Graphic via iStockphoto.com.
To better succeed online, you need to view your rental car company’s website as an online business, not solely as a reservation system. Your website is a way to differentiate yourself from competition and project your personality through the design and delivery of the content.
No single Internet marketing tactic is more important than another — the best approach includes content development, email marketing and social media marketing.
Here are eight mistakes that could be hindering your company’s online marketing success:
Mistake #1: You presume visitors are only on your website to make a reservation.
This is one of the most egregious mistakes you can make on your website. When should you ask for the sale? Not within the first few seconds of meeting a potential customer. The final pitch for the sale comes only after you have meticulously laid out a persuasive argument of the value of your service or product.
Don’t assume a first-time visitor is going to feel comfortable interacting with your company, particularly when presented only with minimal information. Think like a consumer and ask yourself: “Why should I entrust this rental company with my transportation needs?”
Website users are interested in the basics such as vehicle availability, location information, policies and price, but they are primarily on your website to get a sense of your brand and form an opinion on it.
The first thing you need to do is encourage an emotional connection between your company and the website user.
Regardless of your product’s great price, you need to show consumers that your company can meet all of their varied and unique needs.
Mistake #2: Your brand message is nonexistent or unclear.
When asked why their company is different, car rental owners often answer with the same reasons: low prices, brand-new cars, flexible policies and top-notch service.
In order to create rapport with their potential clients, rental companies need to differentiate themselves from the competition. By creating a clear brand message that positions your company in a distinctive manner, you’ll have a better chance to frame your online sales presentation.
It is shocking to see how many car rental companies do not take the time to create an engaging tagline. A tagline can do wonders for obtaining new customers. Neglecting to have a tagline will put your company at a disadvantage.
Another way to create a clear brand message is to devise a list of 10 factors that differentiate your business. Use this list to create unique content throughout your website. Make sure to clearly articulate why your company stands out.
Mistake #3: Your website content is thin and unconvincing.
Your website needs to contain compelling textual and graphic information that demonstrates why your company is the best option for a customer’s car rental needs.
Every car rental company promises low prices and the best selection of vehicles combined with great service. Go one step further. However, if you’re bold in your assertions, make sure you have the services to back them up.
To build potential clients’ confidence in your company, they will need a significant amount of compelling facts to establish a positive opinion. Examples of website sections include past client testimonials, photos of your staff, real photos of your vehicles (not stock images), an “About Us” page with your company’s history, biographies of your managers and a mission statement.
When visiting a rental car website, clients are subconsciously asking these types of questions: Can I trust this company? Will the vehicles be the same as represented online? Will there be hidden fees? What level of professionalism will they provide? Will the car be clean? How flexible will their policies be? How well do they know their city? What have past customer experiences been like? Are there any complaints? Will they go above and beyond to help me with my specific requests? Why shouldn’t I just use a major car rental brand?
Whether it’s a photograph, graphic or promotional text, each should help create a positive perception of your brand and answer the questions above directly or indirectly.
Advertise your membership with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If you have sponsored community events, celebrate it on your site. There is no such thing as too much content or information online.
Mistake #4: You think that SEO matters more than all other Internet tactics.
There’s no doubt that having your car rental website’s pages rank prominently in the major search engines is desirable in obtaining qualified traffic. However, organic search has been in steady decline over the last three years. A recent Shareaholic study suggests organic search now constitutes only about 33% of all Internet traffic.
Now, direct traffic, email and social media channels make up the rest of the traffic on your site. Google’s constant algorithmic changes have made SEO a less desirable and reliable source of new customers. Increasingly, SEO is only one of a number of mandatory integrated Internet marketing tactics, which also includes email marketing and social media marketing.
To succeed in driving qualified traffic to your rental website, create compelling, helpful, comprehensive content that relates to the issues your potential clients face in their quest to find a rental provider.
Optimize content — whether it is a blog post, infographic or video — with keywords used most frequently in search engines. Your content will then be shared through social media outlets and email marketing to past and potential customers.
Mistake #5: You aren’t adding blog content to your site on a regular schedule.
In order for your website pages to rank well on the major search engines, you must consistently add new content. To keep content regular and consistent, write articles that answer questions your Web visitors may have about your services and community.
A good tip is to create one topical article per week. If you’re not adding content on a regular basis, you run the risk of being perceived as irrelevant and uninteresting.
A vibrant blog environment shows your Web visitors that you are in touch with the industry and your community. In addition, it shows you are willing to put forth solutions to their dilemmas and inquiries.
Your blog serves as fodder for social media conversation, SEO content and as a reason to email your client base with new and useful information. Without an active blog, your site becomes a static presentation of your company as opposed to a dynamic, interactive community.
Mistake #6: You’ve dismissed, underestimated or do not understand social media as a marketing channel.
In recent years, nothing has been more misunderstood or has mystified more people than the rise of social media in business. Essentially, social media are applications, websites or networks that enable individual users to create and share content.
Content is the currency of the Internet. It’s the reason people use the Internet; it’s what they are searching for. The quality and value of your content will dictate the success of your online business.
If you aren’t on social media, then you need to be. The value of social media is the ability to engage with a community of people that desire your involvement and influence.
As you read this, a dialogue is occurring on social media networks — such as Twitter and Facebook — that involves your company and interest in the car rental industry in your city.
You can either participate in this conversation and influence it or choose to ignore the conversation and let your competition take part instead. These people tend to be travel consumers who are looking for recommendations for a trustworthy car rental agency.
By following like-minded individuals and businesses on social media, you will create individual connections, which will help you influence their network. A single individual’s network on average consists of 350 people, according to Statistica.com.
Mistake #7: You aren’t asking past clients to join your monthly email newsletter.
Internet marketing is about getting new business, but it’s also about retaining and leveraging current clients.
You don’t have the right to email your past clients without getting their expressed consent. In order to solve this dilemma, email a list of the past weeks’ closed clients to thank them for their business and ask them to join your monthly newsletter.
Then plan to send out at least a monthly newsletter, which informs list members of company updates and new vehicle specials and subtly reminds them of the value you provided them in the past.
Mistake #8: You are unaware or don’t understand your website metrics.
In order to gauge the effectiveness of your online business, you need to know a number of basic metrics. The most important is the number of reservations your site is producing — if you have an online reservation system. You should also track the number of phone queries by posting a unique Web-only phone number.
The next most important metric is the amount of daily and monthly traffic your site receives. Google Analytics provides a free and comprehensive way of obtaining this data. Once you understand your current traffic flow and the amount of reservations it’s producing, you can calculate your conversion rate (reservations / unique visitors x 100). Here is an example: 10 reservations / 1000 unique visitors x 100 = 1% conversion rate.
Now that you know how effective your site is in converting casual visitors into paying customers, you can assess the effectiveness of your marketing by calculating the cost of acquiring each client. Let’s say your Internet marketing budget was $500 per month. This means that 10 reservations cost you $50 to obtain.
Know your Web numbers like you know your bank balance. All potential improvements stem from clearly grasping how your website is performing.
About The Author
Paul Allison is the Internet marketing and development manager for Express Internet Technologies. Involved in online marketing and development since 1997, he teaches businesses how creative design and marketing strategies can turn the Internet into a powerful marketing tool.