After speaking with a group of dealers on the benefits of incorporating social media into the marketing mix, one dealer posed this question: “From your perspective, what role does a web site play in advertising?”
My response? “Your website is your own newspaper. It’s your own radio station. It’s your own TV station. Your website is a total information portal that acts as a virtual satellite showroom open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Websites can print maps to your door, connect your customers with someone to chat with, let your customers fill out credit applications in the privacy of their homes or offices, give virtual presentations of makes and models, let customers make service appointments and get trade-in values for their vehicles – just to name a few.
Recently, a research professional from Nielsen called me looking for a job, wondering if I had any leads. He said he was willing to work full-time or part-time as a consultant. I asked him if he had a web site. He said no. “That’s the first thing you want to do if you’re in the consulting business,” I said. “Put a simple web site up with your bio, your address and phone, some sample whitepapers you’ve written. Maybe even record a short video introduction.”
He thanked me profusely for the recommendation. I was amazed we even had the conversation. If you are in business today — any business small or large, out of your home, out of your truck or in a 50,000 square foot building — you simply can’t afford not to have a web site. There are a number of companies such as GoDaddy.com that will walk you through the process of obtaining a URL (web site address), and create a site where you can post basic static information. But as I review dealership site after site, I’m just amazed at how so few have taken advantage of the tremendous dynamic marketing potential of a place on the Internet.
What does your dealership web site look like? What does it do? How friendly is it? How dynamic is it?
Of course there are a number of exceptional website companies out there who specialize in creating dealership websites, but you don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have an effective web site that spirally integrates with your overall marketing strategy. Whether you’re just getting started, or looking to do something different, here are the basics of a good web site.
First, an easy to find, easy to say, easy to remember URL (web address) is critical. The shorter the better. Just because your dealership’s legal name is Brother Billy’s Bodacious Bargain Lot, you don’t want to make your web site address www.BrotherBillysBodaciousBargains.com. Instead, look for something like BillyDeals.com, or Bodacious.com or even GoBilly.com. The fewer characters the better. Avoid confusion by not incorporating numbers and words that could be spelled out numerous ways. For instance, if you say BillyForDeals.com in a radio spot, someone might type in Billy4deals or BillyFourDeals.com.
Second, make searching for your site easy. Most people go right to a search engine like Google or Yahoo if they don’t know the actual URL. They might type in the search: Billy Barton cars in Omaha. If your web site has the proper search tags embedded, BillyDeals.com should pop up on the first search page.
Third, make your web site easy to view and easy to navigate for the lightweights. Keep it simple. Make sure the basic info people need is easy to find. Address (yes – put your address in plain view on the home page, a lot of people want a physical address to punch into their GPS system to guide them to your door ) Include phone number and days and hours of operation.
Fourth, make sure you have a “self-admin” section on the home page. Actually, this should be number one. This means the web designer has set up the site so you can enter a password and easily upload a video, a picture, an article, a special, a promotion, etc. This allows you to keep your website fresh without the time delays and costs of having the web company update the info. Self-admin sections have simple text boxes that automatically convert your message to the proper fonts and styles, and allow you to attach photos and videos.
Fifth, make sure someone is monitoring your web site continuously. That doesn’t mean they have to look at it all day, but just check it first thing in the morning and frequently during the day to make sure everything is updated properly. Establish a web team of volunteers who monitor the site, meet regularly to talk about the site, suggest ideas to keep it fresh and relevant. Of course if you have an advertising department or agency, that task can fall to them, but it’s always better if you have people at the dealership engaged in the process.
Sixth, bring your site to life with videos and pictures. Some dealers are doing an excellent job of uploading walk around demos on videos, interviewing customers, posting pictures of recent deliveries, dealership radio and TV commercials, etc.
With a simple flip camera (I like the ‘zoom’ cam because its hand-held, has decent video and a great built in microphone), you can capture the smiles and excitement of a customer taking delivery of a new vehicle. Up load it to your website in just minutes. Then encourage your customer to email your website to all of his or her friends. Talk about viral potential. Think about it. Upload 100 customer videos a month. Those customers each send your website to 50 people – 100 x 50, you do the math. You can do it with happy service customers, also. One dealer I know uploads “dealer family” moments on a corner of his website featuring pictures and short videos of his team member’s big occasions: new babies, anniversaries, etc.
Want to really stir up the activity pot and bring more people to your web site?
Upload pictures of a couple of crazy used car bargains at 5 am a couple mornings each week. Couple that with early morning radio ads on your customers’ favorite station with a teaser talking about the offering. “Hey, check it out! Another once in a lifetime bargain online now at BillysDeals.com. Wait til you see this beauty. Fully checked out. Full of gas. And it goes to a lucky home for the price of just $$$ but you know this one won’t last long.” Pretty soon, you’ll have people clicking on your site at 5 am to trying beat the clock. You can do this for service, also.
Videos, by the way, aren’t loaded on your actual web site. They are framed on your site, but hosted on a site such asYouTube, which is absolutely free. You can load as many videos as you want for free. By having the videos on separate server you don’t bog down your own connection and you also increase your presence on the web by incorporating more tags that show up in search engines.
Turn your web site into a total information portal with video, pictures and dynamic information and features to attract more visits – and keep those visitors coming back.