To begin I would like to step back a little in time. Let us all go back to the year 1990 and remember what it was like during the course of a normal business day. Many of you have been selling cars fifteen years or longer and may remember that in 1990, Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet! At that time most dealers kept track of their inventory as well as their accounts receivables “by hand” on ledger cards. The fax machine was just gaining popularity but most of us did not have a computer either at home nor at the office. Those of us that had computers had no idea how slow they really were. Computer screens were only in green and phone modems were not yet available, much less DSL or Broadband. It was about this time a company in the Tidewater area just began offering F&I software packages bundled with a computer and printer. During this period they were not called cell phones, but rather car phones. That was because they were too big to wear on your hip and normally had to be on charge all the time.
The only thing constant in life is change and the same is true about our business. Sometimes when I visit car dealers I hear things like “I don’t know anything about the Internet and am not interested in it”. To that I always say it is fine if you want to continue with that mind set but please remember your customer is not. Today’s car buyer is embracing new technology and using it in ways that just a couple of years ago were not possible. Your customers are getting online to find financing options, get information on specific makes and models, and to find the car or truck of their choice. If your dealership is not advertising online, then these car buyers are not finding you. This is why in just a few years we have gone from having very few VIADA members that have a website to over a majority utilizing some kind of Internet advertising.
VIADA, recognizing that times are changing, has come up with an exciting new member benefit in a new website called www.VirginiaUsedCarDealers.com. It is not enough just to have a website. In order to get the most out of your website it is important to find ways of getting people to visit it. In fact, www.VirginiaUsedCarDealers.com does that and a whole lot more! The first thing this site does is attract car buyers. We do this primarily through search engine optimization and link exchanges from other sites. The first thing the customer sees when they visit the site is a glimpse of who and what VIADA is all about. When a dealer becomes a member of VIADA, they agree to adhere to a Code of Ethics. This is basically a commitment from each member to conduct business in a fair and equitable manner and to work to improve the automotive industry image. If your customers knew you were a part of an organization that promotes fair business practices they might feel more comfortable doing business with you than they would a non-member dealer down the street from you. It is about time the public learn more about VIADA and this site is an introduction. We all have clients that ask if we do a Carfax or if we are a member of the Better Business Bureau. Imagine what it will be like when they begin asking, “Are you a member of VIADA?”!
All members benefit from this site regardless of participation. One of the things a car buyer can do at this site is search for dealers/members by zip code. If they type in your zip code they will get a link to your site as well as all your contact information along with the link and address of other members also located in and around that same zip code. It is important for all of you to go to this site and verify that VIADA has your e-mail and website address listed correctly. They just began collecting this information a couple of years ago and many of you may not be getting any of this free website traffic if your VIADA member listing is not correct.
For those members that wish to maximize Internet exposure to their inventory, their website as well as their business, we have provided a way for you to list your inventory along with complete descriptions and photos in a searchable format. Most of the visitors go to this site to search for pre-owned automobiles for sale in Virginia. Once they describe what they are looking for they get a list of vehicles that match their description. They can then shop and compare the various listings and get the selling dealer information. Eventually all site viewers are led to your dealership, your website or pick up the phone to call you. The monthly expense for this program is as little as $35 to list your entire inventory along with photos. When you see the results you will find it to be the cheapest most affordable means of advertising on the web.
Participating members have a Members Only area that allows you to manage your inventory, get links to software downloads, and get statistics on things like how many times your vehicles are displayed, clicked on, printed and how many times your phone number has been requested or the link to your website was clicked on. March was our first full month of traffic to the site and already it had performed over 2,000 vehicle searches that resulted in over 18,000 individual vehicle displays. Each participating dealer averaged over 110 vehicles being clicked on and each dealer had over 40 of those vehicle descriptions printed out. All participating dealers also had a handful of requests to view their entire inventory, requests for their contact information and received e-mail messages sent to them from the site.
Also available in the Members Only section is a Wholesale Price Listing. Those dealers that are listing their inventory now have the option of posting a wholesale price for those vehicles they want to advertise to other members for wholesale. These prices are only available to other participating members. There are no additional listing fees, sellers fees or buyers fees.
With www.VirginiaUsedCarDealers.com, Everybody Wins! If you are interested in having more traffic to your dealership’s website, more phone traffic and more car buyers on your lot, you should give this site a try. If you are interested in promoting VIADA, instilling confidence and recognition for the Association in the public’s eye and setting your dealership apart from others that are not members, you should give this website a try. If you are interested in providing your customers with the right information necessary when choosing a dealer to do business with, you should give this site a try. VIADA is offering a one month free trial to those that sign up for this new benefit between now and May 1. You can sign up by either filling out the flier you should have received in the mail from VIADA and getting it to JTZ Enterprise or you can go to www.VirginiaUsedCarDealers.com, follow the link to Member Login and click on Signup Today. Once we receive your application one of us will contact you to help setup your inventory and begin adding your car images to the site.