Having a website is just the beginning when it comes to getting the most sales from the Internet. There are countless ways to advertise online today. Some of these methods have proven results. Some are built largely on hype. There are countless ways for a car dealer to spend their online advertising dollars and just like the old days, you only want to pay for things that work! What follows is some of the most popular online advertising options and our opinions as to whether each is built largely on Myth or Magic.
Craigslist.org – MAGIC!
Of course, I start with the easy one! For several years now, this site has provided car dealers with quality sales leads. Best part is it’s free. Worst part is its free and everyone is doing it. Unfortunately, some have abused it and because of this the MVDB has taken notice.
3rd Party Sites – MAGIC! Sites like AutoTrader.com and Cars.com are always going to provide sales leads. They are not for every dealership but even a BHPH dealer will get sales from these sites. The determining factor is always how much do you want to pay? This is generally the more expensive way to advertise online.
Regional 3rd Party Sites – MAGIC! Sites like VIADA’s www.VirginiaAUsedCarDealers.com (VUCD), MotorcadeOnline.com and dealerslot.com are examples of a regional site. By regional I mean they usually cater to dealers in a specific area and therefore reach out to car buyers only in that same area. This makes them a potent online advertising partner because they get search engine traffic when searches are done in that same area. The last two sites have even more increased exposure because they are coupled with a print magazine like the old classifieds that were popular until a few years ago.
Facebook.com – MYTH…
Everyone has heard the hype on social media. Many dealers are listing their inventory on newly created facebook pages. In fact, if you participate in VUCD we will automatically post your inventory to your facebook automatically every day. I just don’t want you to think you will run out of cars as a result. Social media has worked for a select few that have figured out how to put it good use. I can tell you simply posting your cars on your facebook page is not putting it to good use. I saw a dealership that posted their inventory only on their home page but had zero friends or likes. That means not even the employees have signed on as a friend! That also means their audience at Facebook is almost nil.
Dealers that have any success with social media employ a back door approach to sales. You have to get them to like you for them to follow you and then follow you to listen to you. Throwing ads at a person will not accomplish that. However, if you let them inside the organization, talk about the sale that just went down or explain how you just handled a warranty claim or post a tweet that mentions the importance of general maintenance, eventually, someone will do more than like you, they will buy from you. Paying someone to play on the Internet is hard for a lot of dealers to do but that is how you maximise social media
Smart Phone sites – MYTH!
Again, this is a service we offer but not one we promote as heavy as some of our competitors. Why? Because if you build the site right the first time, there is no need to build a second one. A mobile phone site is one built specifically for the small browser found on most smart phones today. Motorola Droid and Apple’s Iphone are just a couple to hit the market. The biggest problem exists for only the Iphone. Their browser can not open flash files. Flash files are used to create movement in websites. According to our counters, less than .1 of 1% of those visiting car dealer sites we host are using the Iphone. First, this is an extremely small audience. Second, if your site does not use all flash for its design even the Iphone will be able to view your site. For these two reasons it is easy to see why going through the expense and work to maintain yet another site is not worth it for many dealers.
Ebay.com – ???
My opinion on this one is mixed. Years ago, I remember having fun using this site to move any repos. It would bring the squirrels out of the woodwork! You used to hear of several dealers who made a living solely from this website. I do not hear that nearly as much anymore. Changes to their buying and selling platform have turned off both buyers and sellers in the past but remember they are always intended to be improvements. For the right dealer willing to work it, this is still a source for sales.
Template site is good enough – MYTH! Some dealers save a little money by using the same template design available to them from a cheap web provider. Your customer sees this right away when comparing cars on your lot with those on your competitor’s. Worse yet, template sites are proven to get far less search engine traffic because sites like Google and Yahoo sees the same thing when they compare all these sites using the same template. Usuallt the money saved is less than the profit on one sale. If it only cost you one sale you break even.
Free Online Classifieds – MYTH and MAGIC! When you advertise on VUCD your listings and images get sent to several free sites. Many are worth what you pay for them but some have had proven results. Oodle.com for instance, is one that used to be entirely free but they became successful enough that they now charge for their services. LemonFree.com and Vast.com are two other sites that accept listings for free and promote them to car buyers in your area. Sometimes a buyer starts their on their way to your website and then your lot.
If you have the time, money and patience, I encourage you to try any method available to widen your online presence. The nice thing about the Internet is that it is the most trackable form of advertising available and it will not take you long to determine on your own what is magic and what is myth!