Category Archives

Posts in Current Affairs category.
A Blue/Black Dress. A White/Gold Dress. A Car Sold? Whatever…

Expose your business. Better yet, expose yourself!!

 

It’s not about who bares it all. No, the game is about who gets the exposure at the right time. And most of the time, we perform poorly.

 

Marketers have been talking for decades about exposure, impressions, brand recall and market share. And while nobody (at least here) needs to be convinced that exposure should be primarily online, we’ve once again been shown that the conversation shouldn’t be about advertising.  Yes folks, exposure leads to conversation. All kinds of exposure… 😉

 

So what does the color of a dress have to do with car sales? Both a whole lot, and absolutely nothing. Within a short while of the “dress” explosion last week, automotive b-to-b social media was abuzz with puns,  memes and conversations.  Some of those actually made it to the retail channel. No OEM or retailer had an “Oreo” moment due to what color a dress was. And it was all an experiment anyway.

 

Marketers are being shown up, at an alarming rate, by the media of individuals. And we are still concerned with the “right” newspaper ad for the weekend? Millions of people joined an online conversation about screen resolution and perception, yet nobody sold a car from it.

 

And there could have been some massive fun, too. “Buy a new (fill in car brand) and receive a (fill in department store) gift certificate toward any color dress you want” could have shown up on websites, email blasts and social media within minutes. No, it was all about the weekend ad, which gorilla looks good on the roof, or what new incentives will be, or pouring over month-end reports, instead of selling more cars through created connections.

 

What’s more disarming than making someone laugh? What’s more unexpected than having someone think they just had the least “automotive” experience they’ve ever had?

 

Exactly how to make a popular culture phenomenon part of your marketing is not the point here, realizing that you have the opportunity to capitalize on more of these types of occurrences is.  Ad agencies and media companies aren’t the ones who do this on the fly. We are.

 

Salespeople (and managers) are so focused on the “script”, the “road to the sale”, the “processes” and the such, we take so much of the human element out of making car buying fun.. 2009 was the first time we had a client sell a car specifically (and nearly solely) through social media. Stop thinking about what to say and simply start the conversation. Even if you don’t have a dress on…

Misunderstanding the Misunderstood (A Post-NADA Perspective)

Too often, we mix messages. We misconstrue. We miscount. And most often, decisions based off those actions lead to more of the same. There is a lot of “data” out there: actionable, validated, accurate data, and damaging, paralyzing, inaccurate “data”.

 

Last year IM@CS was fortunate to be involved with a Mercedes-Benz project around lead management and one of the talking points (not from us or our partners) showed the average customer in 2013 submitted a lead to 1.3 dealers. Not only has this been invalidated by at least a half-dozen companies, in speaking with the dealers themselves, the empirical data disputed that. The data. “Data” brought in by (maybe) well-intentioned parties however far from accurate, very far for allowing a proper action plan and light years from having the dealers make sense of it.

 

Too often, the OEMs, and admittedly dealers, are lit up by flashy bids, mesmerizing proposals and the all-too-famous “we also have contracts with Competitor A and Competitor B” line or the notorious “we built the space/were first to launch this” verbal flatulence.

 

Another case in point: Last year General Motors rolled out an initiative for BDC build-out for it’s nearly 4,000 franchises. Good intentions, a little late on the “action bandwagon” (we spoke with GM about his in 2008 and 2009) aimed at mitigating the massive amount of lost sales due to lackluster lead response and follow up (read: all OEMs fall in to this bracket and have subsequently gone at solutions the wrong way). Enter two vendors for those dealers. Yes, two. Two vendors for build out and support of thousands of dealers’ BDCs. Then, the co-op curse, leading most dealers, due to “cost”, to not hire companies that can scale better, are more experienced (in real life, not on paper).

 

It’s time to stop misunderstanding the misunderstood! Who are the misunderstood? The agile, more up-to-date, active, often smaller guys and gals who prove themselves daily, weekly and monthly.  The misunderstood are the companies with great services, not great advertising and magazine cover shots. The misunderstood are the ones who deliver faithfully without contracts or gouging (why would a dealer ever sign a contract for services that must be measured?).

 

There is a prominent Internet/Marketing Director from the Midwest who, a couple months ago, posted on their Facebook page that their group was firing their existing trainer, and looking for a more progressive company that didn’t have an OEM contract. Why? Why? Why? Simply put, the services provided, as do most of the OEMs and the companies they endorse, couldn’t deliver for today’s market regardless of that company’s data!

 

The misunderstood are so titled due to the lack of willingness of dealers to get way from comfortable and, simply put, sell and service more cars. Its not your word tracks, it’s not your phone call scoring. It’s not your trainer that has to repeat him/herself each and every month and bring in nearly-duplicate reports. IF you don’t understand how something works, stops paying for someone to do it. Understand it.. Even if you find a partner to leverage, you’d better understand it.

 

The industry, by and large, still can’t respond to a lead effectively, completely and with a reason to buy in under a day.  We’re starting the 21st year of the Automotive Internet. You don’t need to know ode, you absolutely must understand why having a responsive website is a must. You don’t need to know how Facebook changes their algorithms, you absolutely must understand targeting das and dark posts. You don’t need to how Google leverages directories and local citations to leverage local search, you absolutely must understand how and where to update your information, links and phone numbers.

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

DSES: Can You Feel Me Or Is It The Customer Experience?

DrivingSales Executive Summit 2014 is officially in the books. It was a sold out event once again that enveloped the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas for the better part of three days. Planned was a (digital) star-studded keynote speaker list plus some of the finest breakout speakers, many dealers, for those in attendance. Here's some highlights form the event from IM@CS' perspective:

Day One

Just as last year, there was a Canadian Breakout Session housing some of the top companies from our neighbors to the north along with some powerful presenters including Grant Gooley and Jeremy Wyant. Jay Radke and Brent Wees definitely brought the "eh" for a second time. Rumor is that next year will be bigger and better (and DSES will NOT be during Canadian Thanksgiving!).

After Emcee Charlie Vogelheim’s grandiose welcome of the attendees, DrivingSales' founder Jared Hamilton managed a uniquely powerful opening recognizing a few members of the car dealer community from stage for thie personal triumphs and celebrations. Most poignant was a heartfelt message and standing ovation for Courtney Cox Cole of Hare Chevrolet. Just completing her last round of chemotherapy a few days prior to the opening of DSES, her presence was missed however her spirit was felt.

The first keynote was Florian Zettelmeyer of The Kellogg School of Management hitting hard on data, telling dealership attendees to get smart on analytics. Well, it was more like "become data scientists", however put the message was clear. This year's Best Idea Contest followed and the audience was treated to some unique ways of approaching the "digital sprawl" that's occurring for dealerships (winner was a repeat of last year, Robert Karbaum). Add to that Mr. Vogelheim’s “costume” unveil, a cowboy shirt that was a present from CADA’s Tim Jackson.

Breakouts began and the session IM@CS attended was with Shaun Raines and Tom White Jr. As expected they hit their stride quickly offering specific actions to dealers that want to build a unique brand, market awareness and make customers the center of their world. Word back from other sessions was positive.

The Fireside Chat that followed had good information however it lacked some of the powerful punch from previous events (DSES and Presidents Club) that had the audience leaning forward or nodding/shaking heads in agreement/dischord. Jared guided Cars.com's Mitch Golub and DealerSocket's Jonathan Ord through a bevy of industry-directional questions and statements.

Day one's evening keynote was Brian Solis, who essentially is Altimeter Group's head analyst focusing on disruptive technology. As expected he brought insight, candor and a new perspectives to the majority-dealer audience, bringing up challenges and opportunities that the industry is facing now and in the near term. He touched on customer experience, the mobile audience, disruption occurring now that is effecting vehicle sales (Tesla and Uber were examples). He signed books immediately after as the reception began.

Day Two

 

Mike Hudson from eMarketer, a nicely-paced review of where the target is moving with consumers in regard to mobile, engagement, disruptive tech and how the sales funnel has move. Like Solis the evening before, he warned dealers and OEMs to stay up with consumer demand for information and provide only value-based experiences.

Breakouts followed and included such speakers as Bobbie Herron and Brian Armstrong in a joint session on utilizing a BDC or not and Jeff Kershner discussing the mobile-based shift for today’s showrooms. Then Jared hosted a fireside chat with two top executives from the newly-formed CDK Global (previously The Cobalt Group). The keynote before lunch featured Adam Justis of Adobe talking about how dealership marketing must be customer-centric and fully integrated, further pushing the “customer experience” drumbeat for the weekend.

After lunch it was Innovation Cup time and this year’s finalists covered a broad range of dealer services. Not all new however all had a updated take on what is essentially consumer engagement via their technology (NewCarIQ ended up with the win).

Then, it was time for speed listening with Jared Hamilton. His keynote this year, “Competing on Customer Experience”, was another blistering wordfest of reality and must-do strategy, followed by a first-of-its-kind video compilation of customer feedback on car buying experiences. The full study isn’t due until next year, however the teaser included a handful of truthful, hard-hitting testimonials that dealers must listen to.

Afternoon breakouts ensued, showcasing among others Eric Miltsch of Command Z Marketing on wearable tech, Megan Barto of Ciocca Honda & Hyundai on dealership culture, Mike Martinez of DMEautomtoive on putting mobile as your top strategy, Mario Clementoni of NADA on best practices and Joe Chura of Dealer Inspire on website/lead optimization. Chura gave out some valuable “freebies”, third party tips, software/programs and offers that included one from Google not previously known.

Closing our day two was a second-time speaker that couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Rand Fishkin of MOZ (formerly SEOmoz) dove right into what must-use best practices need to be deployed today for SEO to stick. Raising the bar he set two years ago, his presentation dealt with can-do/don’t-do advice and the Q&A addressed misinformation/misconceptions that many dealers hear regularly through auto industry sources.

Day Three

Charlie and Jared started the morning with the winners of the Innovation Cup then immediately into the 4th Annual Digital Media Debate hosted by Joe Webb of DealerKnows Consulting. A slightly different format than previous years, two retail executives, two consultants and two vendors addressed topics ranging from Adaptive vs Responsive websites to relying on third party leads, conglomerate vendors versus specialized suppliers and one-price stores versus traditional.

The last round of breakouts showcased Christian Salazar of DealerFire on how consumers are finding your website and content, Aaron Wirtz from Subaru of Wichita recapping how the store addressed their potentially damaging PR debacle and turned it into a complete positive (that ended up going viral) and David Kain of Kain Automotive talking about how to make memorable connections with your customers that last.

Closing the 2014 DSES event was Bryan Eisenberg of Eisenberg Holdings. His presentation, bookending Florian’s from Sunday, was an appropriate ending note on the customer experience “Cool-Aid”. Hitting right on topic after topic regarding analytics, measurement, impending trends in consumer shopping and more, Mr. Eisenberg pulled no punches in telling dealers how they need to change their marketing practices to match the consumer path.

Charlie then reintroduced Jared for the shortest closing remarks of the six years DSES has been produced for the industry’s leading dealerships. It was a fitting end to what surely was the most information-filled conference of the year.

Kudos to the DrivingSales team!

 

Best Practcies: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

Want R.O.I. on Anything? Start Using Anything! (Or Settle For B.S.)

One of the first questions that is asked of us when engaging a dealership is “what is the R.O.I. of (fill in the blank)?” Well our friends, from leads to software, to websites and PPC, the question that is being asked is wrong.  If you ask what is the R.O.I. of a product, let me ask you what is the R.O.I. of air?

Well, it’s noting if you don’t use it.

Over the past seven years, we have proven over and over a multiple R.O.I. on all digital aspects compared to before we arrived. And remember, that is usually with no or little vendor changes. Why is this? Because there is no return of investment without education, understanding and utilization.

Dealerships usually buy due to fear or loss, standardization or acceptance of a product, or a unique opportunity (first-in-market). Rarely are those opportunities truly vetted out. While we are not saying to stop before purchasing a product or service that has market penetration because there is a compelling otherwise to do so, we are advocating full assessment prior to signing.

Take lead providers, for example. While most have taken a (B.S.) marketing position and away from you buying leads, most dealers have more “opportunities” in their ILM/CRM than they know how to handle. Buying more leads? Usually you drop your R.O.I.

Also, return on investment is calculated improperly. Is it closer to income and expense or profit and loss? Yes. Until you are properly educated, coached and assessed regularly, there is no R.O.I. because the assumptions are in the wrong place. Show me a dealer closing 10% of their leads, add another provider and, after six months, you will have a dealer with a higher cost structure closing 10% of their leads. Insanity.

Spoiler alert: do the math, work it and get results. For every new website, software, marketing tool and process, you must back it up with hard-core training (no matter how much that word sucks) and sustainment. That is how our average client that buys in fully to our processes and business rules doubles results in less than a year.

Recently we have heard about more catastrophic website or software installs than ever before. What’s the R.O.I. on a vendor search, pitches, proposal and negotiations, set-up fees, months frustratingly lost followed a switch back to the previous or another new provider?

Stop talking about R.O.I. until you spend more on your personnel, education, accountability, scoring, bonuses (not get-it-done spiffs, by the way) and intra-staff support. That’s when you get return.

Until then, you can continue to buy based off of “your competitor is using this and they’ll eat your lunch” or “only 5 more cars sold with our biz-bang-boom and you’re in profit!” or any other snake oil sales job you fall for.

Oh…and one more thing to consider. Results occur top-down with an true ownership, understanding perspective. Not bottom-up make this work garbage. So take that pill and swallow it…

 

Best Practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results

 

IM@CS Adds Experienced eBusiness Consultant Edward Shaffer

As online business continues to change, car dealerships still struggle with understanding, education and improved results. Edward Shaffer brings a wealth of experience to IM@CS

 Interactive Marketing and Consulting Services (IM@CS) has chosen the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) conference starting January 25, to announce the addition of eBusiness Automotive Industry veteran Edward Shaffer to the dealer services team.

Mr. Shaffer will be responsible for in-dealer consulting covering dealer-direct and manufacturer program business. IM@CS educates, manages and supports with leading retailers their website, SEO, lead generation, client retention, social media and other tactical results-driven activities. By uniquely partnering with automobile dealers, industry-leading results have been generated over the past six years.

“We are excited to announce the addition of Edward to our expanding team, focusing on process improvement and implementation, eBusiness best practices and unmatched dealer education. His experienced gained at retail with the Park Place Dealerships organization translates to dealers’ bottom line” states Gary May, Founder and President of IM@CS.

“Retailers and OEMs are struggling, 20 years into the Automotive Internet era, with increasing conversion rates, understanding their digital results and attracting a larger client base. We have been able to produce well-above industry increases over the past six plus years. With Edward now in the field we can partner with more retailers who understand digital and solid process, that are looking for the next level in results” added May.

“I am thrilled to have been chosen by IM@CS to grow and continue the work Gary has started with dealers. This is the natural evolution of my career and I am looking forward to making a difference in our industry”, Shaffer said.

Shaffer and May will be attending the entirety of the NADA convention, allowing dealers to schedule appointments through Tuesday afternoon.

# # #

About IM@CS – Founded in 2007 to address a large void in digital marketing education for car dealerships and other large-ticket businesses, IM@CS delivers on website/SEO, sales training, CRM/BDC, social media management and other marketing as well as key revenue areas untouched by most consulting and training companies. IM@CS has been featured at leading conferences and webinars including DrivingSales Executive Summit, JD Power & Associates AMR, Social Media Club Los Angeles, Innovative Dealer Summit, PCG Digital Marketing, Internet Battle Plan, DealerOn, KPA, eXteres and NADA 20 Groups.

What’s Not Coming In 2014: The Anti-Prediction

2013 brought us so much change that we thought it would be best to provide you with a non-prediction, non-forecast, non-reflective perspective…just to throw you off (and get a few more reads). Cut to the chase right now? Naw…let's tease you a bit:

So we still live in a world hell-bent on immediate gratification. The perfect report. Flawless analytics. Immediate results. Impeccable product. Amazing customer service. And all for less than last year. Or last week…and our clients' clients want that, too.

Our challenges remain the same as they were over 13 years ago when the Auto Industry beckoned to me, selling cars to customers "over the Internet". Customers want a seamless, enjoyable experience that allows them to receive value, benefit and satisfaction. From consideration to contact to confirmation to courting to contract. We seem to fail at the essential points: reaching then, setting appointments and storing/sorting data.

Better websites and SEO and SEM and social media and reputation management, better products and marketing and incentives all show the glaring deficiencies we have as an industry when it still takes about 24 hours to get back to a "lead", make actual contact less than 40% of the time and sell under 10% (really under 8%) of them…

So our prediction is nothing will change; nothing more than a tick on the needle of progress. Oh sure, more dealers will do a "better job", their OEM and vendor suits will tell them so. Yes, for the most part the pie will shift its slices however it won't grow like it should.

More consolidation of vendors will happen. Manufacturers will continue roll out and/or mandate mediocre programs while not selling more cars or knowing how to actually measure a thing. Some of 2013's stars will fade while others will receive the spotlight. "Of course, that's the cyclical ways of commerce" you say…we say bull hooey.

2014 is the 20th year of the Automotive Internet, however over half of the market is still waking up to their year one. This is not meant to piss on anyone's parade, however it is a wake up call to the still-asleep-at-the-wheel. Those clinging to their manipulated audits while flying the flappy arm blow up man or building-sized animal, swearing that 3,000 people came in with their direct mail piece…

You can buy the new adaptive thingy. Roll out the chat-to-dance app. Boost your presence with the social-speed transmission. Serve mobile burritos to your clients. Then wrap it all up with some pay-per-view ultimate fighting service sauce. Or not change a thing and sell and maintain just about what you did in 2013. Why go through a business existence like this?

We need real education and investment. Not "training" and "cost". Curiosity killed the cat. And fear is the lengthened shadow of ignorance. So what will you do to support success before the next snake oil rep comes in with the "must have" toy or NADA party pass if you sign up?

2014 will not change a thing. Your customers will, if you allow them. Your OEM will not change a thing. Your service manager will, if you allow them. Your inventory will not change a thing. Your new actions will, if you allow them.

#     #     #

Note: we've been quiet for a long, long time here on our blog. The "experiment" is done and we'll be more active again. So if you'd like to see a subject covered, let us know here, on Twitter, Facebook or by contacting us directly (310) 377-6481 or info at imacsweb.com.

A lot is in store for IM@CS in 2014 and we'd love to have you along for the ride. Not making it to NADA? Set up an assessment meeting with Gary, JD or Evelyn (for our Canadian friends), we are honoring 2013 pricing until January 15…

Thank you for reading (and participating on) our blog as we start year six of doing so for the Automotive Industry's superstars: the dealers.

The Year 2012 In Review? (What’s An Automotive Industry Nutshell?)

(Warning, 1000 words below!)

OK,
who's got their 2013 game face on? Nobody? Good, let's make things difficult!!!
2012 was one heck of a year: consumer demand is still up and growing for cars
(although demand still outstrips what sold), mobile use is skyrocketing (albeit
not remotely matched by dealers providing strong solutions), digital demand is
still growing at a breakneck pace (while use of traditional media by
dealerships is up), vehicle technology, especially in-car, is amazing and
overwhelming (while we still can't truly get a MPG sticker correct without driving like we're dying) and quality
is better than even with IQS improving (hand-in-hand with more
"media" coverage of massive recalls). Yup, 2012 was quite the year…

So ask
a car dealership what they're doing and about 16,500 answers will flutter
around "more _________ and less ________ while focusing on our key
strengths in _____________". And that, by the way, will be the answer
around January 5-15th because, unlike other industries that revolve around
retail, we seem to be focused on a date non later than January 5 to close the
year. Newsflash: 2012 is done. Make more calls, send more emails, offer more
dealer cash/rebates/incentives/consumer cash/financing discounts and leases and
you're still not going to sell more. Hello?!?! The "Oh, we pulled 10 more
from our competitor" crap doesn't fly. You'll sell what was essentially
already in the hopper and be happy with it.

Over the last twelve months we saw
highs and lows in the automotive industry, mostly driven by International
factors like economy, emerging markets, regulation, partnership and bankruptcy.
As a matter of fact, we are more tied than ever to what happens in Europe and
Asia, even considering how insular as we tend to be. Whether or not we get to
see a new Cadillac in the States depends more on what happens in Germany than
ever while BMW's success likely depends on what happens in South Carolina. 2012
saw the continued demise of storied as well as soft brands everywhere.

In the passing of this last year, it's
important to reflect on how we actually invited people into showrooms while not
making it any more enjoyable (except for the new showrooms which mostly made
the factory happy while getting better looking floor tiles and slightly better
tasting coffee to customers and some of those neat kids' play rooms we desperately needed). We
switched website CMSs, dealership CRMs, DMSs, SMSs and POPs but did satisfaction with
dealerships actually go up as much as 2012 IQS? Jaguar is still tops
(well, 2nd behind Lexus for 2012 models) on the list and they can't seem to
sell the damn cats…

What did 2012 deliver to your business?
If you've not asked your customers more than your factory reps, your
salespeople and your accountant, you will miss the boat by a larger gap in
2013. Yes, you will continue to sell cars next year and maybe, fortunately more
again, but where does that stop based on solely looking back or not at all?

Where your concentration needs to be,
right now, is around March 2013 because your next 6-8 weeks are already figured
out for the most part. No matter how many "cycles" we have, after 100
years of automobile sales most think that there is some magic to the last few
weeks of the year. Bullhooey.

If you want to succeed starting next
Tuesday, there is no other way to do it than be steadfast in every aspect of
your staff, processes, facility and follow through. Your greatest efforts need
to be put into place around the touch points (hint: it's not the cars!). Those
are showroom (real and virtual) and people. Nothing else matters without those. We are asked regularly how to "jumpstart" sales to the
effect that many talk about in the industry. If you've not been bombarded by
spam marketing and videos, it usually sounds like "100 to 500 cars
overnight with our processes" and "our sales events will have people
driving in from everywhere" and don't forget "our websites will
optimize so well (or drive leads so easily), no other dealer will be able to
touch your numbers, you'll dominate and just have to deliver cars". Rat
dung!

Get the best assets in your business
today that understand how everyday people use technology and expect to be
communicated with. If that means more green peas, then do it! Training?!?!
Tearing down your salespeople to build them back up means you have the wrong
people and wrong processes! It's not "that Internet thing" any more
than your cars are "those things that have engines and tires". It's
time to grow up and look forward. If you 15-pounder 15% of your customers, expect 50%+ of
your reviews to scream you suck.

If you want to look at things in a
nutshell, read another whitepaper about how great a solution is (6- to
12-months after it's relevant while you signed up to get marketed like mad by the
same company) and look backward. Our industry is depending on people who look
forward with only what's needed about past performance as indicators, nothing
else. Improve incrementally prior to making the huge, sweeping changes like we
hear about so much and maybe, just maybe, you'll see about 3-4 months that the
big stuff is not so big after all because you were able to move the needle
consistently. Overnight success is a short-term facade over impending disaster.
Count on it.

2013 can be great for many, even
amongst the raising concerns about economic and other pressures. The best
always raise to the occasion, it's just that it needs to be done in newer ways
more consistently. And remember to make changes with anything that you do by
benchmarking and recording first because so many will pull the wool over your
eyes and scream "we did it for you!". We see it every day. There are
some great dealership partners out there. Remember that opportunity is missed
by most because it comes dressed in overalls. It's work and most of the time
it's slow.

So relish in the success you've had in
2012, you deserve it! At the same time try not to look back all that much. It
will take longer to catch up than you realize. The automotive world moves at
the speed of retail. That is the only truth. So stop slowing yourself down more
than needed.

Much success in 2012 and thanks for
continuing to read…

 

Best Practices: Professional
Insight,
 Powerful Results

IM@CS Gary May Interviewed By Automotive Digest At #DSES

Chuck Parker and the Automotive Digest team were at DrivingSales Executive Summit and J.D. Power & Associates Automotive Marketing Roundtable October 21-25 interviewing top executives and industry leaders. This is part of my interview, focusing on how mobile is affecting change in the automotive indsutry.

Luke Wroblewski spoke to the DSES crowd about the impact of mobile, however the industry is still lagging behind consumer trends and usage plus analytics and mobile-ready content. This is a huge opportunity for dealerships…


 

 

Gary May Participates in Automotive Digest Executive Discussion Round Table

Chuck Parker of Automotive Information Network (Automotive Digest) invited Gary May of IM@CS to join a "state of the indsutry" chat along with Allan Cooper of Cooper Media Group and Charlie Vogelheim of ResponseLogix on January 20, 2012 in Los Angeles. This is the first of a series of roundtables that Automotive Digest in planning on having with industry executives.

We appreicate the opportunity to join the discussion and thank Chuck and AIN for the inclusion!

Automotive Digest Executive Discussion Round Table from Automotive Digest on Vimeo.

NADA Time: Start Operating Your Business As Yours Or Someone Else Will

More often than not, businesses are left to turning part (or all) of their operation over to vendors and partners with the reasoning that they're not able to "do everything". In automotive retail the de facto excuse you hear usually has something to do with how selling cars is what gets done and nothing else matters. Well, it's 2012 and everything has to do with selling cars.

News flash: It always has been so.

More likely than not, as we're upon the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) season, hundreds if not thousands of dealers will leave with contracts signed, or nearly signed, convinced that simply punting their responsibilities over the wall is the best way to get 'er done. Fact is nothing is further from the truth.

Dealers must grasp a much more realistic perspective of controlling their business through action, education and accountability or they will absolutely have it taken over. And nobody is saying that's a bad thing, in the event that a business has no desire to be "in" business. While a $6M dealership may not scale, invest, market or operate like a Fortune 100 business, but there is not a single reason why it can't approach and plan business in the same way or using the similar methodology.

A few things to keep in mind as we go into the NADA conference this coming weekend.

  1. Assess your dealership's needs and gain consensus from your employees on what to return from the conference with
  2. Plan 90% of your schedule via expo and workshop schedules, focusing on must-have meetings
  3. Schedule meetings with critical existing and vendors and check out their competition
  4. Talk to as many dealers as you can outside of your 20 Group, in the booths you visit, about what they're doing and not doing with the vendors you're visiting as well as haven't considered
  5. Look at vendor and supplier reviews on Google, forums including DrivingSales and other reliable sources
  6. Ensure the viability of vendor/product deployment in your store prior to signing any agreement
  7. Talk with existing/new vendors after the conference again, prior to accepting any new agreement

 

While the above steps are no guarantee against "being had", it should at least put some steps between a mediocre quick decision and a thought out beneficial one.

Areas that seem to be gaining traction and popularity that don't make sense include:

  • Reputation management: services that promise hundreds, if not thousands, of well-deserved gleaming reviews from consumers that just haven't provided them to you. Garbage! Consumers see through it faster, better and more than Google does. Start expecting your staff to obtain reviews when selling or servicing products and ensure a process is in place. Some staff members don't want to do that? Let them go or simply hand over the keys because you're not leading a dealership…
  • Social media: services that promise hundreds, if not thousands, of fans simply because you're a car dealership, with "caption this" or "tell us what you think" on nearly every other post sprinkled with inventory or incentive specials don't say "great place to buy" in the least. If a great Facebook, Twitter or blog presence means 2,000 likes, followers or readers and not more than 3-4 comments, shares, retweets or +1's, you're likely being had. Nobody wants to go to a dealership Facebook page to play Asteroids or Bejeweled 2 and write a title for a photo showing two dogs dressed up as superheros chasing each other, let alone find a tab that doesn't work (for months).
  • CRM: services that say their great, train your staff for $5,000-10,000 a day, put in standard templates and tell you to look at reports to create accountability need to start traveling with the Dodo bird. At the same time employees not using CRM for any reason need to pack their neon-green Hulk baggage and leave town as well. Get real, negotiate agreements, expect your account person to visit regularly, get all of management to use the tools and then expect everyone else to in the dealership. If utilization of CRM is under 75% in your dealership, get your vendor to start acting like a partner and put sales and service staff on the bubble. It's not a choice, it's a reality check.

There will be a lot of fanfare, parties, speakers pitching and snow jobs at booths. However, it's in everyone's best interest to see through the smoke and put the rose-colored glasses down. Our entire world is digital, mobile and fast. It's time for 17,000+ franchises (and who knows how many independents) to get so as well. Leave the hook, line and sinker at home, ignore the playmates for as long as you can and get real with your business.

There is a boatload of opportunity for those that want it in 2012 and NADA happens to be a great place to kick it all off or continue down the progressive road if you've already started. It's also where tons of dealers get sucked in by nothing more than marketing and get nothing for their hard-earned cash except for an open liability door.

So go with purpose to NADA. Come back and operate your business properly. Or someone else will take it from you. All of it.

 

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results