I am always amazed when automotive advertising agencies and auto dealers are surprised that human nature has survived on the World Wide Web. Old world wisdoms and people skills that served as the foundation for proven selling and marketing processes in brick and mortar facilities can still be applied to the virtual showrooms being built on the Internet Super Highway where 93% of consumers are shopping for their next new or used vehicle as well as their dealer — in that order! People still prefer to do business with people that they like and relationship based selling systems will always be the process of choice for consumers and auto dealers in both the real and the virtual world.
The market is a conversation that is started by the consumers’ initial need or want for a product or service that drives them into the marketplace. Our need for social interaction has indeed survived onto the Internet as is evidenced by the explosive growth of social networking through communities like Face Book, MySpace, Twitter, etc.. Monetizing this social activity to help auto dealers sell cars can be accomplished by allowing customers to help their friends narrow down their online search to the right vehicle before they enter negotiations with the auto dealer on the wrong one, and it provides a solution to a problem that auto dealers face on a daily basis.
The problem starts with the fact that many online customers land on –a — vehicle vs. — the — vehicle which creates the need for them to switch or be switched by the auto dealer before a relationship can be formed and certainly before negotiations should be started. More relevantly, best practices that worked in conventional media applied to the Internet suggest a probable cause that can be easily resolved by new social network powered automotive advertising platforms being introduced as I write, such as ronsmap.com.
Auto dealers and even third party inventory websites have applied old world marketing techniques proven in the Newspaper into our new world technology on the Internet when posting their inventory online. They usually list vehicles for sale by grouping makes and models together — and in some cases to further separate them by price — and by listing new vehicles in an entirely different section than used. That previously proven technique doesn’t take advantage of the power of the computers and the artificial intelligence, (AI), that powers the Internet and the applications that have been developed to provide the customer the information they need vs. the information that they may initially search for before they know which questions to ask.
A car shopper in the formative stages of their search has only questions, not answers, and as all professional salespeople know, asking the right questions is step one in the sales process to properly qualify a customers’ needs in order to help them buy a vehicle vs. trying to sell them one. Third party inventory based marketing platforms like AutoTrader.Com, for example, list their vehicles as an agent of the dealer, not the consumer. Premium positions provide ATC’s income, not relevancy to the consumer’s search, and the vehicles are presented in long lists even after the consumers’ online inventory search filters are applied. This need to drill down through pages of individual vehicles creates search engine fatigue within the site and even in the initial search on Google and/or their growing video channel, YouTube, which also lists vehicles vertically in endless pages of individual postings. The result is that online shoppers eventually pick one to start asking questions about and even if/when they meet a professional salesperson who tries to qualify them to the correct vehicle the transparency and trust is broken and the salesperson’s honest attempt to ask the right questions is often misunderstood as a sales pitch.
ronsmap has adjusted to the new pull/push dynamic on the Internet where customers first pull the information they need and then push their questions to potential auto dealers either directly or through their integrated Ask-a-Friend / Tell-a-Friend application – vBack. Their consumer centric, social media powered marketing platform is better received by online car shoppers than yesterdays’ push/pull marketing platforms where auto dealers arbitrarily pushed their information out to the Internet and customers had to pull the information in before they knew what they were looking for. They have eliminated search engine fatigue by posting every vehicle for sale on the Internet — new, used, for sale by owner, franchise dealer, independent used car dealer and even all of the third party aggregators — onto one single position on the search engines in a lateral posting vs. a linear one. ronsmap has developed a proprietary vehicle search engine that posts all listings on to a map with scroll over pins that crossover make, model and source in a geo targeted manner that automatically tells the online customer every vehicle that is for sale in their immediate area. Once they have narrowed down their search in their market they are then invited to share their preliminary findings with their friends on their various social networking communities to solicit their opinion on the vehicle — and the dealer — before they open any contact with the seller. This now educated and empowered consumer is more confident in their selection and they are more likely to be on the right vehicle.
Of even more value to the dealer is the fact that ronsmap has a lead generator function – SellersVantage – that distributes the basic customer contact, or lead, to the auto dealer for free with an option for the dealer to purchase an enhanced lead with consumer and market intelligence that includes a recap of the other vehicles that the consumer has considered on ronsmap with a detailed competitive comparison of each of those vehicles as well as any other similar vehicles that are posted on the Internet in their immediate market. They also can receive a social networking profile of the consumer that advises the dealer of how many Face Book friends — as well as other recognized social networking communities — that the customer belongs to. Obviously, this enhanced market intelligence allows both the consumer and the dealer to land on the vehicle that fits their needs before any conflicts develop that will negatively impact the relationship and/or the negotiation process leading to a purchase and a sale that benefits all parties; as it should!
The referenced flaw in current online marketing techniques has contributed to the fact that many customers land on the wrong vehicle through no fault of their own and new applications and online shopping habits will and can fix that problem from the source. ronsmap is an example of how developing Internet based applications can resolve the issue before it even exists for tomorrow’s online shopper. The automotive advertising agencies that are listening to consumers who provided the input that served as the genesis for ronsmap reflect the new understanding by agencies that they must listen and learn from consumers before they presume to sell them anything.
Philip Zelinger is a former auto dealer principal with an earned reputation as a nationally recognized automotive advertising expert specializing in the technology sector. His philosophy that a rising tide floats all boats motivates him to listen and learn so he can presume to teach. To that end, Philip shares best practices on the respected automotive advertising resource networking portal — http://AdAgencyOnline.Net — as well as the blog talk radio station featured on the site — WAAOL, All Automotive Advertising News All The Time — http://blogtalkradio.com/adagencyonline.
For a complimentary consultation on your automotive advertising needs, or to share your wisdom and insights with the online automotive advertising community hosted by Ad Agency Online, L.L.C.. vist the portal and contact Philip Zelinger directly. To quote Philip, “Help is only a click away because — after all, what are friends for!”