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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.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Online Auto Dealers Back in Business

I'm sure many of our original followers are gone by now. After all, it has been over 2 years since the last post here. We've gone through a lot of changes with our web design for car dealers business, added many new features/improvements, and introduced new offerings/businesses too. More about that in later posts.

A lot can happen in two years, both to a person and to a business. I'm glad to say that Higher Turnover has had a lot happen in a positive way, whereas I've seen a lot of negative things in the industry over the same period. Car sales have gone through a serious slump. Some website providers have failed to improve their products beyond what they had 2 years ago...an eternity as far as the internet goes. I refuse to point fingers at those who are complacent, but if you're a car dealer it should make you think. You should be in the habit of asking yourself questions: Has your website provider added any value to you over the last year or two? Have they generated more sales for your dealership to coincide with their price hikes? Have they developed new features to make your life easier, or are they just collecting their fees from you because you don't push for more value in their product?

I'll be the first to admit that things need to be prioritized and there are things that are more important than spending 10 minutes to evaluate your web design company that you've been with for years. At some point though, you have to say "OK, it's time to catch up on some things that are long overdue". If you don't, you're going to become one of those dealers that everyone else laughs at because you're so far behind the times and pay more than you should for "old" products. You're setting yourself up for disappointment at some point.