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You're in the market for a new car. You're not having luck finding what you want online through the local dealerships. So you write a blog post expressing your frustration. Less than five minutes later, you have an email from somebody who wants to help you find and buy the car of your dreams. You purchase a new car from him a few weeks later.

Crazy? Maybe. But it's not fiction. It's how Chris Brogan, head of a marketing agency, purchased a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS.

Minutes after posting about his troubles with dealership websites, Brogan was contacted by Aaron Smith, who runs a company called Motorphilia, which helps its customers acquire cars through auto auctions.

According to Brogan, "If I hadn’t met Aaron a few times in person (he even gave me a ride around Austin in a Prowler), I might have been a bit less likely to trust a website-based car sale," but even so, Brogan provides plenty of other reasons why Smith and Motorphilia won his business and a local auto dealership didn't.

Brogan admits that he's not exactly your typical mainstream consumer, and he isn't claiming that the auto dealership is going to be dead tomorrow. Is buying a car from auction sight unseen going to be the most popular way to buy a car in the future? Probably not. But nonetheless, I think there are some lessons here that apply well beyond the auto industry:

  • Being proactive counts for a lot. In the world of startups, it's not a secret that 'if you build it, they will not come.' The same can be applied to sales: if you wait around for buyers, they may not come. Reaching out to qualified prospects who have signaled that they're in the market to make a purchase is, for obvious reasons, a recipe for success. 
  • Think of yourself as a helper. Plenty of buyers generally know what they want to buy, but could use some expertise going the last mile. In these cases, it can be wise to consider that you're helping your potential customer make a purchase as opposed to trying to make a sale.
  • Don't underestimate trust. Many individuals will spend good money on big-ticket items, like a car, sight-unseen without ever having met you. The barrier to closing a sale, however, can seem like a big one: gaining a high degree of trust. But by no means is it insurmountable if you're honest, transparent and patient.
  • Different stokes for different folks. A different business model may provide the opportunity to tap into promising niches, even if the business model doesn't generate immediate scale like those maintained by your competitors.

Photo credit: Charles Williams via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 24 August, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2429 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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David Brown

There is no way I would go through a deal like that. Even most of the cars on ebay are in bad condition and you never get warranties. My moto is never trust anyone on the other end of the internet, you dont know them, you dont know why they are helping you, etc. People usually have at least a friend or someone in their family that knows about cars, this should be the first contact when trying to buy a new car. Of course this is not to say that through twitter or blog replies you wont get a nice car, you might be lucky, but there is always a chance that there is someone screwing you.

over 6 years ago

Corrie Davidson

Corrie Davidson, Social Media Manager at Sisarina, Inc

While I may not get involved with an auction site (really regardless of how I found out about them) I would be much more inclined to buy, or at least visit, a dealership that reached out to me through social media. 

over 6 years ago


Chris Brogan...

Great motto, David. Pretty much the entire world has come online. Heck, YOU'RE on the internet leaving this comment. You're right. Everyone's out to screw you.

Meanwhile, man I have an amazing car. I've already put 1000 miles on it in the first week. I am doing errands in other STATES, I love this car so much. 


over 6 years ago


David Brown

Thanks Chris :)

over 6 years ago



I'm with Corrie on this one. I may not buy sight unseen, but if someone heard me and reached out through email, Twitter, Facebook,... I might be inclined to visit them in person (or ask those in my social circle for more info about them).

over 6 years ago


Andrew Liddell, Ecommerce Business MGR at Personal

Dont know what its like in the US, but here in the UK buying cars online is just another day! 

Such a high consideration value item needs that personal touch! Its easy enough to walk into a dealership and be approached by a sales rep, hows this any different? 


over 6 years ago

Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman, Director of Client Strategy + Services at White Hat Media

'Buyer Beware' is the big motto to observe here. You need to separate the fact that you are an online sales lead (interested to buy) from the actual process of being persuaded to buy the car (e.g. a physical inspection of the car).

Unless you can run an e-diagnostics tool across the web (not yet invented, as far as I'm aware!) to survey the car, you take an increased risk of buying a 'hunk of junk'.

To assuage this risk, the company selling you the car should, I suggest, offer amazing customer service that promises, for instance, a full refund if the car turns out to be faulty.

That would be possible to do over the web - but still, there's nothing like a physical inspection and test drive, is there... really?


about 6 years ago

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