• Hey Car Dealers OMG You DONT Need A New Website Vendor SMH

    Posted on March 26, 2014 by in automotive, ebusiness, Marketing, Process Management, Website



    You’re doing it wrong.

    Let me start by saying that I mean everything I am about to say in the nicest possible way. What you are about to read may come off a bit harsh to some of you but I only say it this way in hopes you will have a better understanding of the topic by the end. I apologize in advance.

    Many of you know me personally. My 20 plus years in the Automotive industry has allowed me to forge many business and personal relationships with countless people within the industry. From my time at Nissan North America in marketing launching the Infiniti brand in the US (sorry dealers), to my Alternative / Internet Marketing positions at Toyota Motor Sales, USA, I have met and shared experiences with many dealerships across the USA and the countless vendors they do business with. Many of you also know that I care. I care that you are making the right decisions in the online world as it relates to your business. Many dealers simply do not understand this aspect of their business and tend to treat it either as an after-thought or by using old school ideas. Many dealers do “get it” of course but I am not talking to you.

    “I need to change website vendors.”


    I hear this all the time. When I ask “why?”, I have NEVER heard a dealer give me anything close to acceptable reasons. Usually their answer is something along the lines of:

    1. I do not like the layout – its just blah looking – its not exciting
    2. I just want to change
    3. I look like every other dealer using this vendor

    Really? Is that all you got?

    Let me address these 3 reasons point by point before I get into what matters:

    “I dont like the layout – its just blah”


    To who? You? Your team? The focus group you hired to research this and what visitors to the site would rather see?

    Visitors are visiting your site for a few main reasons:

    • They want info on product.
    • They want contact information (probably for a damn complaint).
    • They want to schedule service.
    • They want directions.

    Thats it. They aren’t judging you or the site by any other means.

    Take this site for example. (Trust Me – You NEED to see this site) This site is better known as one of the least visually appealing websites in the automotive industry. At first it appears to be pure garbage. We could spend days breaking this geocities / myspace hack site apart but we won’t. You want to know a secret? I would take this site over many of the dealership websites I see today. My reasoning:

    • Sites Global Alexa Rank – 99,000 (10.5k within the UK)
    • This translates to approximately 33,000 visitors per month. 33 freaking thousand.
    • A large dealer in Ocala has a Global Alexa Rank of 3.1 Million and receives about 12K visitors per month. This dealer has a standard template website from one of the major automotive website providers.

    Lower numbers in Alexa Rank indicate more traffic. As a point of reference, Google.com has Alexa Rank of 1. Run your site through Alexa Rank and compare your website analytics. How do you rank? Its important to understand, the Ocala example dealer receives about 12k visitors per month.

    My point is, even though the “worst dealer site ever” looks like a migraine would be more enjoyable, the site wins by traffic alone. Traffic is one of the critical points of an effective site which I’ll get to in a minute. As you can see, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

    “I just want to change”


    Are you high? Or just bored?

    You do understand that your website is responsible for a higher percentage of your overall sales than you realize, right?

    Take a quick look at your Internet Department’s ROI calculator or Lead Source Analysis report. Take 6 months of data and find out how many sales were registered on form submits alone by lead source. What percentage of the store’s overall sales volume is that? 33%? 40%? 50%? I’ve seen it this high.

    What’s that you say? You don’t have a ROI Calculator or Leads Source Analysis Report? WTF?!?!? Get one. I wrote about this in January 2011. Take a look. Internet Department Lead Source and ROI. Call me if you want to discuss this in more detail. How the hell do you make department or lead vendor decisions without analyzing properly? Do you just guess?

    After you have the data on percent of sales from just form submits, add in the phone calls coming from dedicated website phone numbers. Again, do this by source as well. You do have different phone numbers on each website you have / advertise on right? Please tell me you do. Please.

    Now, add the phone calls generated from internet sources to the form submits found earlier and compare to overall sales volume. What percentage are you at? If you’re not at least at 50% you’re doing it wrong or your tracking needs a bit of help. Call me or email me – I’ll set you straight.

    If you noticed on your Lead Source Report that your website is the best performing source you have from a profit and close rate perspective, well congratulations! You’re  starting to look at what’s really important.  Your website is the best source you have resulting in the lowest cost per sale and therefore highest grossing deals you get from the web. It might not generate the highest sales volume but comparing the important metrics vs. other sources, you will see you would be better off getting more leads from your website than simply buying them from a third party. Once again, if you want help understanding this just ask me. I don’t bite.

    Would you ever in you’re right mind just want to get rid of your best sales people or best traditional advertising partner because you “just wanted to change”.

    Oh, and we haven’t even talked about how Fixed Operations comes into play with your website….

    Still just want to change? Didn’t think so.

    “I look like every other dealer”


    So what.

    Consumers aren’t comparing your site to other dealers’ websites. They aren’t confused and wondering which dealers website they are on. They can read. Give people some credit.

    I’ve got news for you. Your dealership physically “looks” just like every other dealership in the same way that most doctors’ offices look alike, or gas stations, or churches et cetera. But somehow people know where they are. Imagine that. Hell, even your sales people and processes are all the same for the most part. That your website looking similar to another dealer’s is not an issue. Well apparently for you it is. Thats a costly way to think.

    Att.com and Verizonwireless.com are pretty similar. Yet people know where they are. Check out Nordstrom.com and Lordandtaylor.com. How about Directv.com and Dish Network? Confused as to which site you are on? Yeah, me neither.

    People want consistency and simplicity to access the information they want on a website. Give it to them.

    This reason for change is probably the worst reason of them all.

    Each website vendor will have multiple templates you can use and many times you can speak with them directly to have them build you a custom template or at the very least custom colors.

    What is actually important when deciding to change website vendors?


    First you have to realize your website does not act alone as part of a successful internet department and online presence. There are a few other variables that seriously impact your dealership and each have fundamentally different responsibilities:

    • Marketing. It is marketing’s job to push the right people to your website. It does you no good to simply have an increase in traffic if that traffic is not your market – in your case people in your area in need of your product and services.
    • Website Vendor. It is their job to provide a website that converts from a visitor to a lead (or other actionable item usually generating revenue in some way).
    • Dealership Employees. The employees who handle these leads are responsible for converting the sale to a lead. Train these people. Invest in them. Call me. Email me. This is the most critical piece to a successful internet department. Your process sucks. Fix it. It will do you no good to increase lead volume if your process cannot handle the increased volume.

    Your website cannot sell a product for you or your team. Your marketing cannot sell a product for you are your team. Only your team can sell the product or service. Make sure your team has processes in place and management is tracking all the right things so you can grow your business the right way. Stop just guessing. Track, Measure and then Manage. In that order.

    So, enough with all this BS. What is the most important factor when deciding to change website vendors?

    Conversion Rate.

    Conversion Rate.

    Conversion Rate.

    Your websites main responsibility to you is converting a visitor to a lead as mentioned above. Average dealers will have websites that convert in the 1% to 5% range however then are many factors as to why. The main one being whether marketing is sending the right target people to the site?

    It’s usually more cost effective to analyze why your site is converting at a certain percentage and shift marketing efforts with a goal to increase that percentage.

    Once you know your site’s average conversion rate over time, you know how many visitors you need to generate a lead. Once you know your dealership’s close rate on these leads, which on average is 13%, you know how many leads you need to make a sale. The 13% close rate average is including all lead sources, not just your website. You will find your website close rate will be much higher than 13%. 25% and higher is not unheard of.  Again, take a look at this Internet Department Lead Source and ROI to get a better understanding of how to track and find these critical data points. Or you could just reach out to me. I do not have a problem telling you. Now that you know this information, you can begin to budget accordingly for vendors that produce traffic to your website. You should know how much it will cost to generate one sale.

    Taking our dealership example from earlier:

    Worlds Worst Dealer Website

    • 33,000 visitors per month
    • x 2% conversion rate
    • = 660 leads per month
    • x 13% Industry Average Close Rate
    • = 85.8 Sales per month

    Large Dealer Ocala Florida

    • 12,000 visitors per month
    • x 2% conversion rate
    • = 240 leads per month
    • x 13% Industry Average Close Rate
    • = 31.2 Sales per month

    Huge difference huh? We assume a few things here. Conversion Rate and Close Rate. But apples to apples….

    The one important thing we are missing is cost. What are the sites paying for their volume. Which is a huge factor in determining ROI.

    When thinking about switching website vendors, the important point is conversion rate.

    99 times out of 100 you would be better off staying with your current vendor and focusing on ways to improve your conversion rate. You know why? Because there are only so many vendors and you will end up with the same conversion rate just with a different vendor. The time, effort and money put into a website vendor change would be better off pushing the right target audience to your current website and allow you to have greater returns.

    You cannot simply switch website vendors your way to an improved conversion rate. What happens when your new contract is up? Are you just going to switch again? Eventually you will run out of vendors and nothing gained.

    If you are switching vendors, the discussion should be more focused on conversion rate not “neat templates” or “cool features”. While those are nice and worth a bit of discussion, conversion rate should be your number one focus.

    Say it with me people, CONVERSION RATE.


    If you would like to discuss any of these topics, please give us a call or email. You can even call or email me directly. I care and would love the opportunity to help you even if its just answering a few questions.

    Kevin Reifel
    Toll Free (866) 492-9710
    Direct (908) 968-4225 ext 101

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