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Make Money Mondays with Sean V. Bradley - Know Your Used Car Inventory

In this week's Episode of Make Money Mondays Sean V. Bradley, President of Dealer Synergy, explains the importance of knowing your car inventory. Whether it is a new or preowned vehicle, you should know the features along with the benefits of each individual vehicle. Inventory is the #1 page on your dealership's website. You should know what all of your vehicles natural competitors are when working with a prospect. At the end of the day, the most important thing for you to do is qualify your prospects.

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The more people that are shopping for a car that you can get in front of your inventory, the more cars you're going to sell. Some would say it's a bold statement. Others would say that it's pretty obvious. Depending on which side of the coin you're on, you'll either need to be convinced or you're already doing it.

Let's start with the disclaimer. Everything our company does is geared around driving more VDP views. Search, social, and even our partner products like LotLinx are all "inventory drivers" for our clients. We don't believe in coaxing people to these pages. We're going after intent.

With that out of the way, let's get into the hard facts. People have so many choices when it comes to finding their next vehicle purchase. There are more third-party sites vying for their attention than dealers in any given market. These sites try different things in order to generate revenue. Some sell subscriptions and placement like AutoTrader and Cars.com. Others sell listings themselves like Craigslist and eBay. Others sell leads. They all know that the automotive industry is lucrative and they want to make money. There's nothing wrong with that.

A recent trend has been for many dealers to focus specifically on generating their own leads. They don't want to be part of these other listing sites. They don't want to buy leads. They are finding that the highest quality comes from people who are visiting their own site and they would be correct. However, there's an important fact to note before cancelling all of your third-party subscriptions.

The reason that the leads from a dealer's website usually convert so much better than other leads is because they are often a captive audience. Most of your search traffic is coming from searches for your dealership by name, which means that they want to consider doing business with you. There are fewer barriers to overcome to sell them a car when they are already inclined to like you, so the lead quality will always be higher here.

This is why we recommend to dealers to still participate in other sites while focusing on their own. It's why we partnered with LotLinx. It's why we push SEO so heavily and it's why we position our social media product to be specifically geared towards driving people intending to buy a car to your website.

The reason that driving shoppers to your VDPs will increase sales is the same reason that putting people behind the wheel will sell more cars. It's excitement. When they're shopping, they're in the early stages of excitement, but it's still present. They can picture themselves driving it. They like to look at pictures. They want to read the specs. They want to scrutinize the history report, compare the prices, check out the features, and imagine what Toreador Red would look like in their driveway.

As dealers move forward with their evolving strategies, it's important to look at the numbers. There are no tricks to this, really. Regardless of where they are on the internet, there's a chance that you can get them in front of your inventory. The advertising possibilities are endless. Don't get caught up in complicated strategies. Get more people in front of your cars and you will sell more of them.

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Post Inventory the Right Way to Facebook

Cutter Chevrolet Rabbit

Here’s the sad truth about the way that most dealers are posting their inventory to Facebook. It’s not getting seen. None of it. Not at all.

Currently, there are three primary ways that dealers are posting their inventory to Facebook. The most common method is to have a tab on their Facebook page with their inventory. This doesn’t work. The click stats that we’ve studied using three different inventory types show that even the most active dealer Facebook pages are seeing next to zero traffic, clicks, or leads from this form of inventory posting.

The reason is obvious – people don’t visit your Facebook page unless they get there through search, a link from your website, or an ad on Facebook. In these three scenarios, they’re either not interested in seeing you inventory (if they were, they’d just go to your website) of, in the case of referrals from your website itself, they’ve already seen it. Now they want to see you and your personalization.

The other way is to feed your inventory manually or automatically through Facebook posts. This is a really, really bad idea because it will kill your page’s algorithmic authority and render your posts, inventory or not, essentially invisible.

The third way, the one that we recommend, is to be creative, selective, and persuasive. You have to post vehicles that deserve to be on Facebook. By that, I mean that the vehicle has to have something special about it that you can focus on, it needs to be relatively unique, and it has to have a compelling story behind it. In some cases, the cars create the story itself. We all covet that 5-year old car that was driven by a grandmother who literally took it to the grocery store and church and accumulated 20K miles over her five years of ownership. A car like that would definitely fit the criteria and the story clearly would write itself.

The more common circumstance is that you’ll want to create your story for the vehicle. In the example above, the story was that it was a unique car. We focused on the paint job to turn it into something that is at least a little interesting to the Facebook fans for this page, then we told a little about the car, just enough to let people know that they’ll be clicking through to a vehicle details page. This is important. You do not want to try to trick people into clicking through to a link that is trying to sell them something.

Be transparent. The car speaks for itself, so the image won’t make people report it or block the page, but if you then try to get them to click through without letting them know that you’re wanting them to buy it, you run the risk of them landing on your website, getting upset that you conned them into clicking through to what they thought was an image gallery, for example, and then clicking back and giving your post negative feedback. This is a bad thing.

Look at the example above. It’s a nifty little used VW with a different paint job. Rather than simply saying, “Check out this VW Rabbit…” we put a cute little spin on it. As a result, we know three things:

  • It did well in the news feed, garnering 38 likes.
  • It did not receive negative sentiment such as reports or hides.
  • The vehicle sold less than 48 hours after it was posted to Facebook.

You don’t have to wait for a car with an interesting paint job. Chances are you have something on your lot, particularly a pre-owned vehicle, that has something interesting about it. Here’s another example:

Waynesville Camaro

In that example, the focus is on the year. It’s a used car, but it’s a 2013. Every lot should have some of these available. Hot newish car without the new car price – that’s a story that’s Facebook worthy, especially with a nice image of the vehicle itself.

This is where some creativity comes into play. You can’t just say, “2013 Camaro with 16K miles for sale, click here…” You have to tell a story about the vehicle. At the time of writing this article, the post is only 33 minutes old so we don’t have any statistics on it, but you get the idea.

Social media isn’t just for branding. With KPA Local Engage, we highlight the right vehicles, specials, and dealership activities that will resonate on the various social sites. Done properly, your social media can start producing real ROI. The branding – that’s the consolation prize. Focus your social media on getting tangible results.

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Originally posted on the KPA blog.

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I had thought the days were behind us. Call it a hope, but I believed that the majority of businesses who were active on social media had pushed beyond the plague that once filled our feeds - the worthless post. I was wrong.

 

It was while auditing an account that followed numerous car dealers on both Twitter and Facebook that I came across the reality of the situation. There are still plenty - over half from the sampling of several hundred that I examined - that were posting the type of "content" on social media that drives people to unfollow, block, or simply ignore them. Recently I've been posting some advanced business social media tips, but it's time to take a step back and go over one of the basics...

 

If you're going to ask people to do anything at all on social media, whether it's to click on a link, share a post, or engage in any way at all, give them a valid reason to do so.

 

Don't get me wrong. I realize that social media is still new to many. I realize that not everyone is learning the best practices that it takes to make it successful. I was simply taken aback by the numbers of businesses that were making this profile-killing mistake. In the example above (not the worst example, mind you, but after seeing so many this was the one that was closest to the top for a quick screen capture), the dealership is asking people to do something. They want their fans to browse the inventory of a particular new vehicle. The chances of anyone clicking on this link are miniscule compared to the chances that they'll see this post and unfollow the dealership.

 

The same thing is happening on Facebook. In many ways, it's worse because people are much more stingy with clicks that take them away from Facebook than they are with clicks that take them away from Twitter.

This needs to stop...

Give them a reason

There are much better ways for a dealership to use social media than to try to get clicks to the inventory, but if you must do it from time to time, make sure there's something enticing to make it happen. For example, a Tweet might say...

  • The 1st batch of next generation #Mazda6 just rolled off the truck. [link] #SmokinHot even in December!
  • Our biggest sale of 2012 starts next week. Get a head start by browsing the #special inventory [link]
  • New incentives just hit for the #Nissan #Sentra. Claim dibs on yours, #Atlanta! [link]

Social media is about now. If people wanted to browse your inventory, they'd go directly to your website or find the car they're seeking on Google. There's no chance that seeing a Tweet or a Facebook update telling them to click to your inventory for no reason will ever work. Give them a reason.

 

Of course, posting links to inventory is not a best practice. It's something that should be done sparingly (if at all) and only when there's a valid reason to do so. Your goals with social media are many, but two of the basics are (1) improve your branding for future considerations, and (2) catch people in market with something compelling.

 

Compelling. Give them a reason. Otherwise, the seconds it took to post a meaningless update could have been better spent reciting a limerick.

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It’s pretty well known that YouTube is the second largest search engine with more than 4 billion views per day. While your dealership isn’t likely to produce the next “Gangnam Style” YouTube sensation, your presence on and use of YouTube can be part of a successful online strategy. If you allocate a significant budget towards SEO and SEM, you may want to think about allocating a percentage of it to increasing the number and types of videos on your dealership’s YouTube channel. Videos have been proven to engage customers, boost credibility and drive traffic to websites.

 

If you’re not already incorporating these five types of videos into your Internet marketing plans, consider adding them in 2013:

 

1)    Inventory. Posting inventory videos on YouTube is very effective when a link to your website and relevant search term keywords are included in the description. Also post the videos on your website and Facebook page. Then, post links from classified ads sites like Craigslist. Craigslist gets more than 50 billion views per month, and can drive traffic to both your website and Facebook page from customers wanting to view your inventory videos.

 

2)    TV commercials. Most dealers at some point or other have spent a significant amount of money on creating commercials. Are you maximizing that investment by uploading your old commercials to YouTube and posting them on your website? If a commercial was to promote a specific event such as a Labor Day sale, you may want to include something in the description that encourages customers to keep in touch for news about this year’s Labor Day sale.

 

 

3)    Videos that brand your dealership. Customers want to feel good about who they are buying a car from. Whether you brand yourself as the price leader, the honest, no-haggle dealer, or the small, family-owned dealer, have a professionally produced video that reflects this. Highlight your involvement in community service or incorporate humor if you can, and include your service departments by weaving in expert technician interviews or service advisor maintenance tips.

 

4)    Customer testimonials. Word of mouth and online reviews have tremendous impact on customer consideration. Potential customers want to know what your current customers have to say. What better way to advertise than combining both of these effective marketing methods in a series of testimonial videos? The key to making this successful is to keep testimonials current. If a customer sees that your last testimonial was posted more than six months ago, they may wonder if your service has been slipping.

 

 

5)    Personalized videos for lead follow-up. Have you ever received a personalized video message in your e-mail? I did recently and it got my attention. If you want a customer to think, “Wow, this person actually took the time and effort to create this video just for me,” then you may want to consider this idea. If you are a salesperson who is comfortable and personable on camera, sending a customized video to select Internet leads is a surefire way to outperform your competition.

 

Which types of videos have you found to be the most effective in increasing traffic to your dealership website? Are you able to track leads that come in as a result of your videos? 

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Best Idea On How To Get More Factory Demos For Your Dealership - From A Toyota General Manager, Mike Udell

I LOVE THIS IDEA!!! Mike Udell is a longtime Member of the Internet Sales 20 Group and shared this creative way to get more executive demos from the factory... He actually sends this to his OEM

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http://www.internetsales20group.com

AutoTrader.com Agrees to Purchase Auto Inventory Solutions Leader HomeNet Automotive

ATLANTA and WEST CHESTER, Pa., Dec. 1, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- AutoTrader.com, the Internet's ultimate automotive marketplace and consumer information website, has agreed to purchase HomeNet Automotive, a leading provider of online inventory management and merchandising solutions.

The purchase is expected to close by the end of the year.

The addition of HomeNet to the AutoTrader.com family of companies and brands provides AutoTrader.com with a best-in-class inventory management solution for the thousands of auto dealers who use AutoTrader.com to present their inventory of new, used and certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles to online vehicle shoppers.

Founded in 1996, HomeNet's proprietary "Get. Edit. Deliver" technology has helped thousands of automotive dealers nationwide generate a high volume of leads and increase online vehicle sales. HomeNet's signature solution, the Inventory Online (IOL) vehicle marketing suite, is an industry-leading vehicle inventory management and marketing system.

AutoTrader.com's purchase of HomeNet will bring a variety of benefits to dealers who post vehicles for sale on AutoTrader.com and to car shoppers who use AutoTrader.com to research and compare vehicles, find dealer specials, review inventory of cars for sale and select dealerships to visit.

For dealers, incorporating HomeNet's proprietary inventory management system into AutoTrader.com's dealer tools will allow for easier and faster inventory management and merchandising online. Dealers will be able to upload their listings faster, make updates and adjustments to their listings more easily and overall enjoy more flexibility and control in presenting their inventory for sale on AutoTrader.com.

Consumers shopping for vehicles on AutoTrader.com will have access to better vehicle information, enhanced listings that include more photos and dealer comments, advanced search capabilities and more frequent updates and information about the cars they are shopping for and researching.

The agreement to purchase HomeNet is the third in a series of acquisitions AutoTrader.com has announced in recent months. In September, AutoTrader.com announced the purchase of vAuto, the automotive retail industry's leading provider of advanced software tools for used vehicle management, pricing and inventory optimization. Then, in October, AutoTrader.com announced its planned acquisition of Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com), one of the most recognized and influential brands in the automotive industry.

"We are always looking for opportunities to grow our company, organically or through acquisitions, in ways that will make AutoTrader.com even more valuable to the auto manufacturers and dealers who advertise on our site and to the 15-million-plus consumers who shop for vehicles on our site every month," said AutoTrader.com President and CEO Chip Perry. "We were fortunate to be in a position to purchase vAuto and to agree to purchase Kelley Blue Book and HomeNet when these companies came available and we are excited about the value our combined companies can bring to the very competitive automotive shopping and marketing industries."

AutoTrader.com plans to operate HomeNet as an independent subsidiary.

Bob Landers, a 10-year AutoTrader.com veteran sales executive who was formerly vice president for AutoTrader.com's Southeast division, has been appointed general manager and vice president of HomeNet. He will be the top executive at the company, replacing founder and former president and CEO Jesse Biter. Landers will work directly with other leaders at HomeNet and be responsible for day-to-day operations and long-term growth at HomeNet.

About HomeNet Automotive, LLC: HomeNet Automotive helps the automobile industry save time and sell more vehicles. It is the leading provider of inventory merchandising, management, and marketing solutions, led by its flagship product, Inventory Online (IOL) Internet Marketing Suite. IOL is a web-based vehicle marketing solution that helps tens of thousands of automotive dealers to engage buyers online and bring them into the showroom by streamlining the process of converting raw vehicle data into consumer-friendly and emotional online ads. For more information, please email sales@homenetauto.com, visit http://www.homenetauto.com, or call (877) 738-3313

About AutoTrader.com

Atlanta-based AutoTrader.com, created in 1997, is the Internet's ultimate automotive marketplace and consumer information website. AutoTrader.com aggregates in a single location millions of new cars, used cars and certified pre-owned cars from thousands of auto dealers and private sellers and is a leading online resource for auto dealers, individuals and manufacturers to advertise and market their vehicles to in-market shoppers. The company also provides a robust suite of software tools for dealers and manufacturers to help them manage and market their vehicle inventory and display advertising on the Internet. AutoTrader.com continues to grow key business metrics, including revenue, profitability and site traffic. Today, AutoTrader.com attracts more than 15 million unique monthly visitors who utilize the site to review descriptions, photos and videos of vehicles for sale; research and compare vehicles; review pricing and specials; and read auto-related content like buying and selling tips and editorial coverage of major auto shows and automotive trends. AutoTrader.com operates two other auto marketing brands, AutoTraderClassics.com and AutoTraderLatino.com. AutoTrader.com also owns used vehicle management software company vAuto. AutoTrader.com is a majority-owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. Providence Equity Partners is a 25 percent owner of the company and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is also an investor. For more information, please visit www.autotrader.com.


SOURCE AutoTrader.com

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