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Dealer FAQs: Web Management

Your questions posed to our experts - with Tim Smith, GForces Web Management.

Q. What was the single most important piece of advice you were able to give dealers in 2009?

As 2009 started off looking bleak for both manufacturers and dealers, the most important piece of advice for dealers this year was to keep marketing, find what works for you and keep at it.

In a recession, one of the automatic responses to darkening economies is to cut costs and, invariably, marketing spend soon finds itself being analysed. However, cutting back on marketing spend can be fatal to a business and research has shown that those companies that continued to market through past recessions saw a dramatic improvement in ROI.

It’s important for dealers to find which marketing campaigns are working and stick at them. Cutting out spending on ineffective marketing campaigns is crucial but dealers need to find those that bring results in the form of qualified leads and increase spending accordingly.

Our clients made use of our lead tracking software, LeadBeast, and did just that. They cut back on ineffective campaigns and increased spending on effective ones. It meant they were able to not only survive but even see record sales months.

Competition will still be tough next year so stick to your guns for 2010.


Q. What are the key elements of a dealership’s online ‘forecourt’ that will draw customers in?

When it comes to enticing online visitors and converting them into customers, we’ve found the key element is focus.

Effective design is striking but not cluttered; you don’t find every single car on dealership forecourts so digital dealerships shouldn’t put everything on the first page. The trick is to focus on your main offers and content, giving customers just enough information to lure them in without scaring them off.

Content needs to be relevant and displayed in a legible font.

Clear, well chosen images are great at capturing attention. Links and navigation throughout the site will find themselves clicked more if it’s clear and logical where they go.

When it comes to offers, focus on the best and most competitive for the homepage and keep the rest in a dedicated and easy-to-find offers page elsewhere on the site. Every offer should have a call-to-action to encourage conversions.

Our experience shows us that dealers with a clearly focused site see a lower bounce rate with more visitors exploring the site and making enquiries.


Q. How can dealers promote their current offers on their websites while keeping them clear and easy to use?

Using a dedicated part of your website to market offers will generate the most success. Remember, on the web someone has probably already typed in what they are looking for in a search engine so they don’t want to see unrelated information.

Our experience shows dealers are more likely to convert a visitor in to a lead when they use specific landing pages linked to particular campaigns.

These pages will clearly display the price, specification and key details of the offer and catch the eye with relevant, well-designed images.

Additionally you should include clear calls to action so ensure a contact number is displayed and an enquiry form is never more than a click away.

Better still some dealers can even use live chat functions to message interested customers and make sure that hot leads don’t go cold.

Keeping your offers focused, displaying details clearly and making it easy to enquire is a sure-fire way to get high levels of leads in to your dealership.


Q. What’s the best way for a dealer to put lots of information on their website in a clear and concise way – ie links to other pages, pictures, font size etc?

Above all, information should be relevant, clear and well presented to enhance the effectiveness of your website.

Views differ on types of font to use online but Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman are perfectly acceptable and easy to read for just about everyone.

Style and size of font should be 10pt or 12pt for the body of text, with headings using larger sizes.

However it is readability and consistency that matter most.

Images and links must be logically placed and easy to navigate.

Dealer home pages often display highly-engaging flash or video to entice the visitor, then provide stock images in lists as the visitor performs vehicle searches, finally providing multiple images on actual stock pages when someone has chosen to look at a specific vehicle.

Information should be structured logically and backed up with consistent styles to give the visitor visual indication of where exactly to find all the information they require.


Q. If a dealer could only do one thing to ensure the internet works better for them, what should they do?

My answer would always be “balance”. There is no one sure-fire technique for succeeding online, rather a successful online strategy requires a combination of numerous techniques and tactics in order to generate profitable returns.

There is no doubt Search Engine Optimisation, Pay-Per-Click marketing, and online portals can all contribute significantly to leads, sales and profitability, but they rely on other parts of the business as well. For example, enquiries may be easier to generate if some thought has been given to how your vehicles and offers will stand out from the competition.

Often dealers rely on their website too heavily without thinking of all the supporting resource it requires. It is a living, breathing, continually evolving entity that requires constant attention in order to survive, thrive and perform. It needs up to date stock, quality images, relevant offers and up to date content.

These activities are essential elements of the overall marketing function but because they cost money are usually relegated for the sake of additional, often ineffective advertising.

A balanced marketing strategy incorporating the best of online and offline marketing coupled with input from experienced dealership personnel that will ensure you beat your competition.


Q. Is this a time to cut back on marketing spend, stick with the knitting or consider different sales channels with a view to the future?

A business must always be considering different sales channels and investing in marketing. If you operate within a market, you have obviously invested through financial means, or through your time and effort. It stands to reason you expect to generate a return from that market at some point.

If you don’t think there is a reward, you will withdraw from the market. Even though times are tough, and its tempting to just stick to the knitting, if you see light at the end of the tunnel investment in marketing is critical in securing what business is out there.

As to different channels, they must always be evaluated as they offer new ways to reach the customer. The internet is a recent example of a new channel making a significant impact on marketing. The best performing companies are the ones that invest in marketing and embrace new opportunities.


More from Tim Smith

It is increasingly important for automotive dealers to see their websites as an extension of their showroom and treat them as a business asset that requires upkeep and investment.


Tim Smith is the Marketing Director of G-Forces Web Management, a leading provider of web software and services for automotive main dealers.

Tim is responsible for defining G-Forces’ marketing activities and assisting their main dealer customers in enhancing and promoting their businesses online.

Justification of expenditure is key to everything G-Forces does, especially in these uncertain economic times and part of Tim’s remit is to develop and deliver results driven services for customers.

This includes demystifying complex internet marketing jargon, cutting through the noise and providing guidance and assistance to dealers online.

The web is one of the most rapidly changing environments in the world and requires specialist skills and expertise to capitalise on its potential to reach people. Keeping things simple, creating strong web platforms from which to build and continual evolution is the key to online success.

Tim has an extensive knowledge of IT and its application to business having worked in the industry for 15 years.

Tim’s career started at Torex Services, a global provider of software and retail systems where he helped integrate thousands of customers into a centralised support structure.

In 1999 Tim moved to become the fifth employee at BI-Tech Solutions, a technology start-up company, to gain a greater understanding of sales processes.

Within 3 years, he was achieving more than £3.5m sales per annum.

He also developed a nationwide reseller channel from scratch and delivered pioneering data archiving and data recovery solutions for companies like Direct Line and Warner Bros.

BI-Tech was one of the fastest growing companies in the UK exceeding £30m turnover within 4 years, and eventually sold to US networking giant Brocade in 2004.

Tim left Brocade and joined G-Forces Web Management in 2005 to grow the company alongside 3 other directors.

Over the last three years he has helped shape G-Forces as one of the leading web agency’s in the UK and led the development of G-Forces’ own lead tracking software NetDirector LeadBeast in order to bolster its results driven services.

G-Forces build, manage and market websites for some of the lading automotive groups in the UK and many of the AM250.

Through their NetDirector Auto offering, G-Forces provide the ultimate selection of tools to ensure main dealers and specialist automotive retailers compete effectively online.

The NetDirector Auto range of products allows dealers to select a range of components to compliment their business and achieve success online.

With over 10 years of trading, G-Forces has established themselves as one of the leading digital agencies the UK providing website design and management, web marketing, lead tracking and e-commerce solutions.

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