Some dealers don’t like using third-party call centers because they fear a loss of control. Donahoe doesn’t feel this way. In fact, he says Victory Solutions’ call center is the best thing about it. “That’s the selling point for Victory,” he asserts. “Their call center blows V-SEPT away. But V-SEPT sublets theirs to Alliance and Applied Concepts, and they just don’t hold a candle to what Victory has. I mean, an electronic traffic log — it is what it is. But if you’re not getting the calls, what’s the point? We get three or four hot leads a day from Victory when they contact our customers. It’s invaluable.”
Speaking of leads, the dealership gets surprisingly few of them from Honda’s consumer website. “You would think it would get a lot of leads because you get the dealer locator and all of that,” Donahoe says, “but maybe out of 30 leads that we’re getting through PSN or Cycle Trader, one might come from Honda. It’s that kind of ratio, which is ridiculous. I don’t get it.”
Donahoe hypothesizes that perhaps customers are going straight his own website, which would be counted as a PSN lead. “It’s kind of like a billboard,” he says. “The radio and TV gets play off the billboard, and you really never know the true source.”
PSN hosts the dealership’s sales-and-marketing website, but 50 Below built its site for selling parts. For e-commerce, Donahoe claims, 50 Below blows PSN away.
Does Donahoe like PSN? “Not really,” he says, “because it’s not very flexible. They’ve got these cookie-cutter templates for all the dealers, and you figure out which one you want. But it’s not user-friendly; it’s not customizable to the point — I mean, go look at all the PSN sites. They all look the same.”
I’ve known of dealers, I say, who’ve customized the look of their PSN sites by hiring a computer programmer to mess with the coding.
“We also did that,” Donahoe replies. “That’s very costly. Then we fired that company, or they quit. It was mutual. And so then I’m going in there, and I can’t touch it because he’s got all this kind of coding there I don’t know. So we had to rewrite the entire code so we can now manipulate it. That’s something we’re trying to get figured out."
Donahoe says the 50 Below e-commerce site is “rocking” even during the recession. A big reason for its success, he says, is Google AdWords.
And that’s all I can say. During my hour-long conversation with Donahoe, touching on all aspects of his business, he goes off record only once: when discussing a few details about his AdWord campaigns. “To figure out Google AdWords is a very time-consuming, laborious effort,” he says. “More and more are trying to do it, but it will cost you a lot of money.” (Continued)