When it comes to your marketing efforts, not every dollar you spend yields the same kind of return.
Here are a few things to remember:
•    Eighty percent of car purchases begin with an Internet search and a visit to a Web site.
•    Pay attention to your Web site. If it’s not maintained properly, it’s the same as leaving your lot in disarray.
•    Don’t put an employee in charge of your site who doesn’t understand its value.
•    Your Web site has the potential to track ROI like no other marketing medium. Therefore, it’s critical that you partner with a company that can unlock the Web’s capabilities.
•    Looking to trim marketing costs to save money? Look somewhere other than your Web site, which is the most cost-effective marketing tool you have.

For some dealers, the Web site remains the proverbial red-headed stepchild of their marketing efforts. Most people by now know they have to have one, so what they do is set it up, and put it in the hands of a low-level employee and hope for the best. After all, you and your sales team have more “important” things to do, like greet customers who come to your lot and sell cars.

What you may not realize is that your ability to do the things you consider important is almost completely dependent on what the low-level employee is doing. That’s because for every five people who come to your dealership to kick tires, talk deals and maybe even buy a car, four of them visit your Web site first. Read that statement again—80 percent of car buyers begin their search for a new car on the Internet. Therefore, their first impression of your dealership is directly tied to your Web site. Still think you have more important things to do than focus on your Internet marketing efforts?

The first thing they see is what they’ll remember.
Remember what your parents told you about making a good first impression? The old adage holds particularly true for your dealership. Think about the old days, before the Internet, when leads were more likely to just walk in off the street, making your lot the first thing they saw. Would you have trash lying around the lot? Old rusted-out cars parked haphazardly? Salespeople wearing ripped jeans? Of course not, that would be sending the wrong message.

If you have a poorly maintained Web site that offers a poor user experience – inventory you no longer have, a lot of fancy Flash that takes too long to download or just non-intuitive navigation – that’s exactly the kind of impression you’re giving in this new world. After all, if 80 percent of your potential customers see your Web site first, it had better be buttoned up.

What can your site do for you?
There are other reasons you need to be focused on your Internet marketing efforts. For instance, it’s the only marketing medium available to you that allows you to accurately track your return on investments. Unlike print, TV or radio, your Web site allows you to see how many people visit, how long they stay, which pages they view and whether they submit a form, thereby becoming a qualified lead. Try getting your TV spots to do that for you. But that doesn’t happen automatically.

Getting your Web site to do those things for you begins with partnering with a Web marketing team that truly understands the medium—one that can create a compelling Web presence for you and give you the tools to maintain it so that it remains fresh and gives prospects who’ve yet to become customers new reasons to visit all the time. If you’re willing to make that investment in your Web site – time, resources and above all, a working partnership with the right provider – it’s going to pay you back.

Saving money? Here’s where to start … and where not to start.
There’s no denying that the current environment is less than ideal for dealerships. Understandably, many are looking to cut costs in order to maintain profit margins. When you look at what you’re paying out, it’s tempting to consider cutting back on your Web presence, or cutting it out altogether. But make no mistake, this is the worst thing you can do.

In fact, if you look at the evidence, you’re going to increase profitability more by moving your dealership to a more cost-effective location. Since very few prospects are merely “dropping in” without visiting your Web site first, you can make the argument – and back it up with hard data – that your Web presence is more important than your physical presence. It used to be location, location, location. Now it’s user experience, user experience, user experience. You could spend millions of dollars on a new dealership, or just a few thousand on your Web site. Dollar for dollar, your Web site is going to generate far more revenue.

Supplied and reprinted with permission from Dealer.com.