Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Awesome Features: Do We Actually Need Them?

Over the last few years we've come across thousands of requests for new features, new capabilities, and functions that make the buzz of the industry. Let's take a look at whether you actually need features you may be asking for.

Export of your listings to, Google Base, etc.

Cool, you've decided that the awesome marketing offer you can lure new customers in is the ability for one low fee to post customers' cool rides not only to your iAuto-based website, but also to Google Base, and Sure, it'd be nice to expand your customer's capabilities of selling his/her car.

However, let's look at it from a different perspective. In the real life, you can hardly imagine referring your favorite customer to a competitor much stronger than yourself. Next thing you know it is you don't have a business anymore.

However, agreeing to cross-post your listings to Google Base or, all you're doing is helping one of your great, strong competitors become even greater and stronger. Next time visitors will go directly to Gbase and post their ads for free. After all, why pay money to Joe the Car Dealer if you can submit it to a directory that is frequented by lots of people, with listings being displayed all over.

Downloading and displaying third party listings.

Every other car dealer who's ever inquired about our listing import feature actually was looking for pumping a million or so listings for starters from Autotrader, or similar into his/her iAuto-based website.

Hey, after all it's an awesome deal - you got yourself a car classifieds portal for $219, you pumped 1 million listings from Autotrader, those nice guys that are stupid enough to give away their precious listings, and you're all set to start charging megabucks from ad revenues. If there's a millon listings, then there surely are a couple of millions of visitors, right? One attracts another, correct?

No, not really. A person who's searched for cars in his local area on a few nationwide websites came to realization that there's a certain percentage of listings that repeat themselves from website to website. Then, looking for something unique and authentic, they turn over to you and all they see are all those all-too-familiars posts.

You'd probably think that you've gotten a one-million-worth-of-ads-website for nothing, but all you have is a website featuring a million of somebody else's listings. You are selling your toughest competitors' cars and pretending you're happy about it. Are there lots of real customers with real ads on your website who bring real money, or it's just full of semi-fake ads Autotrader gets huge PageRank, sales, and exhuberant banner ad prices?

It's cool if you have a real website full of real listings from your next door dealers that you have rightfully secured and are getting paid for. It's not so cool, however, if all you're selling is your competitors' cars and not even getting much money out of that.

An awesome website is not a website bulging with fake listings, but a website that is part of the business of finding customers, appealing to their senses with an original idea and a good reason to post their listing, and making sure they renew or sell their vehicle.

Here's a good business idea for a website with just a handful of listings. Secure a deal with US Army and buy a bunch of retired tanks or whatever and post them on your website. Or find an aftermarket dealer selling old tanks and have him advertise on your website for $500 per listing per month.

A handful of such dealers, and you'll be making a ton of money since promoting a similar website on Google is going to be dirt cheap because keywords cost a lot less than the ones like "used car website", and there's virtually no competition.

I have a feeling we'll get back to that discussion later.

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