Archive for January, 2007

Has the focus changed from Location to Exposure?

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Over the last few months I have had the privilege of addressing two classes filled with aspiring car dealers fulfilling their educational requirements in order to obtain a dealer’s license. Afterwards, JTZ Enterprise has had the honor to help a few of these newly licensed car dealers develop their Internet advertising campaigns once they have hung their shingle. What is striking to me is how the focus for some of these dealers has shifted from location to Internet exposure.

In years past, an aspiring dealer would search high and low for the best location to open their dealership. We have all heard the three most important rules in real estate; location, location, location! In the past, a dealership located on the main drag would naturally get more foot traffic on the lot than a similar dealership located around the corner and off the beaten path. Car buyers drive to work and back every day passing your lot and not giving it a second thought, until the day they are in the market to buy a car, that is. Then, when the question came up as to where to begin shopping for their next car, it only made sense to stop by that dealership they drove by day after day. In the past, the only way a dealership located off the main thoroughfare could get additional exposure and traffic would be to spend money on advertising. Often times, a dealership with a less than desirable location might not have the money needed to maintain an expensive radio, T.V. or newspaper advertising campaign.

Today, that has all changed. The Internet has evened the playing field a little because it is the most affordable, effective form of advertising and it offers more ways to track the results than other forms of advertising. For instance, a typical website for a car dealer will cost about $1000 a year. When a dealer considers spending that money on other forms of advertising it does not take much research to learn that same $1000 might last a month or more if spent on newspaper ads. That same amount might get a month’s worth of radio ads and would not even get the TV commercial filmed, much less broadcasted. If you advertise with one of these other media formats the amount of times someone actually saw (much less, paid attention to) your advertisement can only be conveyed as the total overall exposure of that advertising media. Newspapers will tell you how many papers they print each day, TV and radio people can tell you about how many people tune in at any given time and tell you how many time your commercial ran. The question in your mind, though, is how many people really heard/saw the ad?

Not only is a website on 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, but it is constantly monitoring itself. Furthermore, it is not something that gets broadcast out to the masses, rather, it is a place for your customers to go to when and only if they are interested in your service or product. We can not tell you how many people are on the Internet at any one given time, but we can tell you how many people are on your website at any given time. The people that came to your site got there by one of two methods. Either they typed your address into their computer after getting it from you or one of your other forms of advertising (i.e. business card, road side sign, etc..) or they got there by following a link to your site from other automotive related websites or from search engines. If they typed in your address or followed a link to your site, they are obviously interested in your product or service and your website’s message is not falling on deaf ears. If someone visits a car dealership’s website, chances are most definite they are in the market to buy a vehicle or need some other service or product from that dealership.

Unlike other advertising, the Internet is very easy to track. Our clients have seven different counters available to them to see the Who, What, When, Where and How about their website traffic. For instance, if you also advertise on Cars.com, your website counters will show you how much traffic came to your site as a result of your Cars.com advertising. If you put your web address in the newspaper, we can show you how many people took that ad to their computer and typed that address to access your site. More importantly, most (if not all) of the visitors making it to your site are potential customers. They were not forced to go to your site. They do not have to listen to your advertising just because your commercial was next on the wheel. The Internet allows you to focus your advertising message to attract those people in the market to buy your service or product.

We have many car dealers that renew their Internet advertising year after year because they see results. Period. Some smaller dealers located off the beaten path tell us every day their website is responsible for more foot traffic on the lot and more phone calls than any other form of advertising. The dealers located on the main drag still have the location advantage but if a dealership around the corner has a similar vehicle at the same price or even lower, there is a good chance they will still attract a car buyer because today’s car buyer is turning to the Internet to research availability, find financing and to get vehicle reviews. Today, the rules for independent dealers have changed to exposure, exposure, exposure.

Many dealers have moved from focusing on road frontage to how many times they are found on the Internet. We now see is many of our clients are expanding their Internet exposure by advertising on other sites as well as having a site of their own. Many dealers are spending as little as $35 a month to put their vehicles on VIADA’s website, www.VAUsedCarDealers.com. Others may spend several hundreds of dollars on similar advertising with Trader, Cars.com and others, all in an effort increase the amount of exposure their dealership is getting from the Internet. With more and more people getting online every day and more and more car buyers turning to the Internet when making their purchase decision, the amount of exposure you get from the Internet is only going to grow. If, that is, you are on the Internet!