Monthly Archives: January 2011

Cars, People & Websites

In the business of digital marketing, most conversations seem to surround Cars, People and Websites. We’re all trying to match the right cars, with the right people, and using various web sites or web technologies to match buyers and sellers. I would venture to say, mostly we’re thinking about cars…and why shouldn’t we? If you’re in the car business, it is likely because you have a passion for cars. We’re always thinking about how to keep the right balance of the right cars. We use inventory management software, or our DMS, to keep track of the cars we have, and if we’re lucky the systems are easy to use and the data is correct. Before the internet-age, inventory systems were primarily about keeping track of our cars for accounting purposes, since we manually created our print display and classifieds ads. Today dealers have the burden of making sure that their online inventories are perfect. Not just making sure that we have kept track of every car, but that the descriptions are complete, marketing content is contained, 24+ photographs are captured, and that this data is properly sprayed out to the websites we desire. Maybe may collect all of this data ourselves, maybe a third-party helps us, but either way we need strong online inventories. If we removed all of the other distractions for an internet manager or general manager, just maintaining solid and complete online inventories can be a big enough headache.
But how often are we, at the same time, thinking about the people who may be interested in these cars? What do I mean? You know, the shoppers to our sites or showrooms, the data that is contained in our CRM, lead management system, etc. Generally, we think about the People in a separate sense. Sure, we’ve got tons of leads (we hope), plenty of shoppers, tire kickers, be-backs, never-backs, the people we need to keep selling our Cars. A great marketing speaker once posed the question to an audience, “What single item do you need to start a business?”. Answer varied…”an idea!”, “money”, “a product!”, nope. The answer was…A Customer. Of course, once we have someone will to open their wallets to us, we now have a business. We all see lots of car shoppers, and it is our job to correctly match the vehicle to the shopper.
The problem is…most of the online systems out there, don’t do a good job of connecting our Cars to the People! What cars have a lot of people interested in them? What cars don’t? Which vehicles am I receiving heavy price objections? What aged vehicles have gotten very few leads? In addition, how often and I flipping back and forth between inventory management and lead management systems, copying and pasting photos into emails, etc.
But we haven’t yet talked about how we use websites to attract People to our Cars? What websites attract the most People to our Cars? What cars sell best on which Websites? In order to take the right holistic approach to web marketing, we must have good business intelligence and system integration to help us connect People who shop on Websites and find our Cars.
Once you begin to step out of the day-to-day weeds, and look at your overall merchandising plan, you can begin to use the information available to you to make better decisions. You need to decide what are the right vehicles to stock to match the needs of your buyers, and what websites you need to market your vehicles on, to properly match them to your unique inventory.


Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

Do you remember this slogan? ranked it one of the top “Slogans of the Century”, included among: “Just do it” (Nike), “Tastes great, less filling” (Miller Lite), and “We try harder” (Avis).
Let Your Fingers Do The Walking was a Yellow Pages slogan that explained to the audience, don’t walk around and shop, use the telephone! Today dealers marketing themselves on the web are making a similar pitch, shop online first, then visit our showroom, test drive then buy! I would challenge dealers, that in order to be successful along these lines, they need to focus on the online experience. You should make the online experience as close to (or better than) the on-the-lot experience as possible. What does this mean?
When you walk on to a dealer’s lot, of course you expect to view cars. You spent a bit of time traveling to the lot, but the experience is unique. In real time, a full sensory experience where you can see the cars in unlimited angles, full motion, climb inside, ask questions, pop the hood, hear a salesperson build value, and so on. This entire experience helps you decide if this is the car for you. However, today shoppers are very limited with time, and they like the convenience of shopping at home in their pajamas. So the question to ask yourself is, how can you best simulate the on-the-lot experience, in an online world? This article will begin to propose some ideas for accomplishing this very thing.
Step 1. Photos, lots of photos, more photos than you’re taking now, as many photos as you can reasonably capture, to give that online shopper the simulation of actually being there. Under the hood, the trunk, the folding third row, the navigation system, the pristine condition of the leather interior…you get my point. When I shop for a car, I look all around, and your photos should do the same. Web stats have proven repeatedly, more photos = preferred shopping experience.
Step 2. Descriptive text…make it real and make it relevant. Shoppers expect you to give a description of the equipment, specs and options…but you cannot stop there. What are the most important options that differentiate this vehicle? And don’t just list them as bulleted text, make it sound like a conversation. People will listen to conversation, but may fall asleep to bulleted text. Conversation creates preference, creates a connection, and helps close a sale or test-drive. I won’t tell you this is easy, but specific and customized text (marketing descriptions) needs to be created for each and every vehicle you market online.
Step 3. Videos. Videos create the ultimate multimedia experience…the next best thing to being there. Sight, sound, motion, and human interaction. It is as if you are actually standing on the lot, you are watching a video of the value-building walkaround on this vehicle. Again, not easy to do, the dealer must be committed to creating the very best online content, but seldom does greatness come easy.
Step 4. Personal Service. If you are standing on the lot, and you ask if the vehicle has a disappearing 3rd row seat, the salesperson can simply show you. But, if the online description doesn’t list this information, and the consumer asks it, your goal should be to respond to this customer in the most near-real-time way you can. This means constant monitoring on web messaging, and quick response, including running out to the vehicle to capture pictures or video to help answer the shoppers question. After all, your commitment is to try and simulate the on-the-lot experience.
And once you’ve created this fabulous content, make sure the websites you post to (your site, 3rd party portals, local sites), also post this rich information. If they don’t, chances are they have not yet caught up to the notion that better content = better shopping experience = sales.
This article may tell you things you already know, or things you don’t, but not much of what I’ve written here is easy to do. You certainly can outsource much of this work to capable 3rd party providers, or you can use some of the slick software solutions to do-it-yourself. But the good news is, if you commit to posting this type of content on your vehicles, you can almost bet your competitor will not! I look at cars online all the time, and see the level of service dealers are currently providing, and the fact is…this is a great way to stand out and differentiate. Your shoppers will remember the unique experience you provided, will likely buy from you, and tell their friends.

Happy Posting!

Full List:
Diamonds are forever (DeBeers)
Just do it (Nike)
The pause that refreshes (Coca-Cola)
Tastes great, less filling (Miller Lite)
We try harder (Avis)
Good to the last drop (Maxwell House)
Breakfast of champions (Wheaties)
Does she … or doesn’t she? (Clairol)
When it rains it pours (Morton Salt)
Where’s the beef? (Wendy’s)
Look Ma, no cavities! (Crest toothpaste)
Let your fingers do the walking (Yellow Pages)
Loose lips sink ships (public service)
M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hand (M&M candies)
We bring good things to life (General Electric