It's a question that comes up around half the time. When I'm consulting with dealers, some of them want to know about the things that I work on from the vendor side such as content, search, and social. Others want me to invoke my past dealership experience and apply what I've learned in the digital marketing world.
I love answering these questions because it's almost always different with each client. There is no roadmap that works for everyone. Different brands, different demographics, different selling styles - all of these go into determining what I would do if I owned any particular dealership.
There are a handful of universal best practices that I would utilize regardless of the dealership. For posterity, I've posted them here.
Build Everything for Mobile
It has been well documented that I'm a big fan of responsive website design, but my love for mobile doesn't end there. I firmly believe that everything should be geared towards the mobile tendencies of modern shoppers for today as well as following the trends towards tomorrow. Here's the thing. A properly designed mobile presence works and looks fine on a desktop. The reverse is not always the case. Assume that most of your customers are accessing your web presence through mobile devices and let the desktop work as a mirror rather than as the primary component.
VDPs for Referral Traffic, Landing Pages for Search
This is the controversial one that I always have to explain in detail. We are resellers for LotLinx for a reason - we do believe in driving shoppers to vehicle detail pages from most sources. If a customer is already on a site searching for inventory, you do not want to take them to your homepage or even a landing page when they click on a vehicle. Take them to the vehicle! On the other hand, if someone is searching on Google for a 2015 Honda Accord, don't take them to a single inventory item. What are the chances that it will be the right one? Take them to a landing page that links to the inventory but that also gives them the opportunity to tell you exactly what they want.
Give the Buyers a True Shopping Experience
Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way for consumers to find a vehicle they want, work out the pricing, give information about their trade to work directly into the deal, apply for financing, and schedule a test drive all on one website? You may be thinking, "my website can do all of those things," but it really can't. Sure, all of those capabilities are present, but there's no true path to the sale on 99% of dealer websites today. Those who have made it easier to initiate nearly every aspect of the buying process in a clear path for the consumer are selling more cars. Why doesn't everyone employ this?
Post Constantly on the 'Other' Platforms
Last year, there were some high-profile dealer groups who declared that they were going to focus on generating their own leads and were leaving the 3rd-party market. This caused many dealers to consider doing the same, but a lot took it too far, abandoning sites like eBay Motors and Craigslist. This is a huge mistake to me. In fact, I would have a strong presence on the major sites like Autotrader and Cars. I would use tools like LotVantage to post to eBay and Craigslist regularly. I would put a strong emphasis on making sure that my cars were all properly positioned anywhere my potential customers were looking. You don't have to buy leads, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't expose your inventory everywhere you can.
Invest Heavily in Social Media
Social media has the data. Some say sites like Facebook know more about us than we know about ourselves when it comes to purchasing and interests. Owning an automotive social media company gives me the bias of believing in it, but more importantly it gives me the insight into the numbers to let me know that this stuff works. The problem is that the majority of social media companies simply aren't doing it right. They're not taking advantage of the targeting. They're not taking advantage of dark posts. If I owned a dealership, this would be one of the first things that I would do if I wanted to make an impact.