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The Most Important Part Of Digital Success Is…Dealership Culture

Back from another on-boarding of a client and our minds are full. The questions, typical. The intrigue, typical. The honesty, better than expected. The roadmap, slightly different. The approach. always the same…Dealership Culture.

No matter how many dealerships we visit, the approach has to be the same. If you start with the culture, everything else can fall into place. Yes, can. There are no guarantees, however there are hurdles and roadblocks that are the same from store to store, coast to coast. Digital is the epicenter, and not because of Google statistics or what you heat at an industry conference.

While solutions have to be tailored to store, brand, market and setup, if you don’t have the mindset, communication, accountability and discussions around digital, you will never be successful as possible. That means talking points around dealership processes, achievements, competitors, opportunities, challenges and customers must be digitally-based. CRM is the center of all activity and sales meetings, not save-a-deals exclusively, as well as benchmarks. Showroom traffic is part of the discussion around website traffic. Equity mining and sales opportunities include what vehicles (and their owners) are coming in to the service drive on service appointments that are also put into CRM. And that takes place each morning after management confirms that day’s appointments (or they’re not confirmed, period).

How many reviews the store accrued for sales and service, along with who was most mentioned from both departments, has to be part of the weekly meetings. Appointment shows rates and how to improve them must be woven into the dealership fabric, without manipulation for pay plans or embarrassment. Calls must be reviewed daily by management and turned into one-on-one coaching sessions. And not opting customers in for texting via a white-listed CRM or third-party system, especially when accepting an appointment or, better yet, in the dealership is mind-blowing (and so is texting prospects/customers from the native texting app of a smartphone – it’s illegal, has been and will continue to be. Quit asking why and then defending your actions as if the explanation makes it okay).

Most dealerships are losing between 15 and 50 cars a month due to poor lead and phone management, yet the typical cry is for more traffic, leads and inventory/VDP gimmicks. Unsold showroom visits fall into drip marketing campaigns faster than most people can recite the store’s why buy or value proposition (if at all).

Digital is not a marketing methodology, that leads to buying the shiny object of the week/month/year. Digital is a mindset, a go-forward plan and a reality. We are not to say other marketing mindsets don’t work along with digital, this is a reminder that if you’re not thinking, strategizing and executing with a digital mindset and complete store operations, you are losing the game.


Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Another NADA In The Books…

Well another NADA has come and gone and this one, while positive with a lot of great dealer feedback, wasn’t exciting as past ones, at least for us. Now, there were any substantive meetings and product reviews, introductions and updates. Here’s some of the standouts for us:

  • Digital Retailing: While still in its “coming out” stage for a nearly 12-year-old technology, the stand-alone products such as DriveItNow are getting pressure from the website developers such as Dealer Inspire. Most of the implementations are still clunky and don’t necessarily demonstrate consumer feedback/engagement, by and large the implementations and integrations are getting better. While the data suggests that consumers are far from completely buying online (not a surprise if you’ve listened to the usage data for years rather that being distracted by shiny new toys).
  • Industry-wide Commerce Development Platform: Fortellis by CDK Global. Wow. Since its inception was only announced March 22, this is a little presumptive. However, nothing has the ability to move automotive commerce, digital and tools forward faster that collaboration from more players in the field (OEMs, developers, dealers) in order to bring a better, more integrated experience for the public. Yes, they’ve even been able to bring the likes of Reynolds & Reynolds into the fray. This has huge upside and we’re looking forward to updates in the coming months on what’s being developed and brought to market.
  • In-market Customer and Prospect Marketing: Lots of talkers, very few doers. While dealers continue to, for the most part, do mediocre to poor jobs at post-sale and post-service communication and engagement, third parties will continue to be sought after. Most of the conquest products in the market fail to impress us and after many, many, many examples of dealers being ripped off, our line of sight continues to narrow. In addition to having your existing CRM vendor do it, with some basic level of effectiveness, we have been impressed with the updated offerings from both AutoAlert and Stream Companies. The prior recently acquired a company out of the East Coast that seems to know what they’re doing on the service conquest side and also has a history of direct mail, the latter adding the option via building in-house.
  • Web Platform Technology: The coolest thing we saw was Dealer Inspire‘s voice search and we continue to be impressed with their Conversations tools, which are now available ad-hoc, platform agnostic (thanks to the push post-Cars.com acquisition). Meetings at other website companies revealed their willingness to install their off-site consumer-catching tech.

Also-mentions: these are companies and/or updates that aren’t earth-shattering, however important:

  • 360Booth: Best option for properly shooting your cars no matter how you think it should be done. Period. Jay’s stuff is the industry standard even though it’s not standard.
  • DealerRater: Will be allowing reviews to be “started” at the dealership on the person’s device in the very near-term, updates to come from them. This is exciting news from the only platform that still doesn’t allow for dealership-vicinity reviews.
  • Dominion: Still doing a quality job on their reputation management tools and dealer follow up (and focusing on it). And they listen. In our opinion, it’s better than a 3rd party completely managing your reputation for you (anything that is not a culture-driven mindset in-store with accountability isn’t successful long-term).
  • DealerOn: Still doing some of the coolest work and improving their platform. We are still seeing some of the highest organic conversions from their sites around the country, even with non-clients. And Greg Gifford is still the wisest of SEO Jedi anywhere…kind of scary (we didn’t pull down one of the books, oh well. Someone will eBay one from $1 and we’re all over it). And Greg, we do like site search, no matter how much you don’t. We do agree on Egg Slut for breakfast!
  • CarGurus: Watching them (nearly) since inception and they continue to make the space more consumer-friendly (while still needing to work on their mobile experience, please, please) and positive/fair for dealers. And they listen, as well as adjust, to market-specific issues and we have hands-on experience with that for their “deal” scoring. Went back-and-forth with one of the heads on their SEM team, attempting to get more details on what advantages they offer (besides platform-based advertising and retargeting), so the jury is still out however we’re open to watching the results and making recommendations.
  • Dealer Inspire: Aside from their new tech above, their team continues to innovate, lead best practices and have fun. We’ve heard from quite a few other companies about manipulation around mobile speed, especially home pages, to fit into the new mobile-first focus and speed testing by Google (and we happen to know a few other providers who’ve done the same exact thing) and their team has assured us, along with many others, they are servicing everyone and they aim at maintaining the fastest sites. In addition, their platform scanner has been installed on all sites so they receive real data from Google on scripts to adjust or revise/defer, improving performance. To top that off, they have built a Google Pagespeed spoof scanner that you can use to test if your website vendor is giving you the right speed test results or not.
  • DrivingSales: Best human asset training/management software anywhere. Repeat after us… They’ve invested greatly in the area, aside from service marketing, that is most ignored in the industry. Yes, we’re had dealers on since the beta and yes, it works!!

 

As the industry moves forward, in-store experience and online reputation management are paramount. If you can’t do those things properly, without relying on vendors to manage or run things, you’re doomed. With the shift to subscription models (which we completely believe will be the way consumers move) taking over in the next 3-5 years, if not sooner, traditional retailing will give way and the holes in dealership marketing and retention will be clearly evident.

We also attended the pre-NADA Google Digital Innovators Summit hosted by Dealer Teamwork. Any day is a good day to hear from the 800-pound gorilla in search and WAY more dealers should have been in attendance. Plus, you go to listen to the leading vehicle marketing platform in automotive. While much of the focus was on best practices and the Google Dealer Playbook, we still learned and benefitted from up-to-date data as well as soon-to-launch assets in non-public discussions. Thank you to the team for the invite!

Even though we weren’t blown away by the “what’s next” (if any) at NADA, we enjoyed and appreciated the sit-downs with many vendors, reviewing product updates, seeing new ones and spending quality time with our colleagues looking to make dealers better. Shout outs to the folks who provided some of our after-hours entertainment including AutoAlert, CDK Global, DealerBuilt and the Automotive Executives Association as well as the folks who made it to our reception on Friday including very fine folks Scott Monty, Christopher Barger and Stephanie Carls from Brain + Trust Partners!

 

Best Practices: Professional Insights, Powerful Results

Welcome To 2018…Here’s Your 2002 Co-Op Program

It comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve been around the automotive digital space for a long time that the OEMs want dealer data and the pervasive third parties that run large-scale digital programs aren’t around for the dealers’ sake nor benefit. There’s a deeper level, though… how fraught these digital programs are themselves, even when you consider how fraudulent the mark-ups and hiding of unbiased metrics are.

What’s wrong is the reaping of the dealerships, rather simply saying “you have three website companies to choose from rather than anyone you choose”. And the crazy thing, again, is that the OEMs are none the smarter or have general wherewithal on the programs, data, analytics, organic, tier 3 paid search, leads (and hand-raisers, jeez) or social media. With regard to the last one, have you seen how many dealers’ social streams are basically hijacked, duplicate content with disgusting returns?

For those who don’t recall (or prefer to remember), automotive online started en-masse in 2005 with a few OEM-mandated programs happening in the early following years. How is it, then, that dealers are still waking up to the idea of digital investments? In 2009 we had a difficult time educating one of the largest import-brand dealers in the Southwestern US  that a $2,000+/month investment in their website was more than acceptable, compared to their $699/month required website. It’s 2018, we won’t even have that discussion today and stopped asking many program-heavy dealers what their investments are since nearly all are under-vested in their most important asset: their websites (yeah, that thing that gets more traffic than any other part of your business).

There are more properly-built and updated website providers out there, however it doesn’t mean that you have to choose one of them because of co-op dollars. No dealer (or general manager) can make an effective argument about $10,000-20,000 given up per month in co-op when they can end of selling 20-50 more cars per month with a better platform. Even the factory wakes up after hard-balling a dealer who’s “not playing in the approved digital sandbox” because they can’t ignore numbers (newsflash: OEMs care more about units than which website platform you’re on -or your dealership-…really!).

Alas, it seems that more and more dealers (we’ve seen this before…about 10 years ago) are willing to give up digital results to make the factory happy and/or more willing to give up any possible advantage they can have over data sharing (which the 3rd party consulting first have consistently used to level the paying field).

It all comes down to this: If we remember correctly, wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who once said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: We’re from your OEM’s digital department and we’ve here to help”…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

2017 New Trends: What You Are Missing Is Sales

Let’s face it. The more you hear about new trends, the more you are likely to invest. The more new trends, the more investment. At what point does a new trend matter as much or more to your business than what works consistently? One constant in Automotive over the past nine plus years of IM@CS’ existence is that trends have never given a bigger yield over strong fundamentals. As a matter of fact, we have never guided a client to any significant investment with new trends, however we have with defined trends.

Do you hop on the new trends?

Trend. Merriam-Webster defines a trend as either to “extend in a general direction” (which we call a define trend) or “to veer in a new direction” (which we call a new trend).

It is a significant new trend, and worth while, to leverage text massaging for sales and service. It won’t, however, replace email in the immediate future. We have heard speakers, trainers and consultants recommending dealerships drop email in favor of text and other messaging forms. Does text/messaging tend to receive higher open rates? Yes. Have we seen the same for sales responses? Some lift, in general, yet nowhere close to pervasive. Have we seen those eclipse results from responding to emails and communicating properly, measured in dealership CRM systems? Not yet.

It was a hot new trend to jump into Display Advertising a few years ago, which we have never recommended or had a client spend more than 5% of their budget on. Results? Negligible, at best. Dealership return on investment, reviewed by those NOT taking a commission or fee, was poor at best. Lots of explanations erupted, including the “branding” argument, however the new trend diminished and many dealerships got sensible on their spends, relying more on effective search advertising, better CRM follow up on unsold customers and educating themselves on Google Analytics and other tools.

New, hot trends have shown, year after year, that too much or misappropriated attention causes lapses in core business values, efficiencies and results. We do discuss all types of trends with our clients, and at the same time keep them focused on what drives more efficient spend, while recommending small investments in new tools and technology.

Dealerships need to focus on better digital operation, more efficient showrooms, streamlined and engaging delivery, consumer feedback and top-down management with consistent measurement and accountability.

Hottest new trend for 2017: More dealerships getting real on human capital, education, accountability and customer engagement. We hope…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Feedback: So What Exactly Does IM@CS Do?

This post is a long time in coming, even though not our typical cup of tea. Why? Because we want clients and the industry to understand more (and in some cases, even something) and talk about us. Tooting our own horn is a turnoff, and publishing papers, studies and books with mostly repeated content is deplorable. However, after nine years of “what does IM@CS do?”, it’s likely (beyond) time to make it a little more known…

Interactive Marketing and Consulting Services (a.k.a. IM@CS) was founded in September 2007, when the amount of non-vendor companies/consultants dedicated to digital in the Automotive Industry could be counted on two hands. In other words, if you don’t count website developers, ad agencies and the like, you could hire less than 10 entities to truly grow your digital results independently.

Some of our firsts that lead the industry:

  • Website maintenance (developed into SEO Services) started December 2007 and micro-sites in 2009
  • Social Media services started in December 2007 (we launched the first Audi and second Porsche dealership on Twitter, for example, and many of the first-10 on Facebook dealership accounts)
  • Vendor coordination/accountability yielding fastest-in-class response times (with Gary’s background at eVox, Edmunds and izmoCars, nearly all OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2 vendors were on a direct, one-to-one relationship with IM@CS before other digital consultants knew them)
  • First OEM-direct relationship (Toyota/Lexus) secured in January 2008, educating hundreds of Lexus dealerships around the country (replaced incumbent and scored highest dealership satisfaction from the summits over a five-year period)
  • Mystery shopping of dealers in 2007 (started in 2004 while at eVox), then introduced lead scoring (rather than mystery shopping for clients) in 2011 and rolled out to OEM programs
  • First 20 Group presentations in 2009 (Porsche US Pre-Owned Forum and Volkswagen Canada digital) yielded transformational changes for dealerships
  • Advocating, coaching and maintaining online reputaiton management since 2008

Not easily known unless you followed IM@CS in the early days, our work resulted in many industry-leading benchmarks as well as brought other consultants and vendors to the forefront and awareness over the past nine-plus years. Gary May has been a sought-after speaker since opening the J.D. Power & Associates Internet Roundtable at Red Rock Casino Resort in 2008. In addition, Gary has spoken at the first six years of DrivingSales Executive Summits as well as dozens of other conferences, 20 Groups and private vendor events. Eric Trytko and the content team have driven industry-exclusive vehicle editorial and content direct from auto show launches since 2010, something that no other dealer provider has done (most repurpose OEM and publisher releases and articles or use spun -software based- content, a search-engine flag).

IM@CS has created over 350 blog posts and has contributed to top Automotive forums.

Our team (currently a staff of nine) touches all parts of your digital presence:

  • Website maintenance
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Social Media content management and marketing (organic and paid)
  • Reputation Management (tracking and maintenance)
  • Creative assets (banners/graphics, landing pages, email marketing)

We carefully vet all dealer digital processes through hands-on assessment, highlight low-hanging fruit as well as build long-term strategies, weigh competitors plus develop strategies around acquisition and conquest, bring unrivaled education to executive and management-level staff and build unmatched results for salespeople.

Some of our competitive advantages and benefits to business leaders:

  • Out-of-the-box solutions (no cookie-cutter/duplicated approaches including content and lead management/CRM/templates)
    • what works in your store, not others
  • Commission-free vendor recommendations (giving up 5-and 6-figure revenue per year in kick-backs)
  • Best-practice approaches influenced by both automotive industry leaders as well as out-of-the-industry strategy and results
  • Six day per week support 6a-6p PT and beyond
    • Most requests receive 24-hour turnaround

We have been a trusted, non-contracted (month-to-month services since day one) partner for dealerships with an average duration of over two years and we have been hired back or advised by 25% of our clients. Our partnerships with stores develop long-lasting results while keeping executive management up-to-date with all digital aspects. Our R.O.I. is unmatched in over 90% of clients.

When you and your business are ready to stop splitting hairs with me-too vendors and are ready to grow your sales, marketing efficiencies and knowledge in order to build sustainable results, contact us for a review call or an assessment meeting. Yes, it can be this simple to stop receiving only slight benefits while paying vendors for their lifestyles. And understand why, in most cases, your co-op OEM-run programs will never serve you to profit and actually only serve your vendors and manufacturers with piles of data about you and your operations.

 

Here’s to your success in 2017!

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

 

Volume, Fiasco, Titles, Consolidation, Arrogance and Big Decisions

We are at the next crossroads, for now let’s call it the end of 2015 and the beginning of a new year. There’s more road crossing later. Wow, the past year had a lot of ups (and ups) and downs. And in the end, more cars were sold with fewer showroom visits and more hours spent online. If you agree with that statement, you can stop reading now…

First, let’s hit volume. At the time of posting this, we’re on pace to possibly topple record sales in automotive, if not get extremely close to doing so. There are some surprise winners and some more surprise losers. All in all, the increase was predicted and, with some exceptions, most everyone will be keeping their lofty jobs at our glorified manufacturers (why do most people on automotive blog spell that darn word -and many others- wrong?).

Fiasco. Well, we didn’t see that BIG one coming, huh? It’s too early to say what will come of the Volkswagen TDI (as well as Audi and Porsche) debacle, so it’s suffice to say that the “ouch” outcome is due to come in 2016. The key is that people will still buy their vehicles, it’s a combination of consumer perception and how the retailers handle the opportunities.

Titles, the least favorite of ours being “millennials”, do nothing other than distract car dealers, enable marketing companies (and some barely-average people to become experts in the field) to take advantage of ploys and create enough hysteria to take people’s attention off of what matters: taking care of the customer, stupid.

Consolidation, especially the big one in 2015, serves the car dealer, right?!?!  Holy crap piles of nothing Batman, more dealers on a single-serving platform!! That’s got to be serving the shareholder more than the client, but don’t tell anyone Boy Wonder! Sure, you can see the episode with Adam West and Burt Ward roll out in your mind now, with the “BOOM”, “CRACK” and “UGG” blasts behind every customer service call now…  It’s a great idea when you want your business to be on cruise control, unless you take a good look at the while picture and realize that we’re not well-served until a point that all of the technology is integrated and the data is utilized across enterprises. Until then, it’s called dropping the amount of checks you issue and nothing else. Yeah, and the website will be fully responsive in 2016 (bwahahahaha!!!)

Arrogance showed its beautiful face again in ways we hadn’t since 2004-2007, when dealers were nearly printing money. Near-record profits with slightly more optimized operations after the shit hit the fan in 2008 and 2009 showed our dealer body to some very-needed net profits this year. Along with that came the thoughts that showed as an ongoing lack of understanding what the public wants with an automotive experience, still underutilized digital marketing (yes, please hand your capabilities to the OEM vendor. That’s smart) and a continued focus on increasing spends in unmeasured media or supporting digital vendors that should have died five plus years ago (you know who you are).

All that’s left is the big decision: are you going to wait longer or finally commit the right resources and people power to the proper partners, building your results, true bottom line efficiencies and leading in your market? More dealers have decided, or are deciding right now, to follow (i.e. relent to OEM control of their digital marketing) the herd to irrelevance. It can’t be said more easily or with more conviction, if you’re going to be led by the same company that works with everyone else in your market, or trust the advisor that works with your competitor, you lose. Done properly, most dealers can increase their digital spends at half of what they drop in traditional, increase their sales and service, put the rest into resources for their staff (including adding staff) and come out thousands of dollars ahead each month, net. They don’t because…….because…..because…they didn’t do it that way before.

For those who do it right, 2016 already started over a month ago. If you need to focus on the last 25 days of the year more than anything else, how well did you plan for and execute during 2015?  Or maybe, you simply have the wrong partner(s) in the first place…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Broken Is As Broken Does…We’re So Frickin Broken!

Broken is the new status quo. Status quo is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs, particularly with regards to social or political issues. In the sociological sense, it generally applies to maintain or change existing social structure and values. The way things are done at dealerships has gone near-completely political and, oh my, are we broken!

Thoughts are always swirling is our minds here at IM@CS, and the current state of affairs something that we poke at a lot. It came around again last evening, looking at a page that someone had liked on Facebook. Going to the info tab on the FB page, we noticed that the company was “founded in October”. Excellent! Like us in September of 2007, a startup! Click the link to the website and the domain is not even registered, it’s available for sale. facepalm. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry…

Whether it’s many marketing or website or “digital consulting” companies now evergreen inside the OEMs, the state of broken that exists is staggering. Stupid is as stupid does, we know that from Forest Gump’s momma, so broken must be as broken does. And the industry accepts broken.  Enterprise website providers that aren’t completely responsive (or adaptive for that matter) fit hand-in-glove with marketing companies managing PPC campaigns that don’t perform while taking a management 20% fee (or higher)… Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Dealership executives have choices when it comes to what takes their time. We call it priority management. Many people at fly-by-night SEO and social media companies call it time management (that tickles us so much, we pee). Yes, there are many “subjects du jour” right now including customer experience and whether to go BDC or Internet department especially on the heels of the recent conferences. But one thing is clear, even considering how many are yelling about “owning the basics” and “doing what we’ve always done”: we are broken while many scream we’re great.

And it”s easy to blame the consultants and trainers who, quite frankly, spout off about expertise they don’t have and subjects they can’t actually tackle live in a business, but let’s hit on the responsibility that business owners and executives have. Are you in business or are you hoping to catch up still? Can’t wrestle that extra “marketing expense” out each month when it doesn’t get covered by the factory via co-op, so you decide instead to make the payment on speed boat number two?

We’re broken because we have dealerships that don’t own and manage their local citations, don’t expect everyone to use CRM and trust vendor promises over actual results.

Don’t be the company listing a website that’s not in existence. Don’t be the blind following the blind because it’s the path of least resistance. Don’t be broken and happy because you’re better off than 7 other broken dealerships in your market area report. It’s not easy and it takes more resources that you’ll likely be comfortable with. Don’t settle. No business that has ever been successful did.

 

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