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No Surprise: Pied Piper PSI® Internet Lead Effectiveness Report

Yet another wake up call to OEMs and dealers was quietly released today, showing no improvement in regard to Internet lead responses. While there were a few that made steps and improved their overall performance (Porsche, BMW and Mini), the industry average dropped a point to 56 (21 of 36 brands dropped). The report sites lack of transparency to senior management on the handling and performance of online sales leads.

According to Fran O’Hagan, Pied Piper CEO, the Prospect Satisfaction Index® Report showed that 50% of leads were responded to within 30 minutes, while 1 out of 11 were not responded to at all. Matched with a still-under-ten-percent closing rate for all leads in the automotive industry and those who understand the impact this creates look at how the OEMs and dealers deploy lead management tactics. In short, the OEM-mandated programs are not assisting dealers to better performance; they lead to standardization, lack of true engagement with and sales to consumers considering vehicle purchases, aggregation of data manufacturers don’t find useful, increases to paid marketing campaigns (mostly via retargeting and display with very poor results) and more revenue for unqualified consulting companies.

Not to mention that, while the industry sold more units in 2015, most dealers in the country didn’t increase market share last year (most of our clients did, though). That stems mostly from the inability of dealers to close more leads and execute on more effective SEO and SEM strategies for their markets. However, most dealers hear their vendors scream “we did a great job got for you last month” every month. Bullshit.

OEMs must wake up and realize that many companies selling consulting, lead management and other online services to them and the dealer body have no interest in anything besides adding top line revenue to their balance sheets, showing misleading reports of how “effective” their conversion rates are as well as how websites “convert” as more vendors count SRPs, VDPs and basic requests as sales leads. Data manipulation by many vendors in the industry hurts dealers and decision-making around and for dealerships.

While more speakers at conferences yell about “this one template kills it” and companies produce studies and white papers created to sell more duplicated templates and follow up processes, lead response effectiveness will continue to drop. And more importantly, the three areas that are the only ones that matter: lead-to-contact, contact0-to-appointment and appointment-to-show rates. And don’t even get us started on outsourcing lead management completely as some vendors pitch and a few have built their entire businesses off of, unless you have a death wish.

So with record unit sales, more dealers spending in traditional marketing again, very few dealers investing in digital education and true sales coaching especially around Internet leads and the homogenization of dealerships, don’t be surprised by the next Pied Piper report showing a further decline in results.

 

Want to discover how your leads are being handled without bothersome mystery shops? Contact IM@CS and improve your results with our lead scoring!

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

Transparency, Marketing and Dashboards (But, But, But It Sells Cars!!!!)

There has been more attention to accountability of dealership marketing recently, which is a good thing, however it’s always been important and something we here at IM@CS have been doing for eight years. Simply put, you need all of your digital reporting to come down to your own review, independent of vendors and their dashboards.

History proves (and vendors demonstrate) that anything will be said to a dealer or general manager in order to sell a service, especially first-in-market, fear or competitive factors. Most dealers are unwilling to be  leaders, choosing rather to follow especially when it comes to technology. And the largest factor is lack of time and commitment. If you are paying for something, you must be able to measure it yourself. Yes, YOU must be able to do that, not simply trust a report.

Google Analytics is the best way to measure everything that touches your website, alongside ancillary technologies including heat maps, third party SEO and SEM software, as well as independent measuring tools. We use a fair amount of software monthly to ensure the work we do is correct, viable and effective.

We continue to see (the majority of) dealers that are having the wool pulled over their eyes because of not drilling down a little in reporting, rather relying on a smattering of PDF reports and sales rep visits with alligator smiles talking about how great their performance is all the way to 20 Group comparisons with mediocre benchmarking.

As a senior-level executive (not your Internet or marketing director), if you can’t open Google Analytics and have a basic conversation about performance, you are losing awareness and accountability on a monthly basis. There is no other place, including the sales board in your dealership, where more relevant data comes in, not even CRM (especially considering how underutilized that software is!).

So whether you take some company’s challenge, education course, class, or simply task yourself to learn directly within Google’s own treasure trove of resources, commit to a few hours a month and get serious about all of your marketing.

Recently we’ve seen:

  • Significant drops in effectiveness of Display Advertising, with mobile being a factor as well as incredibly poor content/call-to-action in the advertising (incorrectly bucketed spends = lower R.O.I., fewer sales)
  • More rogue/bot  traffic coming from target cities that have server farms, including Ashburn, VA, Dallas and Austin, TX, and Rome and New York, NY as well as Boston, MA. (click traffic from areas that don’t make sense = non-human clicks)
  • Seeing poorly managed paid Social Media ads/dark posts and resulting traffic/leads due to a complete lack of understanding how to deploy the ads/content (running ads on Facebook and not generating leads = wrong vendor)
  • Huge increases in incorrectly managed/sourced paid advertising campaigns, lacking all of the proper data, including conversions, tied to meaningless text/ads. Part of the is an increase in dealers finally spending on SEM and the greater problem is more companies (including many OEM-approved vendors) managing ad spends that don’t understand what they’re doing. This does not counting vendors that don’t marge AdWords accounts to dealers’ Analytics accounts

All of this staring dealers in the face with no challenge to the vendors selling the services and marketing. When you receive that monthly PDF in your inbox, don’t file it. Instead, print it out, call the vendor(s) to review and have someone in your office that can independently verify that data until you understand it yourself.

Stop buying from vendors, even reliable ones, who sell you a service off of how many more cars will be sold. You don’t need that! Most dealers can sell 20-50 more cars a month out of their own CRM. Your marketing can’t be segmented or in silos anymore so quit buying that way!

 

Do this before any factors present market issues or downward pressure on sales. With more dealers spending money, there are incremental increases in sales with a lot of companies are simply getting fat and happy, laughing all the way to the bank with you money. Call us to find out quickly and easily what you’re paying for and not receiving.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

The State of Automotive Digital Advising: More Vanilla, Please!

Anyone who regularly reads our blog knows a few things. One, we tell it like it is. Two, we educate from fact and passion, not from the heart of from the pocketbook. Three, we do and cover what nobody else does across the entire scope of services. Four, we affect a sliver of the industry through the automotive social sphere. While none of these aspects alone are uniquely significant, it becomes more so when you consider what dealers are receiving from “advisors” today.

Recently we had a high-line dealer visit that also included a regional sales director from the OEM, which is a rare pleasure. They wanted to review the new digital assessment package from their third-party partner. While we were extremely happy that the digital marketing consulting company that had previously provided in-field services for the OEM and their dealers was no longer doing so, and there was clearly an improvement in the standard deliverables, frustration quickly set in.

In reviewing the report, it was clear that it took into account items that didn’t properly set up dealer expectations, or take into account how search algorithms have changed, especially mobile, contained improper SEO evaluation components (named search, for example) and wasn’t thorough (had both scoring and consistency issues).

So while the report was an improvement over the third-party and OEM agenda-only approach previously employed to advising the dealers, it showed that we are still significant;y off the mark when it comes to assisting a dealer in doing a better job online. While we’ll assume that the vendor’s intentions are completely altruistic, we once again see the misguided and completely subjective plight we’re in considering there are no “digital standards”, no “consulting certifications” and certainly no “results-based comparisons”.

What we do have is more vanilla. Yes, the OEMs to a large extent need the data; yes, there’s a much better way to go about it. And the challenge is how can you do that, counting on one or two companies, without true A-B testing, in a cost-effective manner? You can’t and all that happens is the dealers can operate off slightly better input rather than consultants taking ideas and bringing them back to the third party and OEM. Everyone loses in that scenario.

Yes, more money is being spent. And with that, more errors are being made. Stupid, unseen errors. How do you tell a dealer that 25-50% of their SEM spend is for terms they shouldn’t be buying, cities that are 500-1,500 miles away, with action-killing text and that 47% of their traffic is on mobile but 70% of their budget is going to desktop? Or that their website’s key pages have the same content as 100 other sites and incorrectly link to non-existent pages on their site? Or that their social media is a complete disaster that is not being seen, read or acted upon? OK, “tell them” you say. And then they bury their heads again or plead the “have to use what my OEM says to” line of garbage. No you don’t.

Stop getting vanilla. When the market drops again, and it WILL, there will be a larger dividing line digitally between dealerships. You can’t take an OEM digital assessment report, unfortunately still, and build better value, own more spots in SERP, turn your social media and social marketing around or answer your leads any better. You actually need to spend money doing that, using different vendors than everyone is using and learn how to understand this our evolving, digital world.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

 

Branding: A Call To Arms (And Phones, Marketing, Websites, email…)

BOOM! It happens and you’re left without a net… Damaged image. Damaged perception. Damaged goods.

Unless you have a brand. Unless you’ve been under a rock or have been too ‘busy’, the amount of evidence, chatter, discussion and conference-data hinging about branding has been nearly deafening. And still, undeniably, the majority of dealers put all of it on the badge.

Write your rxcuses down and put them where the training materials are from your favorite industry speaker (likely in someone’s office or under the desk in the tower, collecting dust). That’s where theu. Belong.

Retailers with amazing brand, consistent engagement, a commitment to what they do for customers and how much they care for their own people know what to do and say when the shit hits the fan.

If you have little else aside from lip service and management doing things the way they always have, you’re forced to depend on the badge. And folks, that’s a crappy position to be in. Oh, it is completely preventable.

Brand, whether the store’s or the salesperson’s or the service tech’s or the business manager’s, is inextricably tied to the customer expeerience. Someone can sell a product for years and ultimately be invisible.

Whatever comes out of any manufacturer difficulty or trial can be mitigated by having a brand that is independent.  It’s been proven over and over and over.

There will be those who come out if any challenging time better, more aware,ore prepared and more convinced. Will that be you after the smoke clears? Or will it be back to business (badge reliant) as usual?

Don’t be badge-dependant, be self-dependant!  If you don’t understand or believe that, it’s time to do a little self-searching…and ask what your brand is.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insights, Powerful Results 

Still Ignoring The “C Word” Will Cost You

The “C Word”. You know, that word. The one that makes dealership executives’ skin crawl, makes sales people laugh, has trainers’ mouths drool and absolutely keeps your store from its true potential. It even has female staffers cringing, question working at the dealership. Say it with me….CULTURE.

Ignored by only the bravest of souls who understand the kind of wrath and trial it brings. Changing culture takes balls. It takes work. It takes time. And it takes an unrelenting focus as well as undying commitment. We all know it, so why do so few do it? Weak leadership? Lazy management? Not necessarily. Mostly it’s due to the lack of understanding what the intermediate goals during and wins at the end of the effort are. You know…not starting with the end in mind.

Culture, by definition, is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

In other words, you’ve built the existing culture and it’s continued nearly blindly. In order to change a culture, the industry has historically resorted to spiffing or spanking. That’s not truly leading a culture change, rather a practice of distraction. So we take adults who should otherwise be able to achieve a change and create a different focus. Then we shoot down the same adults when the incentive or punishment dissipates. Quit setting your business up for failure!

Culture change takes conviction and creating lots of buy-in. We do that a lot with lead management and sales coaching at IM@CS. Creating adoption breeds results. More than taking the same business rules and communication requirements from dealer to dealer, like most consultants and trainers do, it takes a focus on sustainable actions through owning efforts, responsibility and results at each individual business.

Instead of blaming incompatible software, say desking and CRM, for why salespeople don’t complete their logging and steps in tracking and following up with customers, create an environment where sales supports each other and daily reports reign. And back it up with at least one weekly sales meeting run completely out of CRM. Over-simplified? Possibly. Worthwhile? Absolutely.

Culture? It’s everything or it’s nothing. Yeah, that will reflect everywhere…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Homogenization is for Milk (If You Drink That Sort of Thing), Not Dealers

“If digital were that easy, everyone would be doing it” said no automotive OEM executive, ever. But somehow, over the past few years, it seems as though they did. Meaning, for the most part, they don’t do anything digitally and yet…they expect their franchises to through some very forceful measures.

The dealers don’t win. The consumers don’t win. The car companies win. Concessions. That’s all. And not the kind that sell more cars. No, car sales are not up due to websites, erosion of gross or 84 month leases. Car sales are up because of demand, available loans and because, yes, the cars (all of them) are being made better today than ever. Oh, and of course, because your website company says their marketing rocks and they deliver the most low-funnel consumers to your doorstep (yeah, those reports make us puke, too).

Homogenization has never been greater at a time when nearly every smart person in marketing (automotive and non) says to create differentiation in every aspect of your business. Yet your OEM digital representative, who was in sales operations three years ago and brand communications a year ago, comes in and says that you have to/should use website provider A or B (that doesn’t have a fully responsive mobile platform, let alone one site), CRM vendor C2, search marketing partner D5B and consulting company WTF (who’s consultant was born the same year your rep graduated Northwood and worked at a Verizon store last).

If you’re smart and digitally savvy, you’ll run as fast as you can the other way. Why? Because selfishly, every digital know-it-all can do a better job? No. Because, unless you have a well under-performing store that you can plug any brainless automotive digital veteran into, buy more leads and sell more cars, they’re after your data, customers, results and ideas through managed programs. Yes it’s absolutely essential to have every retailer represented well digitally, however if a dealer wants to think that digital is a fad and not put resources into the top consideration generator, let them do so. It’s natural selection in business folks, let ’em sink.

Being made to look like every dealership with the same banners, offers, landing pages, newsletters, paid marketing and social media is a slow, miserable existence. An import dealer shared today that during his recent brand marketing meeting, an OEM digital overlord told him that he should have the ability to turn off all of the factory marketing if he had his own. Unfortunately, his website company (OEM-endorsed) didn’t allow him to and the third-party, in-the-way-of-your-results consulting firm didn’t have an answer on if he could or not. (the OEM guy did take notes and will report back!)

Another dealer chatted with us about not having proper used car data on their OEM-endorsed websites for their group. You think that the car company loses any sleep over used car anything, let alone mis-equipped listings potentially losing thousands of dollars?

It’s time to take your marketing over if you want to. Yes, it’ll take time, money, measurement (you don’t understand now), resources, patience and a die-hard willingness to learn, changing your dealership culture. And it has to start with the dealer and general management. Not for a dashboard or an award, not for a magazine cover shot or being called up at a conference. And quit talking about visits or sessions, that’s so 2008. Nothing cooler than telling your dealer “we had 1,000 people on the lot and in showroom, sat down with 28 and sold 4!”. By the way that’s what your website says.

All of this is because if something doesn’t sell or service a car, or get someone back to your dealership, it’s not worth buying or using. And nobody, not one person, after working with hundreds of dealers, on OEM programs, at 20 Groups, conferences and webinars, producing second-to-none content, social and SEO, can convince us that standardizing marketing and solutions across thousands of retail points across North America can do anything other than paint the industry with a bland brush.

You don’t deserve that and your customers don’t deserve that. Will Rogers once said “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”. Unfortunately these OEM digital programs have created a Crab Mentality by literally not letting those that choose to get ahead. Good intentions, poor execution.

You can do much better. We hope. (310) 377-6481 or info at imacsweb.com

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Websites: Why Your Smallest Investment Still Pisses You Off

We’ll let you in on a little secret. For years, decades really, you’ve been able to throw some words and photos onto recycled trees, shoot a check out for $5,000 a week and create a line so long out your front door you were laughing. And now you have a virtual ad up every day for one quarter that price (or less for most dealers) and bang your head against a wall.

You might even think that your last print ad actually did better than any other source in recent memory.

The only rules that changed when you relied on print was if your rep would “take care of you”, a competitor would drop out of the paper for a week, you had a better lost leader than the closest same-brand store or if you included dealer cash or bought down rate and nobody else did that weekend.

Nowadays how you show up, where you show up, when you show up doesn’t make sense to you and don’t have anyone even get you started on pricing as gross erodes, software tells you how to optimize your lot and competitors you’ve never heard of are showing up in your pump-in, pump-out report.

You would gladly spend $30,000 a month to see your latest promotion, however if another rep or consultant walks in with a haphazardly assembled SEO report telling you that their services are needed immediately for $2,000 a month you’ll give them the Axel Foley treatment in Beverly Hills Cop.

And now you’re told that your current website provider platform isn’t up to snuff (what is a subdomain or a second “site”??), your paid ads don’t convert, leads are down and your cost per sale is up. You’re pissed. And mostly because you don’t understand what to do and how to do it or how to get your vendor(s) to do it, not because your most important advertising source can’t work.

It’s your smallest investment (you’ll spend more in coffee services, porters and trips to 7-11 for Red Bull for your staff to start logging their ups and follows ups in CRM).

Studies don’t matter. Analytics don’t matter. Lead ROI doesn’t matter. Not until all of the basics are covered. Not until you have an understanding of your $700-$3,000 per month spend. It’s never been a pay-for-it-and-leave-it even though every vendor tells you it is.

Websites are one of your three greatest investments and the least expensive (the other two are your staff and your CRM). Don’t ignore it and them blame anyone else. You shouldn’t spend money for anything you don’t understand. Don’t be the one who knows more about what clubs Jordan was using last weekend, yet nothing about the platform your website runs on or that you need to deliver four sizes of your latest ads instead of one. Don’t get pissed off at one of your smallest line items, get smart and get results.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

What The Watch Will Have You Watching as You’re not Watching What You Need To Watch

Not paying attention to mobile, tech and search is about to get more annoying…and costly!

What time is it? Really, what time is it? It’s not hammer time or time to get ill, although you may after reading this. It is time to consider where you SEE what time it is. For a lot of people in automotive (read: dealer principals, general managers, general sales managers), it’s usually a nice watch. And guess what? Within months, a lot of those people will be migrating to “smart” watches. Lots and lots of people will.

What does this mean for you? Well, truth is we don’t exactly know yet however know this…you’re about to get more annoyed from a cost and tech perspective. And to think, you were finally getting comfortable with spending money on SEO for your antiquated website 5 years after you should have been spending the money to DOMINATE your market and you just felt like looking into geo-fencing, although you still don’t get it.

Tech, and smart watches specifically, is going to continue the drumbeat of change and focus. Not to say everyone is going to buy a $10,000+ gold-plated Apple watch,. No. More people will be buying the Android watch that’s $499 at Costco right now!

Very few of you are going to think “great! A service app on someone’s wrist with integrated push notifications…I’m in!” Most of you are going to ask “what person would even want their smart phone that close to them?” or “Why do I need to pay attention now, until it’s more common?” or, the worst, “what spend any money on that?”

This is the real question you need to ask yourself, “will my platform, apps and communication be ready for this switch and what is a reasonable cost to be ready?” and for most of you, the answer is no. Look at your email templates and ask yourself are they mobile-ready today. (hint: most dealers have large/wide headers with links, some kind of framing, large/heavy graphics, video and other assets as part of your (non-relevant) emails you send to customers. Newsflash, you’re killing yourself and, if you have an OEM-pushed consultant coming in to your dealership, you’re even more in trouble. You’re not ready.

Tech, search and communication are changing at the speed of the consumer, and you have yet another wrinkle in your plan to do the same thing you were doing before you read this, so keep doing what you’re doing. Yes, car sales are up so dealers can make a lot of mistakes and still make money. The about-to-happen explosion of smart watches represent another example of how overwhelmingly wrong automotive retail marketing is. Now go put your Fitbit on your wrist that tracks you via GPS and uploads to your Strava account and do that run you were planning,. Nothing to see here, everything is fine …

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Logistics: I’ll Take “What Is A Dealership?” For $1000 Alex

Lo·gis·tics  ləˈjistiks,lō-/  noun

    1. The detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies.

We are in the game of logistics. Like it or not car dealerships, at a minimum, are hubs of logistic activities: connections to the factory and engineers, DMS uploads, inventory pushes and pulls, secure financial documents and transactions, lead migration, email and phone connections, server backups, marketing company, sales rep and little league treasure troves…it's dizzying.

Add to that the total of resources: staff, hardware, all the moving parts. And you want to put a 300-pound inflatable on top to make it look like a scene from a Chevy Chase Vacation movie. *burp*

A whole, as they say, is the sum of its parts. However some of those parts are more evident to the people you’re trying to attract: consumers. More important than ever is the media, availability/speed of information and communication we deliver to the public.

So riddle me this Batman: the most important part of your website is the:

 

  1. Template and main pages you reviewed two years ago with your website vendor that you get a PDF “report” from once a month and a visit with once a quarter, when they sell you more stuff.
  2. Inventory being online that you assume is feeding correctly with the automated “cheese” seller notes, not so robust VIN explosion/features and being syndicated to portals you’ve never heard f (although they’re fully disclosed in the document you’ve never read).
  3. SEO you’ve never checked on provided by the website or aftermarket company (that is ABSOLUTELY using spun content)…oh wait. What’s SEO? Yeah.
  4. About us video made a while ago showing some staff you still have employed inside the dealership before the new fascia when up

The answer is none of the above. Just like your dealership it’s the experience. Yes, it has to have what people expect however when’s the last time you met a customer, truly, that knew exactly what to expect. And that is, literally, exactly.

If you’ve not stopped, in a long time, and done a real deep-dive into analytics, feedback from customers and staff, taken more than a gander at your competition (which is everyone), looked and reassessed everything that has your name/brand on it and taken stock of actionable goals and roadmaps, you’re gliding on the rise in sales that’s taken place over the past couple of years now and are, still, not ready for what comes next. Get real about what you’re avoiding.

At the center of everything is a person, with a real need for attention, consideration, information, service, answers and solutions. We are in the logistics business.

Consider this again before you chat with your coworkers about Sunday’s games tomorrow with finite details and stats about passing yards, rushing yards, total years, carries, receptions, turnovers, time of possession, sacks, half sacks, quarter sacks and hurries…and then realize that’s the same level of passion we must exhibit and deliver on for every one of the people that give you the honor of walking through your front door.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Let’s Remember Who It’s About: Not You!

Have you ever listened to a profressional salesperson? No, no, really. Have you ever listened to a proferssional salesperson? Those skilled in the trade are fantastic about doing one thing extremely well: allowing the customer to understand that it's about them, what's in it for them and how important they are. Those with truly exceptional skill allow people to talk themselves into buying.

So why in the heck have trainers and consultants been ruining it for customers walking into dealerships by knocking some of the following word tracks and customer approaches into salespeople's heads:

"I will do whatever it takes to earn your business"

"I've received your information, I've checked that the car is still here, I've spoken with my manager about the price and I only need to know right now if you have a trade in"

"I need to know what it will take to get you down here right now"

"I will answer all of your quesitons and I hope to meet you soon"…

In visiting and mystery shopping dealerships all over the country, it is more apparent than ever that salespeople not only like to talk about themselves, they're trained to. The less skilled they are, the more it happens. That's got to be worth everything from the OEM-paid local course, to the $1,500 conference, to the $5,000-10,000 per-day in-house super-duper-trainer with 30 years experience.

Folks, who is everything about? The customer. You will never make it about the customer talking about yourself. Ever! And that is what 3-month newbies to 25+ years veterans do all day long. And if the communication is over the phone or email versus face-to-face, add even more to the irritating factor. Can we all agree that, for the most part, the person that a prospect is talking to is assumed to be their salesperson or at least a sales contact? OK, now that we are passed that, move the focus from you to them…

For the past seven years, the education we bring to dealers and the coaching we bring to sales teams is consistent:

!. Eliminate "I" and change your word tracks to "you"

2. Make everything about the customer, first.

3. Change the delivery to talk about what the cusotmer receives, how it benefits them, when they'll get it, how they'll get it and, absolutely last, who they'll get it from.

Nothing turns people off more than hearing about someone they don't know or care about tallking about themselves, what they're doing, what they need, what they can do and can't do, and how much they want to sell a car. #yawn

Changing communication and contact practices will increase contact, ppointment and how rates. Oh, and that sell more cars. Period.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results