How to Increase Internet Leads without Spending More Money

August 11, 2009
Fish Haven, IdahoImage via Wikipedia

Over the past 6 months I’ve spent much of my time investigating and documenting the connection between online merchandising and used vehicle operational results. Specifically, what are the precise conditions that must exist for success in both the traditional used car environment as well as the virtual one. Many of my friends and readers have contributed their metrics to me in connection with this effort. For those that have participated, I will contact you in the near future to present an overview of my findings. I’ll have some very meaningful insights to share with you, ones that will help you be more successful.

There is, however, one profoundly simple observation that I would like to share with everyone at this time. I think that it’s well understood that the number of times that your vehicles appear in internet vehicle searches has a relationship to the number of vehicles in your inventory. In other words, the simple size of your inventory matters to how many times vehicles are seen, and this directly relates to traffic. Therefore, dealers with larger inventories have more exposure and more opportunities. This fact exists in both the physical and virtual realm.

Notwithstanding this fact, there is something that every dealership can do to increase their exposure with their existing quantity of inventory. Consider a dealer that stocks 100 vehicles. If they sell 75 a month (non velocity car dealer), then they probably need to acquire at least 15 vehicles per week. While most dealerships would claim that it takes 3-5 days to get a vehicle reconditioned and ready for sale, both on the lot and internet, for most dealerships the actual number is 7-10 days. This is true at least for their internet display, when you consider photos, pricing, descriptions and presence on all relevant sites.

There are some dealers that I know, like Bill Pearson of Finish Line Ford and John Chalfant of Edmark Superstore that have their vehicles on line with photos, descriptions and prices within minutes of their acquisition. In fact, it often takes 5-7 days before some of these vehicles arrive at the dealership, get serviced and placed on the lot for sale. They have essentially decoupled the process of internet display from the physical counterpart. The effect of doing this creates much more exposure of inventory and consequently more leads per dollar spent on the internet.

Taking our above example, if a dealership purchases 15 cars this week on Monday and has them all properly listed on the internet by Monday evening they will have 2 more weeks of exposure compared to the same dealers that waits for the vehicles to be physically delivered later that week and ultimately posted on the internet approximately 1 week later. The difference of getting vehicles out there 14 days earlier (minus 7 vs. plus 7) amounts to a 30% greater exposure without spending any additional money It simply comes down to priority and speed of their virtual merchandising. This is at least one of many factors under a dealer’s control that accounts for the differences and performance between average performers and superstars.

You may wonder how guys like Pearson and Chalfant arrive at prices for vehicles not yet transported and reconditioned, and how they get photos of vehicles not yet present. They have effectively dealt with these and many other issues that continue to stifle a more rapid response from dealers that employ conventional practices. When you learn their philosophy and methodology for overcoming such obstacles, you begin to realize that past experience and philosophy are holding dealers back from obtaining their true potential.

By the way, last month Pearson retailed 325 used cars from a Ford store in Peoria, Illinois and already has 110 out so far this month. Chalfant retailed about 350 used cars last month from his GM store in Idaho.

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