5 Tips on Running a Successful Car Dealership in Alaska

Opening a car dealership in “The Last Frontier” isn’t easy. First, you need to obtain an Alaska auto dealer bond and meet the other requirements for a state license, like filing a Motor Vehicle Dealer License application and staying up to date on your license renewal times. Then you need to find commercial space, build up a vehicle inventory, and set up your business basics. You’ve already invested a lot of time and money before you ever sell a car, so you want your new venture to flourish as soon as possible. Follow these tips to maximize your success.

Embrace Technology

Here are some eye-opening statistics: Twice as many vehicle buyers start their search online instead of at the dealership, and the vast majority (95%) rely on digital information at some point during the purchasing process. You’re at a huge advantage if you can connect with customers online because you’re able to build relationships sooner and educate customers off-site. By the time people actually visit your dealership, many of them are ready to buy. There are countless tech products aimed at optimizing dealerships, but at the very least, you should have a comprehensive website, a digital inventory tool, and computers on everyone’s desks. Beyond the hardware/software itself, your dealership should commit to “digital sales” and be eager to move more of the sales process online. Car dealerships are few and far between in most parts of Alaska. Having an easy and accessible online presence lets people explore your dealership/inventory without having to travel long miles to visit you in person. Technology is the future of auto sales, so why not embrace it in the earliest days of your business?

Market Your Business

Alaska has fewer car dealerships than most other states, but that doesn’t mean your business will automatically stand out. You need to become proactive about marketing across channels – online, radio, billboards, print, mail, etc. – and identifying the most successful channels for your market. You also need to create a realistic marketing budget that makes the intended impact without putting a strain on your cash flow. One way to stretch your budget further is to craft a unique marketing message. For example, most dealerships will highlight their low prices and extensive inventory, but how many talk about their Alaska motor vehicle bond? Having one proves to customers that you’re committed to acting honestly and fairly, so why not incorporate it into your marketing message? Anything you can do to build trust and excitement gives consumers a reason to pick your dealership before another.

Master the Basics

If you’re great at marketing and building interest online, imagine how disappointed customers will feel if your dealership is dingy or dysfunctional the first time they visit. Car-buying decisions are based as much on the salesperson/dealership as the make/model, and if the car-buying experience turns people off, it won’t matter how competitive your prices are. Make sure you’ve mastered the basics of running a business like keeping it clean, making it customer-friendly, and streamlining the sales process. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and it’s pretty obvious what kind of improvements you may need to make. You should also master the details of running a business like paying your taxes on time and renewing your Alaska auto dealer bond so that your state license doesn’t lapse. Staying on top of these ongoing obligations helps you avoid business setbacks and focus all your efforts on serving Alaska car buyers.

Optimize Your Inventory

Your vehicle inventory is what initially sparks interest in your dealership. If you don’t have the vehicles that people in your area want to buy, they won’t want to visit. Fine-tuning your inventory starts by understanding the local market. Are people more interested in rugged off-road vehicles or budget-friendly cars? You should investigate local economic conditions to understand how much people are willing to spend on vehicles so that you don’t price yourself out of the market. Variety is also important – in terms of price, styles, age, condition, purpose, etc. – so that you can connect with as many car buyers as possible. Finally, make sure that all your vehicles look great, in pictures and in-person. Investing in thorough detailing and quality photography pays dividends later.

Hire Great Staff

Unless you’re a one-person operation, you need great people around you. That means having friendly (and effective) salespeople, experienced mechanics, and meticulous vehicle detailers. Your staff are the face of your business and your point of contact with customers, so they need to follow whatever standards you set and procedures you follow. Hiring is never easy, but if you recruit people carefully, compensate them fairly, and train them thoroughly, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary staff-related issues. Conversely, hiring a perfect employee – a natural salesperson or an expert mechanic – could be what distinguishes your dealership and drives your success for years to come.

Success in business is never guaranteed, but if you take these strategies seriously, you’re probably on the right path. Along the way, make sure you’re doing everything possible to sustain your success.  Losing your auto sales license would be a disaster, so you need to be proactive about renewing your Alaska motor vehicle dealer bond annually.

Viking Bond Service can help you find your first bond or your next bond. We have streamlined the application and acquisition process, and our team is committed to getting you approved at the lowest rates possible. We encourage you to learn more about the bonding process and how it affects your new auto dealership. Browse this free resource at your own convenience.