Article

The BHPH Internet Connection

July 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Ryan Linnehan - Also by this author

The Internet theme of this month’s issue came at a fortunate time, as I recently attended the 2007 Association of Automotive Internet Sales Professionals (AAISP) Digital Dealer Conference in Nashville, Tenn.  I came away from that gathering more convinced than ever that the Internet will continue to play an increasingly important role in the vehicle buying process.   I think as a general rule that most people nowadays would agree with that statement.  However, there is some debate as to whether the Internet really has any benefit to Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) dealers.

So, what makes for a successful Internet presence?  For us, it’s been a constant and ongoing work in progress, as we have tried a lot of different tools, techniques and tactics over the past 10 years trying to harness the power of the Internet.  We continue to tweak our activities on a regular basis as we improve our results.   In an effort to spare you from some of the lessons we have learned the hard way, here are a few pointers that can help you maximize your Internet presence.

Have a simple web address.   Make it easy to remember and easy to spell.  You may not want to use your name unless it is easy to spell.  If you choose to use a tricky name, you will also want to spend the $20 to purchase the URLs for variants of your name (e.g. Linnahan, Linnahans, Linnemans, etc.)  Ideally, it should end in .com, rather than .net, .org, etc. as customers are conditioned to that.  The overriding concept is the simpler, the better. Choose wisely!

Have a dedicated Internet manager/department.   We’ve covered in previous articles the importance of having a person or BDC handle all incoming phone and   Internet leads.  This model seems to be much more effective than just handing off Internet leads to your floor salespeople.  This should ensure that you are not among the 56 percent of dealers who never reply to Internet leads and also help you to reply quickly, which will drastically improve your closing percentage on those leads.

Have a complete, but succinct online application.   The goal here is to strike a balance between brevity and thoroughness.  Don’t bother with just a five-liner and also don’t get “almost all” of the information.  If your model is like ours and asks for an application in advance, be sure you get enough information so you can provide an answer without having to call back for more information. You must also be sure your online application is compliant and secure.  Post your privacy policy and provide other applicable disclosures and have it 128-bit encrypted.  Finally, have a link to the online application on every page and consider splitting it into 2 pages.  This way you at least capture their contact information if they get antsy and back out before completing the entire form.

Now as most BHPH dealers are aware, our business is really two-pronged, and so far this article has really only focused on the sales side of the equation.   However, there are several ways that the Internet can benefit your collections efforts as well.  Here are a couple:
 
Provide more ways for customers to pay you.  Pay Pal and Money Gram, online payment solutions, are just a couple of Internet-related options you can easily sign up for that will allow your customers to pay you in ways that might be more convenient to them or more expeditious for you.  There are fees associated with some of these, sometimes paid by the customer and sometimes by you. Bottom line, the more ways we can provide our customers to give us money, the more money we should collect!

Utilize collection/skip tracing tools.   This could probably be a whole article by itself, as it seems like every convention or twenty group meeting we attend, we learn about new Web sites available that can help us find our customers…or our collateral.  A few examples include Zabasearch.com, Phonenumber.com, and of course, ol’ reliable, Google.com.  Also, most local newspapers have online editions, so a quick perusal of the court news or police beat will often turn up some familiar names.

Like so much of life, the Internet can be whatever we as BHPH dealers choose to make it.  In a lot of ways, it boils down to deciding to look for ways to make the Internet work for us, rather than choosing to dismiss it as something that only benefits the new car dealers. 

Vol 4, Issue 5

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