One of the things that I do now more than ever is listen to other vendors pitch their products. I hope this post doesn't scare any of them from reaching out to us; don't worry, I'm not naming names. I'm focused on a particular practice, not the practitioners.

The practice I'm talking about has many faces. Some present it with fear by telling dealers that if they're not participating in the latest fad or growing trend that they're missing out on business. Others put on the face of trickiness and present their products as a way of getting around this system or that roadblock in a slick manner. The most common face they put on their product is one of simplicity as they demonstrate how their service magically gets them in front of billions of local car shoppers.

They're all talking about presence. Being present on a network, website, device type, ad platform, or vertical search property is great, but the one thing that I don't hear nearly enough is about how the dealership is portrayed. A dealer shouldn't strive to be present on any particular platform. They need to know how to stand out on these platforms.

The thing that's missing from the vast majority of products and services I see every week is representation. Don't just show me that a dealer is present. Show me how our dealers will be presented. The messaging is often more important than the presence itself.

We've seen this in its simplest form through search and social. I have seen dealers improve their performance for particular search terms without having to move up in the rankings (though moving up is obviously important as well). If the messaging is unique and speaks about the dealership to the searchers, they're much more likely to click the link even if they're not at the very top. The same holds true for social. Reaching more people is fine. Getting them to click to the website isn't a matter of mastering an algorithm or adjusting the ad spend as much as it's about putting the right message in front of the right people.

A dealership's web presence is, by its very nature, one that needs to be bigger, but don't let size be the primary focus. You can have the loudest bullhorn in the world but if your message isn't interesting, the audience will still ignore you.

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That was the complaint that we received most often when discussing with dealers and other vendors about the variety of sites out there that serve the automotive industry. One would have to sift through sale…
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