How to be 'personable' online

Publish Date: 
Oct 8, 2013
By Rod Stuckey

A NICE ONLINE SHOWROOM isn't enough -- you still need to connect with the customer to drive the sale.

Many dealers invest millions in their facility to improve sales and provide an enhanced customer shopping experience, and in today’s market there are more mega dealerships than ever before.  

I recently ran into an old industry friend I hadn’t seen in years who was commenting about this very fact. He observed that there are very few Old School shops anymore. His dad was a dealer back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when the franchised dealers had tiny showrooms connecting to a parts department consisting of a counter with peg board behind it and the only available accessories hanging out of customer reach.   

And he’s right; very few of these old school dealers remain. He then went on to tell me what a shame it is that there aren’t these types of shops around anymore, and said he was considering opening one. I thought to myself, Well the reason we don’t see those types of shops as much as we did back then is because those who chose not to change with the times didn’t survive.  I bit my tongue and politely agreed that many of the new superstores are much less personable than the Old School days.

Regardless of how nice your facility is, without the right web strategy... consumers may never make it in to see your dealership.

Fast-forward two decades and the dealer landscape continues to evolve. But now it’s not just the brick-and-mortar showroom that will be required to change, it’s the virtual showroom as well.

In today’s market it is estimated that three out of four potential consumers are conducting their initial research online. Regardless of how nice your facility is, without the right web strategy these consumers may never make it in to see your dealership.

In this day and age, the case for an Internet manager is getting stronger and stronger. I’ve heard the arguments that “you can’t sell a motorcycle online,” and I agree. However, the most successful dealers understand that what you do online does have a big impact in what you do offline.

Who is responsible for ensuring all of your units have multiple quality photos taken and put online in a timely manner?

Who is responsible for researching online comparables and pricing those units?

Who is handling the leads and setting up templates, scripts, and responding to email inquiries?

Who is managing your chat? Implementing your CRM? Updating your Specials, Team and About Us pages?

When consumers are researching commodity-based products online the only way a merchant can separate themselves from their competition is to have “Here’s why you should choose us ” messaging woven throughout their site.  Who owns this responsibility at your dealership?

Who is measuring your site analytics, evaluating online marketing performance by vendor, tracking lead response times, closing ratios, etc?

I was recently in a dealership working with the principal when the employee (a part-time school kid) tasked with taking pictures of the used units began sharing the poor results (about five leads a month) he was getting by using an automatic posting tool to list the inventory on CraigsList.

A recently hired sales person named Phil was trying to make something happen and had posted two ads on CraigsList earlier that morning.  He was oblivious the store was using the automatic posting tool and was posting the ads the old fashioned way, one at a time.

On that Wednesday I observed Phil work two deals (and close one) with leads generated from those two ads he posted. (continued)