As the Internet sales and marketing landscape becomes more cluttered with options, you may wonder what are the most important elements for online success at dealerships.

The best results come from hard-working people doing fundamental actions better than their competitors and to the satisfaction of their customers.

Here's how I rank the success drivers:

  1. Leadership

    My dealer father used to always say, “The speed of the boss is the speed of the gang.” This is as true today as it ever was. When we work with dealerships run by progressive and focused dealers and general managers, it all seems to come together. Their conviction to doing things well and right makes all the difference. Good leaders provide clear direction, measure results and reward effort.

  2. Talent

    A prerequisite to success is having someone in the position to work with Internet prospects by telephone, email, chat, text and video. Anyone can teach techniques, but a true talent makes the processes and the tactics come to life.

  3. Quality Leads

    An Internet sales lead can come by phone, electronic submission, chat, text or walk-in and it's always best when they've have actually clicked through your inventory. That's why dealership website leads and third-party classified leads close at such high rates. Of course, leads born from a well-crafted marketing plan with your database are exceptional as well. Focus on providing quality leads to your team and magic will happen more often.

  4. Marketing Fundamentals

    Those include dealership website with good conversion characteristics, well-planned search-engine optimization, supplemental search-engine marketing third-party new-vehicle leads from sources offering quality guarantees and third-party classified placement. Remember, it's all about the inventory so make sure you have quality photos, compelling descriptions and on-the-market pricing.

  5. Well-Planned and Executed Process

    High-quality prospects still need to receive the attention they desire and a thought-out process is essential. We stress 100% quality tasks (even if there are fewer), performed 100% of the time. That is much better than too many tasks performed 50% of the time. There is a balance to be considered here and your strategy should be to motivate the consumer to want to do business with you.

  6. Compelling Tactics

    The missing ingredient in most follow-up tactics is a real concern and joy for the buyer. Imagine how cool it is when you get to buy something (maybe a new iPhone or iPad) and then multiply that 1,000 times. That's what it can be like for a car buyer. It's a huge purchase and the more we enjoy and appreciate buyer excitement the better results we'll enjoy. Use all the tactics available; chat, text, video and of course use the phone and send personalized emails.

  7. Excellent Online Reputation

    We've all read reviews before we buy a book, a kayak, a phone or even a meal. Your prospects do as well and your online reviews are more important to consumers than other sources.

  8. Social Media

    For some dealerships, this has become a distraction from the fundamentals and so puts them at risk for performing well overall. However, for those who do the basics well then there is a new frontier available in exceptional online socializing with your prospects and customers. Start with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and then build from there. But make every step count and never lose focus on the seven other items above.

The above points are just my opinions, but based on interacting with hundreds of dealerships we've helped design winning action plans over the years. If you wish to offer your own opinion or ask a question, both are always welcome.

David Kain is president of, a firm offering automotive Internet sales and marketing training and services. He is at and 859-533-2626.

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