Archive for November, 2008

It’s time to take off the apron and pound the pavement!

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

If my wife and I only watched television shows we both liked, we would not need a T.V. I like football. After almost two decades, she still asks why they always run into a the middle of the pile every time, just as she is walking out of the room. On the other hand, the quickest way to clear me out of the living room is to turn on Sex and the City, one of her favorite.

Another such favorite is Ramsey’s Kitchen. This chef also had a show on one of the network channels recently named Hell’s Kitchen. His cooking must be great but judging from the number of beeps you hear his language is atrocious. I will sit through this show some times because it comes on just as the day is coming to an end. The premise of this show is this chef comes into a failing restaurant and gets brutally honest with the business owner and staff about what is wrong and what needs to change in order to make the restaurant a money maker and not a money loser. If you get past his approach, he is really right about a lot of things in regards to running a successful business.

In one recent issue, Ramsey had to first clean house. A chef in the kitchen was fired and the restaurant was remodeled and a new menu was put in place. But still they had no customers. So, after a day or so of sitting around, Ramsey storms into the kitchen and tells the cooks to “take off your aprons, we’re going to pound some pavement!” He had printed up some coupons and he and the entire staff walked into the streets of some English town promoting their restaurant and in some cases escorting (maybe even dragging) some patrons back to the store.

For a cook to take off their apron and go out soliciting tells me at least he or she has confidence in their ability as chef or else they would not make the extra effort! As business owners we all have to have confidence in ourselves first in order for our business to be successful. Profit does not happen by mistake. Likewise, natural disasters and economic downturns do not have to signify the end either. Successful car dealers remain confident in their business practices through good times and in bad allowing them to weather the storms as well as reap the rewards when times are good.

A successful dealer does not just sit around and wait for things to turn around. If you have less clients to talk to this means you have more time on your hands. Put that time to good use. If you have not looked at your website from the eyes of a customer, do it. If you can’t, ask your next customer to look at your website with you. Get their opinion and comments and then share them with your webmaster. Finally, make sure the inventory on your lot is on your site. Regardless of whether you manage your own inventory or pay a company to do it for you, the most important thing is that it gets done.

Then look at ways to drive others to your website. You can pay a lot of money for links and leads from companies like cars.com and others but that is not what I am talking about. You can spend even more money in search engine optimization and pay per click campaigns. However, if I were to make one prediction for 2009, many of these forms of advertising will see their peak and begin to decline by year’s end.

The most economical way for you to drive people to your website is to brag about it. In order for you to do that, just like the chef, you have to be proud of your website in order to ask people to go to it. The next step is to tell them. The new advertising rule of thumb is if you put your phone number on it, you should also put your URL or website address on it. Your business cards, roadside signs, banners, marquees, and other forms of advertising such as magazines, radio and newspaper should all have your phone number and URL included. You want your client to put down that magazine or newspaper where all your competitors are advertising to call you or go to your website but if they do not see the number or address, they will keep shopping.

The next step in building web traffic would be to find other sites willing to link to yours. There are only two ways to get to any website. Either you type the URL in the address bar and go directly to the site or you click on a link from another site. Again, you can pay companies for links but you can also get other sites to link to you for free. One such way is to start a blog or even a myspace page. I think I am a little old for myspace also, but I know my clients of tomorrow are probably on myspace today. I know sometimes tomorrow’s clients have a say in the purchase decisions of their parents today. Having a simple myspace page with a link to your site will result in additional traffic to your site you would not have otherwise gotten. Your web site statistics will prove it.

Another way to not only get links back to your site but also a free way to advertise cars online is Craigslist. Many dealers tell us of some tremendous success they have gotten from this site. There are many other sites your cars could be listed on for free if you have the time to handle it. Some of these sites are shopautosonline.com, gosasasa.com, oodle.com and many more. They each advertise cars just like you see at cars.com or trader but without the monthly expense. For those VIADA members participating in VirginiaUsedCarDealers.com, their inventory is automatically sent to these and many other free online advertisers as well as over 100 paid online sites. The more sites your listings are found on, the more traffic your site gets and that means more buyers at your dealership.

I may not be a fan of that cooking show but I must admit the Englishman has taught me that if your product or service is good and you present it well and often, the patrons will come in the store. Then it is time to put your apron back on and get to work SELLING CARS!