auto dealer website

Weekly ISM Checklist

from, posted 6/3/08

Now for the weekly check list.  ISMs need to be completelting these items on a weekly basis and reporting to their management on their progress of each of these items.  Following this task list regularly will greatly increase your success: 

Weekly Check List

Date _______

1. __ Visit dealership website. Call toll free and other phone numbers to ensure they’re working and being answered properly.

2. __ Check AutoTrader,,, and/or other third party website photos, pricing information, and phone numbers.

3. __ Blind shop competitors selling both similar and different makes and models.

4. __ Post any upcoming Events and Specials on website. Be careful about posting any future discounts or pricing – those should be only posted once they are on, or when they are about to end to instill urgency.

5. __ Schedule broadcast email once per month, at the beginning of the third week of the month. Preferably, send on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. Always have something for the customer first and foremost – give them a compelling reason to open your email.

6. __ Schedule automated targeted email campaigns to existing customers, including interests, specials, birthdays, etc.

7. __ Check with vendors to see if there are duplicate addresses they are sending leads to, to former employees, etc..

8. __ Test templated emails to see how they are arriving to customers.

9. __ Check your site for manufacturers compliance or non-compliances issues.

10. __ If you find any issues, send an email to your vendor (so you have it in writing), cc-ing your GM or ID, and immediately follow up with a phone call. If the issue is not resolved in 24 hours, re-send the email, and cc you GM or ID. They should take it from there.

Following these processes and checklists will help you maximize you efforts and success! Good luck.

No More Excuses

There are no more late adopters  

For years, we’ve heard the excuses. At first it was, “most of my audience would rather shop on the lot,” and then it was, “Some my audience still doesn’t have internet access,” a short time later we heard, “There are still some people out there who don’t use the web to do their background research,” and even later we got this, “There’s still a group of consumers out there who refuse to use the internet, so we have to stay in the paper and on television.”

Well all of those excuses had merit at one time or another. And now, we’re here to say, that the time for all of those excuses has passed. The number of people who are both capable of purchasing a new or used automobile, and are non-internet users is so incredibly small as to be unworthy of your time and attention. And the same can be said for dial-up internet users… don’t you worry about them anymore either. The age of the late adopters has come and gone. And even those that came late to the online party have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

So what does that mean to your marketing? A few things…

  • 1. No sense in segmenting your marketing into digital and non-digital formats, now. Every consumer is a digital consumer.
  • 2. Assume that every customer is going to visit your web site. Count on it. It’s already happening.
  • 3. Assume those customers know as much (or more) about pricing, options, financing, special offers and manufacturer’s incentives than your sales people do.
  • 4. Don’t shy away from multimedia content, embrace it. Your audience is broadband.
  • 5. Focus on the user experience of all your digital marketing. It’s just as, if not more, important than the experience a customer has when they visit your lot.
  • 6. Don’t apologize for being digital. In fact, target your competition who isn’t up to date on technologically.
  • 7. Realize that all your materials, now more than ever, need to work together.

These are just a few of the ways an all-online audience will change the way you approach identifying and reaching out to new customers. The days of the late adopter are long gone. Act accordingly.

D. Jones
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
SmackDabble, LLC

Ensure That Your Web Site Pulls in Buyers

From Digital Dealer Magazine May 2008
by : Peter Batten

Your online store is just as important as your showroom, and the reason why is clear: 70 percent of new vehicle buyers use the Internet to vehicle shop, as do 61 percent of used vehicle buyers (2007 J.D. Power and Associates New & Used studies). But, as you may have noticed, simply having a web site will not increase your traffic, leads, or sales. In fact, a flaccid web site can do more harm than good as potential customers quickly ascertain that they will not find the information they want and leave your site in favor of a big portal or automaker site. But it does not have to be that way. You can make your dealership web site a best-in-class consumer destination with the features and tools that give your customers the comprehensive content, intuitive navigation, and breadth of information found on leading portals and manufacturer sites. That’s right: your site can be as impressive as any automotive site out there. And you can do it all with a minimum of development time.

Lifestyle search capabilities
With a lifestyle search, a consumer can search for vehicles that match their needs without having to know any esoteric vehicle information. For example, a customer can search by body style, like SUV, coupe, or convertible, instead of having to start searching by make and model. Many consumers do not know what exact trim they want; they just know they need an SUV because they carry cargo on slippery roads, or a compact because they want to save on gas bills. Lifestyle searches are intuitive for consumers, allowing them to find the vehicle they want with the least amount of hassle and frustration. 

Powerful comparison features
A J.D. Powers and Associates study focusing on best practices on manufacturer web sites found that consumers loved powerful comparison tools that allowed them to compare multiple vehicles at one time (2006 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation StudySM – J.D. Powers and Associates). They found that side-by-side and advantage-based comparisons are especially useful because shoppers can quickly scan the results and even print out results for future consideration. There are several companies who can equip your web site with a robust comparison tool in record time.

Vehicle images and videos
The same J.D. Powers and Associates study cited above found that consumers gravitate to vehicle images and videos, which put them immediately in the virtual driver’s seat. Videos are especially valuable for demonstrating functionality and versatility of a vehicle including: acceleration, cornering, stopping, and much more. Color changes and interior shots are invaluable for helping the consumer to experience the vehicle and for generating excitement and the desire to buy. Consider including a comprehensive equipment listing for each of your vehicles alongside a detailed photo that consumers can click to view different angles, interior shots, colors, and live-action video.
Build-A-Car tool tied to your inventory
The advantages of a Build-A-Car tool on your web site have been well documented. Give consumers the opportunity to design the car of their dreams and they will stay on your site longer, return again and again, and convert into a valid prospect at a higher rate. Bump this tool up to the next level by integrating it with your inventory so customers can see what you have available. 

Online credit applications
You want prospects to become buyers. An additional feature to help you meet this goal is the online credit application. By including a secure link to a credit application that a customer can immediately complete, you are saving that customer time and hassle and also converting a lead into a viable prospect. Use the credit application as a virtual shopping cart to close qualified buyers in record time.

Making Your Vehicles Stand Out Online

by : Glen Garvin
Digital Dealer Magazine, April 2008

Each month millions of potential car buyers go online to research and shop for used vehicles. In fact, studies show that in 2006, 59 percent of all pre-owned vehicle shoppers used the Internet during the buying process. Internet research and shopping is no longer a trend, it’s now part of the dealership sales cycle.

So what happens when someone goes online to research or buy a vehicle? Most consumers will use a search engine to find the information they want, and end up at portals with thousands of vehicle listings. And that means lots of competition for the sale.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking; consumers often narrow their list of potential vehicles by using detailed search criteria and, by default, this will reduce the number of vehicles in the search results. Let’s look at this two ways: First, for the consumers who narrow their search, there will still be competitive listings and it is even more important for you stand out amongst those final listings. Think of it like Dancing with the Stars, you don’t need to stand out in a really crowded field; you just need to be “good enough.”

When the contestants are narrowed down to just the best, you need to differentiate and stand out. Secondly, we should consider the buyer who hasn’t yet decided on their make or model, because they’ll often research many different makes and models. They’ll come across hundreds…maybe thousands of vehicles. There’s no doubt you need to stand out.

But wait, you say, you’ve also paid your third-party lead provider a nice premium for a high ranking on their site. Yes, that will help drive consumers to your listing. But how do you get someone to focus on what you’re selling? What can you do to differentiate your listing and make your vehicle stand out online?

The first step is using enough photos to showcase all aspects of the vehicle. In 1921 the New York Times ran an article entitled “Use of Pictures for Advertising.” It was based on a national study of large retailers and concluded not only that “people want pictures,” but that images used in advertising a) attract attention, b) arouse interest and c) create desire. That was over 85 years ago, but if you think things have changed since then in the world of advertising…not. It’s still the rule of thumb when it comes to promotion. In the retail auto industry, displaying nine vehicle photos is common and probably acceptable, but never less than six. Many dealers see the value of showcasing their vehicles, especially ones that might be uniquely equipped, with upwards of 20 photos.

The quality of the image is also important. This is determined by photo resolution or pixels, short for “picture element.” Pixels are small color samples of the image. The more pixels a digital image contains, the clearer the photo. The industry standard for photos has been 800 x 680 pixels. That might have worked 10 years ago, but not today. With the introduction of flat screen desk monitors, the standard size of monitors has increased to 19 inches. Many people are using screens that measure 23 inches or more. Photo resolutions of 800 x 680 don’t transition well to screens that size. Trying to enlarge the photo beyond its normal resolution doesn’t work either; trust me. You’re going to need a photo with a minimum 1024 x 768 resolution in order for it to appear clear and sharp on someone’s monitor. And here’s something else you should know: blurry, poor quality images are not only a big turn-off to buyers, they make your dealership look second-rate.

Videos are another great way to make your vehicle stand out online. They elicit curiosity because the viewer wants to see what’s going to happen next. Videos can also engage a buyer faster and with more emotional impact than almost any other online sales tool or technique. It’s an ideal format for providing in-depth data on vehicle owner history, emphasizing what options the vehicle has above and beyond the standard package for that make and model, or pointing out the vehicle’s rarity or other unique aspects. Don’t forget to add some flare to the presentation with music and professionally done voice-overs.

You’ll also attract and interest online buyers by focusing on differentiators in the listing’s features and seller notes sections. For example, in the features section, make sure OEM certifications are noted. Many buyers are drawn to certified pre-owned vehicles because it means the car has been fully inspected, is in good condition and comes with a warranty. And remember to provide complete data on unique options and equipment. What is it about this car that makes it a must-have?

In the seller notes section, emphasize selling points such as fuel economy, low mileage, excellent condition, one owner, how well the vehicle was taken care of, any accident history, the maintenance history of the car and availability of maintenance records. Use this section to really sell the vehicle on an emotional and personal level. Emotion leads to elated customers having outstanding experiences when shopping and purchasing a vehicle. This aspect of car sales has largely been ignored online, yet is a critical component of the sales cycle. Describe how the buyer is going to feel when they get behind the wheel of the car. Talk about the lifestyle benefits to owning this vehicle. Create content for this section that will have an impact on the consumer.

Finally, make sure that vehicle history reports from companies such as CarFax and AutoCheck are available. It will make the buyer feel more comfortable with their purchase. Consumers, rightfully so, are fearful of being “had.” These types of reports increase consumer confidence and reduce objections. They also shorten the negotiation and buying process.

Each vehicle in your inventory is unique and has its own story. All of the content in your listing, from photos and audio/visual to features/seller notes, should work together to tell that story in a way that compels a customer to take ownership during the buying process. When that happens, more sales are closed and higher grosses are achieved. It’s a win for everyone – the customer enjoys the purchasing experience and gets the vehicle they want, and the dealers sell more cars at a reasonable profit.