Well, I did it! I actually made a hard and fast decision and bought a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid
. I did my research, checked a ton of reviews,
and true to the gospel of Intelliseek and PlanetFeedback, diligently read over a hundred passionate, well-informed consumer comments from online discussion groups. The latter far and away had the biggest influence on my decision, and what struck me most was how absolutely fanatical the Hybrid car owners were about the car. The same type of intense "buzz" also influenced my long-stalled decision to purchase a TIVO
device for television viewing. (My life has never been the same.) Anyway, the Honda car buying experience, overall, was much better than I thought. I started at a local Honda dealership, took a Hybrid out for a test drive, and then, when I got home, started reviewing price information online via Edmunds.
Edmunds also made it easy for me to request several price quotes from other dealers. Ironically, the first dealer I visited in person, despite my giving him my business card, never bothered to follow-up with me via phone or e-mail, while a guy named Dave from another Honda dealership, with his Edmunds lead in hand, wrote me immediately. Thereupon began a great relationship, almost exclusively online at first, but ultimately leading to an in-store visit where word's out of my mouth was "where's Dave." Dave later told me that when they receive their first lead from Edmunds, the hit rate is usually about 10% for conversion since most car shoppers are simply doing price comparisons without any intention of actually buying. If through the e-mail relationship building process they can get the prospect in the show room, the "purchase" conversion rate shoots up to 90%. The first major mistake the first dealer made was not following up with me, even though he invested an hour or so of one-on-one time with me at the dealership, complete with test-drive. I was basically his to lose. The second dealer parlayed his more response-driven e-mail relationship marketing skills -- complete with rapid-fire responsiveness to e-mail questions -- to get me into his lot. He won. And now, as you can see, I'm a big maven/ambassador of their relationship marketing techniques.