Co-sponsored by Dealer Communications and Dataium, LLC, this new awards competition recognizes automotive dealers, managers and their website providers for exceptional performance of the websites they design, host, and support.
The competition is the first of its kind and is completely objective based upon independent, unbiased analytics of dealers’ websites performed by Dataium, LLC, the largest aggregator of auto shopper behavior.
Burnsville Toyota won the top award by scoring among the top five dealerships nationwide in three of the competition’s nine categories: Leads to Visitors, Searches to Visits, and Returning Visitors, and by achieving the best score in the Number of Page views per Visitor category.
Teamwork and a hands-on philosophy make it possible for our high profile website to perform so well, says Tony Brown, Burnsville Toyota’s general manager.
Tony, along with General Sales Manager Bryant Peppin and Internet Administrator Michelle Neiss, recently detailed for Digital Dealer magazine how teamwork is propelling Burnsville Toyota’s success in both website performance and Internet new and used car sales.
Click here to read the rest of Burnsville Toyota’s story and more in the November 2011 issue of Digital Dealer magazine.
Here’s the whole story:
How do you feel about winning this prestigious new award?
Tony Brown: We were all very pleased to learn about winning the Digital Dealer Website Excellence Award – especially since we are a small family-owned dealership competing for the award against larger dealerships and dealership groups.
You received high scores in multiple categories in this competition, so obviously you drive a lot of traffic to your website and derive a lot of high quality leads from it. What do you attribute that to?
Tony: There are quite a few factors at work here. We manage our own SEO for one. Bryant, Michelle and our Internet team make sure our website is up-to-date on product availability, and that we’re shopped properly, while assuring that we’re in the market on our price quotes. They make sure customers can find the specials we have going on for the month. Bryant and Michelle also make sure that our service department pages are easy to navigate and it’s easy to find pricing on repairs. We also have our website’s URL on the runner at the bottom of all our TV ads on 19 cable stations.
You have a tutorial on your website that shows visitors how to navigate and use the site. Has that helped fuel your website’s performance?
Tony: I’ve only had one good idea in my entire life and that was it – a tutorial on how to use our website. Yes, that has worked to our advantage.
How did you come up with the idea?
Tony: We were looking at other automotive websites. I saw a dealership that had a video with the service manager describing why you should put certain kinds of oil in your car. I liked the video idea, but I didn’t think anyone wants to sit and listen to somebody talk about oil. So, I said: Why don’t we have someone talk about how to get around on our website? And, we hired our local cable company that produces our TV ads, Charter Communications, to create the tutorial.
Why do you feel that doing your own SEO has worked out so well?
Bryant: We get 500 to 800 leads per month for new and used cars. Roughly one third of those leads come from our own website and are a direct result of our own internal SEO efforts. Michelle, Tony and I get together with our team to build our strategies to optimize SEO.
There are so many different vendors out there trying to sell us SEO solutions. Everybody has the next great thing, but we’re doing a pretty good job at it ourselves. If you look at Google, we turn up well.
Do you use SEM at all?
Tony: We don’t use SEM. In investigating whether to use SEM, we looked at the way we search for things on the Internet personally, and found that most of us don’t go to the right side or the top shaded box just because it’s there. We go straight to the organic results. Our study wasn’t official. It was a kind of Neanderthal approach – ask around and see what the entire team says – and that’s how we came up with it.
We’ve also watched our competitors who do use SEM, and we’ve outsold them for the most part. If I’m outselling them, why would I bother to pay for SEM?
How many new and used cars did you sell from Internet leads last year?
Bryant: We sold 760 new and used cars from Internet leads for 2010. That’s with just four Internet salespeople. Overall, in 2010, we sold 2,171 new cars and 1,390 used cars, and 498 fleet vehicles. So, Internet sales were more than 20% of our new and used car sales.
And our sales numbers are trending even better this year. So, even though the economy is slow, our Internet department is doing better.
You noted one-third of your leads are generated by your website. Where do the rest of your leads come from?
Bryant: Two thirds of our leads come from three lead providers: Carsoup.com, Cars.com, and Autobytel. We’ve trimmed back on third-party lead providers to keep just these three.
In the past, we’ve spun our wheels quite a bit with third-party leads. As you know, third-party leads go out to multiple dealerships, so we are in a race with other dealerships to get to the customer first.
Our goal is to improve SEO to get more people to our own website via Google and Facebook. With this focus, we’re getting better leads, and more qualified leads with better closing rates. Our Internet department is paying off handsomely.
What is your lead to sales conversion ratio?
Bryant: It’s between 10 and 12%. Our goal is to get to 15%.
How do you distribute leads to your four Internet salespeople?
Bryant: We use AVV Web Control as our CRM. It works well – distributing our leads to these four people in rotation, based on their schedules and where they are in their response cycle with earlier leads. If they are up-to-date, they get more leads, if not, they get fewer leads. We’re certainly not going to bury any one of our sales people in leads they can’t keep up with. But, they do a great job.
What is the normal amount of time you follow a lead?
Michelle: Normally, 90 days. When a lead enters our CRM, I or my colleague, Jennifer Moore, verify that the customer’s name and address are accurate. We look to see what the customer has requested, and we send out as accurate a quote as we can to that customer. Then we turn the lead over to the salesperson in line for the next customer. The sales person follows up with a personalized e-mail or phone call. Depending on whether the sales person reaches the customer and gets a dialogue going, or not, the lead will be followed up through various tracks in the CRM. We are very happy with AVV Web Control as our CRM.
What do you use for a DMS?
Tony: We’ve use Reynolds and Reynolds since 1991. We’ve had other systems presented to us, but in my experience, and in talking to other dealerships, I never got enough “Wow” factor about any other system to make me want to change. When we need assistance, we call Reynolds’ 800 number and they work well with us. So, it would make no sense for us to even think about starting from square one with a new DMS.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
Bryant: Our biggest challenge is getting our salespeople to keep the sales dialogue going one way or another, via e-mail or phone call follow-up, for our Internet leads.
Tony: Bryant is exactly right. Even more than follow-up, it’s follow through. You can follow up by sending someone an e-mail, but you really have to follow through to develop a relationship to make them want to buy the car from you. Nobody buys something from someone they don’t like.
There are six competing dealerships on the road we’re on, and we’re battling it out on our own, so we have to keep up with follow through and also with all the latest sales technology.
How do you keep current with the new technology for Internet sales?
Bryant: I get ideas from Digital Dealer magazine. And everybody here is always scouring the Internet looking at what other dealerships are doing. About 15 people – mostly from sales, but also from our finance department – get together and brainstorm. Everyone at the dealership keeps their ears and eyes open for new ideas because they know how important it is that we keep ourselves on the cutting edge.
Tony: And, Toyota has helped us quite a bit.
Michelle: We are a family owned business. People have worked here for awhile, and we all are loyal to the business and want it to be successful. So we all try to chip in and find new things online that will improve our dealership.
How do you handle online reputation management?
Tony: We look online regularly to make sure we know when someone posts a review about us. By having our Facebook site open and on, and by writing some blogs and using Twitter, we hope to drive more people to our Google Places listing. We’re just starting to get into that. We have a few reviews on DealerRater.com, Yelp, and Google Places.
Bryant: Most of our reviews are great. If we see an unfavorable review, we sit as a group and figure out who would be the best person to respond to that review. It could be me, Tony or Michelle, or maybe someone from service, parts, or finance.
We’ve just started asking our salespeople to ask our customers to write reviews online.
Tony: We really have to be the best of the best. We don’t spend large sums of money every month advertising how good we are. Given the size of our dealership, and being a locally owned business, every customer that comes through the door is important to us and we treat them accordingly. In a big company, the customer may take a back seat, because the company feels they can buy more business. But here, every customer is important.
Where do you spend most of your advertising dollars?
Tony: We do cable TV advertising from 5 to 9 p.m. on 19 different cable stations – just about every cable station in our metro area: CNN, the Discovery Channel, etc. And that’s basically it. We always include our website address in these ads, as a runner at the bottom.
Can you tell how much web traffic is generated by TV ads?
Tony: I only wish.
What do you see for the future of your dealership?
Bryant: I think our Internet department will grow to the point where I see half of our 27 salespeople will be Internet salespeople. You could consider many of them Internet sales people now, because so much communication goes on by e-mail or phone before the customer walks in the store. And, the customers coming in our door are further down the funnel in the buying cycle because they’ve done research on the Internet. Existing customers are getting emails from us, so in a sense when they walk in the door, they already are an Internet lead. I see all these trends continuing to be strong.
What is unique about your dealership?
Tony: Aside from our high performing website and Internet sales department, we strive to do many other things the old-fashioned way. We’re not real gimmicky. We don’t have one price, or say ‘Come in and test drive a car and get a free bike.’ We don’t have a gorilla on the roof on Memorial Day. We just try to be as straightforward and upfront as we can.
Bryant: Everybody here has the same goal. We’re here to sell cars and take care of our customers. We want to be number one. People like to buy a car from someone they trust and like, and you can feel that positive atmosphere when you walk in the store. I felt it when I first started working here. Customers tell us they feel it all the time.
If you have a strong team, as we do here, one and one can equal three. You can do a lot more with a little less.
Why did each of you choose this dealership in the first place?
Tony: I was a parts man in 1989, when I got a call from the parts manager here. I had been driving right by this place to go to work every day. So, I chose to drive four miles to work instead of 14. I started here as a parts counterman. I worked my way up through service and sales, and became GM five years ago.
Bryant: I worked at a good-sized corporation in the Twin Cities for quite a few years. Then, I decided I’d prefer a smaller work environment — a family-oriented business where communications, teamwork and camaraderie would be 100 percent better. I’ve been here three years and been in the business for 20 years. The people here have a sense of ownership. We work as a close unit and our sales are good.
Michelle: I started part-time five years ago helping out the Internet department and progressed into a full-time position. I stayed with the company because of that family atmosphere. It’s a wonderful company to work for. They are really good to all of us. I come from the retail background in customer service. With Internet sales here, there’s a lot of interacting with the customers and I help with the administration of the web site –updating coupons and the incentives that Toyota is currently offering.
A good company culture always starts at the top. Tell us about your dealership’s owner, Richard Sjoquist.
Tony: Dick Sjoquist started in this business selling contracts for a Lincoln Mercury store in the late ‘60s. Then he worked his way up through a big auto corporation and got to be a vice president. But he always wanted his own store and he bought this Toyota dealership in 1988. We had six employees then. Now we have 130 and have expanded to build another parts and service facility behind the facility we’re in now. And, we just did a complete remodel on the front end of the dealership a couple of years ago. So business has grown in leaps and bounds. Next week, we’re going to add a fifth Internet salesperson.
The reason we’ve grown so steadily is the spirit of teamwork that Dick inspires. Aside from the responsibilities of being a business owner and entrepreneur, he’s always willing to pitch in and do whatever is necessary to make the dealership run. He’s very hands-on and helps us move snow, trim trees, and even clean the lunchroom refrigerator and cabinet.
Our spirit of teamwork, our hands-on philosophy and our dedication to customer service have always been very strong. As a result, Burnsville Toyota has received the Toyota President’s Award 20 times since Dick bought the dealership. Achieving it is based on customer testimonials about positive experiences in sales and service relations, and overall customer satisfaction with Burnsville Toyota.
Now, we’re extremely pleased to receive yet another award — the Digital Dealer Website Excellence Award — that we can also attribute to teamwork, our hands-on philosophy and dedication to customer service.