Descriptive Ads Perform Best on Craigslist and eBay Motors

News JournalistIn the past, we’ve discussed the importance of pictures in your online inventory listings. That hasn’t changed, but it’s important that we make sure we don’t take away from the other important component of your listings: the descriptions.

A picture might say a thousand words, but the details you can put into the descriptions of your vehicles have a big impact on your ability to move those units. Sites like Craigslist and eBay Motors offer plenty of room to be as descriptive as you want, so use that space to its fullest potential.

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If Your Inventory is Everywhere, It Won’t Be Missed

Car Inventory

There are two primary strategies when it comes to car dealer inventory marketing. The first has been around for a while. The wide approach says that dealers should be putting their inventory out there in multiple venues. The second is relatively new, where dealers are pulling away from third party sites and focusing on bringing people to their own websites.

Each strategy has legs, but it’s in the tried-and-true strategy of putting your inventory on the websites that people visit rather than relying on people to visit your own site that we have seen the best results. There’s a difference between buying leads from third-party vendors and putting your inventory on third-party websites that must be understood for dealers to make the right decision.

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You can Buy Anything on Craigslist, Even a Pirate Ship

Pirate Ship on Craigslist

We are very big fans of Craigslist. It not only acts as the most cost-effective venue through which car, boat, and RV dealers can sell their inventory, but you can also find just about anything else on the site. Case-in-point: this pirate ship for sale.

It may be a replica, but that’s a good thing. Shower, refrigerators, queen sized bed, a bar… this ship is designed to be lived in by a family of four. In fact, the Craigslist ad says that the owners raised their two children in the boat.

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On Social Media, the Middle Ground is No Man’s Land

Social Media at Hand

The evolution of automotive social media has been an amazing thing to behold over the years. We’ve all seen strategies come and go. Some worked. Some didn’t. Today, we have the luxury of having narrowed down the strategies that have proven to be effective today and that should continue to be effective in the near future.

Nobody knows what changes will happen in social media tomorrow, let alone next month or next year, but we do have an idea about the overarching strategies that are proving to be the most successful. Thankfully, it has been narrowed down to two different types that happen to be extremes. The area in between these extremes can be classified as “no man’s land”.

Some would call it an “all in” or “all out” partition in social media, but it’s really not that black and white. The better way to look at it is that you can either be exceptionally aggressive and consumed by social media or you can take a more strategically casual approach.

The Aggressive Style

This social media strategy involves time and money. Dealers who want to invest into a full-time content marketing or social media management person can do so and are able to find success. This strategy involves getting out to the community, taking lots of pictures and videos, and building a base of powerful content that can help to draw attention and traffic to the dealership.

It also requires advertising money. The demise of organic reach on social media sites like Facebook means that a dealer can put a ton of effort into social media without any real return if they don’t put substantial advertising dollars behind it.

The other side of the coin is also as bleak. Dealers can put money behind their posts, but if they aren’t filled with truly awesome content, the money will be wasted and the ROI will be minimal.

The Strategically Casual Style

For dealers who want to have a powerful social media presence but who are not willing to throw thousands of dollars and a full-time employee into the social media mix, the strategically casual strategy is ideal. It acknowledges that organic reach is minimal but still allows for the benefits to come through social media that derive from other sources.

People are going to your pages and profiles every day. They might click through from your website. They might find them on a search for your name. Regardless of how they got there, what they see can be an important differentiator between you and your competitors.

Rather than putting a lot of time and energy into social media, dealers that use this style still build on their social profiles and pages constantly and with powerful content, but they do so in a way that doesn’t cost take away from other activities. They use social media tool such as ours to post inventory, industry news, videos, and blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, giving their page the robust content that people want without the investment associated with an aggressive strategy.

No Man’s Land

The most common strategy that dealers are using falls right in the middle. They don’t go all out with time or budget, but they don’t simplify it, either. They try to do some of the aggressive strategy.

It doesn’t work.

The benefits are similar to what a dealer would get from using easy tools like ours, but require more effort and budget. If you’re going to get aggressive, that’s great and there are doors that can be unlocked with this strategy. If you’re not going to go “all in” with social media, it makes a whole lot of sense to use a service like ours to save time and money while still building a powerful social media presence.

Why Car Dealers Should Adopt a Modern Digital Merchandising Strategy

Car Dealer Inventory

Most people have mastered the skill of shopping. They have been on the internet for so long that they understand the power of choice that the internet gives them. In fact, there are people hitting the car market for the first time who never knew a world without the internet.

Many car dealers have shifted their attentions and advertising budgets to focus strictly on sending people to their own websites. It’s a revolution of sorts as they begin consolidating their digital presence so that everything is funneled directly to them. The concept has legs; generating “1st party leads” has proven to be the highest quality and yields the best chances per lead of turning it into a sale.

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Strong Focus is Imperative for Automotive Social Media

Focus

The evolution of social media over the years has been interesting to watch, particularly in the automotive industry. As a business tool, there have been more strategies that have come and gone than ones that have stood the test of time.

Believe it or not, social media is around a decade old in its current form. One can argue that earlier types of social media were around in the 90s, but the modern variation of social media really started with sites like MySpace that gained popularity in 2004 and started really making an impact in 2005 and 2006.

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Why Putting Your Social Media on AutoPilot is the Best Answer for Many Car Dealers

Automatic

The original purpose of social media was to allow people to share things in their life or that they find important with other people regardless of where they are. Over the years, there have been many questions posed about the validity of social media as a business-driving venue for car dealers, but one thing is certain: it’s here and isn’t going away any time soon, so dealers need to pay attention to it.

Unfortunately, that means that dealerships need to invest time, money, or both into keeping up with their social profiles and pages. The venues themselves might be free, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t come at a cost. Most dealerships do not have dedicated personnel to manage their social media, which means that either their social presence will suffer or other things that might be more business-crucial will suffer as a result.

LotVantage heard the needs of our clients and we’ve responded with a social media tool that allows you to put your presence on autopilot. Even if you’re not sold on the benefits of social media, you need to maintain your profiles and pages for the people that do visit them while researching the dealership. This is why we feel we have the right answer for you.

Our social media tool allows you to set up posting to Facebook and Twitter that operates automatically. It will pull from your inventory and post it in the most appropriate manner. It will then pull articles from industry publications, YouTube channels, and other websites of your choice to post at the frequency you want without having to manually locate and post the content. This gives your social media the personalized feel that you want without having to invest your own time or much money towards the tasks.

We know it’s not for everyone. There are dealers who are doing a fantastic job of managing their social media. There are vendors out there that are handling it all for their clients. While there’s nothing wrong with either option, our social media tool is much less time-consuming, much less expensive, and more efficient than the alternatives. If gives you every benefit you hope to receive from social media while keeping time commitments and costs to a minimum.

If your dealership is struggling to keep up with social media or if you’re spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars to have someone else manage it, you should contact us. We can deliver better results for a fraction of the time and money you’re investing today.

A Social Media Presence is Important Even if You Don’t Believe in Social

Get Social

The rise of social media offered a new promise in the ever-evolving digital age. It was a way to broadcast messages to potential customers in a way that allowed for dialogue. Rather than being another form of online advertising like PPC or 3rd-party inventory listings, it promised to become a venue of communication.

Unfortunately, it has not fulfilled that promise for everyone who tried it.

There are dealers and vendors who are completely sold on the concept that social media is a great way to increase business and sell more cars. There are even more dealers and vendors who have put effort or money into social media, only to find that they did not receive a return on their investment.

Those who fall into the second category may no longer believe that social media has a benefit. Whether you think it has legs or not, it’s important to understand that it can definitely be a detriment if you let it go completely.

People will find you on social media. Look at your website. There’s a good chance that you have buttons on there leading to your social media profiles. Do a search for the dealership on Google. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are probably popping up on the first page.

When potential customers find your social media profiles, what will they see? At LotVantage, we believe a dealership’s social media profile should be posting regularly, even if they are not completely “bought in” on the concept itself. That’s why we offer an extremely affordable solution to put your social media on autopilot.

Inventory, Videos, Automotive news, and Blog posts – These are just some of things that dealers and vendors will post on social media to maintain a strong presence. If it’s handled in-house, that could mean an hour or more per day preparing content and getting it posted. If it’s handled by a vendor, that likely means hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month.

We can take care of it all for you for under $5 per day with no effort on your part. When people visit your social media profiles, they’ll see a vibrant, active Facebook and Twitter page that represents the dealership well and allows them to go straight into inventory. It defends your turf against bad reviews or unhappy customers voicing their negativity on your page. Most importantly, it gives you the presence you need without taking up your time or a ton of money to make it happen.

Please contact us if you’d like to see how we can give you an incredible social media presence for the price of a daily Starbucks.

The Cost of Free and Why Craigslist is Better Now

DonutsThere are plenty of things offered to car dealers that fall under the category of “free”. Co-op money from the OEM is normally considered free. The donuts that the Cars.com representative brings every month are seen as free. Even the materials that the OEM and other suppliers send you to market your cars and services can be viewed as free.

The reality is that none of them are truly free. You’re paying for them, not directly, but through other moneys or efforts that you have to put into these companies in order for them to offer you the freebies. Would the Cars.com rep still bring Panera Bread every month if you stopped paying for their service? Of course not.

There’s another angle to the question of freebies that should be considered. How much are those freebies hurting you? Is it better to use the best PPC provider or to use the OEM-approved one? That depends. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t take advantage of the freebies. You simply need to be careful with how you position your advertising and marketing around the concept of free or paid-for rather than hopping on it every time it’s available.

We witnessed this first-hand when the “free” postings on Craigslist were replaced by paid listings. Many dealers stopped posting to Craigslist for this reason and the decision was often justifiable. However, there’s a side-effect to the removal of the free ads that has helped dealers achieve a dramatically higher return on investment. The “thinning of the herd” on Craigslist has added real value to the paid listings to the point that dealers who were finding some success on Craigslist before are finding much more of it now.

The rise of paid listings on Craigslist gives a much higher exposure level to their inventory than ever before. Direct leads, clicks to the website, and searches for the dealerships have all increased substantially. As a result, sales have gone up as well.

When Craigslist switched to a paid model, they turned a really good service into an incredible one. It’s a must-have for aggressive dealers who want to get their inventory in front of more buyers at a low cost.

Some would say that it’s too expensive at $5 per car, but if you really think about it, this is far from the case. Let’s take pay-per-click advertising on Google, for example. In many cases, dealers are paying $5 or more for a single click to the vehicle. With Craigslist, you have a much higher potential to get people to view your inventory at a lower cost.

Everyone loves to get something for free. There’s a sense of accomplishment in knowing that we’re spending less as a result of our decisions, but there is also a conventional wisdom that says you get what you pay for. With the current Craigslist model, you get more than what you pay for, especially when you compare it to other advertising venues. This is why Craigslist is better now than ever before.

Just a Reminder: Pictures Sell Cars

Good Inventory ImagesBack when the internet was still young and the automotive industry had not fully embraced it, those dealers who were utilizing it to expose their inventory online were still having trouble with images. Some cars had them. Others did not. Some had 40 images. Others had 1. The websites and classified listings that were getting the most action were the ones that had the most pictures, but it was hard to find this happening consistently.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a picture of how things were when the internet was young. Even today, there are still those who have not embraced the power of images to help generate leads and sell more cars. Many of you have. You’ve seen the difference it can make on your website, eBay, Craigslist, and other places where you post your inventory. If you’re already on board and harnessing the power of images, then this article is simply a reinforcement of what you already know.

If you have not been able to prioritize getting more and better pictures of your inventory, then here are some important points to think about and possibly bring to others at the dealership who may need to know about the power of pictures.

Quantity is Important

People exponentially more access to the internet today than they did just a decade ago. Faster internet connections. Better devices. More devices. More time spent online. These are some of the factors that contribute to the need to give them what they want.

We’re so used to seeing just about everything about a product without leaving our chair that presenting your potential customers with all of the angles is imperative. It’s not just about duplicating, either. Two slightly different angles of the trunk will not help. They want to see the car inside and out.

As a minimum, we recommend 20 images per vehicle, though a best practice would be to double that number or more.

Quality is Even More Important

There’s a psychology that goes into how we view images. That doesn’t mean you have to be a psychologist to take good pictures. You just have to put in the right amount of effort.

One of the most discouraging things we see when dealers post pictures is when the image is incomplete. For example, a side view of the car should include the entire vehicle from front to back. When either is cut off, it seems careless and unnecessary.

Focus is important, especially for interior shots. More dealers are taking the care to post images of individual features such as navigation and heated seat buttons. This is great and it has an effect on how people perceive a vehicle, but be sure you’re not posting images that are out of focus. You could have the opposite effect.

Scenery Makes an Impact

The surroundings in a picture can have nearly as much impact on its effectiveness as the vehicle itself. If your lot appears to be dirty with pictures of potholes or ancient buildings in the background, the effect is subtle but present.

Use your scenery to demonstrate the care that you take with your vehicles. Remember, buying a car from a dealership is somewhat akin to adopting a pet. It’s proven that clean animal shelters have an easier time getting rid of their animals than dirty ones. The same holds true for their perception of your dealership. Put you dealership in a good light by positioning your vehicles in a great way.

Don’t Skip New Cars

There can be a time- or cost-savings reason that dealerships are only taking images of their pre-owned inventory, but this is a big mistake. Today, images of the actual vehicle drastically outperform stock images when it comes to clicks from the various 3rd-party websites.

Just because you have access to stock photos doesn’t mean that you should use them. Before people come in to buy a vehicle, they prefer to see the live version rather than a stock image.

Refresh When Necessary

Go through your inventory photos at least once a month to see what other people are seeing. Pick out the images that need replacing and then take new pictures. This is important because people want to feel like the vehicle they’re buying has come in recently.

For example, if you have some exterior shots that have snow in the background, they’re not the right images to be showing on your inventory in August.

Make it a Priority

The sooner you can get pictures live on your website and third party sites, the better. There are those who use monthly visits from a photographer to make this happen. While this might be acceptable for a low-volume store, anyone who is selling high-double-digits or triple-digit vehicles in a month should not let inventory site for as much as 30 days without an image.

The good part about improving on the way you position images on your website and third-party sites is that it’s really easy. Small changes are usually all that are needed to make your images stand out better to potential customers.

The bad part is that many dealers do not consider a priority. They don’t know what they’re missing out on because it’s not a glaring hole in their marketing at initial glance. Hopefully, this article will help those who need to be convinced (or who need to convince others) that more and better images on your website and across the internet can improve your sales very quickly.