Dealerships team up with site that appeals to women
Arlena Sawyers | | Automotive News / October 16, 2006 - 1:00 am
Dozens of auto dealerships are trying to improve their marketing to women by working with a Web site for female car shoppers.
AskPatty.com provides a forum for women to ask questions and exchange ideas about cars and trucks, says Jody DeVere, president of AskPatty.com Inc. in Sarasota, Fla. The title character, "Patty," offers advice about buying, selling, maintaining and fixing vehicles.
The site also links to the Web sites of dealerships that have undergone AskPatty training. The stores have pledged to make their encounters with female customers more pleasant, DeVere says.
AskPatty.com has evolved quickly. It began as a blog in May and became a Web site a month later. It began soliciting dealerships for certification in July. The site attracts 15,000 visitors a month. About 25 dealerships have signed agreements to become certified, DeVere says.
Certification costs $795 a month for each dealership and lasts a year. There is a separate, negotiable fee to create a Web site that co-brands a dealership with AskPatty.com, DeVere says.
The cost of training starts at $225 for each dealership employee. At least one third of a store's sales and service staff must participate to earn AskPatty certification.
The training instructs dealership employees in such areas as using inclusive language when speaking with a couple.
"Assume that both spouses are equally involved, even if they don't appear to be," DeVere says.
Many women who use AskPatty.com do not feel comfortable doing business at a dealership, DeVere told Automotive News.
"We're providing a lot of education, so women feel more confident and competent when they go to the dealership," DeVere says. "We want to help dealerships improve customer service scores, sell more cars and retain more customers."
Scranton Motors Inc., a Cadillac, Pontiac and GMC dealership in Vernon, Conn., is pursuing AskPatty certification. The dealership's general manager, Dean Kloter, says that his store does a good job of marketing to women but that he thinks the work with AskPatty can enhance trust and comfort.
"It's more about listening and relationship building," Kloter says.
DeVere says AskPatty is the brainchild of her business partner and the company's CEO, Peter Martin. Twenty-two women with expertise in such areas as vehicle repair, dealership management and motorsports are on AskPatty's advisory board.
Dealerships certified by AskPatty get access to a technology platform that includes a toll-free telephone number. They also get tools to manage e-mail leads and to fax coupons to Web site visitors.
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