“Inventory Marketing Best Practices”
Gibson Truck World was Featured in this Article of AutoSuccess Monthly Magazine October 2011 along with Homenet Automotive!
When it comes to inventory marketing best practices, Gibson Truck World in Sanford, Florida has so many, we had to omit several from this article to fit this space. With sales topping 1,800 units annually, 65 employees, and $7 million in inventory on 14 acres, Gibson is the largest used truck dealership in the world and ranks No. 18 of independent dealers in the U.S.* Impressive, to be sure, but what’s more impressive is how they sustain these numbers. The biggest clue lies in the fact that a whopping 60 percent of their sales result from referrals and repeat customers. Gibson’s sales staff spends a good portion of their time with every customer establishing trust. To that point, about 10 percent of sales each month are from buyers who never physically come to the dealership. In fact, in the last two years, they’ve shipped cars to virtually every European country, most of the Caribbean Islands and as far away as New Zealand. “We assure our customers that the safety and security of their family is our top priority,” said owner Yves Belanger. “But it’s not just a motto — we spend more than $250,000 per month inspecting and servicing our trucks, and I want shoppers to see that in action. I want them to see a virtual used truck factory busy at work.” To show off the organization standing behind each truck’s warranty (which is impressive, but we’ll get to that), a tour of the service department is mandatory with every customer. Gibson’s “Disaster Prevention Center” (service department) is comprised of 25 bays, eight technicians, one alignment specialist, one tire specialist, one assistant shop manager, one shop foreman, three parts and service writers, and one service advisor, plus detailers and body shop techs — totaling half of Gibson’s 65 employees — all ensuring that each customer gets the highest quality truck at the lowest price available. And get this: They don’t do general service. All after-sale service is reserved for customers who purchased their truck at Gibson and it is still under warranty. Before it is sold, however, each truck gets a full 135-point inspection, a diagnostics test and a frame damage check using a tram gauge. Trucks they reject are posted on their REJECTS page of their Website, complete with photos, VIN numbers and, in many cases, actual estimates showing the cost of repairs to bring it up to certification. “I love it when we find one of our rejects on another dealership’s site listed as ‘Absolutely flawless, inside and out!’ You can be sure we post that, too,” said Angela Stockman,
the marketing director and Internet wizard executing Gibson’s online initiatives. Two years ago, Gibson wanted to showcase some of the parts they’ve replaced on trucks to get them to certification, so they lined up 50-gallon drum containers full of thousands of old worn out tie rods, ball joints, rotors and thousands of brake pads that have been removed and replaced with new ones. Gibson Truck World employs the following HomeNet products to help them sustain their No. 1 ranking:
• Inventory Online (IOL Pro) Vehicle Marketing Suite with IOL Hosting and CARFAX and AutoCheck integration
• AdLogic – image and text ad generator for every vehicle in inventory to post throughout the Google ad network
• IOL eBay Local Advertising Program with no flat monthly fees
• IOL Oodle Pro with Facebook Marketplace
• IOL Posting 2.0 eBay and Craigslist display page generator
• Video Online with Human Voiceover and Live Video
• OPENLANE and SmartAuction wholesale add-on
Of course, that won’t impress someone who never visits the dealership, but no matter, as approximately 25 percent of Gibson’s sales still come from buyers outside Florida. Perhaps it’s because they offer an unbelievable 12-month, bumper-to-bumper warranty valid across the continental United States, 12 months of free maintenance, and a 15-day return policy.
“The majority of our out-of-state customers are so confident in Gibson Truck World that they wire us payment without ever setting foot in the dealership or personally seeing the truck until we ship it to them,” said Belanger.
Building such an organization is a seven-day-a-week job for Belanger, who is not only the president of the dealership, he also does all of the truck buying, is the shop service manager, general manager, and supervises operations for the entire dealership including sales, body shop, parts, detailing and marketing.
They also create a personality for every vehicle, even naming them. Projecting that personality is easier with the addition of a full-time videographer on staff (in addition to a full-time photographer) to film live video walk-a-rounds for all trucks. “Our videographer shows off each vehicle’s best assets and adds a great deal of energy and emotion to each video,” said Stockman. “Our nationwide warranty and the live video walk-arounds are what make an out-of-state shopper feel comfortable enough to call us to purchase a truck over the phone. The combination shows we have nothing to hide and that the truck in the
photos is actually the real truck on the lot.”
At first glance, a live videographer sounds like quite an investment, but Belanger says it paid off immediately. “Since adding live video, our video views exploded, our Website traffic increased 10 percent, which in turn increased our sales,” he said. Using Video Online’s live video upload and distribution modules, Gibson then automatically sends videos everywhere their inventory goes that accepts video — 40 sites in all — including their own Website, YouTube, Facebook, AutoTrader.com, Cars.com and Oodle. To reach buyers from around the corner and around the country, Gibson invests in establishing an online presence for their inventory, including shooting photos before and after prep. Posting a vehicle online takes Stockman on average about five minutes per truck and first occurs with the “before” photos the day it arrives from auction to gain valuable online exposure for the vehicle even while it is in prep. The VIN is sent via automatic feed from their DMS to HomeNet’s IOL Inventory Marketing solution, which normalizes and enhances the raw DMS data. Once the truck is listed in IOL Pro, each truck then gets a comprehensive description specifying the truck’s hottest features.
Every vehicle description is fresh and creative, which also helps to set Gibson apart. “We have some pretty unique Monster trucks, and since our inventory is unusual, we physically touch every detail of the truck so we know exactly what to say about what makes that truck special,” Stockman said.
Each morning, Belanger and Stockman review the each new truck’s options, what size and brand of new tires the truck is going to receive, add-ons (such as off-road tires or a lift kit) and warranty information, so Stockman can accurately create the vehicle description. A few days later, after the truck has been serviced and detailed, her staff puts all of the warranty stickers on the windshield, re-takes all the photos, shoots a live video walk-around, enters all the shop bills into the vehicle description, including brand new tires, brake job, rotors, drums, LOF, etc. (all the work that has been completed on the truck), scans in any MSRP sheets, makes truck comparison photos and then exports all the updated information online with IOL.
Unlike many dealers, however, Stockman is discerning about where she exports Gibson’s inventory. “We try to match the Website with our inventory, exporting to sites that perform consistently well for those makes and models, like AutoTrader.com, Cars.com, CommercialTruckTrader.com, AutoShopper.com, eBay Motors, craigslist, Oodle and OVE.com,” she said. And where their inventory performs well, Gibson makes an investment in add-ons for their listings. For instance, they rank in the Top 50 of all dealers on AutoTrader.com. Belanger says he also uses the same philosophy when it comes to traditional advertising. In addition to print ads in Commercial Truck Trader, Gibson ads appear regularly in Sports Horse magazine and Horse-n-Tack. Gibson uses IOL Posting 2.0 to list its inventory on eBay Local Market with professional looking display pages, and they have notable success there, too, attributing on average 75 of units each year to eBay alone.
In addition, Stockman almost always lists Gibson’s wholesale vehicles online. “Since we will ship worldwide,” she said, “and we can list a truck simultaneously listed for retail and wholesale right from IOL, it makes it very easy to move inventory.”
When it comes to social media, Gibson Truck World understands the importance of building community first and foremost. On Facebook, for instance, they have their inventory separated out from their dealership fan page (it resides under the “Inventory” tab of their Facebook page), so it doesn’t clog the newsfeeds of their fans. More importantly, however, they are integrated with Facebook Marketplace, vastly widening their entire inventory’s exposure to the 15 million monthly users of Facebook Marketplace, not just their fan base.
Otherwise, Stockman uses their Facebook page and Twitter account to build trust and engage fans with truck news, announcements of pet adoption days they host (and they do this regularly, even devoting a page on their Website to animals waiting for a home at a local rescue), cook-outs, maintenance tips and even local yard sales.
Gibson Truck World also recently purchased AdLogic from HomeNet, which automatically generates an image or text ad for each piece of active inventory to display throughout the Google Ad Network of a million sites, based on the search terms the shopper used. “What makes AdLogic so effective is it is content-driven, meaning an in-market consumer who is reading about the new Ford F-150 SVT Raptor on MotorTrend.com would be presented with a Gibson ad showing a late model Ford F-150 truck from our lot,” Belanger said. “Clicking on it takes them to that piece of inventory on our Website where they see the live video walk-a-round, our warranty, and our $1,000 price guarantee, and then we’ve got them.” And all of this is paying off, big time. Belanger said, “Our message has always been ‘We have the best trucks at the best price,’ and then everything we do — absolutely everything — ensures that’s true. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you spend on advertising and bling, if you don’t have the best product when the customer gets to the dealership, you don’t have a sale. An educated consumer is our best customer. In fact, customers tell us that we come so highly recommended that they don’t even look at other dealers, they just come straight to us.”
*2011 Auto Dealer Monthly Top Dealer Awards
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