Internet Do's and Don'ts

February 2009, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Ben Donnarumma - Also by this author

Buy here pay here dealers need the Internet too. If you are a car dealer today and don’t have a presence on the Internet, you might as well be out of business. The Web and your Web site are too important to sales and marketing, and doing business today without being online would be like trying to do business 20 years ago without a telephone. It just doesn’t work. Customers surf the Net, text message and e-mail, regardless of their credit. It’s how we communicate and all car dealers, including BHPH, need to have a Web presence and the ability to generate sales leads from the Internet. .

Over the last several years, through some costly trial and error, I have developed a list of do’s and don’ts regarding the Internet. I want to share that list with you to help save you time, money and a whole lot of headaches..


1.     All of your advertising should refer to your Web site. It’s more important than your phone number because most customers shop the Internet before they ever shop in person, especially people who have bad credit. If you advertise on other Web sites like or, always include a direct link to your site.

2.     Respond immediately with a personal and direct e-mail. Allow yourself no more than 30 minutes to send a short, personal e-mail response to any lead you get from the Internet, whether you buy it from a third-party provider or it comes from your own Web site. Never rely on auto-responders and e-mail templates. They are too impersonal and look like spam. You want to catch the person while they’re still online and before any other car dealer gets to them. Timing is critical. It is extremely competitive today and a customer who provides you with a lead today is in the market NOW.


3.  Provide multiple good quality pictures of every vehicle you list on your Web site. If a shopper is reviewing your Web site looking at vehicles, the more pictures you can provide, the more information the customer will gain, and the more trust they will have in buying from you. The pictures must download quickly. Not everybody has high-speed Internet access, and we are all impatient when it comes to downloading stuff on the Net. Remember the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and the pictures of your inventory tell the customer a lot about your dealership.



1.     Don’t purchase leads from too far away. This mistake cost me a lot of money. The first question an Internet lead source provider asks when you sign up is “how far out do you want to go?” That’s good for them but bad for you, the dealer. I used to put a radius on my leads out to 40 miles and had a terrible time getting the appointments to show. The customers just lived too far away. What I didn’t know was that I was missing the customers who applied online who actually lived closer because I was already through my allocated number of leads per day.


Start out with no more than a 10-mile radius, and if you are having no problems reaching your cap, lower the radius to five miles. If you’re not reaching your limit on leads, increase the radius in 5-mile increments until you do. You want to get as many good leads as possible, and you want those leads to be as close to your dealership as possible. It will drive you crazy to pay for 100 leads that live 25 miles away and miss out on 50 leads that live five miles from your store.


2.     Don’t worry about price. I used to be terrified about putting too high of a price on the Internet. I thought it would kill my competitiveness. Why would a customer buy a car from me that is priced higher than the competition? Price your inventory with a “market value” that does not appear negotiable and does not look like every other dealer ($8,995) and high enough that you can get the deal financed. Down payment is the effective price in the minds of most BHPH customers. Price is not; price is just a number. When I started pricing my online inventory the sales process improved.


3.     Don’t just pass out the leads. If you want to decrease the value of leads to less than the cost of the paper you print them on, hand them out to your sales staff and believe that they are going to follow-up. You need accountability! When assigning the leads to only a couple of people, they actually get better month after month. Grade each of them with performance metrics and you can make them responsible for every lead. Every day you have to ask about every customer. You have to stay on top of it, just like any investment. Leads are not cheap, so don’t waste them. Know your numbers.


Vol 5, Issue 12

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