If there has ever been a time to stop just going through the motions and giving lip service to 'going digital' and 'jumping online', it's now.  If you are a dealer principal and/or general manager, the time is now to drop your offline and go online (some of you with a vengeance).

When's the last time you watched a TV commercial (not counting sporting events that you may wait for a funny spot or something your buddies told you to watch) or went from satellite radio to conventional to hear the ads or even stared at the black and white (or better yet full color) insertions in your local paper?  Unless it's your ad, a competitor's ad or something that glitters or goes fast, you haven't!  Quit lying to yourself and everyone else.

You (and everyone around you) is going online, on their PDAs, their wireless cards, their iTunes account and any other method that avoids advertisements.  Nobody is saying it's easy.  Your advertising agency will likely not be happy.  Your newspaper sales rep will be red-faced.  The lovely account executive from your favorite radio station won't be taking you out to lunch soon.  Fine, you'll actually get more traffic and sell more cars and service.  All while saving money, tracking your spend nearly 100% and getting near complete transparency.  Last time I checked, none of that was bad.

"I don't understand how that works".  "You can't guarantee me the same results I get from the paper".  "I don't go online that much and neither do my friends".  "My brand tried that and it didn't work even though all of the region/area dealers pitched in so it can't work for me".  The list of tried-but-false excuses don't cut the mustard anymore.  Why are you fighting change, supported data and what customers want so badly?

So here's the challenge:

1. Three months minimum exclusive online advertising (if you're exclusively working with your factory-supported site, stop here and talk with a good consultant as you may be limited in this area)
2. If possible, manage and get all of your leads through a wholesaler (likely a great route if you have a real third part website company that can effectively manage your SEO and SEM as well)
3. Track everything (read: EVERYTHING) in your CRM/DMS: sourcing, every conversation, appointments, unwinds, etc.
4. Get up to speed on your Google Analytics (if you don't have that with your existing website company, get them to do it or replace them).
5. Talk with your DSM or marketing folks at headquarters about how consumers search for your brand in your area (relevancy is key).
6. Develop an online marketing strategy that is set at least a month at a time
7. Get your sales staff to support your efforts without question (this is a huge challenge at most dealers)
8. Back your digital efforts everywhere you possibly can around the dealership (sales floor, service, parts, cashier, etc)

In order to effectively market online, you must do no less.  You can do more, much more, if you're committed.  There are plenty of companies and people doing this strategy and more right now, today.  It's not a secret, it's not in code.  Start thinking like consumers instead of like car dealers and everything will start falling into place, as soon as you start telling everyone you've been keeping in business for years one simple thing: "No thank you, I've gone online".

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results