows I'm a vendor, and they accept sponsorship money from other vendors, is this a possible reason my comments are being removed? Who knows if that's the case, but I do know this: it really seems like more sites/companies/etc. out there are filtering things (i.e. "media bias") so you only see or hear what they want you to see or hear.

It's discouraging, but I guess we live in a different world where some things are crammed down your throat until you believe them and other things are intentionally hidden from the masses.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Craigslist Charging for Auto Dealer Ads

Well we knew it was coming at some point, and it seems like today is the day. Craigslist will begin charging for ads in the "Cars and Trucks - By Dealer" section of their site on December 3rd. As you can see in the screenshot below, a new message is appearing on Craigslist when posting ads as a dealer: "$5 fee per ad in US cities starting 12/3 - questions? ctd@craigslist.org"

$5 fee per ad in US cities starting 12/3 - questions? ctd@craigslist.org

Craigslist has charged listing fees for quite some time in certain markets and certain categories within those markets. This new policy is sure to upset a lot of car dealers because it's always been free for vehicle ads, but the reality is that you can't complain about a free site, and like any other site, there are other advertising options available so if a dealer doesn't like it, they can advertise elsewhere.

I'm sure many dealers will begin posting their ads in the "By Owner" section instead of the "By Dealer" section, and I'm sure that will ultimately get a lot of dealer accounts blacklisted. At the very least it will cause irritable anti-dealership car shoppers to flag any ads that seem like dealer ads.

To play devil's advocate, the dealer ads on Craigslist have become quite numerous. Not just because so many dealers are listing cars on the site, but also because so many dealers violate the Terms of Use and overpost. At times I've seen hundreds of cars posted the same day for one dealer, and as a consumer it does get annoying...almost to the point of pop-up ad annoying that used to be the norm in the early days of the internet. Speaking as a consumer, we get it...your dealership has a lot of cars that you want us to see, but don't force them down our throats by posting 200 ads 3 times a day. Customers search the ads for a specific make/model or price range, so having your ad come up so many times does nothing more than push someone like me away from your dealership.

I get that (especially since the site is/was free) you want as much exposure as possible for your vehicles, but think like a consumer when you're marketing, not as a dealer. Personally I think Craigslist is shooting themselves in the foot with this move, but time will tell.

If you're looking for an alternative, be sure to check out Backpage.com which is a similar format, brings high traffic, and is free to use/advertise.

There are very few answers at this point, so in the meantime,you can check out the list of FAQ's at http://www.craigslist.org/about/ctd

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Password Security, Think You're Safe?

No way anyone will ever guess my password. I mean, how would some hacker on the other side of the world know the name of my dog? Shoot, they're making me use numbers in my password too? Fine, I'll just add a "123" at the end. And there you have it..."Lucky123" is born.

Unfortunately this is how a lot of people think when it comes to creating a password. I read an article this morning about the most popular PIN numbers, and one statistic really surprised me: "DataGenetics says thieves can correctly guess more than 25 percent of PIN codes within 20 tries." This is because most people just don't want to be bothered with security, or have to remember more secure passwords/PINs. The effects of having this mindset can sometimes be catastrophic. I'll bet that when it comes to PINs for your bank card, more than half of our readers have a PIN that is either (a) their birthday, (b) a sequence such as "4567", or (c) some other meaningful numbers like their address or last 4 digits of their phone number.

Getting back to the password issue, we had one client earlier this year, let's call him "Bill", who had an email account compromised. Their password? Apparently they had simply set it to their last name. For those of you who weren't aware, someone hacking into email accounts isn't sitting at a computer with a large cup of coffee and continuously typing in new passwords. It's much easier than you think to use a "dictionary attack" which (through a program) guesses millions of passwords one after another. Use a simple password, and the likelihood is good that your account will eventually get hacked. In Bill's case, the hacker gained access to their email account and began sending spam messages out to thousands of addresses. Once we identified the compromised account, we changed the password to something more secure and informed the client of what had happened. We told Bill his new password and thought he understood the reasoning, but within a few weeks, Bill didn't want to keep remembering the new password so he changed it back to his last name.

I'm sure you can guess what happened next. The account was compromised again, and we changed the password again to a new randomly generated series of letters/numbers/characters. We also made sure our server required a higher level of security when changing passwords to prevent similar situations. Bill called us about two weeks ago requesting we change his password back to his last name, which of course in the best interest of our client we were unable to do.

There are several measures we can have in place to prevent some of the hacking attempts...firewall rules which block all activity from an IP after a certain number of failed logins, required security level for passwords, etc. These things are helpful, but at the end of the day, nothing is going to prevent unauthorized access to one of your accounts like a strong, secure password. Try to remember this next time you find yourself typing "Lucky123" when signing up for something online.

Monday, April 08, 2013

SEO Scare Tactics - Don't Fall For Them!

About once a week we'll get a call or email from a client who has been solicited by some "company" to use their dealership SEO services. Sometimes the solicitations even come from our less-than-ethical competitors. Most of the time they come in the form of spam email messages, but for some reason, the dealers don't realize it's spam. A typical message will go something like this:
Hello website owner, your website is terrible. You're not #1 on Google for all keywords. Pay us money and we'll guarantee #1 placement.
To someone like me or any other ethical SEO expert these emails are laughable. Jade Sholty wrote a good summary here which I recommend reading. These "companies" (many aren't even legitimate companies) send these emails out to every website contact they can find. This is one of the reasons we recommend registering client domain names with our own contact info, so there is a lower chance that our clients will get sucked into one of these scams. The truth though, is that the wording seems quite scary to the untrained reader. Someone who knows very little about SEO or website structure is only going to see "my website needs to be improved right now". There are a handful of reputable SEO companies out there, but like anything else, a good rule of thumb is that if you're going to buy a product/service from someone, either you call/email them to buy it, or you do some due diligence before pulling the trigger on someone who is soliciting you.

Like Jade mentioned in her own article, I too have occasionally called these companies to see how they present themselves over the phone. I have yet to speak with anyone who knows much about legitimate SEO, yet they continue to (successfully) acquire clients on occasion. PT Barnum had it right, but I'm still trying to do my part and convert some of those suckers into educated dealers who are able to hang on to their money in the face of spammer snake oil salesmen.

Another recommended article is here, and talks about questions to ask your SEO provider. Most of the "bad companies" can't even answer half of the questions. Can your provider?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Some Craigslist Autoposters No Longer Working for Many Auto Dealers

If you've been using an auto-poster to list your vehicles on Craigslist, you're not the only one. Many dealers use such tools, because the amount of time required to post so many vehicles manually (let alone renew the ads regularly) is just not feasible. Craigslist doesn't care, because they really want the classified site to be used by individuals, not businesses. The reason why many auto-posters will soon no longer work is that Craigslist is no longer supporting the HTML tag in its listings. This is presumably to combat the rising use of auto-posters, something that is against the Craigslist Terms of Use.

As of today, when posting a vehicle to Craigslist users are shown a message that says the following:
PLEASE NOTE: Externally-hosted images (IMG tag) will soon be disallowed in for-sale ads. Please use CL image upload.

Here's a screenshot of the actual message:
PLEASE NOTE: Externally-hosted images (IMG tag) will soon be disallowed in for-sale ads. Please use CL image upload.
In case you're not clear on what the img tag is, it's a way to have an image (e.g. an ad for your vehicle) displayed on the Craigslist site without actually uploading the image to Craigslist. Using the img tag enables you to specify a source on your own server, or if using a 3rd party autoposter, a source on their server for the image displayed. It was only a matter of time before this happened, because Craigslist had absolutely no control over what images were being displayed, and some sellers (including car dealers) were abusing the site by flooding it with post after post of their own inventory, even duplicating the same vehicle several times per day. If the classified listings have 100,000 ads for used cars in one city and 20,000 of those are duplicates, it decreases the usability of the site for car shoppers, kind of like having to sift through your inbox when it's full of spam.

So what does this mean for dealers who want to continue using an auto-poster? Well the days of posting image-based ads are pretty much over. Dealers can (and will) complain for as long as they wish. The Terms of Use on Craigslist state clearly that (paraphrasing here) if you don't like the way they run the site or the rules they have in place, your only option is to stop using the site. I personally think a lot of dealers will stop using the site because they don't want to spend the time, which will only help those dealers who choose to continue using the site. In terms of supply and demand, it will mean less supply (ads) with the same amount of demand (shoppers). Dealers who continue to use either an auto-poster, manual posting tool, or posting service like Higher Turnover offers will thrive and continue to see a significant return on investment from one of the most visited classified sites in the world.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Choosing a Dealer Website Provider

A simple email I received prompted me to write this post today. The email was from a "website development and marketing company" based in the Western U.S. The message was short and sweet: they saw I just registered a domain name and wanted to know if I needed help with programming, design, or marketing. We get emails like this all the time. Some are well-written, some are not, but the point of this post is the bigger picture.

Someone who didn't know any better and who had a real need for website design or internet marketing at the moment they received the email might have hired this company. Every decision-maker has the right to hire whomever they wish, but chances are you don't have to think too hard to come up with a horror story about a friend, relative, or even yourself who made a bad decision at some point and had to live with it (i.e. money or time wasted). For some reason it seems that car dealers are especially susceptible to "being sold" on a vendor's products or services, without doing any due diligence at all.

To me, this email I received had several red flags:
  1. It ended up in my spam folder - If they can't even get their own emails successfully delivered to my inbox, why would I hire them to do email marketing for me?
  2. There were grammatical errors - Again, if they can't write a 3-sentence email without grammar and spelling errors, how would that reflect on my business if they were representing us?
  3. It was addressed to a generic name - If they want to impress me with their marketing skills, they probably shouldn't be referring to me as "Mr. Admin"
These sort of emails are a regular occurrence. I just happened to look this one over as I was emptying my spam folder and decided to comment. We see it all the time...dealers who choose a website provider because the salesperson "sold" them. These are the same dealers that come to us 6 months later, complaining that they wasted thousands of dollars on empty promises. If you're a dealer reading this, don't say you haven't been warned!

Friday, January 04, 2013

How Many Sales Do You Lose on Fridays?

I'm guilty of it from time to time, and I'd bet money that you are too...mentally "checking out" on Friday afternoons. Sure, it would be great to be at happy hour, or with your family, or whatever it is you look forward to when starting your weekend instead of finishing up those last couple of hours at work, but staying focused at the end of the week can make a difference in your paycheck.

I've seen it a million times...a salesperson is an hour or two from wrapping up their day and watching the seconds tick by on the clock. What they're not seeing, or sometimes even downright ignoring, are customers. Not just customers that show up on the lot, but customers in your CRM system, Rolodex, or whatever it is that you keep customer info stored in. If you're sitting at a desk for your last hour at the dealership and checking out Facebook, reading news articles, or doing other "non-work" activities to just get the day finished, you're shooting yourself in the foot. How many calls to past customers could you make in an hour? All you need is one good call every Friday and you're potentially talking another 50+ units sold throughout the course of the year. Could you use that extra commission?

Sure, salespeople can survive by cherry picking those ups who fall into their lap, but you can EXCEL by being proactive and "running through the finish line", not just trying to get to it. Happy Friday, and happy selling!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Another Google Update to Remind Us About the Importance of Marketing Diversification

Google confirmed recently that they pushed the 23rd update to their Panda algorithm since the first release in February, 2011. For readers who aren't familiar with what this means, this is the 23rd time in the last 22 months that they've "tweaked" the ranking mechanism which determines where your website ranks in their search results. This constant tweaking is a nuisance to some webmasters, as you can see from some of the comments on this Search Engine Land post. It serves as a reminder though. The important thing to take out of this is that Google has become such a large part of our lives that often we lose sight of how much we rely on them to drive business our way.

Someone searching for a car online may run across your vehicle that matches their search. Someone looking for a nearby dealership may end up finding your website. They only find these things because of Google or whatever search engine they're using. Imagine if Google decided to start selling cars and remove all car dealer websites from their search results so they could effectively "hide" their competition. Sure, that's an extreme example, but it's the sort of thing (the bigger picture at least) that you should be thinking about. Because the web offers so many advantages over traditional media, and because it's the most cost-effective marketing platform, it's become huge. Sure it may make sense to put the majority of your marketing dollars there, but don't put all your eggs in one basket, because although unlikely, the next Panda update could wipe your dealership off the most widely used digital map. A little marketing diversification can go a long way, especially when it's geared toward a combination of both traditional advertising media and various online platforms, not just a narrow focus on SEO for one search engine.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Don't Fall for the DNS Services or Domain Registry of America Scam

Every few weeks we get a call or email from a client wondering what the "bill" from DNS Services or the Domain Registry of America is for. The truth is, it's not a bill, but rather a shady tactic these unethical companies use to try and trick people into paying them money.

They market via direct mail, and send what appears to be an invoice for domain renewals, often complete with a message indicating the client's website is going to be taken offline if they don't act fast. They're presented in a fashion that highlights the "scare tactics", but if you read the fine print, it shows that it's not actually an invoice.

These companies make their money from the people who don't know any better and end up sending a check for domain registration services, at a rate of typically 10x the normal rate you can register a domain with a reputable company like GoDaddy.com. If you receive one of these fake invoices, our advice is to throw it in the trash where it belongs. After all, if a company has to trick you into doing business with them, does it really matter what they're trying to sell you? Avoid these companies unless you want to spend unnecessary money and cause yourself a headache.
Domain Registry of America Scam
Domain Registry of America Sample
DNS Services Scam
DNS Services Sample

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Changing Dealer Website Providers

After a lengthy process of restructuring our company website, I was thinking about how much a car dealer normally has to go through to switch website providers, and unfortunately the answer is "not much" with most providers. I say "unfortunately" because by not doing things properly, the dealer's website can take a big hit in the search engine results and rankings. It takes a lot of work to do things properly, and because dealers typically don't know any better, they trust their new provider will do it the right way. Providers can get away with not spending the extra time/effort and 99% of the time the dealer will never know, but as a reputable dealer website provider, Higher Turnover insists on doing things the right way whenever possible.

Usually a websites URL structure (the names of the pages) will change from one provider to the next. Someone may have an inventory page as "inventory" while another may have it as "vehicles" or something else. Pages get indexed in search engines, and if the appropriate steps aren't taken, all of your search results could be useless. Imagine your old provider has your vehicles at www.yoursite.com/inventory and that's the way your vehicles are indexed (included) in the search results. If you switch to a provider who uses a different URL, for example www.yoursite.com/vehicles, the visitor who clicks on your indexed link in the search results will likely be taken to an error page because the page they were taken to no longer exists.

Some things to put in place to avoid these problems are uploading a new sitemap to the search engines (which lets them know what pages currently exist on your site) and automatically redirecting all old URL's to the corresponding new pages. These are relatively simple things to do which help you retain search engine rankings, and perhaps more importantly help your customers actually get to your new site when they click on a link in the search results. If you're considering a switch from one dealer website provider to another, make sure they are accountable for making your transition a smooth and PROPER one.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dealers Listing Cars on Facebook

A new article was published today about the use of Facebook by retailers to promote their products. The original article is here and it got me thinking.

Car dealers are becoming more and more interested in promoting their dealerships on Facebook because let's face it, pretty much everyone is on Facebook. It's free, and there are hundreds of millions of people using the site regularly. While most successful dealers have at least set up a business page on Facebook and use it to interact with customers, other dealers use it to try and actually sell their vehicles to their followers/fans.

Some website providers these days offer to build a "tab" on the dealer's Facebook page which lists their entire inventory, just like their own website. The thinking is that potential customers (or anyone who "likes" the dealer's page) will click on that tab and browse their inventory. They feel that people will browse inventory on Facebook instead of actually going to the dealer's site and do it there. I personally have never bought into this, and today an article came out that suggests the same thing. (see the original article by clicking here).

On some levels it makes sense to market vehicles this way. If the people are there, then why not, right? Well the article I referenced quoted an analyst as saying for companies trying to sell their products through these means, "it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar." Furthermore, people would need to actively seek out the vehicle information, whereas the entire philosophy of Facebook is to push content to the user, so they don't need to seek it out. This is why we offer a different service to our clients where individual vehicles are posted to the dealer's Facebook wall. This way they actually show up in the fans news feed and get exposure. It's important to limit the frequency of these sort of posts, but that's another article for another day.

If major retailers like Gamestop, Gap, J.C. Penny, and Nordstrom have all pulled the plug on these Facebook storefronts, I have to think there's some validation to my beliefs. I know I don't shop on Facebook for anything. Sure, I may visit a retailer's page to see if they have any promotions going on or to see what other shoppers are saying about them, but if I want to buy something I head to the retailers own website. Getting people to change the way they shop online can happen, but I personally don't think it's going to happen anytime soon, and Gamestop (and the others) have proven that point as far as I'm concerned.

I'm curious to hear comments from others, but I'm especially curious to hear from car dealers (or salespeople) who have tried the inventory tab on their company Facebook page. Has it worked for you? Do you know how its use compares to your other Facebook activity in generating leads?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Car Dealer Websites - What Not to Do

I'm a big picture guy by nature. I could be doing the most mundane task and I'm usually thinking of how it relates to other industries, or what the implications are from different angles. This week I was Christmas shopping online as millions of others do. I'm involved in development of car dealer websites, so I consider myself somewhat of a usability expert when it comes to web design.

When someone is visiting/using a website, they expect certain things. They have expectations for a lot of things including where to find things on the site and how certain things work. For example, I was shopping for a new Pandora bracelet for my girlfriend. Of course the first place I went to research was the official Pandora site. At first it was like any other website...decent looking and seemingly functional. Click on "explore" and navigate to the bracelet section...easy enough. OK, I know she wants a bracelet, I know she likes silver...click and click. Hold on, now they want to know what color. What color? I thought it was just a silver bracelet. OK, let's pick a random color and see what happens. How about orange? That's her favorite color. Now they want a price range. I just want to see the damn things that are available so I click on "show all". Finally, some results for me to check out. They have 10 different bracelets to choose from? Well I guess I'll start with the one that I think she'll like best. I click on it which produces...nothing. I click again and then realize the image isn't even linked. No way to get a closer look at the bracelet. I'm just stuck looking at a low-resolution image of the bracelet. It could be a circular ring of speaker wire for all I know.

Whatever, I'll just have to trust that this is the one she'll like. OK, time to put it in my cart and find some charms to go with it. I don't see how to put it in my cart, so now what? Oh well, I guess I'll just remember which one it is and find the charms. They have over 600 different charms you can purchase. For the average guy, this is a little overwhelming but I manage to find a few that I know she'll like. Good, I'll just add them to my cart and checkout. Wait a minute, where's that cart I put the bracelet in? Oh yeah, there wasn't one. All I can do is put everything in my "wish list".

My biggest gripe with this process is that I'm a guy and they don't make it easy for us. I'm not just a "clueless when it comes to buying jewelry" kind of guy, but as many would translate that title, I'm your "average" guy. The Pandora website is not the easiest or most intuitive design for someone like me, so I can only imagine what it's like for someone with fewer internet skills. It took me at least a half hour to figure out what to buy. The biggest surprise once I found all that stuff? You can't even purchase anything on the site other than a gift card! I know that if I go to my nearest jeweler who carries the Pandora brand that they're not going to have all 600+ charms in stock. Also, I've since discovered that there are a multitude of sizes for the bracelets themselves. What guy knows the size of his girlfriend's or wife's wrist? I ran across 7 different sizes available, and guessing which one will fit properly doesn't seem to have good odds.

At the end of the day I decided to get a different gift. If the Pandora site had been designed without some fundamental flaws, I would have dropped quite a bit of money on their overpriced items. Instead, I became aggravated and even after spending quite a bit of time looking at their stuff I decided to abandon the idea. Think about who you're designing your website for. In the case of Pandora, I'd have to believe a significant percentage of shoppers are men buying gifts. The site isn't geared toward men buying gifts though, it's geared toward people researching the brand. Pandora has some really strong aspects of their business model (e.g. securing long-term business through repeat customers) but this lack of e-commerce and non male-friendly site seems like a horrible marketing move if you ask me.

We have auto dealer clients from time to time who ask for off-the-wall features on their websites. Music playing on the homepage or some other novelty which was cool in the early 1990's for example. I encourage every website owner to think about who their audience is before designing a site. Sure, if you can dream it you can build it, but is "it" what your customers are looking for, or is it what you want?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Car Dealer Websites Using Flash Alienate iPhone and iPad Users

As someone in the business of developing websites for car dealers, I frequently see an advertisement for a dealership and check out the website listed in their ad. If I happen to be watching TV and see the website on a TV ad, I typically don't sit around with my laptop so I check on my iPhone. This happened the other day and when I went to the dealer's site from my iPhone, nothing but a message telling me to download Adobe Flash. Of course I know Flash isn't supported on the iPhone or iPad but I wanted to see what less knowledgeable people might have seen if they clicked on the link to install Flash. "Flash player not available on your device". So basically, if Flash is required to view your dealership website, there is no possible way for the customers to actually use your site. With the number of iPads and iPhones out there (and continuing to grow), if I were a car dealer, this would be the only reason I need to stay away from Flash websites.

I won't mention their specific name, but our competitor who handles this particular dealer's site I checked is one of the larger companies out there. They've made a decision to cater to what their clients want, rather than educate them on best practices for exposure. When we use Flash in our designs, it's only because the dealers insist on it, even after we've educated them on the drawbacks. We know that if you are going to use it, you should use it properly. This means have a non-Flash version of the site which is displayed for iPhones/iPads, or for smaller Flash elements, have images which are displayed when the Flash cannot be displayed. See the website header on www.tmotorsales.com, one of our client sites. Visiting the site from a PC you'll see the animated header. Visiting the site from an iPhone you'll see an image of the header rather than the big empty space that most providers have on their client sites.

If you're going to do something, you should do it properly, that's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Car Dealer Giving Away Free AK-47's

I ran across this video recently which I thought was worth sharing. I've seen a lot of gimmicks used by car dealers to draw a crowd, but never anything like this. There are some good lessons to be learned from this dealer, even though you may not agree with his tactics...

Whether you agree with this dealer or not in his advertising practices, you have to admit one thing: he's got a huge amount of exposure as a result of this. Sure, some people are going to be definitively turned off by this, but when you consider the exposure he's getting from CNN and other national news, local news, YouTube views, syndicated radio shows, and blogs like this, I'm sure there is a significant net gain in the number of potential customers the dealership has been getting. Even if someone isn't a gun owner, seeing news pieces like this often end up in Google searches for the dealership. The dealer even mentioned how much his website traffic (and resulting sales) are up.

Personally I feel this marketing takes things to a different level, but I like how this dealer thinks outside the box. How many YouTube videos or CNN bits have you seen on a particular dealer offering a free gas card?

Max Motors is now upping the ante...instead of AK-47's with a purchase, they're now offering a .50 cal sniper rifle with any Viper purchase. Same sort of promo as the last one, but they wouldn't get any additional press if they simply continued the AK-47 promo, so why not take it up a notch to get more people talking?

I see only one problem with their marketing campaign. They obviously have done a great job at creating attention/interest, but upon examination of their website I think their conversion rate could be a lot higher if the site wasn't so busy. Granted, I don't know what their conversion rates are, but with all the "crap" on their site I'd be willing to bet that a more simple, to the point site would help their sales. Even a micro site for the "Snipers for Vipers" campaign.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Something to remember when using Facebook for your car dealership

More and more dealers are turning to social media to generate exposure for their dealerships. This has been a growing trend for years, but I would compare it to the late 90's with dealership websites. More than 10 years after the inception of online classifieds and dealer website platforms and there are still a lot of dealers who have yet to invest any time in it. A lot of old school dealers think that because they sell enough cars without a website, there's no need for one. I hear a lot who say things like "we tried a website and didn't get any sales," or "people browse websites but don't buy anything". This same mentality often translates into newer trends such as social media.

Let's take a look at Facebook since it seems to be the most widely used. Hundreds of millions of people use Facebook, and not just for car shopping. Of course there are going to be people who aren't relevant to your car dealership because they're not researching car dealers there. What about the people who are relevant, i.e. the people who at some point in their lives will buy a car from a dealer?

We've had dealers set up a Facebook page and a week or two later abandon it because no car shoppers have contacted them directly through it. To effectively use Facebook one must realize that it's a newer concept than what they've done in the past, therefore it needs to be used and interpreted differently. Take for example my personal account with Facebook. I have many friends who have accounts, and I frequently talk to these friends on the phone. If I look at their Facebook pages, some of them haven't updated their status or done anything on there for months or even years. At times these same friends will ask me about things that I've posted like "so I see you bought a new car". So what you may ask. The point is that social media is different, and everyone uses it differently. Just because people may not leave comments on your dealership Facebook page doesn't mean it's not being seen. Taking it a step further, some of these people formulate opinions on your dealership based on what they see on your page, and often times these are the people that are walk-ins at your dealership.

Social media like Facebook is much more difficult to track effectively, and just because you only see the tip of the iceberg from the wheel room doesn't mean there isn't a lot of stuff below the surface that can impact your course. If you're a dealer using social media to generate exposure for your dealership, keep this in mind. Be vigilant even when it seems you're not accomplishing much on the surface, because usually it's what's below the surface that's most important.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How many hours per day are you selling cars?

I've spent a couple of Sundays on car lots recently. None of the dealers were open while I was there; I was just checking out cars without being hassled by salesmen. To my surprise, there were a lot of people on each lot I visited. Apparently a lot of people prefer to check out cars on their own time, without being confronted by intrusive salespeople. I don't know why this surprised me, because the behavior parallels the internet shopping experience. Buyers use the internet for two primary reasons: anonymity and convenience.

With all these shoppers on the lots when the dealers were closed, it made me wonder...while some of these dealers had websites, what were they doing for the real-world customers who silently examine their inventory on the lot? I wanted to know mileage for cars. I wanted to know what options they had. Sure, this info is typically on a dealer website, but what about the "old school" shoppers who aren't using the internet? The answer is window stickers.

A window sticker always comes from the manufacturer for new cars, but why don't many dealers use them on their used inventory? Higher Turnover offers the ability to print professional, custom window stickers in a matter of seconds for each vehicle. These stickers show buyers many of the vehicle features and benefits that they want to know. Sure, some dealers have the mindset that if someone is a serious buyer they'll come back when the dealer is open, but those dealers forget one thing. Building value for the shoppers makes them want to come back even more, and makes your cars stand out above the competitor's inventory. If you have a car on one lot which has a professional looking sticker, all of the vehicle info, description, etc., don't you think that builds value more than just a car with an FTC Buyer's Guide that has a VIN and no info specific to that car? I say it does, and I guarantee you're losing some customers if you're relying solely on the actual car to sell itself.

If you're interested in learning about how easy it is to print custom window stickers for your inventory, visit the Higher Turnover website.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lead Response Times are Important

A recent shopping experience prompted me to write about lead response times, and you can probably guess why. I'm in the market for a boat, and I'm busy during the day so my shopping time is after the boat dealer is already closed. I recently found 3 boats at the same dealership which fit my needs as well as my budget.

I submitted a lead for 2 boats through the dealer's website (which was less than professional, but more on that later). I also submitted a lead for a 3rd boat through a 3rd party classified site. Here we are, more than 48 hours later and I still have not received a response from the dealer on either of the leads. Needless to say, I'm definitely not purchasing a boat from this seller.

I've heard some dealers say that web leads are mostly garbage and that serious shoppers will call. True, sometimes a phone up will be a more serious buyer, but that doesn't mean that all online lead submissions are worthless. Here I am with cash in hand, interested in purchasing inventory from the seller, and they don't feel the need to respond to me because of how I contacted them. A dealer is in business for one primary reason: to sell units. Why on earth would I plunk down thousands of dollars with a particular dealer if they aren't even responsive when I (among others) am the reason for their business being in existence? If they can't even be responsive to a sales lead, how would they be responsive to needs after the sale? A horrible website and no response to my inquiries adds up to an unprofessional dealer in my book.

Dealers should listen up. If you're not treating online leads as being important, you're literally throwing away money. Of course everybody would like to get emails with nothing but serious shoppers with cash in hand. You don't expect this from your walk-in traffic or phone ups, so why expect it from web leads? All lead sources are going to have good leads and bad leads. If you think one lead source produces leads that aren't worth your time, maybe you're showing some qualified buyers that you're not worth theirs.

Our Higher Turnover car dealers are trained on this from the moment they sign up with us. If someone submits a lead through their website, treat them as a valid lead, but more importantly, respond to them in a timely manner. Once they submit a lead on your site, chances are good that they move on to the competitor's site to continue shopping. We enable our dealers to receive SMS (text) messages the moment a new lead comes in. Using a service like this makes our dealers look more professional and attentive in dealing with customers, and that's what shoppers want when they're getting ready to spend thousands of dollars.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Where Do You Want Your Customers to Go When they See Your Ads?

There's one thing I've never understood about the pharmaceutical industry...their marketing philosophy. I've seen it a million times, a television ad for some new miracle drug, and then in the ad they say "see our ad in Women's Health magazine" or some other magazine. Why on earth would they want to get someone interested in their product and then send them to the store to get a magazine, then force them to search through the magazine for a 1-2 page advertisement amid a hundred other pages of content that they probably find more interesting? Sounds like a lot of work and a lot of possible distractions along the way. The point of mass media advertising is to hit a large audience with your message and siphon off a percentage to pay attention to your product. Let me try an analogy:

Suppose you're an independent dealer and sell nothing but Ford Mustangs. You have a website dedicated to your inventory of Mustangs. You decide to spend millions in an ad campaign on TV, radio, newspaper, and even a pay-per-click campaign in the search engines. Imagine if each of your advertisements told the viewer/reader/listener to search for Ford Mustangs on Autotrader.com to see your stuff. Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? You wouldn't send them there where they can easily see your competitors inventory or click on advertisements for a Camaro, Charger, etc., would you? So why does the pharmaceutical industry consistently do this?

The only thing I can think of as a possible reason is that for the drugs that are targeted toward the elderly demographic, perhaps they're more likely to get a magazine than visit a website. Even if this is the case though, I see virtually all drug commercials pointing consumers to their magazine ads, even for those that are used in younger adults who likely have internet access. Even if they wanted to target non-internet using adults with their product, wouldn't it be better to provide a phone number so the company can get the "ups" while they're still hot?

And I thought some car dealers made poor advertising decisions...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Craigs List for Car Dealers is No Secret These Days

One of the things I've noticed over the past two years is how much Craigs List has really come to the forefront of dealership advertising. Before taking my "break" from blogging 2 years ago, I was reporting on how Craigs List compared to Autotrader, Cars.com, and a few other classified sites. Some dealers were using Craigs List at the time, but not nearly as many dealers who use it now. Many website providers like Higher Turnover offer Craigs List posting tools, and I would say this feature is a common one at this point.

Because it's more commonly used these days, that also means more dealers are competing for the top spots in the listings. Since Craigs List is user-policed and anyone can flag anyone else's ads, this leads to problems such as "competitive flagging", where one poster flags another poster's ad just to remove the competition. Imagine if you could remove your competitor's listings from Autotrader.com so customers only saw your cars. How many dealers would be calling Autotrader to complain? A LOT! With Craigs List there is nobody to call, no way to be sure who is flagging your ads. It causes a lot of frustration for dealers if they are being targeted. The end result is that it takes a lot of work to keep up with Craigs List ads for your dealership. It can certainly help you sell cars. Sometimes you just have to work hard to sell cars though.