I spent ten fun-filled years in the car business, so I have a special interest in combining the auto business with the Web.

In this article, Iíll share a couple of little tips with you that we spent some time and money to figure it out. It was well worth the investment!

Iím of the opinion that every business that does any kind of advertising NEEDS a Web site. Thatís right: every business that does advertising needs a Web site!

Why? Well, the fact of the matter is for a small informational Web site to augment or support other advertising such as print, radio, TV, etc. it’s a freakin’ bargain by comparison to the “main” advertising.

It has always blown my mind that business owners will spend hundreds of bucks per day on print advertising in the newspaper. Where, incidentally, they usually try to write too much in too small of a space and ameliorate their investment anyway. Yet they don’t want to spend a couple of hundred bucks on a nice Web site that is durable, provides virtually unlimited space for content, and truly bolsters every other form of advertising.

Rant paragraphs aside, one of the most obvious businesses that can immediately benefit from a nice Web site is a car dealer.

They almost always advertise in the classifieds of the local newspaper(s), usually for exorbitant rates. If you can convince the dealer to use their site to display photos of their inventory rather than spending money on lengthy descriptions or ugly B&W pictures in the classifieds they can usually pocket the entire cost of their Web site by reducing the amount of money they spend on classified advertising.

I have one car dealer to whom that made obvious sense. I built her a site and she likes it. Since she’s a good businessperson, she wanted to figure out what she could say in the classified ads to get the most traffic diverted to her Web site.

We tried all manner of wordings, watched the server logs, changed the wording, and checked the logs again. This process continued for about a month. The longer the text was that recommended the reader visit the Web site the better the response, but with diminishing returns. We were, after all, trying to reduce the size and cost of the ads.

After about a month of experimentation, we arrived on what was the best balance between length of wording and effectiveness: “See it at www.example.com” (where example.com is the URL of the dealer in question).

I think it worked better than just putting the dealer’s domain name at the bottom of the ad because consumers are so used to the URL being in an ad as a kind of default closing text without any images or information about the specific item the ad refers to.

So there you have it. It worked great for this particular dealer and the other few dealers that I take care of. Try it with your dealer clients and see how it works for you. Keep in mind though that ACTUALLY having a listing for the car and photos is a MUST, or it won’t do any good at all.

We also came up with a great trick for the salespeople to use, too.

When a customer comes in to the car lot one of the first questions the salesperson asks is, “Did you see the car on our Web site?”

Why is that? Well, primarily, if the customer says yes the salesperson knows they have a much more interested shopper. They have seen it online, they know the list price, and they have come to the location to get deeper into the buying process.

That is invaluable information for the salesperson to have!

Second, if the customer says, “No, I didn’t see it on the Web site,” the salesperson has just informed them, by simply asking a question, that there IS a Web site and then might say something like, “Yeah, we get a lot of action on the site, that car has had a number of inquiries.”

This is motivational and causes an increased likelihood that the customer can be moved toward making the purchase NOW.

There’s so much that a Web site can do for a car dealer that it’s not possible to enumerate here in this short article, but you’ve just picked up two great tricks and some good concepts that you can share with the dealers you either work for or want to do work for.

Nothing helps close a prospective client like having some specific knowledge of their business and a few well though out tips that they didn’t think of themselves.

Chris Leeds, MVP, WPD
Chris Leeds is a longtime digital photographer and Web enthusiast.

Chris has recently developed and released a software product that allows Webmasters to create Web sites that can be edited by their clients with just a browser.

Chris also maintains and operates Northeast Digital Photo.

Chris has additionally had “Tips and Tricks” and numerous articles published, on Microsoft’s site and other locations, regarding various facets of FrontPage and recently served as a technical reviewer for the O’Reilly Press “FrontPage 2003 the Missing Manual.”

[tags]chris leeds,auto dealers,dealers,advertising,classified ads,salespeople[/tags]