With the absence of the Dutch International Car show in 2014, there is a vacuum, which needs to be filled. Local dealerships and businesses are stepping forward. The concept is very simple: take a large hall, a collection of new cars of different brands and get catering and ticket sales sorted. Using a well-known location helps too. And with 12000 visitors in 3 days you could argue it was a success. Which is always good for a first time event.

The exhibiting dealerships can warm the visitors to their company and the brands they sell. In this light it was really a branding event. I was wondering how the exhibitors are displaying their dealership and brand online to get more consumers to visit them.

That’s why I decided to check out all exhibiting dealerships who sell new and used cars. I compared them on what became the online-trust-signal test. The comparison has items like images of staff as a trust sign, but also keeping a blog. These days an average consumer just visits 1.6 dealerships and that includes doing the test drive and buying the car. That’s why it’s so important to have a good functioning website.

What struck me most in sharing the results was the amount of excuses dealership staff came up with why websites looked as they did. Especially the photography of used cars is very poor and images of new cars in stock are not available. I heard the phrase “if a prospect wants to know more, they have to mail or call” too often.

Today’s consumer thinks differently about that. If the right information is not available they will shop elsewhere and will probably remember the dealership in a negative way. And when another dealership provides them with the right info straightaway, the consumer will forget about the first dealership altogether.

Unique descriptions are seldom used the way it should be to really recommend a car. Even it’s a list of accessories or it says things like “for cars below 5000,- you don’t get any warranty and we charge 395,- for delivery costs. We have warm coffee waiting for you.” Well, when I read this they can forget about their warm coffee, I don’t feel welcome here. Do you? I rather read some relevant info about the car I’m checking out.

Some dealership staff were genuinely interested in my research and wanted to know how they were doing compared other dealerships. Others said, as soon as I said the word “marketing”: “You have to speak to the marketing people about that.” A few agreed on the importance of online presence, but most immediately came up with money and time excuses, even when it has already been proven that dealerships are more profitable in the end, when there is more effort being put into development and marketing of their websites.

The nicest conversation I had was at the booth of Automeisje.nl (car-girl), where owner Yvette told me her story and car mechanic Leontien told me about empowering women car mechanics and Citroen specialist Hydraulique, where she worked. She had brought her 1971 Citroen GS with her.

The Salon of Brabant was worthwhile and a well-organized event. I’ll be here next year if they do it again. With thanks to the Honda dealership AutoHerVen for offering me a free ticket in exchange for my name and email address. Now that’s what I call marketing.