By Richard Yarrow
Do people buy cars from dealerships, or do they buy from people? The answer is obvious. Most customers who are parting with thousands of pounds and starting a relationship with you – one that may last several years because you’re pushing to add a service package into the transaction – would like to know something about who they’re jumping into bed with. That means finding out about your company, values, staff and community projects.
Where do they get that information? If they’ve been on your website, they will probably have clicked on the ‘About Us’ section. The sad thing is, in most cases, that’s more likely to put them off than have them rushing to your door. Take an average town, with the usual range of franchised main dealers dotted around the retail parks and industrial zones. Let’s say Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
I visited each dealer’s website – more than 20 in total – to find out something about the companies behind them. Without fail, there is an ‘About Us’ section. And without fail the content is predictable, cold and clinical. In some cases, it’s totally irrelevant.
There are the usual details about how long the company has been established, group ownership or some change of location in the recent past. Then comes the stuff about supplying top quality cars, commitment to excellent customer service and highly motivated staff. Some have details on the size of the showroom, the number of workshop bays, plus a map and directions. There may be a single photo of the dealership exterior.
Dealer websites do not need to slavishly follow manufacturers’ templates
They are called ‘About Us’ pages, yet they are devoid of personality. None showed any trace of being updated regularly and the handful which had a ‘News’ element featured pages supplied by their manufacturer. It wasn’t updates about the dealership, but about the brand. It’s hardly surprising when so many websites are obviously based on template software provided by the manufacturer, but within those there’s always scope for adding some character.
Jan Harriss, the dealership’s customer relations manager, explained it was part of the Mini-supplied website, but that dealer staff had embraced the chance to personalise it. She said: “We keep this updated and fresh to help keep our customers engaged. We like to offer them the opportunity to see our team prior to visiting the dealership.”
Rachel Bearpark, Mini’s dealer marketing manager, said it also helps customers to identify staff members. “It allows dealer staff to reflect their individual personality, helps to build long-lasting relationships with customers and forms part of our strategy to deliver exceptional levels of customer service,” she said.
Consumers use ‘About Us’ pages to decide if they can trust a business
Emma Harvey is director of product and strategy for digital marketing service supplier Razsor. She agreed with Mini’s approach and said people visit ‘About Us’ pages because they want to know if they can trust a business.
“A bad page could result in a failure to instil trust, failure to interest the customer and even make them feel negative about the business,” she said.
Sadly, one Bury St Edmunds dealer website is an obvious candidate for that. Its ‘About Us’ page has columns for ‘News’ and ‘Events’ and all they say is ‘No news at present’ and ‘No events at present’. How long has it been like that? My guess is there’s never been any content there.
Apart from staff photos, what else adds value? Community projects are a good way to show customers you care about more than just selling cars. Details of sports team or youth organisation sponsorships are excellent, while pictures of the DP sitting in a bath of baked beans for Comic Relief reveal you’ve got a sense of humour. Again, it’s important to keep reports updated, in part because fresh content can also boost your SEO performance. Just one Bury St Edmunds dealer included a link to its community work, and unfortunately the page repeatedly refused to load.
Bring the history of your business to life
Explaining your company’s history – particularly if it’s a long one or you’re a family-run enterprise – is a staple of the ‘About Us’ page. But it need not be dull. Liven it up with photos of the dealership when it opened, or images of the early models you stocked. Compare them with the current range to highlight all the technical advantages of what you’re selling today. Why not make a short video about the business, staff and services you offer?
Reveal some personality and passion, explaining what inspires the company and its staff. Have you won or been shortlisted for awards? Can you link to local media coverage? Expand on the staff photos idea; do you have long-serving employees who could be featured, showing there’s a continuity to your business? Try to inject humour; are there old photos of those employees? Do a ‘then and now’ comparison to show how they’ve changed. Hair styles from years ago will always make people laugh.
Use testimonials to show how people trust your business and what you sell. Refresh them regularly and add a date so viewers know the praise isn’t ancient. Convince the customer to have their photo taken with their new car and post that up. Only one Bury St Edmunds website has testimonials on its ‘About Us’ page, and it was actually on the group site rather than the dealer one.
A final thought. Have you embraced social media? Is the dealership on Twitter and Facebook? They allow you to interact directly with customers, giving your business personality and allowing you to build a relationship with people through likes, shares and comments.
That’s exactly what your ‘About Us’ page can do for the millions of people who find social media a complete mystery. So don’t ignore it.