Editor's Note: Here's an excerpt from a feature story in Rural Lifestyle Dealer's spring issue. Click here to read the complete feature.

There are some basic ingredients that it takes to have a dealership. You have to build a building. You have to hire employees. You have to fill it with products. You have to have effective communication and a point-of-sale system. All of the ingredients that are necessary to start up a dealership are also needed to have a successful virtual location or web presence.

The post baby-boomer generation has created huge shifts in retail and how products are being sold. In order to reach these buyers, it’s necessary to go beyond a brick-and-mortar location. The second reason is that baby boomers and even older generations are becoming more used to shopping online. Third, your website can help you reach buyers earlier in their journey, even before traditional advertising reaches them. And, this idea of “multi-channel” retail is the new normal.

Here’s a real customer purchase that shows the importance of using all angles of marketing — and sticking with a customer as they research. I’ll change the names of the customers, but the details are real. John, 60 years old, is a farmer and his wife, Sandy, is a banker. They live about 35 miles from our Rose Bud location. John had heard about Sherwood Tractor from a television ad last spring. In September, he started researching Mahindra tractors online, clicked on one of our Google ads and spent almost 20 minutes on the site. He then submitted information through an online request form. We immediately followed up and answered his questions.

A week later, John visited our website again, looked at 6 different models and submitted another request form. One of our re-marketing activities is to take all the email addresses of those who submitted online forms and send them a general email each month. So, about a week after the second visit, we sent John an email as part of a monthly campaigns. We saw that he opened it but didn’t take any action. The same thing happened in November.

John opened the December email, however, clicked on the links and visited our website. He checked out two models and the financing information we have on our site. The next day, he looked at one model in particular and submitted a credit application. Our sales team was in touch with him through phone calls, emails and in-person visits to finalize the sale. In all, over a 3-month period, the interactions included 9 website visits, 10 emails, 3 phone calls and 2 in-store visits.

Here’s an example of the interactions between Sherwood Tractor and a customer, online and in the store, starting with a Google ad and through to purchase. Prior to clicking on the ad, the customer had seen a Sherwood Tractor television commercial.

This was just one journey and each dealership needs to understand what mix of marketing is best for them. And, it also shows the importance of reaching customers early, sometimes even months before they are ready to buy.


View Patrick Richardson’s presentation in the Dealer Success Academy, “Turning Your Website into a Virtual Location”