Article

Uncovering Eight Common Myths About Web Sites

September 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Tom Herald - Also by this author

If you're feeling the pressure to create or update your company’s Web site to drive more traffic, you're not alone. Everyone is scurrying to attract more customers and the Internet today is as important as the telephone was 25 years ago. Simply put, Internet sales leads are a major part of our business and they’re going to be around for some time to come. You need to hang your shingle in cyberspace and have it be noticed.
Your Web site is the flagship of your business marketing plan, and it’s open 24/7, whenever a prospective customer wants to learn about you, your dealership, your inventory and your financing. By simply maintaining a professional-looking, well-functioning site, you can help your company seem more established and even larger than life. Conversely, an unappealing, poorly functioning site that’s difficult to navigate can hurt business. So before you get started developing or rebuilding the online component to your business, consider the following common misconceptions:

1. "If I build it, they will come." Marketing your site may not be as easy as it seems. You'll need economical ways to direct traffic to your site on a regional (or national) level. Perhaps the most obvious way is to advertise on search engines like Google and Yahoo!, but this can get expensive. Unfortunately, it can take months or even years for your URL to turn up near the top of organic searches. Investigate other ways to get eyes to your site, like affiliate programs, e-mail newsletters and partnering with vendors or other businesses who serve the same prospective customer base.

2. The more you offer, the more you'll sell. Trying to be all things to all people rarely works. It may seem logical that the more information you post about your dealership and the more inventory you list for sale, the more people you'll attract. But even if you attract them, the real question is, will they buy? The "general" aspect of your marketing will communicate that the value of your inventory is equal to that of others, so price becomes the only issue and, thus, your only point of competition. This makes branding your name and business much more difficult. In today's marketplace, there's a powerful demand for specialized products and services. The point is to differentiate your company from your competitors as frequently and as loudly as you can. You need to determine your niche and stick to it.

3. The best way to generate sales is to copy the competition. It can be tempting to copy your competitors in everything from marketing strategies and styles to inventory and even pricing. Remember the adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? This means that when you imitate, you're not just reminding your audience about your competition; you're suggesting they're better! Certainly you can learn things from what your competition does, but blaze your own trail if you're serious about branding your company.

4. Your homepage should explain everything about your business, or you'll lose visitors. You've got about three seconds to hook visitors—not bore them with visually overwhelming text. Grab their attention by being concise, clear and compelling. Give them enough information that they’ll want to visit your store or at least call or submit their contact information online. A Web site is about attention and interest, not information.

5. “Once I get my site up and running, sales will skyrocket.” Yes, your potential customer pool has grown exponentially, but so has your competitions'. How will you stand out among the crowd? How will you locate the people most likely to buy from your dealership and get them to visit your site? These are the types of questions you must answer first. Just building a fancy Web site and posting your inventory at a low price won’t get the job done.

6. Web sites should be slick, with lots of bells and whistles. On the Internet, functionality is king. High-tech gimmicks may look great, but they load slowly. It's best to find a good balance between form and function. Try to say more with less, and remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. Focus on the image you are trying to project.

7. “Building a Web site is easy; I'll just buy a how-to book.” Whether or not you can do it yourself depends on the type of site you want and your own experience and skills. For example, will you process online credit applications? Building a Web site is deceptively complex and requires a variety of skill sets, from HTML savvy to good artistic taste. You might want to think about hiring a Web design pro and save yourself a lot of headaches. If you do, make sure you use somebody different than the rest of the crowd so you’re not taking the same cookie-cutter approach that many good dealers fall victim to.

8. “Everybody else has a site, so I should, too.” Determining the real purpose of your Web site is crucial. Is it to sell vehicles directly? Increase awareness of your dealership? Do you want to tell people about guaranteed financing or something else unique that you offer and people need? Is its purpose to promote sales events? Add credibility? What is your goal with your site? Despite what some critics say, creating an online brochure is a legitimate reason to build a site. Don’t just build one to have one because everyone else does.

Your Web site speaks volumes about your business and its sole purpose is to drive sales traffic through the doors. Look at your site from your customer’s perspective. Ask friends and family for candid feedback. Ask your previous customers for an honest opinion. Ask strangers. Do your homework just as you would with any other advertising media. Develop a plan of action that is well thought out and execute it. Whatever you do, remember that a Web site is just a new-age tool to capture the attention of prospects and gain their interest.

Vol 5, Issue 8

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