The day-to-day grind of running a business makes it easy to overlook small, incremental changes in your surroundings. For instance, my wife and I were talking the other night when I blurted out, “I am the same person I was over 27 years ago when we met.” She is a lovely person but also a pragmatist. She quietly got out our wedding pictures and it became obvious to me that a lot has changed over the years! The same is true about you and your business. A month ago I was walking a car lot with a client when I noted the letters on their sign were fading and peeling off. The client said they had never noticed it. I look in the mirror every day and that dealer looked at his sign every day, but small, incremental changes went largely unnoticed to both of us.
The upcoming VIADA and Expo gives all members a chance to step back, review where they are, and get an idea of what direction to take in the future. This annual event is something many dealerships use to reinvigorate them self, rejuvenate their business, and show support for their industry.
Before you go to the Convention you want to do a little homework. You want to first assess everything about your business. Are there parts you have known needed polishing but just haven’t taken the time work on? Are there things your competitors are doing better than you? Do you have any goals set that you have been finding harder to reach? The next step is to take a look at the Expo’s roster of vendors. Get a game plan for which ones you want to visit. There is a lot to choose from and so little time so having a plan ahead of time will help you get in front of those vendors you feel can help you most.
Advice from the Internet Corner includes a review of your website. Do you know how much traffic you are getting? If so, do you know how much of that came from Google and other search engines? You should look to see if your site is mobile friendly by visiting it on your mobile phone. If you have to scroll left or right to see the entire page or if you have to magnify the page by touching the phone screen with two fingers and spreading them apart to see it better, then you know you want to either look for a solution that provides a mobile friendly product.
Another big change to occur since the last Expo is Website Security. Can you put “https” in front of your website address and still get it to come up? If it comes up with no warning, do you see a green or yellow padlock icon next to your web address? If it is yellow, your website is not completely secure and therefore you may be missing out on some valuable search engine traffic.
You want to then review your vehicle listings page and your vehicle details pages, sometimes called VDPs or Window Sticker pages. Do you see Calls to Action with each listing? Your website’s goal should be to convert anonymous site viewers into verifiable shoppers! Do you see links for sharing a vehicle with a friend? Do you see Facebook Like and Share buttons? Are there pages for your shoppers to request more info, calculate payments, apply for credit, schedule a test drive and make an offer? No one client will utilize all these Call to Actions but if your site has them all, then every shopper should find at least one of them interesting enough to fill out and submit a lead.
Another new and popular feature is SMS. Your listings should have Send to Phone links and/or Text codes that can be texted by the shopper directly to your dealership. Automatic alerts are also popular. Can your shopper sign up for automatic alerts via email or text when you change the price of a vehicle or sell it? Today’s consumer is more tech savvy every day and therefore you want to be sure your website is keeping up with them. There will be vendors from the Internet industry, floor planning, auctions, you name it, and you will definitely take something back to the dealership that will pay off if you just put a little work into it.
The next thing you want to be sure to plan on taking in is all the education being offered. This Convention and Expo is one of only a few times you will have where others are trying to help you be more successful! If the education seminars are not helping you sell more cars, they are telling you how to do your work in a legal, compliant manner. You not only want to be the best dealership, you also want to be the one that is never on the wrong side of the law!
Each day of the Convention has food and fun sprinkled in. You are there to get the most for your dealership, but it is also important to enjoy your time away from your business. There are charity events hosted by the Ladies Auxiliary, entertainment and food every day, and this year will have a repeat of Casino night, a crowd favorite from last year. Bring your family and enjoy yourself. You will be back to work at the dealership soon enough.
I hope to see you at this year’s VIADA convention and Expo and I hope you and your family get the most out of your time. I will not be hard to miss; I am the guy who got a little shorter, a little wider, and a little grayer than I was 27 years ago!