Archive for June, 2007

Is your website creating more work for you?

Friday, June 1st, 2007

Occasionally, I hear “old timers’ say, “Selling cars is not as easy as it used to be”. It does seem like with every passing year a new step, document or law is created requiring you, the car dealer, to add steps to the process of selling a car. For example, just a couple of decades ago, all one had to do in order to transfer ownership of an automobile was sign a pink slip. Were they really pink? Today, if all you have is a cash sale, you will need to have at least five forms signed. I know I might get a call from a dealer instructor or recent graduate but I remember having to pull out a Bill of Sale, an FTC sticker, either an As Is or a Standard Used Car Warranty or a Service contract or a combination of the three, a Temporary Certificate of Registration AND a Privacy Policy Notice. Add financing, GAP and other products or services to the sale and the number of required contracts grows. I was at a dealership the other day and saw a stip sheet on the desk. I counted 27 forms needed for that finance deal to be considered complete!

That is just the paperwork! A car dealer’s work begins with purchasing and preparing the vehicle. Everything about this industry has gotten competitive so a dealer has to work harder in order to be successful. Advertising is no different. I can remember the first time my father-in-law told me to put together a newspaper ad for his car dealership. It was in the mid 90’s and up to then we had never really done much advertising. I was excited to see the purse strings loosen until I figured out how much work it took to put together a strip add with 5-10 cars. I spent over an hour pouring over our inventory trying to determine which cars to list and what to say about them. Then I spent the rest of the day making sure those vehicles were ready for sale. The next week rolled around and when it came time to create the next ad, I was a little less excited. It took a lot of my time and a lot of my boss’s money to maintain that advertising. The same is true with any form of advertising, whether it is print, radio, TV or Internet. To quote a famous motivating speaker named Zig Ziglar, this is sort of like priming a pump. Anyone that has ever had to prime a hand pump knows you can work up a heck of a sweat before you get a cool drink of water.

Internet advertising is the same as all other advertising; you will get out of it what you put into it. That being said, there are a number of ways a dealer can reduce the workload a website requires. In past articles we have talked about tools to help dealers manage their Internet inventory. Your website will perform best if your inventory is regularly updated. In fact, many dealers have found it worth while to pay companies like Dealer Specialties to manage their inventory listings because it frees them up to do what they do best, SELL CARS!! After a website is designed and made live, the only work a dealer has to keep up with is inventory management and occasional site updates when things like business hours and staff members change. Having a Webmaster to work with in maintaining these types of updates is a must.

It is important to keep in mind what is the purpose of having a website. Is it a tool you can use to save time and work or is it a tool used to bring in new business? Sometimes I see clients lose that focus. A case in point I often see involves the credit application. We have clients request we add more fields of required data be added to their online application. The reason given for this request is so they can pass that application on to their lenders without having to contact the applicant. In an effort to save themselves a little bit of extra work, those dealers may actually be reducing the number of leads they get from their website.

Internet studies have shown the more fields an online form has the less often it is filled out and submitted. JTZ Enterprise has confirmed this. In March of 2007 we began keeping track of the number of applications submitted to each of our clients. Statistics show the more you request in your application the less applications you will receive. Dealers often want to add fields to collect all the data they normally get in their typical paper credit application. That is counter productive if your goal is to get the most leads possible from your website. In a recent publication from Chris Leedom’s 20 Group, they recently took a dealership in Colorado under their wing as part of a contest to show what they can do for an independent dealer like you. I found it intriguing one of the first things they got this dealership to do was establish their website. In the last issue they gave an update and a link to their site. I always check out what others are doing so I visited it and found what I think is the best online credit application. It is a simple form asking for the applicant’s name, address, phone number and e-mail address. That is it!

You see, this dealer is not interested in shaving off steps to the sale. Instead, they want more sales! They realize there is no better time to contact their next car buyer than now. Understandably, they are a BHPH dealer, but the same can be applied to all dealers. If you are going to a finance source for credit approval, don’t you want to have some type of communication with the applicant before submitting it? Most dealers understand a little work is needed to be sure you are not wasting your lender’s time, your client’s time or your time. It is equally important to establish a rapport with your client. This dealer in Colorado realizes the goal of the website is to bring in the client. Once the website does what it is designed to do, it is time for the sales person to go to work!

Even if you get all the information from your next car buyer on the Internet you will still have to do all the other work necessary to sell a car before you are done. If getting 4-10 fields of data nets you more leads, then yes, your website will create more work for you. We all agree the more cars we sell the more work we have to perform. I hope your website is wearing you out!